© Rutherglen Heritage Society
Above, early 20th. century postcard showing Overtoun Park gates, Overtoun Drive. The superintendent's house can be seen to the left. Thanks to Carol Foreman for the use of this postcard which was published by William Ritchie & Sons Ltd. of Edinburgh.
In April 2020, not long after the introduction of movement restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we received an enquiry from a lady on behalf of her father who lives in Rutherglen. This prompted us to fill a gap in our archive.
This isn't really a history of Overtoun Park and the area surrounding it. It's more a collection of information, photographs and recollections about the park which we put together, along with research provided by the lady who made the enquiry, to whom we are very grateful.
Because of Covid19 restrictions my elderly father has, like many of us, had to adapt his daily routine. He has taken to walking around the Overtoun Drive perimeter of the park and is wondering what the “many” buildings within the park are. He is partially sighted and, having not lived in Rutherglen for 35 years I am not sure what buildings he is referring to. I suspect he is looking at the former Park Superintendent’s House, which I know was converted into a private residence some time ago, but his description of “the buildings” makes me wonder if perhaps more houses have been built in the park since I moved from Rutherglen.
Because I am unable to go and look for myself at present, and my dad is impatient for the answer, I tried to find it in the many references to Rutherglen and Overtoun Park online. I failed, but I came across Rutherglen Heritage Group in the process. I am hoping someone in your group might be able to help. My dad has lived in Rutherglen for over 60 years but probably hasn't been near the park since the last time Landemer Day was held there, or possibly even longer. I am sure he has just forgotten about the buildings being there. Or maybe he never walked on that particular stretch of pavement previously!
The park is named after industrialist Lord Overtoun, a.k.a John Campbell White, who bestowed the land to the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen, but perhaps more infamous for his White’s Chemical Company. The company was found to be polluting the land in the 1800s, and much of it is still contaminated, making the gift of the park slightly ironic.
The cast iron bandstand was created by Walter MacFarlane & Co at their Saracen plant, where they also made the fountain located in Alexandra Park. It bears the inscription "Presented by Sir James Fleming Knight of Woodburn to the Corporation of the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen 1914". Overtoun also has a cast iron fountain, this one dedicated to Queen Victoria’s 1897 diamond jubilee and decorated with golden owls.
Above, the Queen Victoria Jubilee fountain in Overtoun Park
Above, the bandstand, Overtoun Park. The bandstand was on display at the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival and subsequently returned to Overton Park, but to a slightly different location.
From Rutherglen Lore, 1922
Overtoun Park (12 acres),
Gifted by the late Baron Overtoun, has its main entrance
at the corner of Mill Street and Overtoun Drive. The
Superintendent's house and the public flagstaff are in the
near vicinity. The prospect from this elevated position
is one of the finest, and the judicious arrangement of the
grounds, which are tastefully kept and attended by a staff
of assistants under Mr. D. Brown, Parks Superintendent,
is greatly appreciated by the general public and by city
visitors to Cathkin Braes, who in summertime make it a
half-way resting place. This handsome gift was the
outcome of an interview the late Lord Overtoun had with
Ex-Provost Rodger when paying him a friendly visit at
his attractive residence—Avonholm.
Above, W. Ross Shearer, author, Rutherglen Lore
Impressed by the
magnificent outlook and the topographical situation of the
ground which was then known as Chesters, the noble lord
decided to purchase the estate for the inhabitants of
Rutherglen, and took a personal interest in all the planning
arrangements until his death, a few months prior to the
completion of the work.
His generosity is commemorated on a bronze medallion
at the entrance to the park, thus:
THE ROYAL BURGH OF RUTHERGLEN
RIGHT HON. LORD OVERTOUN,
WHO DIED 15th. FEBRUARY, 1908.
This Park remains a lasting memorial of
the generous donor, who, by this gift
and in many other ways, showed his
sincere interest in the place of his birth.
The superintendent's house at the north west corner of the park, is now a private residence, accessed from Overtoun Drive. You can't really see it clearly from the park, the view obscured by trees, etc.
There is a bowling club or tennis club in the periphery of the park area as I recall from walking my daughter's dog in the area not far from the health centre and also just passed the bike humps. This is Overtoun Park Bowling Club (on the eastern boundary of the park) who celebrated their 100 year anniversary in 2012. So buildings, clubhouse etc. might be of this period.
Left, Overtoun Park Bowling Club, April 2020
The Stone Faces
Below, audio clip of David Jackson talking in 2017 about the stone faces in Overtoun Park,
Below, some photos of the stone faces.
I don't know if this helps at all, but the first house built in Roger Drive is the white one at the corner of Roger Drive and Broomieknowe Road. It was built in 1903 by Charles and Agnes Geddes. As it was in the middle of a field, their daughter Doreen remembered crossing the field and coming out opposite the school at the corner of Johnstone Drive. It was a short cut instead of going along Roger Drive which was just being made. Doreen and her friends climbed the railings to get into the field which had a little pond where they stopped to play and in winter when it froze they skated on it.
The field opposite the house, which later became Overtoun Park, was where Henderson the contractor kept his horses. When the field became the park, the Jubilee Fountain of Queen Victoria was moved from the junction at the end of the Main Street and reassembled in the park. In the early summer of 1914 the bandstand was erected in the park. Later a duplicate of the first house was built further along Roger Drive nearer Stonelaw Road.
My fond memories of the public park was playing tennis and putting there. There was building which was cafe and it had a wee bit at the front where you paid for a round of putting and booked a court for tennis. Me, my husband and sister had many a grudge tennis match there. We were very sad when it all vanished. Just down from the cafe were public toilets and round the corner there were plant nurseries.
As we lived in Limeside Avenue when we were very young we used to hear music coming from the park and we later found out that they had concerts there and dancing. In the summer a band played in the bandstand, which was originally at the Mill Street end of the park surrounded by a circle of blossom trees. In the summer, the grass used to be crowded with people who had come to listen to the bands.
The swing park of course was amazing, no health and safety, we all just fell off and got back on everything. The shute, frying pan - where we used to hang upside down from while someone was pushing it round like mad - and the big horse were all well used. Today of course they would be taboo. The Academy hockey team of which I was a member played its games in the public park.
To finish, every September the Shows came to the Football Park which was amazing fun. My sister and I had a bedroom at the back of the house and we could hear all the music from the fairground when we were tucked up in bed. When the shows left after the September holiday everything was so dull and colourless.
Carol Foreman, May 2020
Above, W. Ross Shearer, author, Rutherglen Lore
From Rutherglen Lore
W. Ross Shearer, 1922
'Probably no Ruglonian will ever attain to higher
distinction in the estimation of a people than did the late
Hon. J. A. Wallace, the great gold-mining speculator of
Victoria, Australia. This industrious son of the Ancient
Royal Burgh migrated from his native town in the 'sixties,
landing in Australia at the psychological moment when
gold seemed to run from the leads like water. Having
been trained to a commercial career, he " made good "
the first year of his arrival, and continued amassing wealth
until his death in 1901. He re-christened the town of his
adoption " Rutherglen," in honour of his birthplace, and
from a little hamlet Rutherglen, Victoria, has become one
of the principal industrial and fruit-growing districts in the
colony. One of its Commissioners visited the old Burgh
in 1898 or thereabout, and a proposal was set on foot by
some of the members of the Town Council for the
presentation of an illuminated address of congratulation
to their offspring. Subsequently the patriotic spirit of
young and old Rutherglen materialised in an exchange
of flags, particulars of which will be found among
the miscellaneous fragments. On " Children's Day," 28th
June, 191 9, at the crowning of their first Lanimer Queen
in Overtoun Park, and in presence of some 20,000
spectators, Provost Rodger, M.P., offered a salute to our
Australian cousins by hoisting the Colonial flag on the
public flagstaff, the band playing, " Rule, Britannia."
The scene on this occasion, enhanced by natural surroundings,
was one of the grandest ever witnessed within the
Burgh, and struck a note of patriotism which should
reverberate between the Rutherglens as the years roll on.'.
Here are pictures of the swing park at Overtoun probably in the 1950s. We never called it the playground it was always 'Come we'll go to the 'swings' which in the summer we did every day after school. It was easy for my sister and myself to go as we lived in Limeside Avenue which was more or less across the road from the park.
Above it is the American Shovel which was I suppose was dangerous by today's standards, but we never thought of it like that. Anyway, the boys always hogged it. The swings and the chute for younger children, are not in the view but they were to the left of the Horse and Shovel.
Top right is the shelter where the 'Parkie' always seemed to be hanging about. He always knew when we were up to no good. He must have had eyes in the back of his head. He used to chase after us, but we usually got away.
The swing park was remodelled a few years ago, and I'm pleased to say it is well used. During the day, not only in summer, it's lovely watching grandparents playing with their grandchildren there.
Carol Foreman, May 2020
Left and below, the swings in Overtoun Park, 1950s Image credits: Carol Foreman
The picture left shows some of the things we had to play on. Right in the foreground is the Roundabout, which looks tame but when it was pushed round as fast as it could go and we played at jumping on and off at speed, we did sometimes get a bit knocked about.
Above the roundabout is the Witch's Hat. We used hang upside down on it while someone was pushing it like mad. It used to sway from side to side. Fortunately nobody ever got really hurt, just bruises and sore bits. I really liked it. Just sticking out lower left is part of the Horse which I never liked much. I thought it was boring.
The Last Parkie
David Jackson remembers the last park superintendent, or 'parkie' - Mr. Scott, 'a nice wee man with silver hair.' He retired around 1974. The parkie before him, David recalls, was Mr. Wilkie
Yesterday I managed a visit to Rutherglen and I took a walk that included viewing 3 sides of the building(s) within Overtoun Park. I established that it/they were built in 1907 and the current building has been a residential property since 1990. Luckily for me the owner was working in the garden at the time so I was able to quiz him. He told me he had owned the property since 1990 but that the garage and an extension to the house were fairly recent additions. I congratulated him on how well these blended in (I assume the use of sandstone was part of the planning permission). What I failed to do was ask him if buildings had been joined together to create his home, and what they were being used for when he bought it.
I have confirmed to my dad that “all these buildings” that are “spread over quite a length” are/is in fact now one residential property. But now his interest has switched to knowing about its history, eg was it a superintendent’s house right up until it was sold in 1990, or was it used for any other purpose before then. These are now the answers I would like to find for him. I am considering writing to the owner, or maybe SLC Archives, to ask if they can provide any history pre 1990. I might need to contact GCC too due to Rutherglen being moved between both authorities. Or if your group would like to take on this task, and share any information received with me, I am happy to let you do it.
The Superintendent's house
The house at one time occupied by the park Superintendent is located at the corner of Overtoun Drive and Mill Street, and was built in 1907, the same time the park itself was laid out, The architect of the house was David Salmond, partner in the Glasgow firm of Watson & Salmond.
Left, the old superintendent's house at the park's main entrance on Overtoun Drive.
The building, along with the Overtoun Drive entrance gates, the bandstand and the Queen Victoria fountain, were all given listed status in the 1970s. The house is now a private dwelling, accessed from Overtoun Drive, but you can still see the original entrance gate to the house inside the park.
(Thanks to John Quinn)
Right, view of the house from inside the park.
Above, houses on Overtoun Drive