By Bill Heaney
My late friend Frank Meehan of happy memory was the only guy from Whitecrook I ever knew who played tennis. He was “handy” with a racquet and the had the balls to take on most people who ever made it to Wimbledon.
I doubt if he would have been happy however to know that in the area of deprivation which Clydebank now is that Whitecrook Park Tennis Courts have re-opened to the public after a £60,000 refurbishment project.
He was an extremely bright man was Frank, pictured left, who left St Patrick’s High School and the University of Glasgow, to work as a diplomat for the US government in Moscow.
He became the US ambassador in Prague, Warsaw and Berlin before he came home to Scotland to spend many happy years in retirement with his wife, Margaret, in Helensburgh.
Although Frank was in a different league from the mediocre batch of politicians we have foisted on ourselves in this part of the world, I can’t see him sanctioning a cool £60,000 on a tennis court when children from areas such as Whitecrook and Brucehill and Castlehill, which he also had associations with, were going hungry.
It sounds to me that the tennis courts will place an additional burden on parents in Clydebank who will have to find the money for balls, raquets, tennis shoes and all the expensive paraphernalia that goes with this sport, which is associated with royalty and the well-heeled of this world.
Not everyone has a mother as well off as Judy Murray or a gift for the game like Andy.
However, pupils from nearby Whitecrook Primary School were invited to put the new courts to the test to practice their serves and volleys in celebration of the opening, joined by Councillor David McBride and representatives from the Lawn Tennis Association.
As part of the investment from the UK Government and the LTA Tennis Foundation the courts were resurfaced, repainted and new equipment including nets and gate system were installed.
Members of the public will have the opportunity to book a court and gain access to the facility, as well as participate in a range of development sessions.
In addition, with the help of Clydebank Sports Hub and West Dunbartonshire Leisure Trust, weekly organised free park tennis sessions will run for all ages, playing levels and experience.
The completion of the tennis courts is part of the commitment West Dunbartonshire Council has made to provide high-quality recreational facilities for the community and increase sport participation.
The refurbishment – I take it that it did involve cutting the grass? – is part of a nationwide investment project to upgrade public tennis courts across the country and encourage more to pick up the sport.
Councillor David McBride, Convener of Infrastructure, Regeneration and Economic Development, and Board Member of West Dunbartonshire Leisure Trust, who attended and opened the courts along with local elected members, said “We’re really pleased with the investment and the new look to the courts, the Council are committed to increasing sports participation particularly within tennis.
“This is our second set of courts which have seen a refurbishment within the last couple of years in West Dunbartonshire and we’re committed to encourage those within the community to get the best use of these courts with free booking and access to equipment.”
Julie Porter, Chief Operating Officer at the LTA, said: “After months of hard work, we’re delighted to see park tennis courts across West Dunbartonshire officially back open to the public, and in better shape than ever. Public tennis courts are such vital facilities for getting active and we want as many people as possible, of all ages and abilities, to pick up a racket and enjoy playing tennis. Thanks to this investment the sport will be opened up to more players, for years to come.”
Stuart Andrew MP, Sports Minister, said: “We are committed to levelling up access to sport which is so important for the nation’s physical and mental health. The Government and the LTA are working together to deliver thousands of refurbished courts across Great Britain, supported by £30 million of investment including £60,258 in West Dunbartonshire. These improved tennis facilities in Whitecrook Park will provide the local community with fun opportunities to get active and potentially become the next Andy Murray or Emma Raducanu.”
All courts will be available to book via the LTA website. New booking systems and gate access technology means it is now easier to get on court by booking in advance to guarantee availability. The courts will be free to book for all. The LTA and West Dunbartonshire Council will work together to ensure free park tennis sessions are available on the courts providing regular opportunities for anyone to pick up a racket and play.