Famous Vale of Leven Folk
How you define fame and then consistently apply the definition presents something of a challenge, especially at a local level. If that sounds very defensive, then it is meant to, because there is ample scope to give offence and to make mistakes in presenting biographical details on a web site like this, and we want to avoid doing either or both, at all costs.
For the purposes of the site, we have tried to identify people whose names and activities are recognised not just in the Vale, but also on a national UK level, and in some cases, on an international level. These people are dealt with in Part I below.
Then there are the great many more people who are well known throughout the Vale, for their contributions over the years to life in the Vale. These contributions take many forms, and not everyone will agree that they have been positive, that is the nature of things. These people will appear in Part II, which is still in production.
None of this is set in stone and we invite contributions, suggestions and information from all. We are particularly pleased to correct any errors of fact which we have made.
Three things will be apparent in the list of Famous People that appears here. Firstly, it is not very long at present. Secondly, there are not many women on it. Thirdly, there are a lot of footballers on it. To the last of these points, we can only reply that football is a large and very popular sport, and the Vale has produced some well-known footballers over the years. On the first two points, if we have made obvious omissions we will be delighted to rectify them.
NOTE: Most of the images of these people that are on the Internet are covered by copyright law so we have been unable to use them. If you have any pictures of those listed we would be happy to publish them here.
STEPHEN CONROY, Artist.
Stephen Conroy was born in Braeholm Hospital, Helensburgh in 1964, as were most babies being born to Vale parents at that time. However, his parents were from Renton and that was where Stephen was brought up. He attended St Martin's primary school and from there went on to St Patrick's High School, Dumbarton. (Read more >)
Peter was born in 1962 in Overton Hospital at Milton. From a young age he was a top class athlete, who could probably have succeeded in long distance running or the triathlon. For instance, while just 16 he unofficially entered a marathon in the west of Scotland (they did not accept entries from anyone under 18), and equally unofficially finished third. Hill races up Ben Lomond presented no problem to him and he toyed with becoming a triathlete. (Read More >)
The Textile and Dyeing Industries in the Vale of Leven encouraged several prominent industrialists to the area. Many of them left indelible marks on our community such as the Ewing Gilmour Institute, which to this day is home to the Alexandria public library. (Read More >)
The title “Wembley Wizards” has resonated in football since Scotland defeated England 5 - 1 in March 1928. Scotland's greatest hero that rainy day was Alex Jackson, Scotland's tallest forward at a towering 5 ft 7 inches, who played at outside right. Before the match Scotland were given no chance by the pundits, but on the park they ran England ragged, with Alex Jackson becoming the hero of the day by scoring a hat-trick.
James Kelly played in the great Renton FC team that defeated West Bromwich Albion 4-1 to claim the title of World Champions on 19th May 1888. This was his last game for Renton because he immediately
moved to the newly formed Celtic, and is listed as their centre-half in their first game. This was played on 28th May 1888 and was against Rangers. Celtic won the game 5-1, and not only did Kelly captain
the team, making him Celtic's first ever captain, he also scored.
(Read More >)
Bobby Kerr was captain of Sunderland FC when they beat Leeds 1 - 0 at Wembley in 1973 to lift the FA cup. This was one of the greatest FA cup shocks of all time. Leeds were Goliath to Sunderland's David: Leeds were not only the cup holders, this was the third time they had been in the FA cup final in four years, they were probably the best team in England with 10 internationals, including 4 of Scotland's best players, and manager Don Revie was at the height of his powers. (Read More >)
Neil McCallum’s place in history is secure for as long as there in an Old Firm in Scottish Football, because he was the first man to score a goal for Celtic against Rangers. Neil was born in Bonhill in 1869 and when he died at the age of 51 in 1920, he was buried in Bonhill Churchyard. Although he went on to play for a number of clubs in England as well as Scotland. (Read More >)
John Miller McColl, to give Ian McColl his full name, was born in Alexandria in June 1927. He was the grandson of William McColl who had been capped for Scotland in 1895 while playing for Renton. (Read More >)
One of the best footballers to come from the Vale, and certainly the finest footballer to come out of Renton since Alex Jackson, John “Solly” O'Hare, strangely enough goes as under-recognised as Jackson does.
Solly was born in Renton in September 1946. He attended St Martins School where his football prowess already stood out, and then went on to St Patrick's High School in Dumbarton. (Read More >)
Agnes Owens is the Vale's “writer in residence”. Born in 1926, Agnes still lives in Balloch. Her close friend Alasdair Gray says she is the “most unfairly neglected of all living Scottish authors”, and perhaps one reason for that is that her first novel was not published until 1984 when she was 58, although she had produced her first short story in 1978 at a writing group in Alexandria which was being mentored by Liz Lochead. (Read More >)
Sir John Pender was a Bonhill lad who went on to find fame and a considerable fortune as an archetypal Victorian entrepreneur, who thought in terms of solutions rather than problems, and whose greatest successes came in the earliest stages of a field which remains central to the way we live to-day – telecommunications. (Read More >)
Tobias Smollett was born at Dalquhurn House on Dalquhurn Estate, in what became Renton, in 1721. He was the grandson of Sir James Smollett of Bonhill, who took the title “of Bonhill” form his ownership of the Place of Bonhill, which was just inside Bonhill Parish by a few yards. Sir James had purchased Dalquhurn as a residence for his “non-inheriting” children, although as we shall see,
Tobias came close to inheriting the Smollett estates and money, which would have solved many of his problems and almost certainly allowed him to produce an even greater body of work. (Read More >)
Rock star and songwriter, Sharleen Spiteri, came to live in the Mollanbowie Estate, Balloch, when she was just a young girl.
Now if she wanted to do a gig at Loch Lomond, all she would have to do is more or less climb over the fence of the former family home, push through the hedge into Balloch Park and she'd be on stage in the arena in a couple minutes.
Joseph Laughlin Stewart - “Lachie” to one and all from his earliest days - was born in the Vale in June 1943, and is the Vale's most successful athlete of the 20th century. He is, of course, best known for winning the 10,000 metres race at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in a thrilling finish against World record holder Ron Clarke of Australia (who won silver) and Dick Taylor, who took the bronze. (Read More >)