By Bill Heaney
Picture by Hector Cameron
Down Memory Lane gives so much pleasure to people that we tend to forget sometimes that journalists are part of that same history that we are recalling for our readers.
Anne Khaya’s picture of the Helensburgh Advertiser and County Reporter staff outside their East King Street printing plant had exactly that effect on me.
It jolted my memory and transported me to a happy time in my life and work when I felt part of a group which gave great service to the communities of Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Helensburgh.
It was there under the tutelage of Craig M Jeffrey that I honed the journalistic skills first inculcated into me as a copy boy and cub reporter with the old and then excellent Scottish Daily Express.
This was in the Swinging ‘Sixties days of real local newspapers when reporters went out on assignments, sub editors improved their copy and it was then set in lead on linotype machines before being made up into pages on the “stone” by compositors.
There may only have been 16, 20 or 24 pages, but they were our pages with our stories hammered out on old newsprint on ancient typewriters and our pictures, taken sometimes furtively, on square Rolliflex cameras.
We were a happy bunch, as you can see from this photograph of staff which Liz Simpson describes as “well kent faces”.
Names begin to drop on the 21st century technology which is putting us out of business, stealing our readers and making off with our advertising.
Carol Cameron … Cath Polley … Liz Simpson … Carol Cavanagh and Donald Fullarton, the old editor, who comments: “Great pic Anne. Seems like a million years ago!”
John Scott says: “[That’s] me front row extreme right next to George Gill. John Anderson (between Stuart Stenhouse and Bobby Young) also emigrated to Australia.”
George Gill tells Anne: “I speak to your brother often as we live in Rhu and am still a member of the golf club.”
The boss’s son, Mark Jeffrey, says: “Fantastic picture. One thing I never forgot from my childhood was working in the smoky foundry out the back.
“I asked big George how you would know if you had lead poisoning. He told me you feel kind of heavy and sluggish. It wasn’t until I was about 30 i realised he was joking.”
The other boss’s daughter, Karen Barber, said: “What a great picture. Thank you so much for sharing. Dad (Ronnie Jeffrey) will enjoy seeing it.”
Other names flowed into the conversation such as Howard McWilliams, Brian Averell, Tony McGinley, Craig Jeffrey, of course, and his father in law, Mr Slater, Margaret Jeffrey’s dad.
Billy Kinloch popped up to say: “Great picture. Recognised Anne Lillburn and a young Stenhouse. Those were the days when a well-liked informative paper was produced locally. Changed days indeed.”
Karen Ann Dunn mentioned her cousin Ron Lettis, who was a reporter on The Reporter with Bill MacIntosh, who is standing behind him in the photograph.
These two were inseparable, so much so that Craig Jeffrey used to refer to them as Lettuce and Tomato.
Sandra Wilkie said: “I relied on the clock that hung in the window to be sure I wasn’t late for school/work. No watch in those days.”
Donald Cowey, who went on to reach the dizzy heights of sports editor with the Glasgow Herald, said: “Before my time there, but I recognise a few, mainly caseroom, faces (albeit a good few years younger than in my day).”
More names. Billy Niven who “didn’t realise it was all they years ago,” Karen Ann Dunn and Joe Donnelly.
John Easdale Good person to ask! — The Helensburgh Advertiser went into publication about 1957 it was sold by the original owners in the eighties I think — that still adds up to THOUSANDS of photographs — enough to keep Helensburgh Memories busy for a very long time.”
Ace photographer Stewart Cunningham said: “I was told they were gifted to Dumbarton Libraries and were then thrown out. It will rankle me till the day I die.”
Anne Khaya was dismayed – “If that is true I will treasure them even more. The photos I have were taken by Hector Cameron, who worked for the paper.”
John Easdale said: “I bet the person who threw them out hopes his name doesn’t get out — don’t know how other towns archives fare — but huge chunks of Helensburgh’s story must have massive gaps.”
Stewart Cunningham said: “It was the head librarian around the mid-90s himself who told me this at their office on Helenslea Road, John.
“Everything from nuclear demos, to church fetes, prize givings, golden weddings, centenarians even The Stranglers on the beach at the Loch Lomond.”
John Easdale commented: “What a shocking act! — What a poor excuse for it! — There’s the Firemen risking their lives to save the archives for the Glasgow Art School and the Dumbarton Library are throwing ours in the fire? You are right — makes the blood boil!”
Stewart Cunningham said: “I had four great years on the Advertiser. I can see Brian Averell, Andy Skinner, the late Craig Jeffrey, Donald Fullarton, John Scott and George Gill [in this picture]. There will be more, but too young for me to recognise.”
Andrew McGowan said: “I worked at CMJ and Helensburgh Advertiser in 1971/72. Lots of familiar faces in the photo.”
More names – Helen Paton, Davie Wilson, Carol Campbell, the receptionist in the light-coloured outfit to the left of the picture.
And even more – Ian Kirkby, now Carol’s husband, Billy Niven, Jim Cavanagh and Tony McGinley, who was the reporter who covered Rhu Amateurs in their glory days and Dumbarton FC.
George Gill said: “The dark haired lady was Wendy Clark from Cardross she did the wages with Jimmy Niven’s wife Dolina standing next to her.”
Anyone who can supply a full left to right on this photograph should send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now you know why writing captions on pictures, an unwelcome task given to reporters and photographers, is so important.