NEWS AND UPDATES
This page is a progress log where you can find information about significant updates that have been made to the website. (Note that we don't always update this page so no comments do not necessarily mean that there have been no updates. The Facebook page is also a more immediate way of keeping people notified)
Most recent updates at the top of the list.
2 February 2017: Vale of Leven Photos with Commentary
Some Vale of Leven photos from over 100 years ago with commentary by Harry Summers. Some of these were supplied by Pat Millar. Thank you Pat.
9 December 2016: The Carman Fair
An article about Carman Fair based on material supplied by Catherine Cameron, whose aunt hand-wrote the note based on her own first-hand material. The Carman Fair was an annual cattle fair which was held on Carman Hill every August from the 1820’s until about 1896.
28 November 2016: The Torrinch Memorial
The story of the memorial on the island of Torrinch on Loch Lomond to four young men who were drowned on the Loch during the night of May 24th 1908.
1 July 2016: The History and Opening of Balloch Park
The story behind the purchase of Balloch Park by Glasgow corporation and its opening in 1916. By Harry Summers.
10 June 2016: Origins of the Name Jamestown
A discussion from Billy Scobie about the origins of the name Jamestown.
19 April 2016: From Habbie to Jeely Eater
The most significant literary event in the Vale for longer than we care to remember will happen will take place in May - Ian Miller will publish his autobiography.
Ian has been at the heart of everyday life in the Vale for nearly 40 years now, not just in his pastoral role, but in defending the quality of life of Vale folk against the steady erosion in matters as diverse as the closures of local post offices and of course the threats to the Vale of Leven Hospital and his tireless work for charities.
His stance on sectarianism - a Celtic-supporting Church of Scotland minister - is a shining light to all. But not only local issues have received his attention - Ian has been a strong supporter of international human rights through Amnesty International.
There has been no higher profile Vale person in the past 30 years than Ian and no more tenacious defender of the Vale and its people.
Now you can see his story in his own words in a book which will be published in May and launched at Bonhill Parish Church on 25th May at 7pm.
Typical of the man, all profits from the book will be donated to the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre. This is a "must read" book for every Vale person
14 April 2016: The Loch Lomond Bell
A story of the “Loch Lomond Bell”, made of bronze and fashioned around 900 AD, it is an especially fine and well preserved example of its kind. By Billy Scobie.
27 February 2016: Boll o' Meal Plane Crash
An update to this article has been added after we received more information from the son of one of the crew of the place that crashed in the Boll o' Meal during the war.
12 January 2016: Moon Tartan in the Vale
Added a fascinating story from Billy Scobie about how a piece of tartan, which has been on the moon ended up in the Vale of Leven.
3 January 2016: Uploaded a document written by Malky Lobban, which investigates the link between the McOran-Campbells and Tullichewan.
28 December 2015: Added Span of Life, a nice little article - a nostalgic recollection by Billy Scobie of happy childhood days spent playing in the Haldane Burn.
Carman as Camelot
Further speculation from Billy Scobie about the Carman Hill Fort and its possible association with King Arthur and early Christianity in Britain.
27 December 2015: Added account of the "Beggar Earl" by Billy Scobie.
20 November 2015: Added poem, "Bygone Days Bunull" by Tom Weir.
15 October 2015: Harry Friel from Alexandria was killed serving with the US Army in 1918. Our thanks are due to his Nephew, David, contacted us with his story.
14 October 2015: Camelot Discovered
Billy Scobie has written what for now at least can be described as the definitive account of the Hill Fort which sits at the top of Carman. Using some of the most outstanding academic sources available to-day as the basis of his work, Billy has added a speculative question - could this have been the base of King Arthur, King of the Britons?
Conditioned as we are to think of Arthur as a fairy-tale figure surrounded Guinevere, Lancelot, the Round Table knights etc we've accepted the modern southern English writers' version and the Hollywood's twist about a man who did exist, but whose real story has been lost in the fog of the Dark Ages, so your first reaction to Billy's question might be "no chance". But in fact it is the fairy-tale tellers and film makers who are peddling nonsense. Although we shall probably never have a complete answer to the question, there is far more supporting Billy's speculation than you may think before you read Billy's article. Read, enjoy and make up your own mind. View >
28 September 2015: Vale of Leven Roll of Honour Article
(This is a large document of close to 100 pages that is available as a downloadable PDF. It includes individual stories of many local soldiers and a link to the actual Roll of Honour with many of their names listed. You may even be able to find a relative on this list.) View >
15 September 2015: Schooldays in Scotland
Malcolm Lobban recalls his Scottish childhood in 1940. Malcolm has contributed interesting material in the past. He now lives in Australia where he produces "McFarlane's Lantern", a wee PDF magazine for members of the Clan McFarlane (and anyone else who wants to read it ;o). In his latest issue he reminisces about his childhood in Levenvale. This great wee article is on Page 6 of the magazine. View >
8 September 2015: Added The Spirit of the Tartan, another great wee article written by regular contributor Billy Scobie. View >
23 June 2015: Article about Renton FC's successes in Scottish and British football. View >
28 April 2015: Article about the missing War Memorial in the Vale of Leven Academy. View >
14 November 2014: Article about Jackson family casualties in the wars. View >
11 November 2014: Article about the demolition of the Dillichip Bridge. View >
11 November 2014: Review of Billy Scobie’s Latest Book
“Mightier Than The Sword by Alexander Tait”
It’s always a pleasure to welcome books by local authors, particularly when that author is local historian and novelist, Billy Scobie. Writing under the pen name Alexander Tait, Billy has just published his third book, Mightier Than the Sword. The book is a clever interleaving of the lives of William Wallace, Scottish patriot and hero, and Billy himself, particularly in his younger days growing up in Alexandria, Tullichewan and Balloch.
The book is released in the year of the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, and it’s a handy coincidence that the Independence referendum came as well later in 2014. It’s no exaggeration to say that without Wallace there would have been no separate Scottish kingdom, no Bannockburn, and no Declaration of Arbroath. As is to be expected with his knowledge of the period, Billy is particularly strong on the Scottish Wars of Independence giving a balanced and rounded portrait of Wallace – his faults as well as his great strengths. Neither King Edward I of England nor most of the Scottish aristocracy would have been adding Billy to their Christmas Card list if this book had been a contemporary account, but their part in the story is also a very fair account of their behaviour.
The various local connections with Wallace are drawn upon, the saddest of all being his incarceration in Dumbarton Castle after his betrayal to Sir John Menteith, Keeper of the Castle, and a typical Scottish aristocratic chancer who like most of them had sold out to the English. Menteith kept Wallace in chains not just at Dumbarton but for his journey south to his barbaric death at Smithfield in London.
As this tale unfolds, Billy keeps us entertained with tales from Alexandria and Balloch of the 1970’s until now and you will be able to name-check the people you know as well as try to identify many whose exploits are described but whose names are withheld, probably to save their embarrassment. The flavour of many of the Vale’s hostelries of the era is perfectly captured and the feeling of happy nostalgia is inescapable.
So this is the perfect book to fill in the gaps in Scottish history with which a Scottish education leaves you – why on earth did we allow that to continue for so long? – and all the while to wallow in happy memories of good times in the Vale’s “dream shops.”
The book is available not just in a number of shops in the Vale, but also from Amazon and in selected Waterstone’s bookstores, which is quite a breakthrough for Billy.
24 February 2014: Added images of a Nuthatch to Wildlife page. View >
4 February 2014: Added images taken by Benjy Boyle of seals heading up the river Leven. View >
12 January 2014: Added contribution from Graham Lappin on the early tourist traffic between Glasgow, Dumbarton and Loch Lomond. View >
7 January 2013: We added a short film of Loch Lomond, which is probably the first piece of colour film of the Loch (from about 1926). View >
21 October 2013: "Rangers 1872: The Gallant Pioneers" is a book about the early years of Rangers FC that was written by sports Journalist, Gary Ralston. As many of you will know, Vale of Leven FC are written indelibly into the history of Glasgow Rangers through their epic Scottish Cup Tie in 1877.
As it says in the Galant Pioneer's blog, "The series of games which was the 1877 Scottish Cup Final not only created a fierce rivalry between Rangers and Vale of Leven it also cemented great friendships which would last for decades to come.This titanic battle over 3 matches between Rangers and Vale of Leven for the 1877 Scottish Cup saw the transformation from what was a boys club [Rangers FC] born in a public park 5 years earlier into a respected football club."
One the founding fathers of Rangers was Tom Vallance, who was born on Succoth Farm on the hill above Renton. His family later moved to Shandon, where he met the others who were part of the original "Gallant Pioneers". He was one of the team who played against the Vale of Leven in that cup tie and one of those from the two teams who went on to meet for dinner or an outing each year.
The last of these outings was to Rowardennan in 1928. The people behind the Gallant Pioneers website and blog contacted us to exchange information and also to try to find some information about a home move that was made of this occasion. This film was shown in the strand cinema back then but there was no record of any copy until the folks from the Gallant Pioneers found a copy so many thanks to them. Rather than repeating the information on the blog we shall just provide a link to it here.
(Note that in Tom Vallance's speech he mentions the wonderful pies they were served in Jamie Kinloch's pub after playing the Vale of Leven. Jamie Kinloch's pub is actually now McKenzies, in Alexandria's Main Street.)
September 2013: We have been making updates to the Vale songs and Poetry page. These include sound recordings of local poems and adding a video and lyrics to Billy Scobie's song, "The Bloody Sarks" about the battle of Glen Fruin. This was recorded by the Corries. View >
12 August 2013: We have managed to make the well known local book, "The Old Vale and its Memories" and its Epilogue available as a free download on this site as a PDF or for your Kindle. Get it here >
9 August 2013: We have added an interesting new story to the Vale in the Wars Page. This is about an English soldier's time spent in the REME at Dillichip Works during WW2 and the friends he made when based in the area. View >
24 June 2013: We are delighted to publish these two stories from Robert Bain – The First Transatlantic Cable and The Royal Visit. Robert was formerly a pupil of Main Street School and Vale of Leven Academy, Alexandria to which he eventually returned to teach science for many years. View >
6 June 2013: We have bowed to the inevitable and started our own Facebook page. Hopefully this will generate more interest in this site and encourage more people to contribute. View >
5 June 2013: Added Coronation page to Contributions. View >
31 May 2013: Added contribution from Tommy Gilmour to Vale wildlife page. View >
9 May 2013: Added contribution about Jamestown Amateurs FC. View >
4 May 2013: Added note by Jim Biddulph about the National Museums of Scotland's "Colouring the Nation" project. View >
25 Feb 2013: Added a history of the Loch Lomond based Clyde Canoe Club. View >
16 Feb 2013: Added a history of Jamestown Parish Church. View >
11 Feb 2013: Added an interesting account of Prince Albert's visit to Loch Lomond and Balloch in 1849. View>
28 November 2012: We found an image showing McKenzies bar from around 100 years ago, which solved the story about it once being called the "Motor Bar". See submission on 2009 discussion page for 8 April. View >
25 November 2012: Billy Scobie has produced a speculative but interesting case for the often disputed location of the Robin Hood legend being in our area. View >
21 November 2012: Added a series of nostalgic articles about life in 1950s Vale of Leven by Eleanor Thomson, a writer and ex-pat who now lives in France. View >
6 October 2012: Added an article by A. Graham Lappin about trams in the Vale of Leven. View >
26 July 2012: Added a more detailed description of "The Slunger" in the place names page. View >
22 July 2012: Added story of the crash landings of a flight of Fairey Swordfish aircraft in the Boll o' Meal in 1941. View >
28 June 2012: Added background to the aerial picture mentioned below. This also includes some fascinating detail of a Home Guard exercise that took place in the Gartocharn area in 1943. View >
25 June 2012: Added an aerial picture of the Vale that was taken by the Germans during WW2 when they were planning to target the RNTF for a bombing raid. View >
8 June 2012: Local writer James Barr published an account of his recollections of the Disruption of 1843 including some memories of the Rev. Gregor. Graham Lappin provided a downloadable PDF of this account. View >
26 May 2012: Harry Summers has written a detailed account of the the war memorials in the district.
14 April 2012: Billy Scobie has contributed an article on the hill-fort on Carman Muir, which was discovered by aerial photography in 1954. The database of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland describes it as, “Citadel Fort of Dark Age type C measuring 150 yards in diameter, with stone ramparts, ditches, and sunken approach roads.” View >
1 March 2012: Dumbarton library has a "Sports in the Locality" exhibition running from today March 1st until 28th April. For this exhibition the "Loving Cup" has been borrowed from the SFA museum at Hampden. It will be on display in the library for anyone who would like to see it. The story of the loving cup is on this page.
11 November 2011: Added a downloadable copy of Andrew Stewart's poetry. View >
6 November 2011: Added link from Wars page to article describing the sinking of the newly built K13 steam powered submarine during trials in the Gare Loch in 1917. Although not specifically a Vale of Leven incident it has sufficient local interest for it to be included here. View >
4 November 2011: Added a list of answers to Andrew Stewart's poem, " A Quiz for Jeely Eaters". Can you help with this? View >
29 October 2011: Added more TA stories from Malcolm Lobban. View >
22 October 2011:
- Added Vale Memories, a contribution from Malcolm Lobban about life in the Vale from the 1930's to the fifties. View >
- Added two articles to the Vale in the Wars page. One of these is a brief history of the local fighting units in Dunbartonshire in the past 2 centuries and the men who served in them, by Mike Taylor. View >
- The second article is The Evolution of 3 (Argyll 1 Sutherland Highlanders) Coy. of the 51st Highland Volunteers by Malcolm Lobban. View >
17 October 2011: Added an interesting submission about Jimmy Lappin's commando and SAS army service in WWII. View >
14 October 2011: Added new content to Vale Songs and Poetry page. View >
12 October 2011: Added article to Wale in the Wars page. View >
16 September 2011: Added Graham Lappin's article about Turkey Red Trade Tickets. (Note that this is a PDF of about 17Mb so it may take a few seconds to download.) View >
21 August 2011: Added article about Alexandria's Black Bull pub, which stood at the fountain. View >
18 August 2011: Added article from W. Scobie about William Wallace's possible visit to Bonhill. View >
17 August 2011: Added another detailed and excellently researched contribution from A. Graham Lappin about the Chartist movement in Alexandria. View >
17 August 2011: A. Graham Lappin has donated a copy "Balloch and Around", the excellent and highly entertaining memoirs of James Barr's Balloch 1820 - 1845. View >
3 May 2011: Added Vale Empire theatre page. View >
18 March 2011: Added Babcock and Wilcox page. View >
6 March 2011: Added video page. View >
15 November 2010: The Roots of Alexandria St Andrews Parish Church - a contribution by Harry Summers (with contributions from several others) has been added. This is another fascinating article with some interesting pictures. View >
17 October 2010: Added an image of the Vale of Leven FC to the sports pages. Have a look at this and get in touch if you have any information to offer about this image or the people in it. View >
28 August 2010 - Added information and images to the sport page of a Scottish cup medal won by John McDougall of the Vale of Leven FC in 1877.
14 July 2010: An entry has been added to the discussion pages regarding a story about the Vale of Leven FC's strip being the basis for that worn by the Scottish international football team. Read >
12 July 2010: A new (redesigned) website has been launched. Apart from some background functionality improvements I have tried to make it a bit more vivid and colourful. I would appreciate your comments on this (critical or otherwise). Any suggestions as to how it could be further improved would be very welcome.
With regard to content, some minor freshening up has been done. We are still looking for appropriate contributions of images and stories so if you have anything that you think may be of interest to Vale people we urge you to get in touch.
23 June 2010: A short article about a Vale man's war during WW1 has been added to the Vale in the Wars page.
28 May 2010: A link to a silent film of the Vale of Leven Gala day shot in 1972 has been sent to us by Tommy Crocket. Some of you will remember these gala days. This one took place probably just before the time when the Vale stopped being ... well "The Vale" that many of us remember.
The film quality is not great and there is no sound but there is a lot of interesting stuff there. You may even see faces that you recognise. The footage includes coverage of football, ladies hockey, beautiful baby competition, highland dancing, judo and a motor bike stunts team. The beautiful babies will all be approaching 40 years old now!
Please have a look at this and if you see yourself or anyone you know let us know and we'll put your comments on here.
18 May 2010: Many of you reading this will no doubt have attended Bonhill Public School (as I did). The old school is to be demolished and it is closing at the end of this term. The new school opens on the first day of the new term after the summer holiday.
An event has been organised to take place on June 5th in and around the old school and all former pupils and others are invited to come along from 1pm till late evening and join the party. See the Myspace page for more information.
9 April 2010: After a lengthy period of hard work and dedication Strathleven Artisans have established a King Robert the Bruce Heritage Centre in the building that was formerly Renton Station.
The opening ceremony was attended by members of the Bruce family who are descended from this former king of Scotland, on Saturday 27 March, 2010. A report from the Lennox Herald can be seen here.
Members of Dumbarton Cine Video and Digital Club filmed events surrounding the opening ceremony and they are presently working on the preparation of a film. A taster for this film can be seen here.
The Centre is open to the public between the hours of 12 and 4 pm on weekdays and 12 and 5 pm at weekends. The volunteer staff will be happy to see you.
8 March 2010: Some significant additions have been made to the web site over the last few days.
- Added page which will feature information about the Vale during war time
- Added page about the Balloch Navy.
- Added page with aerial photographs of the Vale taken in 1947.
- Added picture of Castle Danger
15 February 2010: Two new images have been received. These are of the Scotts farming at Overton farm in 1938. View >
27 January 2010: A new image has been added to the discussion page for the article below.
11 January 2010: See the 2010 discussion page if you can offer any information about the memorial stone in the middle of the copse of trees in the field at Duck Bay.
27 November 2009: We have added an excellent and highly detailed contribution from Harry Summers. This is a history of the Bonhill Parish Pipe Band from 1931 until 1979.
24 November 2009: Apologies - I have not been updating this news page of late but without going into detail there have been some interesting additions to the discussion page. Have a look.
11 July 2009: I have added some interesting images from Eddie Shovelin. These are of a group called the "Independent Order of Good Templars", the Levendale Cycling Club outing and one taken on the platform of Renton railway station in 1922. If anyone can offer further information about these images please get in touch. (Discussion page)
8 April 2009 - The Motor Bar: Do you remember the time when McKenzies Pub in Main St. Alexandria was known as the "Motor Bar"? (Discussion page)
24 March 2009: We have now added a search feature to the website, which should greatly enhance the website user's experience . This is a free search facility supplied by Google that appears above the menu on every page. We would appreciate your feedback on this.
9 February 2009: The "Appin Murder" was contributed by William Scobie. It is an interesting tale that offers a local link to this notorious murder, which was featured in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel “Kidnapped”.
15 January 2009: As a matter of interest I thought I would post the top twenty website visitor statistics for the last six months of 2008.
Obviously the UK provides the vast majority of visitors but that still leaves a large number from around the world.
The English speaking countries will always provide the largest number of visitors followed by our near European neighbours due to the number of ex pats living there. Other countries outside of the top twenty that have provided traffic include, Serbia, Taiwan, Pakistan, Mexico, Libya, Kazakhstan, Japan, The Bahamas, Namibia, Bulgaria and the Ukraine. The Internet is providing information about the Vale, B'nill and the Ranton to people all over the world!
14 January 2009: The Dumbarton Reporter is looking to do a story on any expatriate Scots who are returning to the area during this Homecoming Year. If you are one of them or you know of any others who will be making a visit during 2009 please let us know.
12 January 2009: We received some interesting pictures and humourous material from Colin Elliott, whose father was John Elliott of Elliot's garage in Jamestown. This has been added to the Jamestown page.
5 December 2008: Added an article called "Bridging the Leven". This was contributed by Gordon Burns - a history of the River Leven's Bridges.
3 December 2008: Added a sitemap, a navigational aid to assist users to find the information they are seeking.
3 December 2008: Added a page on the history of the Jamestown Primary School.
5 September 2008: Images added to the Jamestown page.
4 September 2008: The Famous Vale of Leven Folk pages has been added today. We hope that this will generate interest and lead to suggestions of other famous folk from the Vale that we have missed. It is difficult to define "famous", but for the purposes of this website, we have tried to identify people whose names and activities are recognised not just in the Vale, but also on a Scottish and UK level, and in some cases internationally.
3 September 2008: The local newspaper, "The Lennox", ran a feature on us this week so we will be getting lots of new visitors and this will be a busy period for us.
3 September 2008: I received an email from Tommy Crocket who has created a nice little photo display of the Vale of Leven. This is available on YouTube.
2 September 2008: The Bonhill pages are almost complete. These contain lots of excellent images.