Discussion Pages from 2012

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)

8 July 2012

Tobias SmollettBalloch man, Graham Black who has an interest in local author Tobias Smollett (recognised by many as the father of the novel) recently took a holiday cruise on the Mediterranean with his wife Jacqui. The cruise was stopping at the port of Livorno in Northern Italy, where Smollett died in 1771. While there Graham decided to visit the English cemetery where he was buried.

"Dear Brian

Having recently discovered that Tobias Smollett was actually buried in The English Cemetery in Livorno in Italy, as luck would have it I was due to visit Livorno in late April 2012. My wife. Jacqui, did some research and found that you could only gain entrance to the graveyard by appointment. Jacqui managed to make contact with Sarah Thompson of the 'Livorno Now' website, who is involved with trying to preserve this historical site. A small band of volunteers are helping with restoration of the headstones and trying to keep the weeds at bay.

We met Sarah at the gates of the English Cemetery on a very wet morning and we were allowed in to visit Tobias' tombstone and that of his wife Ann, who is also buried there but in a different part of the cemetery.

There are many other interesting people buried there and we can only be grateful to the people who are keeping the English cemetery "alive".

It was also amazing to think that I was standing on the same spot that Charles Dickens and James Fenimore Cooper had once stood while visiting the grave of Tobias.

Having survived bombing during the 2nd World War, vandalism, building houses all around it and being overgrown with bushes and weeds it's nice to see a little bit of The Vale's history still intact in Italy.

Best wishes
Graham Black"

These images show the graves of Tobias Smollett and his wife. Click these to enlarge in a new window to see the detail.

Tobias Smollett's Grave Graham Black at Tobias Smollett's Grave Tobias Smollett's wife's grave


25 June 2012

Royal Naval Torpedo Factory (RNTF) Targeted by Germans for Bombing.

Torpedo Factory AlexandriaWe received an interesting aerial image of the Vale from Mark Masse that was taken in October 1939 by the Germans. This was just one month after Britain and France declared war on Germany. It would appear that at that time the defences that may have spotted reconnaisance flights were not yet in place.

The Germans were clearly targeting the "Royal Torpedo Factory" for a future bombing mission. Fortunately for us they never made it as far as the Vale. When the bombs did arrive it was in 1941 during the Clydebank blitz when Dumbarton and Cardross were also hit.

The image is not as clear as it could be but you can click it to see the larger version. What we can see from this is that that the RNTF is clearly outlined as a target towards the top of the picture. They have even identified the different parts of the manufacturing facilities.

(If anyone knows where we can get a higher quality copy of this image please get in touch.)

Update: 28 June 2012

Harry Summers has provided some excellent background information on this image on this page.


5 June 2012


As a kid in the mid to late 70’s, I spent a lot of time in the Woodbank Hotel where my mother Kenny was the manageress.  The Friday folk nights were superb. Charlie & Tommy (“Philabeg”) played every week and this is where my love of Scottish folk music started.  They used to play one of their own songs at the time of the build up to the world cup in Argentina ’78.  The only snippets of the words I can remember are as follows:

“It’s the red rampant lion of Scotland.  For all of my life I have followed a dream, through good times and bad times and (unknown)…..
But now the time has come and my dream is coming true, we’re off to Argentina with the boys in blue”.

Does anyone know if any of these folk nights were recorded?  I would dearly love to hear this song, or their excellent version of Killiecrankie, if any such recordings exist.

Many thanks.

Cameron dot mccaskell at blueyonder dot co dot uk

Hi Cameron,

Thank you for your email.

I only have a vague recollection of the Woodbank Folk Club but some research on the Internet indicates that the song you mention may have been the "Lion on the Gold" by Gordon Menzies of Gaberlunzie. You can see the lyrics listed amongst the song list here, http://www.theballadeers.com/scots/gabs_l02.htm and listen to a sample here.

It is possible that Philabeg were singing a topical adaptation of the lyrics written by themselves or others for the '78 world cup.

If anyone has any more info please get in touch.


24 February 2012

Hi Bryan

Just another wee note to congratulate you on the website. 

I was in the Edinburgh Familysearch centre recently and checked a birth record of one of my cousins, and discovered she had been born in 'Tullichewan Camp' in 1948, and when I googled the term up came your Vale website (again) - great, well-researched article on the camp.


(James Dunn)


5 February 2012

I refer to your discussion forum.

I was a member of 1st Vale of Leven (Balloch) Scout Troop from around 1962 until the mid seventies. The troop originally met in the church hall adjacent to Jamestown Church on the main street however the committee purchased or leased a derelict building opposite Levenbank Terrace, A two story house, I assume originally part of the factory which had been demolished, was partially demolished and a hall developed built on to a small section of the original building. All age groups relocated to the new hall along with brownies and a few community groups.

In the late 60s the Scouts organised a weekly disco, known as the Lindella club as the membership cards were "acquired" from a club in Glasgow of the same name. Local bands also appeared from time to time and the disco was a huge success with minimal problems despite being at a time of gangs and local territorial problems. Attendance at the disco went through the roof and "bouncers" were deployed to turn away disappointed attendees every week.

Other "attractions" were a weekly Bingo and Beetle drive and regular jumble sales where the scouts targetted the "bought" hooses in Balloch and the Vale. The troop had high attendance levels throughout its lifetime, its catchment area was Haldane, Bonhill and Jamestown and was non denominational which I believe was the reason why events such as the disco passed without major trauma.

The troop had a camp ground in Boturich Estate on the banks of Loch Lomond and regular weekend camps were held along with summer camps to places such as Tarbert, Loch Fyne, Edinburgh and the Isle of Man.

Sadly the troop disintegrated in the mid to late 70s, the hall was demolished around the same time as Levenbank Terrace, the entrance to the hall still exists opposite the new Levenbank Terrace development.

Brian Coles
Former Scout


3 January 2012


Youth Organisations within the Vale of Leven.

Vale of Leven Boy's BrigadeSome information about the Boys Brigade movement within the Vale.

The Boys Brigade movement was founded by William Smith in Glasgow in 1883.  Some three years later the first Boys Brigade Company was formed by a Mr A Smollett Young in Bonhill. (October 1886)    This company was the 1st Bonhill Company.  I have enclosed a copy of a letter sent by William Smith to Mr Smollett Young confirming the formation of the company ( dated 22nd October 1886. )  A copy of this letter was published in the Boys Brigade Jubilee Book in 1933. More than 30000 officers and boys attended the Jubilee review in Queen's Park, Glasgow. Over 50000 spectators were present to watch the review.

During the peak years of the Boys Brigade within the Vale seven companies were formed.  1st Alexandria, 2nd Alexandria, 3rd Alexandria, 1st Bonhill, 2nd Bonhill, 1st Jamestown and 1st Renton.   Unfortunately, only one company remains at this time.    

In 2001 only three companies were still operating. (1st Bonhill, 1st Jamestown and 1st Renton.)  Due to lack of leaders it was decided to merage the three companies into one new company. (1st Vale of Leven) This new company was formed on 1st September 2001. The 1st Vale of Leven has over 80 members at this time.

Unfortunately, I was the last Captain of the 1st Bonhill.   However, I am the first Captain of the 1st Vale of Leven


Hugh Hutchinson (Captain)

1st Vale of Leven

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