The Tree of a Son of Skye

History | Culture | Ancestry

Demolished Heritage

One of the things I enjoy most about genealogy is being able to visit places associated with my family and to know that I am standing on the very spot that they once stood. I’m aware that some people don’t understand the appeal of this, but we family historians often afford ourselves these moments of sentimentality and reflection. Genealogy is ultimately a humbling process and the curiosity of the family historian is such that deep down they feel that if they go to the right location and listen hard enough, they might just hear a faint echo of the past.

Yet we aren’t always given the luxury of being able to see important locations connected to our family history. This is particularly the case in Glasgow or other urban areas where buildings are demolished, parks built over and whole streets rearranged in the ever evolving urban sprawl.

Scotland certainly has a rich architectural heritage but we have not always done all that we could to preserve it. Time and time again we have simply bulldozed entire neighbourhoods rather than find a workable solution to preserving our built heritage. Sometimes this has been justified and necessary, but more often than not you can look at the local history of any Scottish town or city and see buildings that have fallen victim to short-sighted planning decisions.

The extent to which we have destroyed our built heritage became quite apparent when I looked at the birth places of my own family, even when I only took into consideration the generations back to my great-grandparents. To illustrate the point I wanted to put together a post showing some of their birthplaces and what they look like today.

John MacDonald – 67 Northcroft Road, Springburn, Glasgow. 

My Grandfather’s birthplace of Northcroft Road has had various incarnations over the years. The 1858 Ordnance Survey Map shows the road as simply a track linking Wellfield Cottage and other rural properties with the small but emerging village of Springburn. By 1893, Glasgow’s industrial sprawl was starting to overtake Springburn and the track was widened and named Avenue Road. Avenue Road was re-named Northcroft Road in the 1920s and my Grandfather was born there in 1935. Local residents however, continued to know the road as ‘The Avenue’ despite the name change. My Grandfather lived on Northcroft Road until he got married in 1956. He then joined the army and lived in various locations in Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire before emigrating to New York in the late 1960s. John MacDonald’s father (another John) died at 64 Northcroft Road in 1970. The family tenements at number 64 and 67 were demolished shortly afterwards. Over the next few decades Springburn’s industrial decline, coupled with atrocious town planning, subsequently led to the destruction of the majority of the town’s architectural heritage.

Northcroft Road at an unknown date. John McDonald lived here in 1940. The street to the left is North Street, where John is listed as living with his father Neil McDonald in 1901. He also married my Great-Grandmother there in 1916, as she lived on North Street at the time. It was later renamed Lenzie Street.

Northcroft Road (Avenue Road) in the early 20th century.

The same view today, none of the original buildings survive but some of the road that was at North Street can be seen under the grass to the left.

The same view today, none of the original buildings survive.

Northcroft (Avenue) Road in 1925.

Northcroft (Avenue) Road in 1925.

The same view today, complete with neds, cctv, a bookings and illconceived shopping centre.

The same view today, complete with cctv, a bookies and ill-conceived shopping centre.

Elizabeth Bradley Berrie – 170 Camden Street, Gorbals, Glasgow.

Until industrialisation, the Gorbals was a rural area just south of Glasgow and the River Clyde. As the city began to industrialise, the population grew significantly and in the 1840s tenement buildings were constructed quickly and cheaply to cater for the new residents. Densely populated areas such as the Gorbals came to be notorious for overcrowding, high infant mortality, concentrated poverty and violent crime. It was not unusual for up to 8 families to share a single room, while 30 residents shared a single toilet. By 1920, 850 unsafe tenements had been demolished. My Grandmother, Elizabeth Bradley Berrie was born at  170 Camden Street in the Gorbals in 1936 and the Berrie family had also previously lived at 84 Camden Street between 1914 and 1932. Camden Street was one of the last streets to be laid out when the Gorbals was initially developed. It does not appear on the Ordnance Survey of 1858 but is listed on a postal directory shortly afterwards in 1861. In 1895 it ran from Kidston Street to Cumberland Street, where it was connected to South Shamrock Street. By the time of my Grandmother’s birth however, South Shamrock Street had been incorporated into Camden Street, meaning Camden now ran from Kidston Street in the south to Rutherglen Road in the North.

The Gorbals underwent a ruthless programme of redevelopment in the 1950s and 1960s, but even much of the housing built at that time has subsequently been demolished and rebuilt. The vast majority of the area’s original buildings are now gone forever and even the road layout in particular locations has been significantly altered. It’s difficult to tell with certainly, but from checking old postal records my guess would be that my Grandmother was born somewhere around what is today known as Camden Terrace.

Camden Street and South Shamrock Street as they appeared in 1912.

Camden Street and South Shamrock Street as they appeared in 1912.

By 1935 Camden Street also included what was formally known as South Shamrock Street.

By 1935 Camden Street also included what was formally known as South Shamrock Street.

Camden Street

Camden Street as it appears today. Camden Street as it once existed now covers an office block south of Caledonia Road, Naburn Gate, Camden Terrance and Pine Place. Not a single original building from the street has survived to the present day.

Neil Hardie (Snr) and Neil Hardie (Jnr) – 1 & 3 William Street, Greenock.

Like many Scottish harbour towns, Greenock’s waterfront area has undegone a number of major changes throughout the 20th century. William Street was once at the very centre of Greenock’s old town, and it connected Cathcart Square to the old West Harbour. William Street was originally laid out in 1751 and named after William Alexander, who had owned the land in that area. It wasn’t until 1775 that William Street was officially given its name by the town council, who had decided that Greenock had become sufficiently large that the streets required names. The great inventor and engineer James Watt was born in 1736 at what was to become the corner of William Street and Dalrymple Street.

The Hardie family moved to William Street about 1892 and my Great-Grandfather was born at 1 William Street in 1894, while my Grandfather was born at 3 William Street in 1923. Both men were named Neil Hardie.

William Street would have been a noisy and bustling place to live in the early 1900s. One end of William Street was connected to Cathcart Square, a busy junction that linked the Mid-Kirk, Cathcart Street and the municipal buildings, while the other end of William Street was situated near the town’s fish market, mid-quay and harbour front.

Shortly after my Grandfather was born in 1923, residents were removed and the entire northern end of William Street was demolished. The West Harbour was also filled and became a container storage area, while Dalrymple Street was widened using the space that was once occupied by 3 William Street. I previously wrote about the changing face of William Street (here).

This photograph shows the junction of Dalrymple Street and William Street as it looked in the early 1900s. All of William Street to the right-hand side of this picture was demolished between 1912 and 1938. The two Glasgow-bound lanes of the modern day Dalrymple Street are now situated where the buildings at the right of this photograph once stood.

This photograph shows the junction of Dalrymple Street and William Street as it looked in the early 1900s. My Grandfather was born in the building to the right-side of the picture. Ferguson’s Butcher on the left hand side of the picture is listed as 5 William St on the 1905 valuation roll. The statue marks the birth place of James Watt.

The same view today.

Approximately the same view today. The two Glasgow-bound lanes of the modern day Dalrymple Street are now situated where 3 William Street once stood.

William Street, Greenock

This picture dates from 1880-1910 and shows my Great-Grandfather’s birthplace of 1 William Street – the building directly below and to the left of the Victoria tower. The town’s fish market is the dark colored, ground level building at the centre-right of picture.

Roughly the same view today.

Approximately the same view today. Lidl and much of Greenock’s waterfront now sits on the in-filled West Harbour.

Euphemia Graham Petrie McLarty – 1 John Street, Gourock.

One of the enduring mysteries of my family is why my Grandmother was born at 1 John Street in Gourock. Our family has no known links to Gourock or this particular address and at the time of my Grandmother’s birth in 1923, my Great-Grandparents stayed in Laird Street and Hill Street in Greenock. The Ordinance Survey maps from 1857 until 1939 show a building located at 1 John Street. The 1925 Valuation Roll shows that this was simply a building containing a number of flats being leased by Laurence Billimore, John Hamilton, William MacEwing and James Tarbet – names that don’t have any known connection to the family. It is possible that one of these people was a friend or had some sort of family connection to my Great-Grandparents. However it still isn’t clear why my Great-Grandmother decided on having the birth at this location. Unfortunately we will probably never know for sure.

The building in question actually had two addresses linked to it before it was demolished. Although the building itself faced Shore Street, only two of the six flats contained within were given the address of 87 Shore Street. The other four flats were given the address of 1 John Street, presumably because the stairs to these flats were located behind the building, and they were entered via the John Street side.

This map of 1914 shows the building on the corner of

This map of 1914 shows the location of 1 John Street/87 Shore Street.

The 1925 Valuation Roll shows that my Grandmother's building had two addresses linked to it.

The 1925 Valuation Roll shows that my Grandmother’s birthplace had two addresses linked to it.

The building that may have stood at 1 John Street was already demolished by 1956

The building that once stood at 1 John Street was already demolished by 1956, the year indicated in this photo.

Historic photos of John Street are extremely rare. This low resolution picture shows John Street as it looked in 1925. 1 John Street was on the corner, to the left of screen. The shops on the left hand side were listed as 3-5 John Street in the Valuation Rolls of 1920 and 1925.

John Street as it appears today. Aside from the demolished building on the corner, little has changed since the 1950s.

John Street as it appears today. Aside from the demolished building on the corner, little has changed since the 1950s.

John MacDonald – 7 Springvale Place, Springburn, Glasgow.

I have previously written about Springburn and the destruction of much of historic buildings. Ask anyone from the area and they will tell you the same thing, that the changes have not been for the better. Although much of this change happened from the 1960s and beyond, it has also been a gradual and continual process long pre-dating the Second World War. One such example is the birthplace of my Great-Grandfather, John MacDonald, who was born at 7 Springvale Place in Springburn in 1892.

Trying to find the location of Springvale Place caused me quite a headache, but I eventually found it on a map dated 1913. Springvale Place is listed on the Ordnance Survey of 1858 as an unnamed lane attached to Springburn Road. This makes it one of the earliest planned streets in the newly industrialised Springburn. It was named after Springvale, a small cotton weaving village near Springburn that once existed on either side of what is now Cowlairs Road. Ironically, the MacDonald’s had lived there for a period of time around 1841.

By 1893, Springvale Place had two rows of tenement buildings with two other buildings blocking direct access to Springburn Road. Rather than a road connection, it appears that a small lane provided access. The MacDonald family didn’t live there for very long – if at all, neither the 1891 census nor 1895 valuation rolls show the family as living at Springvale Place. In 1909 the two front-facing buildings on Springburn Road were demolished, giving Springvale Place a more open connection to Springburn Road. In 1912 the rest of Springvale Place was demolished and replaced by Balgray Pleasure Ground and swing park. An article in the Herald of the 28th of October, 1912 described the buildings that formally stood on the site as “slums”.

The site remained a park until it was cleared in the 1970s. It is now covered by an off-ramp from the A803 and the Springburn Leisure Centre.

Springvale Place as it appears on the maps of 1893, 1910 and 1932.

Springvale Place as it appears on the maps of 1893, 1910 and 1932.


Workman in 1909 demolishing the two buildings that connected Springvale Place and Springburn Road.

Balgray Pleasure Ground as it appeared in 1912. This view is taken from Springburn Toad.

Balgray Pleasure Park was built where Springvale Place once stood. This photograph was taken from Springburn Road in 1912. The ornamental column at the centre of the picture was later moved to Springburn Park.

Balgray Pleasure Ground looking towards Springburn Road. The ornamental column was later moved to Springburn Park.

Balgray Pleasure Ground and former site of Springvale Place, this time looking towards Springburn Road. Just a year before my Great-Grandfather’s birth at Springvale Place in 1892, the MacDonald family lived at 580 Springburn Road, which can also be seen in this picture as the block of flats just to the left of the ornamental column.

Springburn Road as it looked in 1977. The park that replaced Springvale Place can still be seen near the centre of the photograph.

Approximately the same location today. Springvale Place was located roughly where Springburn Leisure Centre now stands. (Photo by James H)

Isabella Smith Petrie – 1 Hill Street, Greenock. 

Hill Street in Greenock is a place that has a long association with various branches of my family tree. My family has a connection to Hill Street as far back as 1872 and relatives lived there until my Great-Grandparents migrated to Canada in 1956. Another of my Great-Grandparents, Isabella Smith Petrie, was born at 1 Hill Street in 1902.

The creation of Hill Street can be dated to some time around 1850. Hill Street is not listed on a town map of 1842, and the land it was to be built on was located on the outskirts of the expanding town of Greenock. A property and cottage named Hayfield is listed there in 1842 as being owned by a Mr McNeil, it’s possible that this property was originally built as a rural property encompassing the surrounding fields before industrialisation. By 1857, the Ordnance Survey map shows that Hill Street now existed and had two rows of tenement buildings. Records also show that the street continued to be in close proximity to many local industries from the 1850s right up until the 1970s. At one time the street was surrounded by a rope works, chemical factory, a baker’s mill and a railways good station. It was also located close to the Victoria Harbour, East India Harbour, a dry dock and the large area of warehouses that serviced these maritime facilities.

Hill Street in 1842.

The land that was to become Hill Street in 1842 was once the location of a property named Hayfield. This map shows extensive gardens in the area, and the layout indicates that planners may have originally envisaged Hill Street as being much longer than what it was to eventually become. The Well Park can be seen at the top-left corner of the picture.

Hill Street in 1857. 1 Hill Street indicated by the red dot.

Hill Street in 1857. 1 Hill Street indicated by the red dot.

One Hill Street resident outlined the living conditions at Hill Street in a letter to the Greenock Telegraph in February 1865.

An anonymous resident outlined their concerns with the living conditions at Hill Street in a letter to the Greenock Telegraph in February 1865.

An extract of the 1925 Valuation Roll for Hill Street.

An extract of the 1925 Valuation Roll for Hill Street. My Great-Grandfather Donald McLarty and Great-Great Grandfather David Petrie are both listed.

However, by the mid-20th century Greenock underwent an economic decline that led to the closure of many of it’s historic industries. The vast majority of the industrial buildings near Hill Street did not survive this decline and while these buildings disappeared the tenements of Hill Street also deteriorated. By the 1950s many of the tenement buildings of Greenock were over 100 years old and were of questionable quality. Families began to move out of the old tenements in these older areas of Greenock and into the new housing schemes in areas such as Larkfield.

Like the neighbouring industrial buildings, the tenements in the streets adjacent to Hill Street were progressively demolished and replaced with ghastly flats thrown up in the 1960s and 1970s. Interestingly, a single row of tenements on Hill Street survived until relatively recent times. These buildings were supposedly the first tenements in Scotland to be refurbished, rather than demolished in the 1960s. Inevitably, the area became an undesirable and unattractive place to live and by 2012 River Clyde Homes took the decision to demolish 1,200 low quality properties, including Hill Street’s last remaining tenements. A flock of stubborn nesting birds were the last residents of the buildings, and their presence delayed the final deconstruction. They were finally demolished in October 2012 with 1 Hill Street being the last ever building on the street, ending over 160 years of history.

Hill Street 1968

The western side of Hill Street in the 1960s. These buildings were the first on the street to be demolished. (Photo by Eugene Mehat)

Hill Street, showing how it looked in 2011 and 2014. 1 Hill Street stood on the corner of Regent and Hill Streets, as seen on the right hand side of the picture.

Hill Street as it appeared in 2011 and 2014. 1 Hill Street stood on the corner of Regent and Hill Street (the last house – right hand side of picture).

Donald McLarty – Gallanachmore Cottage, near Oban, Argyll. 

Well, it couldn’t all be bad and I am pleased to report that there is at least one birthplace of my Great-Grandparents that has survived to the present day. Gallanachmore Cottage, a small building south of Oban in Argyll was where my Great-Grandfather Donald McLarty was born in 1902.

It’s difficult to ascertain the exact year in which Gallanachmore Cottage was built. The valuation roll of 1895 doesn’t include any property under that name, while the Ordnance Survey map of 1897 shows an empty piece of land where the cottage now stands.

In 1901 the McLarty family is listed as living at ‘Gallanach Cottage’ next to Gallanachmore farmhouse. Despite the name, this is almost certainly the same building later known as Gallanachmore Cottage. The listing of ‘Gallanach Cottage’ was either a transcription error, or an earlier alternative name for the property.

The first listing of the name ‘Gallanachmore Cottage’ appears both on the valuation roll of 1905 in addition to the Ordnance Survey map of that same year. So while we don’t know the exact year of construction, we know with reasonable certainty that Gallanachmore Cottage was built between 1897 and 1901.


Gallanachmore Cottage, circa 1904. It is possible that the people in the photo are from the McLarty family.


Approximately the same view of Gallanachmore Cottage in 2011.


Gallanachmore Cottage as it appeared when I visited in 2016.


Gallanachmore Cottage. Family tradition states that my Great-Grandfather attended school at the Kerrera schoolhouse, which can be seen in the distance.


My Great-Great Grandparents, Archibald McLarty and Mary McLean, listed on the 1901 census as living at ‘Gallanach Cottage’, later known as Gallanachmore Cottage. My Great-Grandfather was born a year after this census was recorded.

Less than 100 metres away from Gallanachmore Cottage, is the Gallanachmore farm, where my Great-Great Grandfather worked. The farmhouse was originally little more than a single building on the large estate owned by the MacDougalls of Gallanach. The farm is not listed on Roy’s Military Map of 1747-1752, a map that is usually a reliable and accurate source in plotting the locations of small rural settlements. Either Gallanachmore was too small to warrant inclusion, or it simply didn’t exist until a later period.

There are a number of possible origins as to what Gallanach means in English but the most likely explanation is that it is simply a direct translation of the Gaelic word meaning ‘full of branches’. The Gallanach estate itself is listed on the 1654 map of the area produced by Blaeu, although it is listed as ‘Gardannoch’.


Gallanachmore farm does not appear on Roy’s Military Map of 1747-1752. The main Gallanach estate appears as ‘Gallanich’, while Gallanach Beg is listed as ‘Callanichbeg’. Gallanachmore farm would later be built on the road between these two locations.

In 1870 the Gallanachmore farmhouse appears for the first time on the Ordnance Survey map, but the name attached to it is ‘Baile Meadhonach’ or in English, the ‘Middle Village’. Gaelic place names generally describe the geographic features around it. In the case of Baile Meadhonach, the name alludes to the fact that the cottage existed between Gallanach Beg (‘Lower Gallanach’) and the main estate house at Gallanach – hence why it was known as the middle village. Eventually Baile Meadhonach came to be known as Gallanachmore (‘Higher Gallanach’) and this is how it appears on maps from at least the year 1897.

Gallanachmore as it appears in 1870

On the Ordnance Survey map of 1870, the Gallanachmore farmhouse is listed as Baile Meadhonach.


Gallnachmore farm on the Ordnance Survey map of 1897. The map also shows Port-nan-Cuilc cottage where my Great-Grandfather’s brother was born in 1899. Gallanachmore Cottage was built shortly after this map was surveyed.


A modern map showing Gallanachmore Cottage in the vicinity of Gallanachmore farmhouse.

My family only lived at the Gallanach estate for a relatively short period of time. The McLarty family moved there between 1897 and 1899 from the nearby Parish of Craignish, where the McLartys had lived for hundreds of years as tenant crofters and farmers. When my family moved to Gallanachmore Cottage, the land was owned by Sir James Patten MacDougall, who would later become the Registrar General for Scotland. Between 1902 and 1905 the McLarty family moved again, this time to Greenock where many branches of the family still live to the present day. In total, this means that the McLarty family lived on the Gallanach estate for as little as 3 years, but possibly as long as 8 years.

Gallanachmore Cottage still exists today and has changed little in over 100 years. It was put up for sale in 2010 for £185,000 (view here). As for the nearby Gallanachmore farmhouse, it is now the site of a caravan and camping park. The original farmhouse building has also survived, albeit with some modern extensions.

I wrote a little about the eventful history of the surrounding area in a previous post that can be viewed (here).

I visited Gallanachmore with my wife in 2012.

I took this photo of Gallanachmore farmhouse on a visit in 2012. The original farmhouse building can be seen as the white building in the centre of the photograph, now mainly covered by modern extensions and sheds that service the nearby camping site.


4 comments on “Demolished Heritage

  1. Flora Macdonald
    April 21, 2015

    Yes Springburn is a very sad reflection of the way it was ! I was born there the wonderful shops from one end to the other all gone. My grandparents from Mull also live at 754 Springburn Rd, , all my family as well,and The Avenue seemed like a steep hill when I went up it going to school ! My Grandparents from Skye lived at the Railway Houses known as The Blocks for over seen in your photo’s of the swings.It was once the most industrial town in Scotland ! I thought Springvale Terrace/Place was nearer Cowlairs Rd ~ I have lots of info on my Springburn. Macdonald’s…… Great stuff you have sent today…Cheers Flora

    • Colin MacDonald
      April 23, 2015

      Hi Flora, thanks for getting in touch! I think I could almost start a blog just filled with interesting stories of former residents of Springburn. Springvale Terrace was different from Springvale Place, but you are right to say that Springvale Terrace was near Cowlair’s Road. Where on Skye were your family originally from?

  2. Jo Woolf
    April 28, 2015

    It must have taken years to collect so much information, and find these photos! Fascinating to see how the places have changed over time – not always for the better, as you say. The view up Northcroft Road is astonishing in how it has changed. I love the idea of going somewhere and listening hard to hear the echoes of the past. I find myself trying to do a similar thing in many places, although not with any known family connections.

    • Colin MacDonald
      April 28, 2015

      Thanks Jo, I know you appreciate with your own (excellent) blog how hard it can sometimes be to put all this information together. I think people that love history can find an interest or feeling of connection with any place, not just the locations we have a family connection with.

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