Let me say at the outset this post is a labour of love. I grew up in the Nitshill area of Glasgow and had an adventurous and happy childhood and young adulthood there during the early days of the great estate known as Pollok. Recently I went a cycle ride through the area and couldn't believe the changes in the various districts from what I remember them looking like last. It was a completely different world to the one I had left behind over 20 years ago.
Intrigued I had a roam around the internet to see what I could find history wise about the Pollok area, Nitshill pre 1950's, and the various housing estates mentioned in the title. There are some fine gems of information scattered around which got the memory juices flowing so I thought I would do this post primarily as a record of what I can recall personally before it fades away from me or I kick the bucket. You might disagree or it might be familiar to you but here goes.
To paraphrase a famous recent film.
'Much has been lost or forgotten because no-one is left now who remembers it.'
I am sure there are many still around who remember these days as I'm under 60 myself but I'll stick down my impressions of the area anyway as it struck me that children growing up today in this area might want to know what it was like when they grow up themselves. All the photographs in this post are mine. I lived in the area then worked in it for many years. There is hardly a close in the district I haven't been in, during the day and often at night with just a work torch and an optimistic attitude for company and support.
This is South Nitshill taken between1960 to 1964 showing Woodfoot Road. We came into the world together, this scheme and I around the year of our lord 1957. Both fresh out the shell and still soft to the touch. Bricks and skin new-born, fresh and innocent. This small estate built on a hill (a 134 foot drumlin) with fantastic panoramas over the city was one of the last housing schemes to be built as part of the massive Greater Pollok district. Pollok is the oldest and most diverse of the four big housing schemes to be built on the outskirts of Glasgow in preparation for the recommended slum clearances of the crumbling and overcrowded inner districts. There would eventually be one at each corner of Glasgow on former farm lands. The others being Drumchapel, Castlemilk, and Easterhouse , huge dormitory new towns in their own right, composed of mainly three and four story tenement clusters split into districts by natural features like woods, streams, swamps or low hills where a break in the closely packed lines of tenements had to occur. Unforeseen by the city fathers who envisaged a clean and healthy utopia rising from the countryside each separate area soon developed its own unique gang with it's own rules and ambitions.
Thank God for those natural features otherwise it might have been a sea of identical tenements without any spaces to play in. This is the green hillside separating high South Nitshill from the lower area known as 'the valley' St Bernard's Catholic Church was built in 1963 to serve the scheme and stands open for residents to this day as does the Sky Dragon Takeaway beside it. This takeaway used to be a doctors surgery in the early days of the scheme. Both are well known local landmarks that have survived much upheaval and demolition around them. This is a recent photo July 2013. As you can see South Nitshill is and was a green and leafy place, full of trees and beautiful surrounding countryside. The Barrhead Braes just visible in the distance here.
This is the same block of houses seen on the extreme left of the third photograph. Spray paint cans were the new novelty toy in those days. Many a rattle and hiss was heard in all the schemes. Very popular and desirable accessories despite only a handful of people actually owning a car.
Same thing had happened earlier in neighbouring Priesthill. This district of flat roofed tenements built in the early 1950's is reputed to have received its name after an unlucky priest was hanged here during the reformation. By the 1970's and 80's it was classified as the worst scheme in Western Europe... for unemployment, crime, poverty, deprivation and general bad behaviour. This is one of the better streets. It was a scary place at night yet I had some of my best times here. Wouldn't have missed it for the world. Pollok then held a kind of romantic decadence for me, decent citizens, monsters and angels living side by side with all kinds of vices, virtues and sins going on. It was certainly never dull. Children today cant buy that kind of adventure. A farm and green fields had originally stood on this spot before Pollok grew up on lands formally owned by the Maxwell family and the Breton Knights since the 1100's. The name Pollok predates that as the knights took it as their title when they settled here. The name was ancient even then.
Inside this great link it gives you information on Nitshill as a small coal mining village in the 1800's, details of the infamous disaster underground, life in Pollok and many other fascinating accounts of times past. Well worth a look for anyone remotely interested in how we used to live. Fascinating stuff. Once inside see 'Local history' and 'Gallery'.
Anyway, in between these often wild estates Pollok is leafy and rural and always has been. A forest within a city as this photo shows.
Holding between 25 to 40 thousand citizen's each, every one of these vast schemes can feel intimidating and claustrophobic places for the outsider to find themselves in. They cover large chunks of the landscape but Castlemilk and Pollok benefitted the most I would say having more open and exciting features around them. Castlemilk is built on a rising slope with woods and gentle ridges separating the various districts. It feels fairly leafy as does Drumchapel to a lesser extent also built on a hillside. Easterhouse probably fares the worst for views being completely flat though it does have green fields, lochs and open grasslands all around it.
This post could also be called 'The Disappearing city' as huge areas of Glasgow lie empty now either awaiting redevelopment or landscaping.
Few it seems want to live in houses built on brownfield sites, i.e. reclaimed land like those shown above but less and less pristine wilderness remains.
In the photograph above this is the start of Renfrewshire. An area of woods, farms, rugged drumlins, reservoirs, lochs and meadows that is totally unique in character. Pollok and Nitshill used to look like this before 40,000 people moved in. They too were once scenic jewels in rural Renfrewshire before they became part of Glasgow's ever expanding outskirts. There is nothing else like this landscape anywhere in Scotland and if we cover it in houses it should be a monument to our everlasting shame. Some National Parks I've been in have far less interesting characteristics than this area. It should be an informal nature reserve. Protected from development forever. The whole lot from here to Stewarton and from Malletsheugh to Johnstone. Explore it at its best while you can.
Fate had placed me down here on this spot and I would not have wished to be anywhere else in the world growing up. It was perfect for me and my kind.
In part two I'll show you why :0)
Update. Thank you to everyone who commented on South Nitshill and Pollok. This post has proved to be one of the most popular in five years of writing the blog so I really appreciate the interest. Over 3900 visits! For the last two years I've been writing a book which is part autobiography, part novel, part travel guide, and part unusual love story. As I obviously grew up here it starts in South Nitshill then switches to Arrochar, Loch Lomond, Glencoe, and many other scenic parts of Scotland. It is written as a tongue in cheek comedy about a Glasgow hillwalking club, their relationships, love affairs, falling outs, and adventures on weekends away. Think Oor Wullie, The Broons, Para Handy, meets a youthful Still Game then imagine they all take up rock climbing, kayaking, island hopping, and caving which is what I did in reality. It's on e book kindle and the first few chapters are free to read on your computer. If you like what you see it's only 0:98pence to buy the whole thing, 500 plus pages - Cheaper than a scratch card but more chance of a laugh, though hopefully it wont get tossed in the bin afterwards if it's not to your taste. I've tried to make it as funny and entertaining as possible throughout and it's an adventurous romp across the wildest parts of Scotland and Europe on budget trips and holidays over three decades. Every chapter is illustrated by photographs like the one above (56 in total) to give readers an idea of the landscapes and situations I'm describing. If nothing else clicking on this link gives you a free extra chapter on Nitshill and Pollok. Cheers everyone.
Update no 2. I have just completed my new guide book which is A Walking and Cycling Guide to the River Clyde and the Firth of Clyde and describes over 80 routes in Lanark, Glasgow, Paisley, Inverclyde, Dunbartonshire, the holiday islands of Bute, Arran and Great Cumbrae and travels down as far as Girvan and the Ailsa Craig. It is fully illustrated with 146 colour photographs which should entertain armchair readers who may have lived in Glasgow or along the Clyde at some point or walking and cycling beginners through to experienced veterans. I have deliberately picked a wide range of lesser known routes to suit all tastes from a few hours flat walking in semi urban but green places to day long adventures in remote areas.
At £1:99 to download from Amazon's kindle bookstore it may be a good Christmas present for someone who wants to explore the area or who just likes a photographic over view of the length of the River Clyde from its source in the Lowther Hills to the expansive waters of the Firth, which is the largest enclosed estuary in the British Isles.
Link here to preview what's inside.