WHEN Nick Jones was a boy, his home town of East Kilbride was not much older - and it still had the air of something new and shiny.

Designated Scotland’s first New Town, on May 6, 1947, it was created on green fields around an old village, in a bid to ease overcrowding in Glasgow.


“It was civil and social engineering on a grand scale, and it transformed lives, not just the landscape of Lanarkshire fields,” says Nick, who grew up in St Leonards, one of the town’s neighbourhood areas.

“East Kilbride was full of children, steaming along three-slab wide pavements to new schools, passing play parks with twisted swings and shiny slides.


“Of course, there was broken glass from Irn Bru bottles beneath them, but there were what seemed like a hundred thousand trees to climb, and a glen, a ruined castle and waterfalls to enchant us. To the kids, it was more storybook land than brave new world.

“At times, it was a paradise.”

MAY 1976

South Lanarkshire Council is preparing to mark the 75th anniversary of East Kilbride’s designation as a New Town, and has launched a consultation on how it might be best celebrated.

East Kilbride had a population of around 2400 in 1947 and the vision was for a thriving town of 82,000 residents, attracted by the promise of jobs, good schools, health facilities, arts, culture and more.

Glasgow Times: Mervyn and Margaret

Nick’s parents, Mervyn and Margaret, moved to East Kilbride in 1963. Mervyn was a dentist, and took over the running of the Old Coach Road practice, before moving on to a role as a community dental officer for hospitals and schools across Lanarkshire. Their first son, Keith, was born in 1966, and Nick followed three years later.

“I can remember the red double decker SMT buses, and standing outside Baird’s in the town centre, walking along the low walls of the fountains,” says Nick. “We moved to St Leonards in 1976 and everything was newly-built, just pebble dash and grass everywhere.

Glasgow Times: Nick Jones

“Everywhere we looked was modern. Wide roads with wide verges, geometric terraces, cul-de-sacs and Danish-inspired design. It looked different from the rest of tired and crowded Scotland.”

He adds: “The architects had travelled the world and brought back the best ideas for living.

“Parents worked in sleek, low factories, hidden away from the houses, or in offices that held the future of work - computers at Centre One, for example, the big tax office, or Motorola’s silicon chip labs.”

Nick was inspired to study geography at university, in part at least, he says, by the town planning going on around him growing up.

“I remember looking out the window of my geography class at Claremont High and seeing the houses, roads and green spaces, then looking down and reading about New Towns in the textbook,” he smiles. “It was, literally, a text book environment.”

He now works in communications and lives in the Thames Valley, but he regularly visits his parents in East Kilbride.

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“I miss the town, its wide open spaces, the green verges - compared to so many other places it is still uncrowded,” he says. “And I miss the patter. We do like to talk and talk. It has changed – there are fewer people about. I grew up when the population boomed. Every path and grass area had kids running and playing. We have all retreated indoors and on to our screens, so to me it appears a much quieter town.”

As a teenager in East Kilbride in the 80s, Nick also recalls the indoor shopping mall, one of the first and, for a while, the biggest, in Scotland.

“We had The Plaza to parade through in gaggling groups, undercover in bright lights,” he says. “We wore the latest fashions - we were colourful, noisy and exuberant.

“The future was ours, our town was the future.”

Send your East Kilbride memories to Times Past.