Place Names (P) Paddy's Castle - Pulpit Rock
Paddy's Castle, Ballagan
This long gone house stood on the Balloch to Gartocharn road, just east of Milton Grove in what is now the car park of Ballaghan or Loch Lomond Nursery. It was a 19th century building and was presumably given it ironic name because it housed Irish immigrants who arrived in the area in the wake of the Irish famine of the late 1840's.
Pan Lade, Alexandria
This is the nickname given to the Croftingea Works lade, and more specifically the inlet of the lade, at the bottom of Heather Avenue. There was a concrete breakwater on both sides of the inlet, and across the mouth of the inlet was a substantial wooden skimmer or boom, which was attached to a pole at the end of the northern breakwater. The purpose of the skimmer was to prevent floating debris entering the lade, but it made a perfect diving board for swimmers in the pool created by the breakwaters.
The entrance to the lade was demolished when the Leven barrage was built 1970 - 71, and the banks on both sides of the river were coffered. The lade itself is still quite discernible for most of its course, and although it has been drained, it quickly fills when the Leven bursts it banks.
Pappert Estate, Bonhill
By the time Pappert Estate had been completed in the 1970's most Vale folk thought that it had actually reached the Pappert Well, after which it is named. In truth it is nearer to the Well than it is to, say, the Fountain. It lies above not only Ladyton but also O'Hare. It is just to the north of Braehead, which may be a few feet further up the hill than Pappert. Like all the others on the hillside, it is a single name with numbers estate.
Pappert Well / Hill, Bonhill
A walk up the eastern hillside above Bonhill to the Pappert Well has been for generations one of the best known and loved walks in the Vale. Originally approached on the path through Bonhill Quarry and the woods beside the burn, it lies about half a mile slightly north east of the Black Woods. A marker-stone and a metal ladle, which made drinking the well water much easier, marked the site of the well.
By the 1950's and 60's the Well itself was a bit of a movable drink - disturbed from time to time by the drain-laying requirements of forestry and agriculture. However, no matter where it moved to the ladle went with it. The Well and Hill were close to an old drove road to Falkirk Tryst and served both local walkers and the much-travelled drovers.
Park Street, Alexandria
This street, which runs from Main Street to Smollett Street, between the Bowling Club and the Christie Park, takes it name from the adjacent Park - which before becoming the Christie Park in 1902 was Notman's Park. Park Street could have taken its name from either of these, but Christie Park is more likely.
This was the “de facto” public park of Alexandria for much of the 19th century. It occupied part of the triangle now formed by Bridge Street, Riverside and Leven Street and was gradually eaten into by the development of Bridge, Thomas and Leven Streets from the 1850's onwards.
As well as providing an open area for people to relax in, it was used for a variety of events, such as the Chartists political meetings in the 1840's, while the first cricket club in the Vale had a wicket there for many years from the 1850's, and the shinty team played there. It was also at Parkneuk in 1872 that Vale FC played their very first match - an educational one against Queens Park with the Queens doing the teaching.
Paton Avenue, Tullichewan
This Avenue in the first development of Tullichewan in the late 1940’s was short in two respects – it consisted of only 16 houses and it only lasted for about 15 years before being lost in the major redevelopment of Tullichewan which took place when the aluminiums were replaced by brick-built terraces and semi-detached houses. It was named after local builder John A Paton who was the Bonhill Parish and then Vale of Leven District Councillor for the Tullichewan area for about 30 years before his death in 1947. By and large, the names given to the new thoroughfares in Tullichewan from the early 1960’s onwards were thoughtful and deserved – e.g. nurses, doctors and the head gardener for the council – so why John Paton should be discarded in this way is a bit of a mystery – he was certainly deserving and popular. The most likely explanation is simple oversight.
Peters Avenue, Haldane
This is called after Archie Peters Junior who was elected to the Braehead Ward of Bonhill Parish Council in December 1922. His running mate in that ward on the Labour ticket was Dan O’Hare and they turned out to be a formidable combination. Archie Peters was a prominent member of the group who helped make that Council’s reputation of taking on the government to increase Poor Relief. He served out the full 1922-25 term and stood for re-election but was defeated. He never stood again for the Council but remained active in the Labour movement in the Vale as did many members of the Peters family.
Petty's Stone / Stane, Loch shore at Boturich
This smallish stone, standing on the shore of the Loch about 100 yards beyond the northern boundary of Balloch Park, has for many years served a useful marker for Loch users. It marks the end of a sandy / reedy stretch of Loch bed and the beginning of a long stretch of potentially dangerous rocky bed, all the way to the Endrick shore.
It also marks the end of dead water, which started at the mouth of the River Leven. When fish were plentiful, it was the point at which many anglers put their rods out on their boats and started fishing, because experience had shown that it was beyond this point that most fish started to bite.
The dead water may have had something to do with that, perhaps the rocks were a better feeding ground. With the dearth of fish, that's all a bit academic anyway. It remains useful to the Rowing Club, providing a fixed training course of about 700 metres from the Stone to Balloch Park Jetty.
Pier Road, Balloch
The Pier Road at Balloch dates from 1846 when the first Balloch Pier was built 300 feet out into the Loch, so that steamer passengers could step directly onto the Loch Steamers, instead of being ferried out or taking their chances on a plank from the Leven's bank. At that stage it was most likely a track rather than a made up road and it did not last long. It predated the railway which did not start running until 1850, and the course of both the railway line and Pier Road were determined by the location of the Pier. The Pier is the one to which the Maid of the Loch is moored, and has remained in the same place ever since, although it has been rebuilt at least twice and another pier was added just to the west of it..
The railway company acquired all of the land through which the road or track ran from William Campbell of Tullichewan, and promptly closed down access to the Pier via the road – it wanted passengers for the Loch steamers to travel to Balloch Pier station exclusively by train even if they were only coming from Balloch Central. The road therefore soon fell into disrepair, became overgrown and eventually disappeared. For that reason it does not appear on any of the early Ordnance Survey maps of the area. No doubt some approaches were made to the Railway about re-creating the road over the years, but people were only too familiar with the Railway’s dog-in-the-manger attitude and no one seriously pursued the subject.
It is no coincidence that it was raised again at the time of the Rights of Way disputes and the Sweeney case. When Alexander Wylie, no longer an MP but still a very influential figure as well as being a County Councillor for Renton, raised the matter in a Dunbarton County Council meeting in August 1911 things began to happen. In 1912 the Railway company reversed its previous decision – it was on the receiving end of almost universally bad publicity about its role in the various Balloch disputes – and laid out the road more or less as it is to-day. At a later stage a branch of the Road was opened to give access to Drumkinnon Bay. In its heyday, it was the large sandy beach at the Bay that attracted most road users, most steamer passengers still came by train.
The Road had the engine sheds and turntable on the east side, and later the Silk Factory land on the west. Until the 1960’s there was no official access from one to the other, although there were plenty of gaps in the fence. For many years there was a sawmill backing onto the engine-sheds at the southern end of the road - Tommy Anderson operated it for a time during the war – and the site was later used as a boat-storage yard. These days the Road leads directly to the Duncan Mills Sli[way where boats can be registered and launched, and to the Maid. Near the Balloch Road end is the most stylish block of flats in the Vale, and what used to be Fast Eddie's Snooker Hall, but was built originally as Peter Ewing's Dairy.
Pilot Rock, Loch Lomond
This Rock lies between the two Ross Isles just off Ross Point on the east shore of the Loch, almost immediately across the Loch from Culag Farm on the western shore. It is named after the steamer called The Pilot, which turned out to be something of an oxymoron. In July 1850, the railway had finally started to operate from Bowling to Balloch Pier, and The Pilot, a new steamer, had been brought onto the Loch to handle the anticipated increase in demand. Within a few weeks she ran slap bang into what has been forever after, the Pilot Rock. No one was injured, but the Pilot had to be beached, and repairs took some time.
Just over 10 years later in September 1860, the Prince of Wales went rock-finding between Inchmurrin and Creinch. Again no one was seriously injured, but she too was beached and had to be towed down the Leven and up to Bowling for repairs to be made. She at least had the excuse of dense fog for the accident happening, but that did not prevent her being awarded her due accolade, another Loch rock had found an appropriate name, and the Prince of Wales Rock it has been ever since.
This mansion house is on the “back “ road to Balloch about half a mile to the west of Croftamie village. It was well known to generations of Vale primary school children. It was built in 1896 on an estate, bought from the Duke of Montrose, which originally included much of Croftamie - the owners of Pirniehall were very much regarded as the local laird.
It was acquired by the old Dunbarton Council Education department and from the 1940's until the late 1970's, it was a residential school, giving many primary pupils a week's introduction to a simple early version of adventure activities.
Poachy Glen & Burn, the boundary between Renton and Alexandria.
You might think that anything with Poachy in its name must arise from the legendary exploits of 19th and 20th century Rantonians. You'd be quite, although perhaps quite justifiably, mistaken. It is another of these time immemorial names, and is included in a charter of about 1350, which, amongst other things, defines the boundary of Bonhill and Cardross parishes.
To this day this is the border of Renton and Alexandria. The Burn comes off Carman Hill, through Millburn Quarry and Depot, by which time it is called Mill Burn, runs alongside Turnbull's Loan (currently mis-named Place of Bonhill) and flows into the Leven just north of the start of Cordale Point.
Prisoner of War Camps - Ballagan, Tommy Anderson's Sawmill, Faslane
There were three prisoner of war camps in the area during World War Two. None contained what were regarded as high-risk prisoners at a crucial stage in the war. Prisoners in all three were put to work in the local economy.
The first camp was at Ballagan, on the east side of the Gartocharn road where the former agricultural cottages now stand, opposite Ballagan Nursery. It housed Italians who had been captured in North Africa, and who worked, usually unaccompanied by guards, on local farms. They were gradually released after Italy changed sides in September 1943, and there were few left by the war's end.
The Germans who were housed in Tommy Anderson's sawmill in the former Milton Works in Auchincarroch Road (now Gilmour & Aitken) were initially mainly captured sailors, but eventually there were also a number of soldiers housed in huts within the sawmill compound. Although they, too, were comparatively lightly guarded and worked alongside local foresters and woodworkers, many were kept in captivity until 1947, and indeed some stayed on after that because their homes were by then in the Russian sector of East Germany.
By far the largest group was kept in camps at Faslane, whose initial purpose was to house soldiers preparing for the invasion of France, which took place in Normandy in June 1944. As allied soldiers vacated these camps going south to France, defeated Germans came north to occupy the camps. Security was tighter there, not least because of the numbers involved.
These POWs were set to work on major infrastructure projects such building the Loch Sloy Hydro-electric dam (they were taken by train each day from Faslane to two specially constructed stations at Inveruglas and Inverarnan). They also built the new Rest-and-be-Thankful road on the hillside above the original military road, although for some reason, not the approach roads at either end of the hill, which weren't built until 1960-61. Some of these PoWs did not go home until these projects were finished in 1949, but most started to leave in 1946/7.
Pulpit Rock, Inveruglas
Now that the scrub, bushes and trees have been cleared away in the last year or so, its good to be able to see the Pulpit Rock again. It stands on the west side of the A82 about 6 miles north of Tarbet, just a few yards north of the infamous Loch Shore Road traffic lights. Its Gaelic name is “Clach nan Tarbh”, the rock of the bulls, (which belong to local folk-lore and don't feature in the story, which is of quite recent origin).
In 1825 the people at the northern end of the Loch had no church to serve them and were thoroughly fed up having to travel to the nearest church, which was then at Arrochar. A very practical solution was to create an open-air church by blasting an alcove out of the rock to act as a pulpit for the minister, with space for two of his helpers. The ground in front of the rock acted as the body of the kirk. Services where held there in the summer only.
Further evidence of the practicality of the site was that behind the rock, safely out of the minister's line of sight, was a stall, which sold mortal sustenance, including whisky. This seems such a good, sensible solution, which was obviously popular with the congregation, that it is little wonder that it has not been repeated elsewhere - that would be too good to be true. Summer services continued at Pulpit Rock until 1895.
Another point of interest about the Rock is that very close to it, there occurred one of the very few accidents on the West Highland Railway line. In 1906 heavy rain caused a rock to fall onto the line, (naturally, this was at the height of the summer) and a goods train ran into it, causing the wagons to be completely destroyed, and the engine driver to be injured, although the injuries were not life threatening.
There are a few things arising from the crash, which are worth noting. Firstly, the engine driver was taken to hospital in Helensburgh, by car. Secondly, the line was only closed for 24 hours, although there was a considerable amount of debris to clear. Thirdly, while the line was closed, passengers were transported around the accident spot, which lay between Arrochar & Tarbet and Ardlui stations, by Loch Lomond steamers from Tarbet to Ardlui. This use of steamers to get round a railway blockage must be virtually unique in British railway history.