Discussion Pages from 2011

On these pages we will post comments and information that we receive from you about the Vale or anything included in the website. Links to previous year's discussions are at the bottom of the page.

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)

7 November 2011

Dear Bryan and Harry;

As I prowl through the pages of your excellent website, I become increasingly aware of the terrific amount of historical information which you guys have collected since the website was created. I would go so far as to say that, collectively, it represents the most comprehensive source of Vale of Leven historical material to be found anywhere -- and it is still growing.   Moreover, unlike many other sites found on www, the layout is kept easy to access, and I feel certain that a great number of Vale and Dunbartonshire folk at home and overseas will echo my sentiments.  You have both done a great service to the community, which I trust will be long remembered and appreciated.

However, being as I am of an older generation, and not too greatly knowledgeable in matters concerned with modern cyber science, It worries me a bit wondering how your great work can be preserved for posterity -- unlike printed material, how do you finally store and protect the data against future changes in electronic communication?  For instance, what is the effective lifespan of CD and DVD storage.  I would hate to think of your vast collection being lost, due to the ever-changing world of electronics.  I feel sure you must have had some thoughts along these lines.

Anyhow, lads, this auld Valeman appreciates the effort you are putting into the project, and I and my family down here in Australia offer sincere thanks and we wish you both every success for the future.

Yours aye. . .
Malcolm 'Malky' Lobban & Family
South Australia.

Hi Malky,

Thank you again for your kind comments.

Harry and I have discussed this and we have a back up system in place. We each back up the website separately from our respective locations. This covers catastrophic failures and effectively ensures that we always have a recent copy available. If a bomb drops on either of our houses then a copy will still be available at the other (unless it's an awfy big bomb)!

We do however have to consider our "exit policy". What happens when we are no longer around? Currently Harry is the main researcher and along with regular contributors like yourself, deserving of most of the credit for this venture. I am the website designer who looks after the hosting, pulls the information together and publishes it to the website.

What we need to do in the near future is to get another couple of enthusiasts on board, hopefully younger, who can handle the website design/publishing side of things so that someone is available to assist and to take over from me. The problem is that this is a voluntary project, no one gets paid and it may be hard to find anyone other than old buffers like ourselves who are willing to do this for nothing. ;o)

Perhaps we could start distributing DVD copies of the website. This would be one way of helping to preserve it. We could perhaps offer copies of this for a small fee to cover costs. Rest assured, we will be discussing this further.

Best regards,


1 November 2011

It has been a pleasure to look through your excellent website and I would like to congratulate you on the fabulous resource that it is.

I notice that McInnes Street is listed as a street in the Haldane for which there is no obvious source for its name.

I thought you may be interested to know that it was named after my great grandfather, Thomas Fry McInnes, who was a local councillor.

To my great shame I am unable to tell you which ward he represented and could not say for certainty which party he stood for although I am certain that he was a Socialist.

Thomas Fry McInnes was born on 4th January 1884 in Alexandria and lived his entire life in the Vale until his death in circa 1950.

If I can be of any more assistance please let me know.

If you would be so kind I would appreciate it if you could let me know which ward he represented and the period involved.


Kenny McInnes
4 Levenhowe Place

Note: We have added this information to the place names section and further information is pending on this.


9 October 2011

Bonhill school burning

Bonhill School Fire

Many Vale locals will have been saddened to hear the news about Bonhill School which was totally destroyed by a fire on Monday 26 September.

There are many Bonhill people in this area (myself included) and in the wider world who received their early education there.

Local man, Benjy Boyle sent us these images, which illustrate the extent of the fire. It is understood that the most likely cause was arson and while the school was scheduled for demolition it was sad to see it being destroyed in this way.


Kingfisher on river Leven.On a more pleasant note, Benjy also sent us this image of a kingfisher, taken at the old Craft or Pan Lade where the Heather Avenue meets the Leven tow-path in late September.Benjy and some other guys in the Angling Club say that there is at least one pair in the area, maybe more.

While kingfishers are not uncommon around the river, not many people seem to spot them so it was nice to see this.

We are considering starting a local nature/wildlife section to which people will be invited rto contribute. Let us know what you think of this idea?



We received an email from Ms Susan Smith offering us a snippet from her grandfather's diary. In 1890 had taken a trip to Scotland from the south of England with a friend. During this trip he stopped off at the "Rowantree House" in Jamestown. This is a delightful little story that paints a nice picture of our local area at that time.

We must bear in mind that at that time a trip like this would be a very long journey. We can get to Australia quicker than it would have taken Francis to get from Tilbury to Leith by steamer.

Note that Francis talks about leaving Balloch Pier and crossing the bridge on his way to Alexandria. He was taking the long way round through Jamestown either by accident or design and he may have mistakenly assumed that when he reached Jamestown he was in Alexandria. His reference to shipbuilding yards is puzzling (unless he meant boat builders in Balloch).

24 September 2011

"Thanks for your prompt reply. I have attached the relevant section of the diary. To give you a bit of background, my grandfather, Francis Morris,  who lived in London, made a trip to Scotland in 1890 to see the new ‘wonder of the world’ the Forth Bridge. He travelled with a friend and spent a week in Scotland. He came by steamer from Tilbury to Leith and covered considerable ground using train, steamer and his feet.

Balloch BridgeHe was 22 and single at the time. On the day he visited Alexandria he had travelled from Callendar , walking to Loch Katrine, sailing to Stronalacher and using a horse drawn coach to take him to Inversnaid. From here he sailed down Loch Lomond on a steamer to Balloch. The **** mark a word that I can’t decipher. His writing isn't always clear.

Hope this is of interest.

"But we have now arrived at the end of our journey and our steamboat is drawn up at Balloch Pier and we loathfully leave the beautiful Queen of Lakes behind and make our way to the town which boasts of a good hotel and some decent lodging – houses, numerous *****, fields and factories and a graceful suspension bridge which crosses the Leven.

Crossing over this bridge we make our way to Alexandria a flourishing village containing many factories at which the principal business is the production of turkey twill and for which the village is famous. There are also some shipbuilding yards. Although this is not a very interesting spot I shall always remember it with pleasure on account of the hospitable treatment which I met with from utter strangers; having called at the Rowan Tree House “a wayside inn” for a little light refreshment we enquired of the landlord if he could assist us to find some means of sending by post some heather, ferns and berries “we had collected in the Rowantree TavernTrossachs and elsewhere” he at once looked round to see what he could do and not being able to find any means himself he calls on his sister to come to his rescue and we are presently furnished with two boxes, but we find our collection is not sufficient to fill them this difficulty is got over by the landlord running into the garden and stripping from a large tree of rowan “ from which his house takes its name”.

He fills up our boxes packs them up in brown paper and produces pen and ink for us to address them and thus enabling us to dispatch our collection to England neither would he hear of payment he was only  pleased to have been able to assist us: finding we are going to Dumbarton he gives us his card and recommendation to a most comfortable Temperance Hotel where he said we should be sure of the best of treatment on producing his card; “this we found to be very true and doubt if we should have got in at the Hotel at all without it, as they we so full”.

We must not forget that while all this was going on, a recruiting sergeant walked in and to him we were introduced by our own jovial landlord and we found him a jolly nice fellow and being an Englishman was most delighted to see us; the time thus passed so pleasantly and rapidly that we find it will be too late to carry out our previous arrangement of walking to Dumbarton we therefore pass a last friendly glass round and then with many expressions of good wishes we part with Mr Scott in company of our military friend who has kindly offered to direct us to the railway station and not till we are fairly off by train do we bid last goodbye to Mr Gibb.

Arriving at Dumbarton we soon make our way according to our directions and have no difficulty in finding our hotel; where we were well received and soon provided with a sumptuous repast; then after a short stroll round the town we turn in again and meeting the landlord in the smokeroom we get into conversation and he being a well informed and most interesting man it was a very late hour before we finally retired to rest."


18 September 2011


Just stumbled upon this site, what a great trip down memory lane! I was born the The Renton in 1953 and we moved here to NJ when my brother and I were 5 and 4 years old. I may have some old pictures to share when I see my Dad next month in Clearwater Fla. Dad was a nephew of Paddy Caufield from Alexandria whose family from what I remember owned some gravel and stone pits and trucks. Will send some pics in if any still exist.

Thanks so much

Chuck Doran
Sayreville, NJ, USA


18 August 2011

Ex-pat, Neil McKinlay, who lives in Brisbane Australia sent us some more images of Bonhill before it was "improved". These have been added to this page.

Neil is also a writer. He has written some fascinating and entertaining material about the Tullichewan of his boyhood. He also has his own website.

Have a look at "Up the Hill at Tullichewan" on this page.

Bryan Weir


8 July 2011

I read your excellent article  (http://www.valeofleven.org.uk/vale-empire.html) that mentioned the musical Dowds family, and most especially Bobby Dowds.   I thoroughly enjoyed reading it as Bobby was my grandfather, through my mother Marjory Dowds O'Donnell.  Granpa Bobby was a very funny man. Although we had moved to the United States early in my life, we were blessed to have a few visits from Bobby throughout the years.

He told us many stories of his days in the theatre, and was quick to play on his violin to entertain his grandkids.  To his death (1987), he lived life to the fullest. Even in his seventies, he was known to charm the ladies in the local bars.

His violin is now the proud possession of my cousin Robert Dick, who continues the family tradition as a conductor for the Dundee Symphony Orchestra (http://www.dundeesymphonyorchestra.org.uk/p_conductor.htm). 

Thanks for the memories,

Danny O'Donnell,
Tallahassee, FL, United States


4 May 2011 (from Malky Lobban)

Thanks, Bryan,

for the latest in-put to the excellent Vale website.  The Vale Empire was well before my own days in the district, but I found your story very interesting, much which answered longstanding queries over certain Vale names, etc.  As your story progressed with Vale entertainment through the years, it struck me that one short -- but very important -- period had been overlooked.  I am thinking here of the many wonderful talent shows that appeared in Christie Park during WW2. You will recall the "Holidays At Home" scheme which was run to prevent people from travelling to holiday resorts during those austerity years.  One such local talent group which I remember was a troupe styled "The Dillichip Dandies", which I believe was run by Bob Dobson (?), whose daughter Corrine Mooney currently lives in Sutherland Gardens in the Vale.  She was a talented dancer in her day.  During summer months, I believe the local authorities sponsored the Christie Park events, which also include boxing matches.

Lastly, your reference to musical director Bobby Dowds, brought to mind my BSD days when I worked in the Jig Dyehouse.  One of the dyers/shaders was a Jimmy Dowds, whom I believe had a musical background in a theatre orchestra -- he often boasted of making his own violin.  He may well have been from the same musical family which you describe.  It's a sma' warld 'n' nae mistake!

Thanks again for keeping the Vale's history to the fore.

Yours aye. . .Malky.

From Rose Gibbins

Hi Bryan
Thanks for this, a fascinating and very thorough piece on the Empire and operatic/drama societies in The Vale which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Best wishes

18 March 2011

Regular contributor, Graham Lappin came across an image of the Leven Valley Concert Band in Renton in 1909 and kindly contributed this to the website.

Leven Valley Concert Band

Click Image to Enlarge

We have not yet been able to find out anything about this band or its history. If you know anything about it we would appreciate it if you could get in touch



17 January 2011

My name is Catherine Burns (nee Hepburn) and my father Richard Hepburn always known as Dick or Dickie . He was the first Pipe Major of the band. I was thrilled to read the article which was most informative. However I would like to point out that he was a very successfull solo piper in Scotland before emigrating to Australia.He is a cousin to Mrs Jessie Hagerty of the Stewart School of Dancing, Alexandria.Once again, thanks , to the gentleman who wrote the article,well done. Catherine Burns,Adelaide ,Australia.


9 January 2011

Hi Bryan,

Thanks for info about the new football page, which I have enjoyed reading

My great-uncle, John M Campbell was a member the of Renton team which won the "World Championship"  in 1888. He, along with other Renton players, was signed by Sunderland and was a very successful scorer for them in the 1890s, playing in the "Team of all the Talents".  He also played briefly for Newcastle.

I attach a couple of photos of a brooch I have, which was made from a Renton medal and which he gave to his sister, my grandmother, Agnes Campbell.

Image 1 | Image 2

His brother, Robert Campbell, was Secretary of Renton Football Club in 1886 and later went on to become manager of several English Clubs, including Sunderland, Bristol City, Bradford City and Leyton Orient.

Happy New Year from snowy Perthshire.
Nancy Johnston
( I'll be known to some of your older correspondents as Nancy McDonald)


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