On a recent trip to the town where I grew up I took a walk down memory lane and visited the place where I spent a great deal of my childhood.
At the top end of Sinclair Street in Helensburgh, hidden away behind a converted water pumping station, lies a park called Walkers Rest.
It was in this park that many hours were spent playing endless games of football with good pals who lived close by. The games would last for most of the day as we would play and play until we were so tired that we could barely walk back home. It was real Jumpers For Goalposts stuff as we used jumpers for goalposts – always good for an argument about whether a shot was in or not!
It was here that I honed my footballing skills as I desperately tried to emulate my hero, George Best. I remember thinking I looked great when I first donned my replica Man United strip. Sadly, unlike today’s modern sports fabrics, the strip was made of cotton and soon stretched in the wash to become a voluminous, misshapen thing.
The park is now in a pretty sorry state, as can be seen in the photo above. There is no evidence that anyone uses the park for football any more which is a real shame. The old pavilion/shelter has also gone, this was a green painted timber structure lined with bench seating which sat in front of the white house in the picture. This is where my Man Utd shirt met its sorry, smouldering end, given an attempted viking burial after we found a discarded box of matches. The scorch marks could be seen on one of the roof trusses for many years and I suppose a part of me wondered if they might still be there.
My memories are fading with age but I do remember a lot of good times. I remember playing in all weathers even once when there were several inches of snow on the ground.
I can’t picture all of the characters that used play. There were a few different “teams” – Glade Rovers being ours.
Some of the people I remember playing :
- Big Rab was a regular and will no doubt remember more details about these days than I can.
- My long suffering brother who, because he was a couple of years younger than me, was often on the end of some Fergie-like hairdryer rants from me when things weren’t going our way.
- Our super goalie, Iain, who, I think, modelled himself on Peter Bonetti. Still uses the name Glade Rover on t’interweb to this day.
- Graeme, who would always have to be home in time for tea.
- Woody, had his 15 minutes of fame when he stopped a runaway car from rolling down Sinclair Street.
- A posh young man who could only play when on holiday from his boarding school, lived in a huge mansion, father was big in the Whisky industry, can’t remember his name
One of the peculiarities of playing at Walkers Rest was the proximity of the pitch to the disused pumping station. Prior to its conversion to a private house it was a scary, decrepit old building full of old pipes and with a huge, deep, empty reservoir at the rear. It was not uncommon for an enthusiastic, but off target, shot to fly over the fence and end up at the bottom of the huge pit, at which point the person who had struck the ball was despatched to retrieve it. This involved getting over/through a corrugated metal fence and then descending into the depths via a very narrow, very corroded metal ladder which was, barely, attached to one side of the pit. This was a nerve racking experience and I’m sure it taught many of us to be a bit more considered with our shooting.
Happy Days indeed…