Sunday 15 June 2014

She Belongs to Glasgow ...

... Dear old Glasgow toon
Well what's the matter with Glasgow
For it's goin' 'roon and 'roon
She's only a blogger's loyal wife
As readers can sure infer;
But when she got a couple of drinks on a Saturday
Glasgow belonged to her!
"I Belong To Glasgow" is a song written and recorded by the music hall entertainer Will Fyffe, in 1920. It also has been performed by Danny Kaye, Eartha Kitt, Gracie Fields and Kirk Douglas.

According to Albert Mackie's The Scotch Comedians (1973), Fyffe got the inspiration for the song from a drunk he met at Glasgow Central Station. The drunk was "genial and demonstrative" and "laying off about Karl Marx and John Barleycorn with equal enthusiasm". Fyffe asked him: "Do you belong to Glasgow?" and the man replied: "At the moment, at the moment, Glasgow belongs to me."

Mrs fbb was born in Maryhill (Taggart-land) but grew up in posher Bearsden. Very occasionally she enjoys a wee dram and, despite the scurrilous slur on her unsullied character in the parody above, she has never over-indulged in the 41 years of their happy marriage!

It was in the summer of 1962 that a 17 year old non fat non bus bloke set off on a tour of Scotland by car with his father.
It was a drive to Sutton Coldfield, then Motorail ...
... to Stirling, where the facilities were as luxurious and lavish as at the southern terminus.
Stirling terminal

Sutton Coldfield terminal

Cars were carried in standard coach-length vans fitted with a second half-deck, hence the picture above with car just squeezing under the roof. The lower deck was suspended between the bogies.
[Information subject to the limitations of just over half a century of brain cell decline!] Unlike the Channel Tunnel shuttle, the vehicles were driven on by railway staff. A wise move!

Somewhat groggy after a sporadic night in a sleeping car, the twosome set out along the A811 ...
... to begin their plan to travel north up the west coast, across the top and south down the east. Where the A811 crosses the A81 is called Ballat Crossroads.
The crossroads is now a wiggle ...
... with a view of the old formation blocked by the big green sign. There is no obvious evidence of the railway at a driver's level but both the chunk of old road and the railway can be discerned from the air.
Little did the lad know that, just eleven years later, he would be married to a girl who lived barely five miles south down the A81.

The first stop was at Balloch where the lad had spotted a Glasgow electric blue train, then just two years old. Even in those youthful days, investigation was essential! In the station was a poster for a cruise on Loch Lomond. So off the odd couple went by train from Balloch Central to Balloch Pier and on to the Maid of the Loch for a lunch-inclusive tour.
PS Maid of the Loch is the last paddle steamer built in Britain. She operated on Loch Lomond for 29 years and is now being restored at Balloch pier. In 1950 the British Transport Commission, owner of the newly nationalised railways, made the decision to replace the Princess May and Prince Edward with a new paddle steamer, to be the largest inland waterway vessel ever in Britain.

She was built by A. & J. Inglis of Glasgow, launched on Thursday 5 March 1953, and entered service later that year. She is a "knock down" ship: that is, after assembly at the shipyard she was dismantled, and shipped to the loch (by rail to Balloch at the south end of the loch), and there her sections were reassembled on a purpose built slipway.

As with other steamers, cost pressures led to her being laid up after a last commercial sailing on 31 August 1981.

In 1992 Dumbarton District Council bought Maid of the Loch and restoration work started. In 1995 the Council supported a group of local enthusiasts in setting up a charitable organisation, the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, to take over ownership and carry on restoration. She became ready for static operation with a cafe/bar and function suite in autumn 2000.
The aim is to restore her to a fully operational vessel.
But, of course, young fbb and his old man could not foresee the future; all they did was to have a delightful sail with many happy memories still extant in the grey matter coal measures. There is a video on YouTube from about the time of fbb's visit, a copy of an 8mm film, but definitely evocative of 1960s trips afloat.
The rest of the holiday continued unfettered by timetables of any sort; all went well until your teenaged blogger was taken ill at breakfast in the St Clair Hotel Thurso.
As the lad recovered, so his father suffered. The ailment was never diagnosed despite a visit from the Thurso version of Dr Cameron.  It was therefore decided to drive to Inverness and take Motorail from thence to York and thus curtail the trip.

The internet has provided a glimpse of the Inveness loading bay ...
... and ditto at York some years after the father and son emergency visit.
Apart from a passing nostalgia-fest, the trip was significant in that it was the youthful fbb's first experience of bonny Scotland. The break at Balloch was his first sight of a Glasgow electric, and his only sight, ever, of a set in Caledonian Blue.

Electric trains still run to Balloch (no longer "Central") as the short piece of track to the pier is long gone. But this post serves to act as an introduction to a future series exploring the abundant delights of the extensive suburban railway system of Scotland's fascinating capital.

In the half a century since the motoring trip, suburban livery has gone from electric blue to rail blue to orange (correctly designated "Strathclyde Red"; but it was orange!) to carmine and cream and now back to a richer blue adorned with white spots. It was once all steam, of course, as here at Balloch Pier ...
... and remembered with abject horror by Mrs fbb from her occasional train trip, long ago, into the satanic depths of smoke-filled Glasgow Queen Street Low Level.
But not as long ago as the above!

fbb will be looking at Glasgow's suburban rail network over the next few weeks. The subject is complex and utterly fascinating, both politically and from a transport point of view. We will begin, in due course, with the line to Balloch (opened in 1850).
Auntie Frances (Frances Searle, Axe Valley Min-Travel) looks as if she has bought a "new" (second hand, previously used, pre-owned) double decker for her five-vehicle schools work. This was spotted by fbb lurking in her Harbour Road Seaton depot on Friday.
Looks remarkably like a bit of ex Thames Travel rolling stock. fbb's Minister will know; but he's on holiday.
It's hard to know which is the most exciting. This news item or the World Cup.
 Next bus blog : Monday 16th June 

1 comment:

  1. No question . . . . the news from Axe Valley!!

    Still, the footba' will soon be over until August!!!!!!