Frank Mceleny, ‘Growing up at the Heid O’ the Hill’

Frank Mceleny, who know lives in the U.S.A, grew up at the Heid O’ the Hill. He remembers running up the hills, sledging in winter, and playing ‘curby’ and ‘sodgies’…

 

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My name is Frank McEleny and I grew up, literally, at the Heid O’the Hill at 24 Prospecthill St. It’s an old tenement building which survives to this day. I believe it was built at the turn of the last century. An errant bomb from WWII apparently dropped close enough by to cause cracks in the building. It was also known as Benview Terrace (sounds posher).

 

My family moved there in 1965. Mill St. had not been rebuilt at that point and a few years after moving there they began demolishing the old tenements and building the ‘new’ flats. As a four or five year old I remember playing on the building site of Broomhill Court. We also watched the guys building the Mill St. Park.

 

The Broomy was a great place to grow up. We had the hills behind us and on good days we would go up by Overton to The Cut and roam the hills. Many will remember that they used to train the police dogs there at Overton. The ‘square dam’ was a favourite swimming hole. If you managed to scrounge up an old inner-tube you were in heaven. It was far enough away from the Strone boys to be safe, their hang out was the ‘Beezy’ which we also used to play at, but you just had to be careful. 🙂

 

In the summertime and with good weather we would play curby for hours on Mill St. Some of the older guys would mark out a tennis court with the wee wall of the Mill St. Park being the net. We would pay about a quid for our tennis rackets from Woolies and the Wimbledon of Greenock was on.

 

We would also play ‘sodgies’ ( soldiers) and do Commando courses through the backs of Lemon and Lime St. at night. Blackened faces and synchronizing invisible watches was a must. Orchards were raided in summer evenings and the Waterworks wall was scaled. If the ‘watchie’ and his wee dug were on, all the more entertaining as the dug’s wee legs tried to catch young boys who could run as fast as the wind. When it snowed in the winter the Broomy was transformed into something magical. With us being so high above the town, the snow would be deeper and last longer. Eddie the Eagle could have practiced for the ski jump if he dared ski down Mount Pleasant St. Prospecthill St. leading down to Ann St. was good and of course Ann St itself. was made for sledges. These hills also presented challenges for bogies and the old four wheel skates with Oor Wullie Annuals. Many fingers were skinned to the bone by operator errors.
 
Cheggy time was great and the Broomy being so close to the cemetery meant an endless supply of potential tenners or fifteeners. There was just so much to do to fire the imagination without the aid of video games and smart phones. If it was not raining I would have to give an explanation if I was in the house. We were always out and even if it was raining we would hang out up the closes. Nicknames like Scally and Sire and Paw and Squid are the names that resonate in my memories. My own nickname was Mackers and sometimes when I visit home and run into an old friend it always brings a smile to my face to hear my old name resurrected.

 

So many stories, so many adventures, so much of the culture of Scotland right there in our own wee housing scheme. But how many housing schemes of Scotland could boast a view like the view we had from the Broomy? I once wrote to the BBC pitching a show called  ‘The Mill St. Boys.’ It would have had to run for many seasons to tell all the stories of how we grew up. It would make you laugh and it would make you cry. The stuff of life growing up in our own wee microcosm, the Broomy.
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