Coatbridge, my home. The Iron Burgh, The place I charge my camera batteries, It was due, my wee walk around my hometown of Coatbridge. I did it before only the results were disappointing due to being stalked by a swarm of pissed off NEDS, or maybe just pissed NEDS (NEDS : Non-Educated Delinquents, or in my native tongue a group of wee dicks). I thought this time it will be different, after all, it was a Sunday and early afternoon, most NEDS will be nursing their Dragon Soop hangovers. I was correct NEDS were not the problem this time, this time it was an irritating neighbourhood watchman, the only thing the numpty didn’t do was hold my camera bag for me, he may have well made himself useful if he was going to follow me. I genially can’t believe this, I was thinking to myself, in my whole career as a photographer the only two times I have been confronted is in my bloody own hometown.
At least when he was letting me have a piece of his small mind he gave me a backhanded compliment, when he said, quote “I’m getting fed up with all you cosmopolitan sorts coming out here trying to make money out of my house, taking pictures and all your fluffy stuff”…. what even does that mean, “all your fluffy stuff”. Haha, quality.
But wait a minute, it’s fecking Coatbridge for the love of Vivian Maier. Not some sacred place of tranquil beauty. To let those who don’t know where on Earth Coatbridge is, let me try and give you a brief overview. Coatbridge (Scots: Cotbrig or Coatbrig, Scottish Gaelic: Drochaid a’ Chòta) is a town in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, about 10 miles (16 km) east of Glasgow city centre, set in the central Lowlands of Bonnie Scotland. Like it’s neighbour town Airdrie, its a highly politically and religiously charged town full of Catholic and Protestant atheists, where the chosen religion and political beliefs are formed by what team in its big Brother Glasgow you support. Nothing godly or spiritual what so ever about their “faith”. Most of the fine wine drank is from Buckfast Abbey and not the wonderful Vitry-le-François.
Coatbridge on visiting may seem very normal, but this normality is ignorant of the extraordinary talent and history that radiates from this acquired taste of a town. Personally, I share a love-hate relationship with it, it has an infectious personality all of its own. I have lived in many places throughout life but there is something that always draws me back to this once industrial giant of a town. It is perfectly placed, more or less bang centre in the middle of the greatest Scottish city Glasgow and the wealthy capital city of Edinburgh. 20 mins drive to Stirling and just over an hour from my second fav city Dundee, a perfect commuting town if commuting is what you are into I suppose.
Coatbridge is the home of ‘Scotland’s Noisiest Museum’, Summerlee Heritage Park, which contains an insight into the life in industrial Coatbridge. A row of 1900s-1960s cottages, a working tram line and a real coal mine can all be experienced on site. The park is situated on the remains of one of Coatbridge’s historic blast furnaces.
Janet Hamilton, the nineteenth-century poet and essayist, died in Langloan (Coatbridge) in 1873, A totally underestimated essayist and poet, probably because we have all been caught up in the romantic idea and forced education on Rabbie Burns (YAWN). I’d much rather my kids were force-fed Janet Hamilton to be honest.
Dean Ford the lead singer of The Marmalade who had a UK number one single in 1969 with a cover of The Beatles’ ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’. The band Hue and Cry. Coatbridge born Alan Frew is the ex-pat lead singer of Canadian group Glass Tiger. Cha Burns became a guitarist on the London punk and new wave scene of the mid-1970s. As well as forming Fingerprintz with fellow Coatbridge local Jimme O’Neill, Burns played guitar in Adam Ant’s backing band during 1982–1984 together with Fingerprintz drummer Bogdan Wiczling, Jimme O’Neill and JJ Gilmour of The Silencers are from Coatbridge. Coatbridge sisters Fran and Anna were a famous duo on the Scottish traditional music scene. Coatbridge is also home to Martin Kelly and James O’Neill fantastic musicians who seem to enjoy most of their success in Germany. One of my favourite musicians is the rising star on the folk scene Beerjacket (aka Peter Kelly link attached) is also a son of Coatbridge.
Sporting wise we have some quality talent, Ricky Burns is a Scottish professional boxer from Coatbridge. He is a former WBO super featherweight and lightweight champion, having also held the Commonwealth super featherweight title as well as having challenged for both the British and European titles. And a list of footballers that would take me all day to write out.
Coatbridge is also home to:
Mark Millar, MBE (born 24 December 1969) a Scottish comic book writer, known for his work on titles such as The Authority, The Ultimates, Marvel Knights Spider-Man, Ultimate Fantastic Four, Civil War, The Secret Service, Wanted, and Kick-Ass, the latter five of which have been, or will be, adapted into feature films.
For his work Millar has been nominated for four Eisner Awards and two Eagle Awards, and in June 2013 he was recognized by Queen Elizabeth II as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to film and literature as well as another long list of well know actors.
And I cant not mention the world famous Sweet maker Lees Of Scotland, It was in 1931 when John Justice Lees, a grocer’s son from Coatbridge, stumbled upon the creation of the Lees Macaroon bar. He had been trying to develop a smooth chocolate fondant bar in the premises above his father’s shop in Newlands Street. He was unsuccessful in his attempts, so as an experiment he covered the bar with coconut. This was to become the first ever Lees Macaroon bar that has now become a sweet Scottish favourite.
So Coatbridge is a special wee town with some remarkable people, (as well as the NEDS or Chavs) the potential has been and is enormous, Our landmark is called the Whitelaw fountain, The fountain is dedicated to Alexander Whitelaw, industrialist and partner in the local firm of Gartsherrie Iron, who in 1872 organised the relocation of the railway line away from the main street to create a civic space. Alexander Whitelaw (1823–1879) was a Scottish ironmaster, philanthropist and Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Glasgow from 1874 until his death. He achieved much in the world and is correctly a proud son of Coatbridge (even if he was a Tory) Coatbridge and surrounding areas, in fact, the UK as a whole owes a lot of gratitude to this man, his skills, genius and his family (too long to go into).
Coatbridge more than contributed to the world and has a heritage to be proud of, sadly though, the old amazing historic buildings have been neglected for “progress”(cough cough). Our very own local authority North Lanarkshire Council neglect to preserve it’s character and be proud of its place in history. There is no excuse for the neglect some of our most cherished buildings have endured over the years, well the ones still standing that is, some magically and conveniently catch fire, and then down they come for “safety reasons”. It saddens me deeply to walk around and try to capture the flavour of what this once mighty town was all about when you are faced with decaying historic architecture. Some of these buildings are the shop window on entering our town and the image that they resonate must surely be damaging for our local economy.
A walk through the main street is painful also as we share the same fate as many past industrial towns throughout the countries of the united kingdom, TO LET signs litter our main street, which should probably be renamed to “OLD Main Street” as the population have made our impressive retail park with no character or beauty the new main street. Don’t get me wrong we do have some pretty awesome shops, but I’d much prefer them to be in the main street and would have much rather they tore down the ASDA side of Coatbridge main street to build this new park on. The Asda side of the Main street must have been designed by blind leprechauns from space, even by 70s architecture standards is appallingly poor and is a cause for embarrassment when entering the main street, and clashes with the non Asda side which has some spectacular architectural buildings, some real beauts. That Asda bridge though (Boak) not only does it look bloody awful, but could be used as a new film location in the rumored talk of the remake of the classic Bowie film the Labyrinth, it could be the “Bridge of eternal stench” (see link) (or the more aptly named bridge of eternal stench of PISH).
Thankfully the “Gifted” Carnegie library seems on the surface to be saved, as developers have bought it to convert to affordable social housing, (let’s hope they don’t hit some teething building regulation issues, as these kinds of problems usually end up with a mysterious fire engulfing the buildings these teething problems create). I will give a small shout out to the timecapsule leisure centre as it’s pretty decent as leisure centres go, I suppose, my kids love it, so I love it, and I used to frequent the place in my younger days to make the females happy of course. so TIMECAPSULE..there you go, look it up or follow my link.
All in all, if it wasn’t for my stalker cosmopolitan hater (LOL) then I’d say it was an enjoyable walk around my hometown. I need to do it again to capture some of the great other sights that are in Coatbridge, doubt if you may, but there are some gems to be explored and snapped. I also need to venture to Airdrie, which as hard as it is to believe has some fabulous buildings and people also. To any other sons and daughters of Coatbridge that are making their mark on the world, feel free to get in touch if you want a special McSnappy mention, (but it will result in you agreeing to do a photoshoot 🙂 ) Enjoy the images, thanks for reading and watching. Finally, of course, I have to mention the wonderful John White the “the father of local history in Monklands” here is a link to read more about Coatbridge, Monklands and the amazing man Mr John White, LETS HOPE HE GETS RECOGNISED THE WAY HE DESERVES. JOHN WHITE LINK
Coatbridge, my home.