Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The secret life of Clydebank

I was seeking out a motorcycle repair shop called Gremlins today, and in finding Unit 10, Andrew Court, a hitherto unknown aspect of Clydebank's industrial life was revealed.

At first sight, Clydebank looks as if its heavy industrial past has been all but erased in favour of shopping mania. I've been told the retail park, which includes all the usual suspects, ALDI, LIDL (my faves) Primark and more, is the biggest in Europe. The only reminders of the gigantic Singer sewing machine works is the name of a railway station and a pub. Back towards Scotstoun, BAE Systems are still welding together what look like prefabricated warships, but apart from that, the shipping and shipbuilding has vanished from the Clyde, to be replaced by what I believe will eventually be viewed as completely bonkers mass housebuilding on both banks. Horrible, cheap-looking flats that block the river from the public and exude shoddiness. Prices are already plummeting.

Anyway, it's easy to forget that Clydebank suffered more than anywhere else in Scotland from German bombing during World War Two. The place is full of architectural anomalies: one minute beautiful Victorian villas, the next 1950s prefab housing. I found an old hotel yesterday, isolated amid a plethora of converted 50s factories. Clydebank was bombed to bits, lest we forget.

But I also found the pulsing beat of industry. Dozens of workshop units, some small, some not so small. Making things, fixing things. Furniture; pakora; engineering bits and bobs. And among them, Gremlins, to which I consigned a Honda Silverwing.

I hear Radio Clyde, which moved to Clydebank a quarter of a century ago in a fine fanfare, is moving back to Glasgow city centre. A shame.

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