Renton, West Dunbartonshire
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Main Street in Renton
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Renton is particularly famous for the village's association football side. Renton was one of the 11 founder members of the Scottish Football League and winners of the 1885 and 1888 Scottish Cup, producing many famous players.
The Renton takes its name from Cecilia Renton (daughter-in-law of Tobias Smollett) after whom the modern sandstone, 'model' village was named in 1762. Dalquhurn Bleachworks in 1715 and Cordale Printworks in 1770 were responsible for attracting new industrial workers. At the north of the village stood the Place of Bonhill, a residence from 1642, to the South was Dalquhurn House. Two parallel north-south streets, Main Street and Back Street were first joined by Station Street, Stirling Street, Burns Street, Thimble Street, Market Street and Red Row. In late Victorian times, the village extended southwards to Leven Street, Alexander Street and John Street. Further expansion occurred in the 1930s as housing was built in the grounds of Cordale House. In the early 1960s the majority of the sandstone properties in the village were compulsory purchased by Dumbarton County Council, demolished and replaced by Dumbarton County Council with 1960s Brutalist-style concrete houses and flats; the majority of which have been replaced by proper houses, own front & back door, by the Cordale Housing Association.
It has traditionally been a stronghold of radical left-wing politics; during the 1930s it had Communist councillors, Buster Lamont, never toed the Labour Party line and independent councillors such as Jimmy McKenzie (1960/70s), and since 1999 it has been represented on West Dunbartonshire council by Jim Bollan, at present the Scottish Socialist Party's only councillor.
It lies on the main road, A82 as was, between Alexandria and Dumbarton. Renton railway station is on the line from Glasgow to Balloch. It has a footbridge across the River Leven to the Strathleven Industrial Estate (once a major source of employment), and a minor road, with a steep 33% hill, across Carman Hill to Cardross.
Robert the Bruce's manor house
Despite a report that appeared in The Observer on Sunday 22 February 2009(1) stating that the buried ruins of the manor house of Robert the Bruce had been found in the Pillanflatt area of Renton, this interpretation has yet to be confirmed. While there is strong Charter evidence to indicate the presence of a manor or hunting lodge belonging to Bruce in the area, this is more likely to have been located in the vicinity of Mains of Cardross, to the south of the Pillanflat, rather than in the area to the north of it. Stone, plaster and mortar are not generally susceptible to scientific dating techniques, and lime mortar was used from the Roman period up to the late 19th or early 20th centuries.
According to Bruce Historian Stuart Smith, a charter dating from 1362 charter states that Robert the Bruce resided between Kings Park of Cardross and the lands of Pillanflatt, bounding the lands of Dalquhurn. This would suggest a site to the south of the Pillanflat, but to the north of Castle Park, in the vicinity of what is now Mains of Cardross.
In recent times, Renton has seen some major social regeneration most notably, although not restricted to, housing; Much of this can be attributed to Cordale Housing Association, who have revitalised what was a severely deprived area. The committed work of community activists such as Cllr Jim Bollan and Archie Thomson MBE also contributed to the redevelopment of Renton. The community spirit of Renton really does produce remarkable characters, as the history books show. True character in the village still remains in the shape of Tom Swan's sweet shop. The village maintains a strong character and identity. People from the village are both widely regarded and known as both Rentonians and from "The Renton".
After the great work of the local activists that helped to build and shape Modern day Renton, the local Housing association suffered a major set back after mismanagement which lead to a take over by Caledonia Housing Association, it is commonly believed that one community activist played his part in the mismanagement but currently all speculation.
Born before Renton was built
- Robert the Bruce
- Robert I, King of Scots died on 7 June 1329, at the Manor of Cardross, near Renton, where he had been living since 1326. The identification of the Royal Manor of Cardross is derived from a 1329 reference to the 'Manerium de Cardross', but its exact location is uncertain. It may not have been very near the modern village of Cardross, although it was probably in Cardross Parish. Barrow suggests that it was at present-day Mains of Cardross farm on the outskirts of Dumbarton, beside the River Leven, and certainly the place-name 'Mains' would appear to derive from 'Manerium'. Bruce's son, David II, and his grandson Robert II, the first Stewart King, both left the Manor at Cardoss en route to Scone, where they were crowned King of Scots.
- Tobias Smollett
- was a writer. He was born in Dalquhurn House in what is now Renton in 1721. After an education at Dumbarton Grammar School and Glasgow University, he joined the Navy, serving as a surgeon's mate. The experiences of his early life provided graphic backing for his first novel "Roderick Random" (1748). Living by his pen, Smollett was prolific and variously successful as an editor, translator, dramatist, political satirist, historian and poet. At one time his reputation was the highest of four or five great authors, who can be said to have founded the English novel. Scott and Thackery both rated him highly, and Sheridan, Dickens and Joyce are all said to have been influenced by him. Dr Johnson admired him and it is considered that Smollett deserves notice as one of the first half dozen Scottish literacy geniuses. The Smollett Monument in Main Street was erected by his cousin, three years after the author's death in Italy in 1771.
- William Stirling
- was born in Glasgow in 1717, son of John Stirling, a Virginia merchant and Provost of Glasgow. Reputedly William Stirling ranked with the four young Virginians who were among the founders of the mercantile greatness of Glasgow. His uncle was a partner in the first commercial bleach fields in Scotland in Dalquhurn, and founder of Stirling's Library in Glasgow. In 1750 William Stirling formed William Stirling and Company and began printing handkerchiefs, garments and furniture. In 1770 William Stirling and Sons built the printfield at Cordale, attracted by the fast clean flowing water of the Leven, two years later they purchased Dalquhurn Works. For the next 106 years a member of the Stirling family controlled the business and lived in Cordale House. William Stirling and the industry he brought to a rural hamlet was responsible for much of what is Renton today. He has long been remembered by Stirling Street, leading as it did to his factory at Cordale.
People from Renton
- James Harrison
- was born in Renton in 1815 and emigrated to Australia in 1837. After several newspaper jobs, Harrison became the first editor and owner of the Geelong Advertiser in Victoria. In 1852 he set about installing what is generally accepted as the world's first refrigerated compressor. He invented the world's first man made ice making plant in 1857. In 1863 he pioneered a method of freezing meat so it could be transported from Australia to the rest of the world. The Australian Institute of Refrigeration named their headquarters after him, to go with a bridge and street names. There are also plans for a museum to his achievements. Harrison Place was named after James in 1999.
- Alexander Wylie
- was born in 1839 the son of a well-respected colour mixer. Alexander joined the firm of William Stirling and Sons as a salesman in 1874 and four years later became chairman of the company that owned both Cordale and Dalquhurn Works. He lived at Cordale House from then until his death in 1921. He was married for only three years but his wife was long remembered for her acts of benevolence towards the working people in the village. Alexander carried on this philanthropic, benevolent work for the rest of his life. He was elected as a Liberal Unionist MP in 1895 until 1906, for a time he was President of Renton Football Club and Unofficial Provost of Renton. His is the only burial plot in Renton Trinity Churchyard, from where he wanted to look across to Cordale House. The house was demolished in 1934, Wylie Place was completed in 1997 by the Association. Wylie Park at the south end of Renton is named after him.
- Alex Jackson
- was born in Renton on 1905 and played for Renton Victoria Football Club. His skill as a winger soon saw him transferred to Dumbarton Football Club in 1922 for the pre-inflation price of a football. Alex went out to play in America before coming back to Britain to play for Aberdeen, Huddersfield, (he was transferred from Huddersfield to Chelsea in 1930 for £8,500), and finally for Nice F.C. in France. The high point of his footballing career for many people was undoubtedly in 1928 when as part of the "Wembley Wizards" team, Alex scored a hat trick in a 5-1 defeat of England. He went on to be capped 17 times for Scotland. Jackson Place was named after Alex in 1995.
- Skeets Gallacher
- a famous boxer from Renton. Richard "Skeets" Gallacher (born 1925 in Renton, Scotland) was a leading boxer. As a boy he was trained as a boxer by his father, who identified him as a natural southpaw (boxing with his right hand and foot forward). Richard was nicknamed Skeets after a film character of the day and had his first fight in 1942 weighing only 7 stones (44 kg). Skeets went on to win 34 consecutive amateur contests and in doing so became Scottish and British Champion. Defeats of French and American rivals later saw him crowned unofficial amateur flyweight champion of the world. His professional careers was cut short by injury, but he remained a well-respected figure still involved in later years in keep fit classes and local boxing clubs. Gallacher Way in Renton was named after him in 1995.
- Katherine Drain
- was born at 13 Burns Street, Renton in 1868, the daughter of a block printer. In an age when many in the village were illiterate, Katherine Drain derived a precarious existence by writing poetry for a living. In 1902 she published a volume of her works entitled "Loch Lomond Rhymes" which were well received both locally and by the monarchy from whom she received a royal seal of approval. Her works include "In the Bonnie Wee Toon O'Renton", "A Mother's Lament" and "The Fireside Emigrants". Katherine died in 1904 aged only thirty six. Katherine Place was named after her in 1998.
- James Allison Glen
- was born in Renton in 1877, the son of David Glen and wife Mary who a had boot and shoe shop in the village. James attended school in Renton and Alexandria before studying at Glasgow University. In 1911 he left for Canada where he practised law in Russell, Manitoba. In 1926 he was elected to the House of Commons of Canada as the MP for Marquette, Manitoba. In 1940 he was elected speaker of the House of Commons and went on to be a Minister of Mines and Resources as well as becoming a member of the Privy Council. He was appointed a member of International Joint Commission in 1948. Glen View completed in 1999 is named after him.
- Duncan McLaren
- was born in Renton in 1800, youngest of ten children. His father worked in Cordale Printworks. After passing through the hands of relatives, he ended up working in an Edinburgh drapers shop in 1818. Six years later he opened his own shop. He was elected onto Edinburgh Town Council in 1834. Soon he was elected City Treasurer and found that the city's finances were in ruin and that the Scottish Capital was bankrupt. His work extricated Edinburgh from financial ruin. In 1835 he pioneered free education for all classes and started a building programme of thirteen schools. In 1851 he was elected Lord Provost. In 1865 he was elected one of Edinburgh's two MPs – a position he held until he retired 16 years later. In Parliament he proved a conscientious and intelligent representative, and acquired a position of so much authority on Scottish questions, that he was called "Member for Scotland".
- Andy Duncan
- Professional footballer.
- John O'Hare
- Professional footballer. Played for the national Team, and Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest.
- Jane Duncan
- the novelist, was born Elizabeth Jane Cameron in Renton in 1910, the daughter of a police officer.
- Jack Ashurst
- a former professional footballer, was born in Renton. He played for Sunderland and Blackpool, amongst other clubs.
James Kelly was the first ever captain of Celtic.
The fledging club’s capture of this renowned and accomplished centre-half from Renton was a massive coup for Celtic as James Kelly was one of the best known and highly regarded players of his era, as well as a very respected person.
His name was elevated after being amongst the lauded Renton side that beaten both West Bromwich Albion (FA Cup holders) and Preston North End (FA Cup runners up) in 1888. Additionally, Renton were recent winners of the Scottish Cup.
When Renton F.C. won the World Cup, the footballing world was in its infancy in 1888, almost exclusively played by Scottish and English clubs. It was a World Cup Championship by default – nevertheless Renton's claim is undisputed. They won the Scottish Cup with a 6-1 thrashing of Cambuslang F.C. Then they humbled English Cup holders West Bromwich Albion, who had prepared in Scotland for two weeks. The score was 4-1 in front of a record 10,000 fans at Hampden Park. Renton endorsed their title with an away win against "The Invincibles" of Preston North End. A "Champion of the World" sign was proudly displayed on the pavilion at Tontine Park. They were ahead of their time in training for stamina and strength. Their weapon was Renton's own famous "chicken bree", the ingredients never disclosed but it was probably port wine switched with a couple of eggs administered daily.
Quoiting (pronounced kiteing) was a popular sport amongst the male villagers. Quoiting greens were found in Renton, Alexandria, Hardgate and many Ayrshire villages. Quoits were heavy iron rings, rounded on one side, flat on the other and weighed 8-12 pounds but could be up to 23 pounds. They were hurled at a steel pin driven into a three-foot square clay bed, with the common length of the green being 18 yards. Renton were Scottish Champions in 1949 and 1986. There is a photograph of the victorious 1949 team in Renton Railway Station.
There are several recreational and consumer related facilities in Renton. Such as a new mini supermarket and healthy living centre, and of course Tom Swans Sweet Shop along with a bakery, pub, bowling green, freemasons lodge. Wylie Park (known locally as Tontine Park ) is also used most Saturdays and Sundays for football games. It is home to local youth football team Renton Craigandro. A newly opened Youth Club at the Autism and Aspergus Centre (old nursery). Offering a youth club every Wednesday, 6pm-7:30pm for Primary 1 to 6 and 7:30pm-9pm for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Years at High School.
- Kelbie, Paul (22 February 2009). "Lost and found: 14th century palace of Robert the Bruce in West Dunbartonshire". Science. Guardian. The Observer. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
- GWS Barrow, 'Robert the Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland'
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