• September 2021
    M T W T F S S
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 285 other followers

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Reviewers’ Comments

    "Great read every day. Makes me smile as Rab muses about music and his irreverent views on the EU. Tune in, you won't be disappointed."

    "Excellent 'Blog' which can be controversial at times, while maintaining it's humour. Keep it up Big Rab!"

    "Updated every day with doses of good humour, political satire, a running commentary on the progress of author's home football team and his life."

    "Pure brilliant, so it is - I never miss it, though God knows, I've tried."

    "An inspiration to start my own blog"

    "For dipping into it's better than pakora sauce"

    "Anyone who doesn't like the EU and has a soft spot for Albion Rovers can't be all bad"

    "Facile and False"

    "Populist,puerile and prosaic"

    "Utter pish! Keep it up, I love it!"

    "People may also find the Ben Lomond Free Press blog illuminating, interesting and/or amusing. It’s not mentalist as such but familiar themes emerge. I particularly like accounts of encounters with strange elementals (of course! ELEmentals!) from elfin safety. And the fact that the blog is run by someone who plays in a blues band called Harmonica Lewinsky."

  • Hit Me!

    • 1,399,169 hits since January 2008
  • Top Rated

Denny’s Hoverbus

In May 2011 I made this posting about the Denny’s Hovercraft which I remember on the Clyde as a youngster. The posting has a link to a short Pathé News film from back in the day.

This week, regular correspondent John O’Hare sent me a great film of the hoverbus on its initial manouvres. Unfortunately the film doesn’t have sound. The description is as follows:

This hoverbus – the Denny D2 hoverbus – was the first in the world produced for commercial operation. The film begins with tests in Loch Long. It then records the maiden voyage sailing from Dumbarton to Oban, along the Crinan Canal to Inverness, Fraserburgh, Aberdeen, Berwick-Upon-Tweed and down the east coast finishing at the River Thames, London. The last section of the film concerns the liquidation of William Denny & Bros. Ltd.

On its maiden voyage, the hovercraft was skippered by 57 year old captain, Richard Mason. Peter Denny [featured in a memorial statue in the film] was born 1821 and died 1895. The statue was erected by friends and fellow townsmen in 1902.

Click here to view.

Dumbarton scrubs up nicely

Mind you, sometimes it’s the stuff that goes on behind the scenes that makes a town:

What is it you do for a living?

Free to Good Home

I’m a member of the local “Freegle” site where folk offer and ask for goods that are no longer wanted. It was good to find a home for our old, but prefectly usable, three piece suite through the site.

The system works where an email is sent with an offer or wanted heading and then when the goods are taken or received then an email will be sent with those headings.

Thus you’ll get an email like this:

It is not known if the recipient had a free ticket for the Dumbarton Football Stadium on Saturday.

Before the flood

Or rather during the flood!

Dumbarton earlier today:

The 'car park' at the quay

High Tide at the bridge.


This was the scene in Glasgow Road Dumbarton this evening

Fancy a drop at the Stag's Head?

And this is Gilbert Lawrie, Chief Executive at Dumbarton FC.

He’s trapped there – possibly overnight!

Send beer!

Do you think we'd better have a pitch inspection?

And on the subject of mysteries…..

I spotted this vehicle in Dumbarton High Street the other day

It seems to be a kind of two thirds size VW camper, bedecked in the livery of Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine! It had a life size Scooby Doo soft toy in the passenger seat but there was no sign of any pesky kids.

Maybe Shaggy, Velma and co had popped into Greggs for a steak bake.

Cloud Atlas

I’m not a film buff, so the chances of me going to see Cloud Atlas a film starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry when it is released next year are virtually zero.

Overtoun House

However today whilst taking a constitutional in the grounds of Overtoun House and Estate in Dumbarton, I saw much evidence of the filming they are doing there. These days, as you’ll see if you click on the link, the house is occupied and run by a Christian group.

It was built as a home for Lord Overtoun and then used as a maternity hospital for many years. It lay derelict for some time before the religious group took it over so it would be churlish to criticise the service they are performing in occupying the building.

I took some phone shots:

The front lawn at Overtoun House

This balloon looked to have a harness attached to it. For ariel shots I assume.

Two of the film company's trucks at Overtoun Bridge

The budget for the movie is $140,000,000.

That’s what I call big bucks.

Sheep not bothered by cloud and rain

There was widespread flooding in the area.

What’s the story?

Every so often you see something that provokes something in the enquiring section of your mind. I am a regular patron of “Poundland” in Dumbarton. I took this photo outside the shop yesterday, and I just wondered……

Retail Detail

I wrote recently about how British Land had announced their intention to apply for permission to build four more units at St James Retail Park in Dumbarton.

They are nothing if not persistent.

In 2006 West Dunbartonshire Council granted planning permission for two large units at the retail Park. The size of these units could not be sub divided without new consent being granted. This was in order to protect the town centre and High St from yet further degeneration and leakage of spend.

However the following year the council did a volte face and granted permission for seven units. The then owners of the town centre recognised that this was contrary not only to what they had understood to be the view of the council under their due diligence when purchasing the centre, it was also contrary to the Scottish Government’s planning guidelines

The owners of the town centre took the decision to judicial review and won their case.

British Land then re-submitted their plans with a few tweaks. This time they were unanimously rejected by the council.

British Land took the decision to appeal.

The appeal was rejected on the basis of the further harm that the development would do to the town centre. The appeal rejection was quite specific. Its conclusion was that permission for the development would result in further degeneration of the town which it could ill afford.

Amongst the appeal’s terms of reference, the detailed Retail Impact Assessment showed that the proposed development would result in a £2.1 million reduction in trade for the town centre from a total turnover of £11.23 million.Retail impact assessments are a requirement in applications of this kind so the report was commissioned by British Land and conducted by Bryce Associates.

I noticed from the appeal rejection that the Reporter, appointed by the government, referred to the 7% “trade draw” as being the relevant figure for turnover reduction. However the real cost was 18.7% as projected drop in turnover for the town centre. No matter, 7% was considered serious enough for an ailing centre.

When British Land submit their new application, they will have to commission another retail impact assessment.

British Land have claimed that their new application would result in 250 jobs for Dumbarton. There is not a single piece of evidence to support such a claim.  For a bit of light relief I googled “250 jobs” and got 683,000,000 results. It seems that if you are going to pluck a jobs figure out of the air then 250 is a pretty popular one.

If you were to have come to this site and had seen a flash claiming you were the 1,000,000th visitor here and that you’d won an iPod, you’d be rightly sceptical and dismissive.

Spurious job creation claims by retail park operators pre date the internet by some way, and yet there are those who still chose to believe.

In some cases when 250 jobs have been promised, fewer than TEN full time jobs can materialise.

In light of the appeal rejection’s clear view that the town centre and retail park are two quite separate destinations, during the “consultation” that British Land have been conducting in recent weeks they have been trumpeting the catchphrase “Destination Dumbarton” and their representative has said, in the style of the old apartheid rulers in South Africa, that the two centres can co-exist.

All that is needed is improved transport links he says.

There is a good road between the centres, bus and taxi connections, a pedestrian and cycle link.

There is a railway station between the centres and one each either side of them.

Short of a helipad or a roller skate track, it’s difficult to imagine how transport links could be any better.

Not surprisingly the British Land man suggests a vague notion but he has no proposal.

It is a fact of life that people these days are shopping more and more in retail parks. The big plus is the parking and convenience. We all do it and it is understandable.

However if we continue to permit retail parks to expand unhindered, then in towns like Dumbarton, that’s all there will be.

And all that will be left in the traditional centres are ever increasing rows of empty, dilapidated shops.

Joanna Blythman expresses the issues much more eloquently than I ever could in this excellent article in the Herald from 2008.

Opportunities to regenerate a town don’t come along very often. The last time it happened in Dumbarton in 2000 it failed.


That was at the publication of the Action Plan, “Rediscovering Dumbarton”
in 2,000, supported by some of the very same people who are now behind the Retail Park Plan. They believed the message that the action plan would re-generate Dumbarton by 2005. Sadly it was just a plan for the Dumbarton we have today. At the time I wrote a letter to the local press saying that it was a blueprint for failure. History can judge if I was right.

To end on a positive note, La Salle the new owners of the Artizan Centre in Dumbarton have a decent track record in regenerating shopping centres. After a couple of false dawns which fell victim to the credit crunch, the represent one of these rare opportunities. They have promised investment and I sincerely hope they are given every encouragement in that regard.

That encouragement needs to come from the local community and business.

It also needs to come from the local authority via its planning decisions.

(added to 22/09/11)


I haven’t been posting much recently as there have been competing demands on my time. One is the proposed extension of the Retail Park in Dumbarton. As friends and regular readers know I own a shop in the town centre there. Since the building of the Retail Park in1995 it has gone from strength to strength with a correlative decline in the town centre and High Street.

It’s quite amazing what peoples’ reaction has been to the proposals for the building of four more units, one of which would be a Next clothes outlet. To some this is obviously the Holy Grail and the eighth wonder of the world combined. They believe the tales of £20 million  investment and 250 jobs.Some of the supporters of this plan have come from surprising sources.

There was a London bus and some suits with balloons promoting the upcoming application with a questionnaire last week. The list of questions was one that any passer by would tick a yes on. The truth is of course somewhat removed from the extravagant claims of the park operator British Land. They are busy trying to convince people that the town centre and retail park are one destination (hence the bus – “Destination Dumbarton” -geddit?).

This hoo ha is all because the last application, to build seven units on the site was at first granted by the council, then rejected at Judicial Review, then rejected by the council and finally rejected on appeal in January 2010. One of the points made in the rejection of the appeal was that the Retail Park and the town are two quite separate destinations (hence the bus – “Destination Dumbarton” -geddit?).

The man from British Land was in the local press yesterday saying that the extension to the Retail Park would actually benefit the High St and town centre.

He knows that’s a lie but it’s an easy one and the type of thing that seeps into peoples’ collective sub-conscious and has them asking us pesky shopkeepers what we’ve got to complain about.

Of course this is not a problem peculiar to Dumbarton as all over the country multiple retailers edge out independents. De’il tak the hindmaist indeed.

The timing couldn’t be worse because there is an investor in the town centre with funds waiting depending on the outcome.

However we have fought this and won against the odds before, so who knows?

I’ve heard the name NEXT so much over recent weeks that this has now become my earworm…

And I’ve written my own crochety lyric for the song:

1) Such a sin…… a retail park covering the toon – some of us weep some of us howl but it may come soon and Next! Next!

I’m only a shopkeeper a hundred like me, but a brand’s a way to hearts and minds, you’ve got to have the key Next!Next!                                                                                                                                                                              We have to be quite careful or the toon could soon be lost – to some big sheds down at ASDA – a gift of British Land of course!

2) Me, I really would have liked a little bit of honesty, maybe a fact maybe a nod – not some travesty
Next!Next!                                                                                                                                                                              Oh it is not tragic and heaven will not fall but it’s hard to find a suit who’ll tell you any truth at all
Next!Next!                                                                                                                                                                              I still recall the London bus, the coloured balloons – They patronised the locals as if they were buffoons
Next! Next!

3) I swear on the greasy top of my first Thomson’s pie, is this the name I’ll hear until the day I die?
Next!Next!                                                                                                                                                                              A big corrugated warehouse with clothes and household crud – fifty quid for a white shirt d’you think that I’m a fud?
Next! Next!

4) (Reverting to original lyrics because they seem apt!)

Oh, the naked and the dead could hold each other’s hands as they watch me dream at night in a dream that nobody understands
And though I am not dreaming in a voice grown dry ‘n’ hollow I stand on endless naked lines of the following and the followed
The Next! Next!

5) One day I’ll cut my legs off I’ll burn myself alive I’ll do anything to get out of life, to survive Not ever to be next, Next! Next!
Not ev….er… to be next, not