A London-boy’s visit to Eaglesham in 1960

My dad remembers very vividly a boyhood visit to a well-to-do house in Eaglesham in Renfrewshire in Scotland. This website describes some of his memories of his time there and the influence the visit had upon him.

Context and History

My dad grew up in Zennor Road in Balham in South London. A photograph on the mantlepiece was that of his dad’s brother, whom they called Ernie or ‘Titch’ but whose full name was Ernest Herbert Finch (1912-1975). My dad didn’t know his uncle Titch beyond the photograph because he had married a Scots lady in London and had moved away from Zennor Road to live in Scotland. My dad knew that he had an Aunt Nelly and a cousin Sylvia Finch.

In 1960, my dad’s eldest brother George got married at the local parish church of St Stephen’s Clapham Park. At the time my dad was 14, and his Uncle Titch and Aunt Nelly came down from Scotland to attend the wedding. They had driven down from Eaglesham, where they lived.

George FINCH and Rose SHAW’s wedding in April 1960. This view is taken outside St Stephen’s Church, Clapham Park. My dad (Tony FINCH) is visible centre left wearing a hat behind the best man (Dennis ENGLAND) and his Uncle Titch (Ernest FINCH) is on the far right. Aunt Nelly is the lady holding a handbag fourth from the left.

The Visit to Eaglesham

My dad was invited to go up to Scotland with his aunt and uncle and so, about a week after this photograph was taken, my Dad, his aunt and uncle headed up to Scotland. My dad remembers that Titch had an Austin A35 car. This was by far the longest journey my dad had ever done and he set off early in the morning, driving all day and all night. He remembers stopping for a break in Carlisle and his uncle showing him that Carlisle police officers had different shaped helmets. He got there about 2 am.

His aunt Nelly was housekeeper in a well-to-do house a few miles from Eaglesham in Renfrewshire, which was about 10 miles south of Glasgow. The house was “Low Hill House” and lay a couple of miles South of Eaglesham village. The house was owned by a rich family and when my Dad was there, the family were not in residence, so my Dad had free reign of the gardens. Although my Dad couldn’t remember it, we now know that the family was that of Captain KING who employed staff that included my Aunt as housekeeper, my Uncle Ernie worked on the roads but he also did causal work as as odd-job man in the house and garden. The staff also included a full-time gardener who had a cottage across the road, belonging to the house. The house had two drives; one to the front which welcomed the formal guests and one to the side of the house which tradesmen used. The side drive led to the servant’s wing at the rear in which Nelly and Ernie lived and my Dad remembers that this contained the kitchens on the ground floor. My Dad’s Aunt and Uncle slept on the first floor – my Dad was put in his cousin Sylvia’s room (who was 9 years older than him) while she was away, working in service in Glasgow.

He remembers it as a big house, particularly with the servants quarters, a tennis court, vegetable patch, a small orchard at the rear, a putting green and a croquet lawn. Coming from London, my Dad hadn’t experienced an environment like this and he remembers it vividly. His uncle looked after the Captain’s cars (the garage had space for three cars) and there was another outhouse in which machinery and tools were kept. There were cold frames alongside this building which was used to grow vegetables and flowers. Because the owners were away, he and his Aunt Nelly played croquet on the lawn and he remembers her showing him a bird’s nest in the privet hedge by the road. He once went into the main house which had a long staircase and a hallway that he remembers but he wasn’t allowed in any of the main living or bedrooms.

My dad was given the shopping to do and he walked across the fields from the house to Eaglesham village, taking the dog. He walked across the fields before picking up a path that led into the village. When we visited in 2021, I surmised this must have been ‘Kirk Wynd’ and that my dad would have entered the village next to the church. My dad used to take his uncle Ernie’s bets for him (betting was illegal at this time) and there was a street bookmaker in the village. My dad recalls that the door was higher than the street and there were a series of 3 or 4 concrete steps at right angles that took you up to stand on a platform in front of the door. When we visited in 2021, Ken Mallard of the Eaglesham Historical Society advised us that the village bookmaker had been Patsy (Patrick) Harrigan who had lived at 73 Gilmour Road, although the current front of that property did not ring any bells with my dad. It may be that the road level had been altered or that my dad remembers the rear of the property, but the property is private and we could not check that idea.

At the end of his stay, Ernie took him by car to Glasgow and put him on the overnight bus back to London. My dad was too shy to get off the bus all night, even though it had several stops, and he just stayed rooted to his seat. His Dad met him at Victoria bus station.

Postscript

A while later, Ernie and Nelly came back to London to work and they lived back in Zennor Road. Ernie made for my Dad a cold frame like the ones he had seen in Eaglesham. He had it in his back garden in 25 Zennor Road and it was made using old sash windows Ernie had salvaged from a building site. My dad is now a keen gardener and he traces his interest in gardens right back to that visit.

Acknowledgements

We’d like to thank Ken Mallard and his colleagues at the Eaglesham Historical Society for helping us identify the house where my dad stayed and the current owners of the property who were helpful and understanding when we asked to visit.

One thought on “A London-boy’s visit to Eaglesham in 1960

  1. Wow. This is fascinating. Good memories stick no matter how long. Reminds me of my Mum’s story from 1961 when she first went to London to study. She lived with the family of the then past immediate District Officer of our hometown in colonial Nigeria – a man named A. A. Pardeau. I hope to connect with any living member of his family.

    Regards to your Dad and the rest of the family.

    Liked by 1 person

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