Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Street Where I Lived

Hello again to guest blogger, Dan, who takes us on a tour of his bit of Govan Road

Well, what do you know? It would appear that quite a few people read and liked the ‘piece (in the words of Ernie Wise) what I wrote’, when I guested in Lady Govan’s blogspot prior to Christmas. One even asked for more, and since I enjoyed the submitting and the comments received, I hope that you will forgive me for indulging myself again as I record a little of the Govan of yesteryear, with the hope that it may provide someone out there in cyberspace a little bit of cheer too.

My family lived at 571 Govan Road, next to Burndyke Street, ‘kitty-corner’ to Princes dry-dock. There were five boys, two girls and mother and father living in a two bedroom and kitchen house with inside toilet, but no bath or shower.
Are you wondering where or how such a big family slept in such a small house? So am I, so if you can figure something out, please let me know! My father worked constant nightshift so he slept during the day - still we lived in that same house from 1935 to around 1960. To add to your puzzlement, at one point we actually had a lodger stay for a short time, I think to help out with the rent.

I attended Copeland Road School and please note the spelling of the School as against the Street spelling. Miss McKenzie made sure that everyone should know that the school was there before the street was named -- so stick that in your pipe, and smoke it! After ‘passing my quali’ I made it to Govan High School and it’s really the walk - four times each day (aye, I used to come home at dinnertime for a plate of ma mammy’s soup) - from 571 to Govan High that I was going to base my ‘soaking in nostalgia’ blog at this time.

As I mentioned our close had ‘The Bells’ (Campbells) pub in between us and Burndyke Street. We had some great games of football in that street and I remember some keenly ’fought’ matches with the ‘Hoey Street’ gang.
The other interesting thing about Burndyke was that there was a ‘Seaman’s’ Mission at the bottom of the street, used mainly, I believe by Chinese sailors. Infamously, one of the sailors stabbed a young Govan man to death - right across the road from our window.

Our close was known as the ‘Jew’s Close’. Mrs Wilkie, who always reminded us of old Mother Riley (she wore those same gloves with no fingers in them) ran the dirtiest and darkest newsagent shop you could imagine with cats everywhere.
Next to the newsagents was Dicksons’ Dairy, a small dairy, right below our house. I don’t think the coakroaches liked it very much, because they kept emigrating up to us - I still have a hatred of the black, slimy creatures.

The Govan Press office, next to the tram stop was quite palatial (certainly compared to Wilkies’) with large plate windows and an inset door. This was just the front office to a printing factory and warehouse which stretched all the way from Govan Road, the length of Burndyke Street.
At the back of the property was a three-storey building where the ‘Presses’, Govan, Renfrew and Clydebank were typeset and printed.
There was a huge printing machine, a Cossar, which bore the name of the owner of the business. I believe it was Mr Cossar’s father who had invented or built it.
My first job on leaving school, was message boy in the Press office, and I was given the chance to sit the ‘printers’ apprentice’ exam. It was very difficult to get a printing apprenticeship, only one apprentice per four journeymen was allowed - and that ‘one’ would usually be the son of a compositor or a machineman – so I was very pleased when I eventually managed to get the apprenticeship.

Back to our journey along the Govan Road; we’ve not got very far, only to the ‘Press’ Building, but it is worthwhile dwelling here for a few minutes to see the beautiful and interesting architecture and famous figures of Gutenberg, Caxton, Burns and Scott - not to mention Mr and Mrs Cossar themselves - sculpted below the windows of the houses above the office.
The Press building and ‘close’ (but not the factory or warehouse) are still there, looking a bit forlorn amid the devastation and clearance of all ‘that once was’.

Next to the Press was ‘Coffee Joes’, a very, very popular eating place, mainly for shipyard workers, when Govan was thriving. I remember it was a great place for a ‘bag a’ broken biscuits’ when we were wee and if you were really lucky you might find a wee bit of a chocolate biscuit among the crumbs.

There was a lane just before Runcimans’ the Chemist, which led to John Smeaton, Wrights. We always looked upon them as a joiners’ yard, and there was a great feeling and an atmosphere of friendliness about the place. The lane was also the site of an engineering workshop in a small garage-type building.

Very important - to our family - down the lane was a small back door opening to the Southcroft Street Pawnbrokers. I say important, because it allowed whoever of our family was assigned on the Monday morning, to slink through the backdoor with the suit which had been ‘redeemed’ by wages received on Friday night - allowing weekend use - and then the suit returned on Monday to get that little bit of money that would help until it would be needed on Friday again. Unfortunately, I’m sure that scenario must have gone on for years; I seem to remember being too small to see over the counter in the cubicles.
Looking back, my mother appears to me like one of those jugglers trying to keep balls in the air, or exemplifying the adage, ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’. She was quite wonderful, she knitted, sewed, mended and bemoaned the fact that she could not make shoes - especially with five boys who were forever ‘kicking the toes out of theirs’.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Dan, for an interesting trip down memory lane. I worked in your old school from 1973-81 and walked along that stretch of Govan Road just about every day. You wonder how so many of you lived in a two room and kitchen....well, in our case, there were three adults and five kids in a room and kitchen: Granda had the bed recess in the kitchen and everyone else had the bedroom. At one point there were two double beds, a cot and a zed bed (that's what we called it anyway) all being used. There were also two wardrobes, a dresser and a chest of drawers in there and yet I don't remember feeling that the room was cramped!

Anonymous said...

You indulged yourself (and us) well there again Dan. Thoroughly enjoyed it! Any more? Any school memories?

stevie douglas said...

Hi Dan,When I read your blog I was transported back to my roots,I lived in number 8 Burndyke St,and went to the same schools as you.I can remember when some wags lifted the flagstones in the back of your close and emptied the cellar of the Bells pub on a Sunday morning.My first gilfriend lived up your close and I have so memories and tales of Govan that I think I may put some of them on the web.I too was a regular visitor at Hill brothers pawn shop,and was there in Mrs Wilkies on the week it closed down and her son was selling everything cheaply.