If you have any stories of the Yard, large or small please get in touch. We are also keen to make some sound recordings of peoples experience and would be willing to travel to meet with people who would like to participate.
Contact Alistair Baird:
Tel. 01224 734614
Lunchtime game of Shove Ha'penny in the engine shop 1962. Copyright Alistair Baird
Harry's Old Rover
Harry Malloy (Engineer) had an old black Rover car and for a time during the early 60's he gave myself, Gilbert Kennedy (Painter) and Bill Winton (Welder) a lift from the Vale to Bowling and back again. On one freezing, foggy, winters morning we were driving to work (no heater in the car) and at one point Harry could not see the road in front of him. We took it in turns to walk in front of the car and guide him. After a while and when the visibility had improved a little, he decided to wind up the windscreen, which you could do on Harry's car. When we all climbed out of the car at Bowling, frozen and stiff as boards, we discovered that we were all covered in frost. We looked like Arctic explorers. P.S. Harry replaced the Rover with a bright blue Baby Austin, which brought a new set of challenges, but it did have a heater and a radio. (Alistair Baird)
Sir Walter Scott
Once a year we had a contract to service the Sir Walter Scott up at Loch Katrine. As I remember I only went there once, it was only a day's work. Anyway, when we finished somebody said there was trout in the stream running into the loch. We had a couple of rivet bags, which we kept our tools in, no tool boxes then. We strung a bit of wire round the open end of the bags and jammed them across the stream, I don't know if it was legal but we ended up with a boot full of trout. (Jim Cooper, Store Boy & Engineer 1958-1964)
The Yard Bell
It must have been after I had been there a couple of years, myself and young Robert Wilson walking down the harbour to the yard, when in the distance we would hear "The Bell", to begin with it was auld Andy Maclay , the maintenance man who rang the bell- later Eric McKay- the bell was not an automatic affair, it was rang until Andy's arm got tired or he wanted his tea, I know this because when I came out the stores and before I went to the Engine Shop, I spent some time in the Maintenance shop, and I sometimes rang it, anyway when the bell stopped ringing Bobby Moffet the Gate man shut the main gate, and you were locked out, it wasn't a quarter you lost in those days it was the morning, so going back to young Robert and myself we would start running like hell to beat the bell and pick up your square brass check ( round in the afternoons, alternating every year) we used to try and be nice to Bobby, as usually he would see us running down the river bank and depending what mood he was in he wouldn't shut the gate until we arrived. That was when the new Office block was built and the Gatehouse was moved alongside the offices. (Jim Cooper)
Riviters fires were very popular, not just as a source of heat, but to boil tea cans and toast sandwiches. 'Boys' were given the task of making the tea and could be seen carrying a pole on their shoulder with two or three cans, front and back. This was a particularly hazardous task during the unofficial tea breaks in the morning and afternoon. While management tended to turn a blind eye to tea breaks, from time to time they would assert their authority and the cans would go flying. There was a practice that was common in all of the yards to warn men when a gaffer was coming , which was to tap your head, signifying that a 'hat' was coming. (Alistair Baird, Store Boy and Engineer 1959-1964)
"Sorry I was late but my bunnit fell onto the railway line and I had to wait until the train left to get it". (Alistair Baird)
The 'Bookies Runner'
The local Bookmaker had an agent (Bookies Runner) who worked in the yard and who took bets from the men using a leather bag which was fitted with a time clock. I am not sure how it worked but it recorded the time when the bet was made, which ensured that all bets were made before the start of a race. Men were allowed to bet on "tick" and to square up at the end of the week. In Scott's the Bookies Runner was also the Labourers Charge Hand. He would stand just outside the gate on a Friday night and collect what was owed by the men as they walked through the gate. While he must have kept a written record, on the night he seemed to know who owed what and could be seen taking handfuls of money, nodding an acknowledgment and putting the money in his pocket. It all happened so fast. Some men including myself on occasions had to hand over all of their pay. The problem was you did not need any money up front and if you were loosing you tried to gamble your way out of trouble. (Alistair Baird)
Dean Ford and the Gaylords (later called Marmalade) on the Maid of the Loch.
During the early sixties word got round the Yard that there was an evening cruise on the Maid of the Loch on Loch Lomond and that Dean Ford and the Gaylords (later to become Marmalade) were playing. A number of the apprentices and younger journeymen from across the trades managed to get hold of tickets. While I enjoyed the band, my lasting memory is of watching Benny Scullion, who was a Caulker and middle weight boxer, take on three or four lads and beat them. I never saw anyone before or since that could fight like Benny. (Alistair Baird)
The Toilets at High Tide
The toilets in the Yard were like the boats, built from steel plate. The wc's backed onto the river and there was a significant gap between the back wall and the floor. This place was neither a library nor a sanctuary. While the toilets were provided for the usual purposes there were two unintended events that happened with alarming frequency. As engineers we had a steel rule in a pocket in the leg of our overalls. When removing these overalls the pocket was turned upside down and the rule shot out of the pocket, through the gap in the rear wall and cut its way into the Clyde. The other alarming event happened when a high tide and a passing boat combined to flood the toilets soaking everything around your feet. (Alistair Baird)
Apprentices Strike 1960
Word arrived that the strike leaders were traveling by train from Glasgow to Dumbarton and that they wanted to meet the apprentices from the various yards on the way down. We were informed that members of the strike committee were traveling on the train and would be arriving at Bowling on a particular train. As previously agreed we made our way to the Yard gate where we were met by the Yard Manager. He said he would sack the first apprentice to walk out of the gate. Without hesitation one apprentice stepped forward and walked out of the gate and the rest followed. It was the Yard Managers son. You're a hero Willie. (Alistair Baird)
We were paid on a Friday night and as 5.30pm approached the men would slowly make there way towards the office. Arrive too early and you would be chased back to your work. At the appropriate time a ground floor office window would be opened and the names of the men would be called out and they would step forward to receive their pay, which was in a cubed shape tin can without a lid. Inside the can was a pay slip and the cash. Having received your pay, many including myself would on occasions lob the empty can at the office window. Those who felt less strongly put their can in a wicker basket which was provided for the purpose and was positioned on the ground beside the window. (Alistair Baird)
Things that float in the river
The slipways tended to gather up objects that were floating in the river, much of which was human waste and condoms. For a young lad the the condoms were a bit of a worry. Firstly there were so many and more importantly they appeared to be large. I was comforted when peering down into the dock my journeyman said to me "Don't worry son they stretch when they have been in the water for a while". (Alistair Baird)
Frank McAdams remembers his time at the Yard.
I was an apprentice at Bowling in the 70s, I have fond memories of the yard and of some of the characters there. I was an apprentice with Sammy Hogan. Ernie Reid was my Journeyman. I remember John Drane he was a turner, Jackie Forsyth, I think was from old Kilpatrick. There was a big lad Mick Conroy, we were all fitters, or then marine engineers. Tom Clarke was the engine shop foreman. I worked on the Grampian Trawlers, I also was involved with the Mexican boats. I remember one was at the pier getting final preparation for trials, we were standing on the deck of the Grampian hill, the Mexican trawler I think had Paxman v twin engines, it was berthed behind the Grampian. It was a nice day and some very important chaps from the Mexican Navy were there for the trials. A clyde pilot was there in those days to take the vessel out. As they went to move the vessel from the pier, apparently the pilot put one engine full ahead and the other astern, this should have Manuvered the vessel out into the middle of the Clyde, but disaster struck the cable for the engine put into astern had not been connected or had come adrift, therefore the full ahead engine was the only one to respond. This resulted in the brand new vessel running straight into the Grampian hill. The bow of the Mexican vessel was crumpled, and the paint on the Grampian trawler got chipped. No one hurt except for the pilots pride. I wonder does anyone else remember this. I also remember Geordie Gillies, he was charge hand when I was there. I used to go up to loch Katrine with Jack Mclean who owned the Bowling inn, Failey devline was another guy I worked with and his father operated the radial arm drill in the engine shop. I still have my trade lines for Bowling. Every time I pass bowling I think of the days I worked there and wonder if any of the lads are still around and what they are doing now. (Frank McAdams)