David Blane, volunteer at RIG Arts, who grew up around the Broomy, wrote this blog post for us reminiscing about his youth, and commenting on the changing landscape of the area.
I lived at No.73 Lynedoch Street (railway property) in Greenock from 1954 – 1969. No.73 was directly opposite the Lynedoch Bar where my Mum worked as a barmaid for a few years. Nae travelling expenses there, that’s for sure.
Coincidentally, the Lynedoch Bar was owned, at that time, by Mr George Woolley who (I think) also owned the original Broomhill Bar before it was demolished, rebuilt and renamed Broomhill Tavern. Come to think of it, my Mum also worked in the Broomie area, too, where she was a shop assistant in the Ann Street branch of the East End Bakery and was employed as a supervisor in the packing department of the Merino Mill, a prolific employer of young women in its heyday.
Although Lynedoch Street is not part of the Broomie, it isn’t far from the Heid o’ the Hill. I attended Mearns Street School and The Mount School where I rubbed shoulders with pals from the Broomhill area. Names like Billy Sutherland, Harry Murray, David Robertson, Tom Robertson, John Williamson and Murdo Parker spring to mind.
As a football daft Morton supporter, I played fitba for both school teams with many of our games being hosted at Broomhill, where there used to be two pitches. The top pitch was sacrificed in the 1970s(?) as the site for St Patrick’s Primary school which is now in the process of being demolished and rebuilt. (By the way, flat roofs are a bad idea up the Broomie! River Clyde Homes please take note.) Holy moly, I’m really showing my age now!
With the passage of time, much of my life history has been erased from the local landscape. For example, my close at No. 73 Lynedoch Street has gone, both my schools have been demolished as have all three churches of which I was a member: the East Kirk at the corner of Regent Street / Antigua Street, Martyr’s & North in Westburn Street and Wellpark West at… mmm…er…um… the Wellpark! You may think that the Wellpark is outwith the Broomhill area but the car wash/valet business currently at Drumfrochar Road / Mearns Street used to be called the Wellpark Garage!
In those days, school, church and family related activities were the focal points of children’s lives. Parents didn’t have the money to take their weans to Funworld, Cineworld and Computerworld or splash out at Burger King for fast food. It was normal to be bored during school holidays! We didn’t need to be entertained every minute of the day. We made our own entertainment by using our imagination. Nobody had heard of social media, smartphones or t’internet. I played sport for school and Boys’ Brigade and played in the street with my chums in my spare time. I went to Sunday School because there was hee-haw else to do on a Sunday. I wasn’t a Holy Wullie or a Happy Clappy but the Church/BB and bible class provided social interaction with your pals at minimal cost to the household budget. They were a source of fun and entertainment. Many youngsters weren’t allowed out to play on a Sunday just because it was Sunday! You did your homework, watched Sunday Night at the London Palladium and went to your bed. (Rant over.)
Back in the day, the Broomhill area was a thriving industrial community. I have fond memories of friends, team-mates and colleagues who lived in Wemyss Bay Street (possibly the shortest street in the town) Cornhaddock Street, Mount Pleasant Street, Murdieston Street and Dempster Street. During the summer, we regularly played around the dams (Murdieston & Cowdenknowes, yes there’s a dam called Cowdenknowes!) and the Murdieston Park. One of my most indelible memories of the Broomie is that of having a shot at goal which missed the target by a mile. As the ball soared over the bar, it gathered pace a plenty on its descent into Prospecthill Street. Being the footie offender, I gave chase, since it was my responsibility to retrieve the spherical object before it suffered severe injury or ended up in the hands of baw bandits. I eventually caught up with said football at the West Station before racing back up the hill with it to re-start the game. Phew!
I don’t think we appreciated them at the time, but those were happy days.
- -David Blane