Contributions from Eleanor Thomson
We received some interesting and entertaining articles from Eleanor Thomson, an ex-pat who now lives in France. These articles paint a delightfully nostalgic picture of the Vale back in the 1950s. they were originally written several years ago for the now defunct "Scottish Memories" magazine. Read and Enjoy!
Forging Sparks on a Grey Day
"Happy childhood memories are often shot through with visions of long hot summers: but one of the fondest I have of Alexandria, the small Dunbartonshire town where I was brought up in the 1950s, has a quite different backdrop of grey clouds reflected in rain-splattered puddles, of hearing the loud clang of metal and of watching hot sparks fizzing into the air like fireworks." READ >
In the Shadow of the Ben
It was all taken for granted: the song, the worldwide fame, the beauty, for as a child living in Alexandria in the 1950s, Ben Lomond was an everyday sight; it was simply “the Ben”. Only now do I understand what a profound influence this 3,194 ft (974m) Munro had on my childhood perceptions of the world.
Each season brought its own beautiful colours to the peak of the Ben: the sparkling white of winter snow, the fresh verdant green of spring and the romantic bluish-purple haze of the summer months and the bracken-browns of autumn. The aspects of the Ben acted as our barometer: wreathed in frowning cloud, it told of rain; heavily clothed in snow and sparkling in winter sunlight, it warned of freezing weather; ablaze in glorious sunshine, it radiated the warmth of spring and summer. READ >
Paintings, postcards, songs, poems and documentaries all currently extol the dubious delights of Scottish tenement buildings, depicting a way of life romanticised through the rosy tints of stained glass windows on the landings and decorated by the trendy motifs in wally closes.
Nowadays when fewer and fewer people actually remember what tenement living was really all about last century, these looming sandstone buildings with their echoing stairwells are celebrated as works of art. READ >
The Totty Man is Here!
Some of the strangest objects, smells or sounds can evoke memories. For example, potatoes always make me think of Sharp, the Totty Man.
The memory is circa 1950 when I was a child living in the Vale of Leven near Balloch and the sight of Sharp's lorry, piled high with loose potatoes, caused street games to stop. A spirit of enterprise replaced games of chase and we kids became ruthless entrepreneurs. READ >
Up until the widespread advent of affordable, labour-saving washing machines in the 1960s, the most strenuous and well planned operation carried out by housewives every week with military precision and muscular effort took place on designated wash days. For that was when bed linen, clothing, curtains and a whole multitude of household materials had to be hand washed since commercial laundries were expensive luxuries where too often clothes could be ruined by rough treatment (I remember my mother's dismay on one occasion when she had decided to use the laundry and unwrapped the brown paper and string of her parcel on her return, only to find the sheets in shreds - and there was no compensation in those days). READ >
Eleanor Thomson was born in Glasgow Maternity Hospital in 1946 and grew up in the Vale of Leven before moving to Glasgow to live and work. During her years in Glasgow, she became a full time student at the age of 29, attending the University of Strathclyde where she achieved an Upper Second BA (Hons) English Literature after which she went to Jordanhill Teacher Training College in 1983.
Whilst studying there, she also attended the University of Glasgow as one of only a few students from that year’s teacher training course who took an extra course in educational theory offered by the University to students undergoing teacher training at Jordanhill. These extra studies earned a Dip.Ed. (First Class) along with her Teaching Qualification for Secondary Schools. Later, whilst working as a teacher in Central Region, she undertook research as an external student of the University of Glasgow and gained her M. Litt.
She spent many years in both Central Region and Lanarkshire teaching and lecturing English Literature and Communication and Media studies during which time she wrote and published teaching aids for Robert Gibson Publisher, Glasgow (now Hodder Gibson Paisley) and the Scottish Qualification Authorities. Later in her career, she was an external assessor of schools and colleges and consultant to SQA and the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum. She has also had many articles on a wide range of subjects, short stories and poems published in various newspapers and magazines. She has an NCTJ qualification in Periodical Journalism. Her first short story was published in the Lennox Herald, Dumbarton in 1965. In 2003 she was awarded a Scottish Arts Council bursary as a New Writer.
Although Literature and writing are important to her, she also enjoys art and has been working with Pastels for the past several years, enjoying her retirement in an area of rural France that is, for her, reminiscent of Scotland, living in a tiny town not so different to Alexandria, Dunbartonshire. She will, however, never forget her roots in ‘The Vale’.