Sign up and help to save Balloch from unwelcome commercial development
By Bruce Biddulph
Main Road on a busy day in Balloch on Loch Lomondside.
I am a bit of an historian locally. I love Balloch and Loch Lomond, and it is the history I’ve learned that cements that love deeper. Every walk I take now, be it even a trip to the shop or a great stride over the hills, I see and feel hundreds of years of history. The riverbank, which once was deeply wooded, shorn back during the 18th Century to leave the rump at Drumkinnon and Stukerogert, home of the Lindsays, our ancient foresters. The bay, once the most beautiful on Loch Lomond where saw the first regular steamboat service of any inland lake in the world, reminds me that this is the land of beauty and innovation. The village itself is of those days of steam, flowering as the railways arrived to take people to the steamboats and began the tourist trade Balloch has known ever since. The castle of Balloch, that 19th century confection, sitting where old Balloch once sprawled, and where the earls of Lennox ran the entire earldom that became Dunbartonshire.
And in the recent times, I see the boats that have played their part in forming the character of Balloch, for Balloch is all about boats! Traditions of fishermen who to this day know more about the loch than the entire army of university and salaried types who now think themselves kings of our loch. The pleasure crafts of rich and poor alike, the slipways teeming with life as families enjoy their thrill of going out onto this great inland sea with its amazing collection of islands, each one I can name, and each name redolent with a history and meaning of its own.
I am lucky, very lucky, the great grandson of immigrant English people, who came to work in Europe’s biggest and grandest motor car factory. The son of a dye worker, the grandson of a distillery worker, and a man who all his life has been part of the tradition of hospitality, and who at this very present works as a humble porter, glad of the opportunity to share with visitors the magic of this region, whose mother worked in the famed Woodbank under the management of Miss Fortune of legend.
Embedded into the fabric of Balloch, I am proud to be a living part of its history, like everyone else in this district. With this comes the responsibility every true native of this area feels, to be courteous and friendly with our visitors, to freely share with them what we know, to go that extra mile and ensure they leave Balloch with as much love of the place in their hearts as possible. We don’t even think about what we are doing, it is almost an instinct. Balloch is for all.
Our traditions have always been that whilst we lived cheek by jowl with the earls, then the great landowners such as Colquhoun, Buchanan and the Findlays and Campbells, all of what we survey is ours as much as theirs. We take ownership. We look after Balloch and its environs. We tread carefully, we clean up after ourselves and quietly, after others. We learn all we can about the ways of the loch, we respect her, we are in awe of her majesty and danger alike.
This is is our home. It means more to us than merely a place to live, It is our being. The love we have is no mere affection, it is deep rooted and powerful. It cannot be taken from us and no landowner has ever wished to quell it, for it worked for them to have their poorest neighbours and tenants care for the place and fiercely defend it. This is the DNA of generations. We are the history.
You, as a resident of Balloch already share that. You as a visitor to Balloch are why we still rise to enoble it. We are all from Balloch in a sense. And each of us has a part to play in continuing the unique story and character of this unique blend of noble lines and earthy honest love. Balloch is no sleepy village, it is a place of constant action and a through route of history in the living of it. Few places are like it.
You by signing this petition are saying, let me be part of that continuum, let Balloch flourish, but let it flourish as it has done, by permitting that flow of freedom, that love of its people, that tradition of history moving forward with the histories intact and the core element, the respect for the balance between human and natural activity.
This is you being Balloch too. You are saying, Balloch works with these blends of common weal and private ownership. To remove that at all, by handing over a huge and overbearing slice of our area to one company [Flamingoland] will destroy that harmony. One company that has no history here and can never have it. One company that cannot, unlike our former lairds, claim heritage of a 1000 years. One company that will never respect Balloch except as means of raiding its visitors pockets and corralling them into its enclosure.
The removal from our sights and feet of the riverbank, the woods and the bay goes against history, turns on its head the character of the place and puts us, the locals, into a position we have never known – that of strangers in our own town, mere tools for a rich company. And for our local businesses, most of which have grown organically, here comes a player from out of town to disrupt what has taken hundreds of years to grow and mature. Balloch needs no investment of this sort.
What Balloch needs is more assistance to be itself, to be a continuing story of local development and commonwealth. Balloch needs to be respected for what it has and what it has built up over the years, a population who already have the wherewithal to engage and empower itself. But take that opportunity from us now, and you break the spell.
The magic of Balloch will go, as will its history, the living history that is here and now. So you can be part of that history by defending it and being it.
Stop the sale. Let Balloch flourish.
Join us too on the 12th June at 7pm for a show of hands around Drumkinnon, Balloch’s threatened bay, and make history with us: