Recollections by Bill MacLennan of growing up in the Bankhead area of Rutherglen, and reflectiions on the changes that have taken place there.
© Rutherglen Heritage Society
The district of Bankhead, to the south-west of Rutherglen town centre, is a place where there were no famous battles, no prehistoric remains and no medieval churches or castles. My main interest in the place is that I spent my childhood and teenage years there from the 1940s to the 1960s and am struck both by the changes and things that have remained the same since then.
Included in the items are some related to Castlemilk Road. Although these were officially part of Kings Park, many folk in Bankhead used these as a focus for their church, shopping and social activities.
The following is a personal, rather self-absorbed account of these. A warning to any reader is that my own experience of interviewing old people is that, due to intervening years and a distorted memory, they sometimes get things wrong. If I have sometimes made the same errors, I can only apologise.
Additonal material by John Quinn, Ian Barr and Carrick McDonald
Map showing many of the locations featured in this article.
Above, 1953 Ordnance Survey map showing the State cinema, St. Oswald's Church, the library, and opposite Kings Park Parish Church, the Castlemilk Road shops where the cafe was, and behind them, Swanson's garage. Also shown are the locations of the bank (opposite the library) and the hairdressers on Castlemilk Road.
Bank and Hairdressers, Castlemilk Road
To the south of Kings Park Parish Church, there was a bank and a small row of shops which included a hairdresser. The bank has subsequently become a dental surgery. In the hairdressers, the womens' section was downstairs with the mens' section above.
When customers like me visited the premises, we were so small that we had to kneel on a board across the arms of a chair, to save the back of the hairdresser. After sixty odd years the hairdressers premises are still there.
Right, the old bank premises at 248 Castlemilk Road, now a dental practice.
Bankhead Avenue, open ground
I am sure that, when I was four years old, I saw a bonfire celebrating VE Day in this area of open ground (right) at a dip in the road, connecting Bankhead Road to Curtis Avenue. Given my age and failing memory, I may have got this wrong.
Bankhead House lay in an estate which was bordered by Bankhead Road and Mill Street and ran as far west as Overtoun Park. It was occupied by the Quigley family in the early part of the 20th century. Three of the brothers, James, Desmond and Hugh were doctors who had a surgery on Stonelaw Road, which later moved to Rutherglen Main Street.
James Quigley, Hugh’s son, succeeded his father and continued in the Rutherglen Practice until the 1990s.
The house has been demolished and the estate covered by a modern housing development.
Above, paintings by John Quinn showing Bankhead House as it was while occupied (left) and when it became dilapidated (right)
'My own knowledge of the Quigleys, with valuable information from David Jackson, was that the Quigley family of doctors were very religious Roman Catholics and owned a large house in Clincarthill. They sold the house and property to the Catholic Diocese to provide a refuge for orphaned children and thus the Bellevue Convent relocated from Whitehill Street in Dennistoun. New dormitory blocks were built and the convent became a lot larger than the Dennistoun premises.
The Quigleys downsized to Bankhead House where they stayed until they all retired. The last doctor (Desmond, I believe) left in the early sixties and the house lay empty. I remember as a child, visiting the old house and going in and up the stairs, I remember yellow walls inside. A year or two later it was in a real sorry state, the staircase was gone and there were large holes in the roof, The following year it was rubble and the following year the Quigleys houses were being built.'
Above, 1895 map showing the location of Bankhead House which was on the site of what is now Landemer Drive, off Mill Street. The L-shaped meal mill (see below) is shown between the main house and the lodge.
Old Meal Mill, Bankhead
On the banks of the Cityford Burn, there was a water mill used for producing grain. In the middle of the 19th century it stood close to a ford, linking Rutherglen with open land to the south west. This was later replaced by a bridge towards the north east end of Bankhead Road.
The mill consisted of a small brick built building which incorporated the workings of the mill and domestic accommodation for the miller. He had a monopoly of processing all cereals grown within Rutherglen parish. As was the custom in these days he charged farmers a fee calculated on a fortieth of the grain he produced from their harvest. There are no remains to be seen of the mill, which was demolished in 1974.
Right, the Old Meal Mill painted in 2012 by Tom Lawson based on the picture in Rutherglen Lore and on additional detail provided from memory by David Jackson.
Above; reference to the meal mill in the History of Rutherglen & East Kilbride, Rev. David Ure, 1793.
Above, William Forrest's 1816 map shows Walter Whyte as the owner of Bankhead. The Whytes owned the estate for over three hundred years up until the 1880s..
The Last Miller
The mill ceased working in 1865 following the death of the miller, Robert Downes, who was accidentally killed by the mill machinery.
The mill has been silent for
some sixty years, and the picture will recall to many of
the older inhabitants the tragic circumstance of its closing,
and the death of the miller (Downes), who was caught
between the rollers of the grinding machinery, and who,
before being extricated, called for writing materials, with
which he executed a will in favour of his family.
Above, W. Ross Shearer, author, Rutherglen Lore
From Rutherglen Lore
William Ross Shearer, 1922
Left, photograph of the Old Meal Mill at Bankhead taken by Ian Barr in 1961
'I only wish now I had taken more shots at the time. One thing I remember was the marriage stone over the front door of the mill which was inscribed 1622: Walter Whyte - Jane Steven’ . This historic piece of Rutherglen history was swept away without a thought when the mill was demolished in the early seventies. I have long regretted not trying to rescue it for posterity.'
Maps reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland https://maps.nls.uk/index.html
Bankhead Primary School
The school, which opened in 1935 was a red brick one storey building with classrooms and staff rooms forming a continuous circuit around it. The boys and girls had separate asphalt play areas and there was a full-size football pitch. One memory of those days is assembling as class groups in the playground before marching round to our class room accompanied by military music broadcast through a loudspeaker.
Dance classes were organised with boys and girls being paired off and subjected to rigorous training in country dancing before an exhibition held shortly before Christmas. Most of the teachers were both kind and dedicated. I owe particular gratitude to Miss Neil and Mr Wheatley who set me on the right track for education and life in general.
Though I have many happy memories of the school, like many pupils, my conduct was less than ideal. On my first day at school, my mother was surprised to find me return home at lunch time. I had interpreted the lunch break as the end of the day’s teaching.
Later, with the encouragement of fellow scholars I collected several drain covers and dumped them in a war time water tank. A visit to an out of bounds quarry at the back of the school was the only occasion that I was belted by the head master.
I felt particularly sad when, in 2015, I heard that the school had been demolished. It has been replaced by a new magnificent two storey state of the art building.
Left; the new Bankhead Primary School, Bankhead Road
Buses around Bankhead
In the 1940s and 50s we were served by a remarkably good bus service. The number 7 bus to and from the city centre stopped at the shops, and a number 2 bus on Kings Park Avenue ran to and from an area near Glasgow University.
Outside our house in Montford Avenue a number 2 bus ran to and from Rutherglen Main Street and a 7A bus travelling to and from the city centre had its terminus in Kingsacre Road next to our road.
Having a bus stop outside our house was not without incident. On one occasion, my father and I had to help a drunk man who fell off a bus.
My twelve-year old sister once made a spectacular arrival, when misjudging the speed of the bus she jumped off the platform and flew through the air landing spread-eagled on the road. The fortunes must have been with her since her only injury was a skinned knee.
In the 1950s, few people owned cars in the area. Nowadays the streets are blocked with them and public transport in Bankhead is limited to the 7A which only stops in Castlemilk Road.
Above, an AEC Regent III Glasgow Corporation bus, 1949
Castlemilk Road Shops
Despite the fact that Bankhead was in Rutherglen, most shopping and amenities were centred around Castlemilk Road, in Kings park. Compared with sixty years ago, there still is a fish and chip shop but, in addition there are three other takeaway shops. The post office survives as does a baker but there no longer a pharmacy, a hardware store, a butcher or a grocer’s shop. Other businesses in the row of shops, which have become more common in local shops over the last 60 years, are a ladies hairdresser, a tanning salon, an estate agent, a licensed grocer, a shop with gymnastic equipment and a Costcutter store.
Left, the shops in Castlemilk Road
Above, Cosshill Farm steading from Bankhead Road
Above, 1895 map showing the location of Crosshill Farm with the Cityford Burn and Bankhead House to the east.
There is a record that, in the middle ages there was a standing stone on the summit of Cross Hill. This had a carving of Christ riding an ass, surrounded by other figures and inscriptions. The cross was destroyed by a mob in the 17th century, protesting against the imposition of an Anglican liturgy on the Church of Scotland.
Audio clip of David Jackson recorded in 2018 talking about Crosshill Farm, the last working farm in Rutherglen. He recalls visiting the farmhouse in the 1950s to buy eggs and milk, and remembers the Mitchell family who owned the farm
Crosshill Farm was the last functioning farm in the Rutherglen. Its proprietor was Mr Mitchell.
It had a herd of cows, and the dairy provided a daily delivery of milk to customers around Bankhead.
Its fields sloped down to the north side of Bankhead Road. This was crowded with children on sledges during snowy weather. One of our neighbours, who accompanied his son to the field was temped to try out the sledge down Bankhead Road. On reaching the foot of the slope he was confronted by the large polished boots of a policeman. Fortunately, the guardian of the law had a forgiving nature.
In the 1990s the land was sold off for development into the Cityford Housing Complex.
Between 1947 and 1964 the Scottish Special Association organised the construction of a large number of council houses as a part of a project to relieve overcrowding and inadequate housing in Glasgow. As part of the program, it acquired the land from Toryglen Golf Club and, between 1947 and 1962 built a large number of council houses on it.
I still have a memory of open ground in the area. It is there that eight-year olds like I, resisted invasion of our territory by an enemy from Rutherglen, shielding ourselves with bin lids we fired clods of earth each other.
Kings Park Parish Church
The church is a large building in the Romanesque revival style, built in red brick with stone facings. An electronic recording from the belfry called parishioners to worship each Sunday. Prior to its construction, the Glasgow Presbytery organised a competition for architectural design, leading to Hutton & Taylor being commissioned. The church hall initially was a wooden hut but in the 1950s, funds were raised to build high quality accommodation which included several meeting rooms and a large hall, fitted with a stage.
From the 1940s to the 1960s, the Rev. Robert Paterson was the minister. A man with abundant energy and enthusiasm, he was a magnificent preacher. The humour he injected into his sermons was in stark contrast the doom-laden approach characterised by Ricky Fulton’s Rev. I M Jolly character. As the Happy Padre columnist in the Sunday Mail he was well known throughout Scotland. Like several ministers of his generation, he was a Burns enthusiast and was in much demand as a speaker at Burns suppers.
My biased memories of the church, distorted by time, include the Band of Hope which still made use of a gas lantern whose illumination could be modified by boys standing on the rubber gas conduit. We all enthusiastically endorsed our rejection of alcohol. At the time, though, I was under the impression that I was promising ‘to abstain consumption of intoxicating liquorice.'.
Above, Kings Park Church of Scotland and church halls
My appreciation of the Sunday School was modified by the fact that my uncle Donald was the Sunday School Superintendent. Any solemnity he exuded on a Sunday was balanced by his great talent for accompanying popular songs on the piano at family gatherings.
His grave responsibilities were belied by his cheery personality. He was an insurance agent who cycled around his clients wearing a Sherlock Homes hat. He and my father were very inventive. One time when the two families were on holiday together in an Arran farmhouse, life became boring during a few days of bad weather. The piano in the house had most of its keys missing but, undeterred the two of them dismantled the piano and got all the working keys together so that Uncle Donald could lead a sing song on the two surviving octaves.
He was a war time casualty in that, as a corporal in the RAF Regiment he was ready to lead his men across the channel on D day when, much to his lasting embarrassment he broke his ankle playing football.
The youth fellowship played an important part in the social lives of teenagers and young adults. It held regular theatrical reviews enhanced by talented writers, actors and pianists. It attracted a wide range of speakers to Sunday evening meetings. Professor Barclay was a frequent attraction.
A particular attraction was Dr Mearns, Senior Lecturer from the University Department of Public Health who gave explicit talks related to sex education. Other visitors included a commander from the American Nuclear Submarine Base and a man from the town planning department who talked about the merits of new tower blocks beloved by architects in the 1950s. One implanted in my memory is of a prominent Irish poet whose presentation had to be abated when he arrived in an advanced state of intoxication
Left, poster advocating the temperance cause.
Library and Robb's Cafe
In the 1950s a complex of two storey buildings was erected on the east side of Castlemilk Road, north of the State Cinema. On the first floor there was a library. Despite its location in Glasgow it was a branch of the Lanarkshire library service. At a time of austerity, a ticket for the children’s branch introduced me and many others to a new world of adventure and information.
Robb’s Café lay several bays up from the library. It soon became a social hub for local teenagers. There was little in the way of riotous behaviour and there was not even a juke box. The café remains, reconstructed and under new management.
Above, site of the library
Above, site of Robb's cafe
304, Montford Avenue
From the age of five to my early twenties, I lived with my parents and sisters in the downstairs apartments on the left side of the four-maisonette block. My father, used his considerable talents to construct a fitted kitchen, to modify other rooms and, with the agreement of his neighbour design a terraced garden, moving several tons of earth in the process.
Before one General Election, he demonstrated his political open mindedness by agreeing to affix the poster of one candidate in one window, later agreeing to display the poster of his opponent next to him. He tried to placate the first candidate, explaining that it was only fair that each candidate should have the same chance of being elected.
Right, 304 Montford Avenue, King's Park
MacTaggart & Mickel houses
Above, MacTaggart & Mickel Houses in Montford Avenue.
In 1930, the builders, MacTaggart & Mickel entered into an agreement with Glasgow Council build a large number of rented houses at Kings Park and Bankhead. Most were two story buildings with pebble dashed walls containing two upstairs and two downstairs maisonettes with four apartments, with a kitchen and inside lavatory and kitchen. Each combination of an upstairs and downstairs flats shared a common garden.
The estates were of value in alleviating the problem of overcrowded and poor quality housing in Glasgow. Life in a MacTaggart & Mickel house must have appeared luxurious to the majority of Glaswegians still occupying a single end or room and kitchen with a shared stairwell lavatory.
The gardens, numerous open spaces and the abundance of trees in the area made for a very pleasant environment. A minor downside was that the bus ran the gauntlet of being struck by tree branches as it moved along the avenue.
The State Cinema
The State cinema on top of a slope on the west side of Castlemilk Road near its junction with Kingspark Avenue. It had an art deco design with a façade, highlighted by red and blue neon stripes. It played a major part in the social life of locals. Many dating couples made regular visits to its balcony. There was a running programme of a main feature, a B film, the news and adverts.
During the 1950s, increasing ownership of television sets led to a decline in the size of cinema audiences. It closed in 1971 to be reopened as a bingo hall.
Right, the State cinema, King's Park
St Oswald’s Episcopalian Church
The church, built in red sandstone with a Romanesque design has a small but highly motivated congregation within the Episcopalian Church of Scotland. It stands on the brow of a hill.
Right, St. Oswald's Scottish Episcopal Church, Castlemilk Road
There was a large Garage in Kingsbridge Drive, east of Castlemilk Road. My understanding is that the owner, Mr Swanson, was at one time chauffeur of Sir John MacTaggart, but I have been unable to confirm this. It survives to the present day under a different management, sharing some of its space with small shops.
Left, site of what was Swanson's Garage, Kingsbridge Drive.
Between 1947 and 1964 the Scottish Special Association organised the construction of a large number of council houses as a part of a project to relieve overcrowding and inadequate housing in Glasgow. As part of the programme, it acquired the land of Toryglen Golf Club and, between 1947 and 1962 built a large number of council houses on it.
I still have a memory of open ground in the area. It is there that eight-year olds, like I resisted invasion of our territory by an enemy from Rutherglen. Shielding ourselves with bin lids we fired clods of earth at each other.
Below, 1906 map showing the location of Toryglen Golf Club
Near the north end of Montford Avenue a short drive to the north west were two semi-detached villas dating from the late 19th century. When one of them was divided into flats, my parents, sister and I moved into it in the early 1960s. This property has now been demolished (below left) although the other one, to the south west, remains (below right).
Text and original photographs by Bill Maclennan