Discussion Pages from 2008

On these pages we will post comments and information that we receive from you about the Vale or anything included in the website.

Please note that this is not a forum and it is not intended to be updated on a daily basis but if you have any points to make, anecdotes or stories about the Vale we would very much welcome your contributions. EMAIL them to us and we will publish them here.

(Most recent first)

3 December 2008
Tullichewan in World War II.

There has been some discussion and questions about part of Tullichewan being used as a US base during Word War 2. This was researched and the following article is the result..

At the outbreak of World War 2, Tullichewan Castle Estate was requisitioned from its then owner, Mr J. Scott Anderson, by the Royal Navy, who retained it for the rest of the War. Tullichewan Castle Camp, as it became known, was to be put to various uses by the Navy, and, as is the custom with Naval shore establishments, given a name as if it were a ship. In fact, it was given two names at different times, HMS Spartiate II and HMS Tullichewan, but more of that here.


25 November 2008

We have received this further information about the local poet Hugh Caldwell from his great-great grand daughter, Alana McVean.

"Hugh Caldwell was indeed a local poet and a stonemason who worked on the Argyll Motor Works building.  He married my great-great grandmother, Jessie McGregor. They had 5 children and another on the way when Hugh died of throat cancer. His poems were gathered together, published and sold with the proceeds going to his widow in support of the family.

Later, Jessie met and married my great-great grandfather, David Wright and the couple had a further two children.  I would be happy to try and resolve any other queries you have. 

Contact me on alana705 at hotmail dot co dot uk"


18 September 2008


Have just been reading article on Jamestown on your site and found it very interesting. For your information, Re, Fenton's Land, the first shop to be opened on the cleared ground in the 60s was Robert McFarlane ladies and gents hairdressers and drapery. The reason it was built so far back and which left a car park, was because this was supposed to be the line of a new road. I know this because I worked in the said shop with another lad, Ian Filshill.

Danny May


11 September 2008

Haldane SmiddyWe received some information from David and Fiona Craig who own the old Haldane Smiddy.

They have provided us with some interesting images. Click the image on the left to see a larger version of the smiddy as it was in the year 1900.

You can click here to see it as it is now.

They also provided a couple of old maps (Map 1, Map 2), which show the area around the Haldane smiddy in the late 1800s along with a report taken from a census of that time.

There was a typhoid outbreak in the Ballagan burn in the Summer of 1882 which clearly reflects the conditions that Vale people were living under in these days. David and Fiona have kindly provided an old report by a Doctor Littlejohn on this outbreak dated 16 November 1882.


21 August 2008

Our thanks go once again to Graham Lappin for sending us a copy of the following poem by Hugh Caldwell. We had been looking for this text as it is the source of the verse we use at the top of the page.


WHEN we were little children
Aroun' it aft we played,
An' linked oor herts in frienship
Beneath its leafy shade,
An' told oor childish fancies
Wi' merry, sparklin' e'e,
When sitting 'neath the branches
O' the auld oak tree.

But its bonnie, leafy branches
We'll never see again;
Nor the little, lauchin' faces,
That gathered roun' it then;
For those we loved are scattered,
An' some in daith sleep soun';
An' the auld oak tree sae bonnie
Has long since been cut doon.

As roun' the town we wan'er,
In wonder aft we pause;
We miss the modest hooses,
Wi' their bonnie, white-washed wa's.
We miss the friendly faces,
An' we see big streets aroun';
The fountain's taen the oak tree's place
Tae decorate the toon.

The stiff an' solemn fountain,
Withoot a spark o' life;
Through simmer an through winter
The scene o' prayer an' strife.
Unlike the lovely oak,
Wi' its giant branches dear,
That filled oor herts wi' gladness
Through mony a weary year.

But youth an' joy hae vanished,
An' naethin' can reca'
The little lauchin' faces
That daith has taen awa'.
An' we, grown tired and feeble,
This worl' o' strife maun lea';
Tae be forgot for ever,
Like the auld oak tree.

"Hugh Caldwell was born in Neilston, Renfrewshire on June 22, 1867 and came to the Vale in 1883.  He was largely self taught, having entered the work-force at the tender age of nine.  He died about 1902 and his poems, edited by J. Cromarty Smith were published in a little booklet entitled “Vale of Leven Rhymings,” published a year later." (by A. Graham Lappin)

I first came across this verse more than 25 years ago in the Vale of Leven Bowling Club. Some of the members were going through some dusty old archive material when they came across an old scroll with a list of the names of some of the past presidents of the club. The verse was used on this.

A current member of the club, Jim Tennant, has painstakingly reproduced this scroll and created several others in the same style bringing the lists of presidents and champions of the club up to date.

NOTE. The Vale of Leven Bowling club owns two vases made from the wood of original old oak tree. See this item >


20 August 2008

I received another email from Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh informing me of some short stories and essays that his brother Neil (now a minister in Brisbane, Australia) had produced on his personal website. These are very interesting works.

The Fall of Tullichewan Castle

Up the Hill at Tullichewan Castle

The Love Tree

Other creative prose can be found on Neil's "More Snow on the Ben" website.


Balloch Ferry and the Dumbarton Pilot
Click to Enlarge Image


3 July 2008

Our thanks go to A. Graham Lappin in the USA for the image above. It's of the Dumbarton Pilot coach service and it comes from about 1820. The Balloch Hotel can be seen to the left, across the river. The local grammar school boys are running alongside waiting for pennies to be thrown (a "scramble" in local parlance) by the tourists from the Marion.

Click the image for a larger version that shows the detail.


4 June 2008


My attention was drawn today to your web-page with Alexander Hunter's 1892 letter listing local place-name meanings. In your introduction to the letter you include the following sentence: 

Although a number of specific alternatives have been offered to some of his explanations, and we would now think that a number of them are wrong, Hunter's views of the origins of the place names serve as a useful starting point.

While Hunter's letter is no doubt of historic interest, I am not so sure just how useful it is as a starting point. I fear that the prominence you give it here will almost certainly ensure that his errors are given currency. I would suggest that your reservation that "a number of them are wrong" is unfortunately an understatement. On an albeit cursory count, I am quite confident in asserting that more than half of Hunter's explanations here are fantasy. I would hope that, if you continue to feature Hunter's list, you might add a more eye-catching "health warning" than your paragraph in small print presently affords. Otherwise, unwary web-surfers are likely to home in on the list itself and assume it is fully endorsed by your site.

For those with an interest in the Gaelic heritage of the vicinity, I would recommend  the following:

"Border Disputes: Gaelic Cultural Identity and Interaction in the Lennox and Menteith" by Michael Newton. View it here.

In the above article Newton states (and I think we are talking about c. 1950 here):

"Few people even realise now that Gaelic was spoken in these areas, in locations such as Loch Lomond-side, Callander, Brig o' Turk, Arrochar, and Aberfoyle, less than fifty years ago."

Michael Newton also has an exceptionally interesting book of Gaelic folklore and song from the locality called:

"Bho Chluaidh gu Calasraid: From the Clyde to Callender" - published in 1999 by Acair Limited, 7 James Street, Stornoway HS1 2QN. (ISBN 0 86152 265 6)

In the above book, Newton provides Gaelic origins of many names (which may be usefully compared with Alexander Hunter's fancies). For example, Newton gives us the following:

River Endrick = Abhainn Eunaraig = "river of the snipe"

Rowardennan = Rudha Aird Eodhnain = "promontory of the height of Adomnan"  

Carman = "Cathair/Caer Maine" = "The [Royal]Seat of Maine" (with hesitation)

Tullichewan = Tulach Eoghain = "the hillock of Ewen"

Glen Falloch = Gleann Falach = "ring-glen"

Glenfinlas = Gleann Fionnghlais = " glen of white (or holy) water" 

Note that "glas" is "water" in old Gaelic, cf  "Dubhghlas" = "black water", hence:

Inveruglas = Inbhir Dhubhghlais = "mouth of the black water"

Inchmirrin = Innis Mearain = "isle of [Saint] Mearan"

Balmaha = Baile Mo Thath = "village of [Saint] Mo Thath"

Kilmahog = Cill Mo Chug = "the church of [Saint] Mo Chug"

Inchtavannach = Innis Taigh a' Mhanaich = 'isle of the house of the monk"

Bonhill = Bun Olla = "foot of (?)"

It should be noted also that the inscribed metal plaques at Lomond Shores are disappointingly misinformed in their explanation of the term "Inch". They say that "inch" is the "Scots" term for "island", as distinct from "eilean" which, they say, is the Gaelic term. In fact both terms are Gaelic. "Inch" is simply an English spelling of Gaelic "innis" ("island" or "pasture"). "Innis" was retained more in Ireland (cf Yeats' "I will arise and go now, And go to Innisfree"), while Scots Gaelic gradually favoured more the term "eilean" (related, I believe, to Norse "ay" = "island", which element appears in so many islands round the Scottish coast, from Raasay, Pabay etc).

(I have avoided accents in the above Gaelic, because some people's computers garble the text if there are accents.)

Another link, of interest is to that of "Gaelic Place-names of Scotland" at:


The above body is engaged in preparing the Gaelic versions for possible bilingual road-signs.  Among other routes, there are pdf lists available for "A82: Tarbert to Inverness" at:


- and for "A85: Tyndrum to Oban"


I might mention that I am originally from the Vale, though now resident in Inverness. Now approaching an age when retiral is on my mind, I have been studying Gaelic all my adult life. In fact the place-names of the Vale of Leven and Loch Lomondside were important factors in getting me into Gaelic. 

Best Wishes,

Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh

Fearghas's contribution is welcomed and as he says, the point was made about the questionable accuracy of Hunter's letter. As yet we have no Gaelic speakers on board so we thank him for this correction.

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"For those we loved are scattered,
and some in death sleep soun',
and the old oak tree sae bonnie,
has long since been cut doon".

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