In your younger days there were places that were like a magnet to us. Places that we were forbidden by our parents to play near as they were considered to be dangerous. As we were told No! we Thought, Yes! and we went to these places.
One such area that I have written about in The Birds Eye View of Bute is the Lade, a stretch of water that starts from the Kirk Dam. Heads north with the meadows and the swings etc on your left. I wish that I had a pound for every hour that I spent on these swings.On your right were Macraes fields which were in fact a market garden This was not the best place to play as there were plenty of jaggy bushes and nettles. But there was also plenty of raspberry canes and other fruit bushes that we were attracted to in the season. This area is now the playing fields On the left it goes alongside a field that I knew as Buntys Field. That's the one that the prefabs were on, now the Gymkhana and cattle show park. This was the best area for fishing on the lade. Plenty of good sized pike and small perch with a vast amount of roach of which some were very large. One year my brother caught a roach which I am sure would at that time broken the British record as it was that big. And one year the ice on it was that thick that a bonfire was built on it on it. The fire was burnt out yet below the cinders the ice was still there. These were cold winters indeed.
Still on the left, past the garden plots, which we kept away from as to enter them looking for something nice to eat like peas on the pod would get you a rap on the knuckles or a sore ear. That was the place to give a body swerve.. On your right was, and still is the King George V playing fields with a football park which the surface was of cinders which were acquired from the adjacent Gas Works. (Now Cotton Mill Lane). Then we had the slaughterhouse which we had no inclination to play in. We had more fun in the Burgh Yard which had a large shed that all cardboard was put into bales. We had great fun here as if you were in the shed no one would here you and you could also find things if you looked through the boxes that were still to be baled.
Also The Grand Stand which was another magnet as you had to climb to get in. and as the structure was of angle irons and sheets of corrugated iron, it was like one great climbing frame. Back to the left, past Listers field, the one that they grew their Dahlias in, Which was for many many years a delight with that many varieties to look at. Now the site of the new Gas Works with , until recently there were three containers that held the gas in liquid form which was delivered by tanker lorries, now the gas is piped via Cowal to Ardbeg.The solid gas containers are now gone and all that is left is the gas board workshop. We have the old gas works on the right which was not a nice place to play owing to the smell. It had three gasometers that had steps up them but we never ventured there, we all had the fearties. I think that the height of these gasometers towering over us made us feel very vulnerable. Then the county yard on the same side. This place was taboo as the foreman lived on site and would soon hear you getting up to mischief. Opposite these yards were sycamore trees which we always seemed to be up. You could cross the lade using these trees and so keeping you feet dry, but if you were being chased they were not the thing for a quick exit. At this point there is a junction which diverts the flow of water past the convent, now Bute looms, to reappear at the back of Meadow Place in Columshill Street Where Mc Kirdy had a shed for a lorry and where there were garages for private cars. A good place to play football much to the annoyance of the tenants of Meadow Place, some of whom rented these garages. At this spot an arched tunnel led back up to the lade ,but the last time that I went up there it was full of rats. There was that many of them that I beat a hasty retreat. Nowadays you hardly ever see a rat, and I am not complaining.
But the main flow went through Hunter the builders yard,Now Gibsons yard past Jenkins the joiners yard, now a Garage, Valeting and Car sales. Under Mill Street, Past the drying greens of the Mill street houses, long since gone. On the right was and still is W&J Duncans garage, and on the same side were a row of houses that you entered from John Street, plus Starks the painters. Now vacant except a small area used for the new sewage systems. On the left was a yard, in fact there were two, one was a boat yard, maybe they both were.( The Grey Cells are going) At this point was a gate that a horse and cart could enter the lade when required, and there was a "Gents" at Ladeside Street made with glazed bricks. This area has been made into a garden which also has under part of it more of the new sewage system. Under John Street there was a pipe that I am sure came from the slaughterhouse direct, as at times blood came pouring out an inspection hatch on this pipe. Not very nice but as the slaughterhouse has gone, so has the colour. Maybe it came from the painters, if so he poured away an awful lot of red paint Past the Cotton Mill houses, on the left was Donnachies yard, that and the area of ladeside street was great for playing in now a filling station and Ladeside place.On the right my memory is still a bit mixed up.
I can remember the drying greens of the houses of Mill and King Street, now a garden then a joiners yard, now BT then a demolished property which no one chased you away from, it had a smashing see-saw, now the DSS. Then Fishers the grain merchants yard at Queen Street At this point it went under Queen Street through the Electricity Department,which at that time was producing DC, or Direct Current to our homes. the last entrance to the lade could be made from Bridgend Street, now blocked off before it goes under Montague Street,This at times is where we went if we had a torch and a pair of wellies, to see if we could get down to the bay from there under the length of Deanhood Place. We never made it , It was a good cure for constipation?
All in all it was and still is a good place to play at, only different, it may be full of rubbish,and silted up but that is soon to be rectified. If you go to the spot that it joins the sea and look back, you will notice that there are no high properties built over the lade, this would just be in case that the weight would be too much for the long arch from Queen Street to the Esplanade. I think that they needn't have been worried as I was helping to excavate the arch for a inspection hatch many years ago, and it has been that well built that we had our work cut out to break through it. This is just another story to give you memory a jog. It may not be 100% accurate, but it is how I remember it.
First Published in the Buteman 2003