WHEN Billy Gilmartin was growing up in Springburn, “everybody knew everybody”, he says.

“It was a great place, because everyone worked – most on the railways – and people looked out for each other,” he says. “People were content. And you hear kids saying nowadays they’re bored – I was never bored a day in my life…..”

Glasgow Times: Springburn memories

Billy is full of Springburn stories, gathered from almost nine decades – he will be 90 later this year – along with photos, newspaper clippings, old pictures and more.

At the Spirit of Springburn Community Hub, inside the shopping centre, he regales friends, neighbours and anyone keen to listen, with tales of the area’s great past. In the first of a two-part feature for Times Past, he shares some of his moving and funny memories.

“My dad was a railwayman, a boilermaker at the Caley,” he explains, referring to the Caledonian Railway Works at St Rollox, which dominated the locomotive industry for more than 150 years.

Engines and carriages built at the Glasgow works, which opened in 1856, were sent all over the world and the depot was a source of work in the area for generations of families.

“Mr Reid, chairman of the North British Locomotive Company, lived in a big house in Springburn, and he used to hire the Salvation Army to play on his lawns,” says Billy. “My aunt and uncle, Winnie and Roddy, used to do it, and next day, they’d get a cheque through the door.”

Billy wanted to follow his dad and grandad into the railways, but they would not allow it. “I was all set on doing riveting, but they said it was hard work all hours for coppers,” he recalls. “So I got a job as a message boy for the Co-op – 40 hours per week for £1 and one shilling.” He smiles: “I loved it. Then, I left school at 14, became a grocer, did my military service at 18 and came back – and joined the railways anyway.”

He adds: “It was a hard life but a good one. I was a labourer, a fork lift driver, and eventually head crane driver. It was the 60s when it all started to shut. Men were made redundant, jobs went elsewhere – it was the way of the world. The railways were changing, and the men were not trained for it. It was a sad day when the works shut, for all of us. Springburn has lost so much.”

Glasgow Times: Springburn memories

He pulls out a photograph of a beautiful fountain. “Look at this, for example - this is a Dalton fountain – the column is still in Springburn Park, the rest of it is rubble under the motorway,” he says, with a shake of his head. “It was a sad day when that happened. It could have been saved.”

Billy has two sons, Gordon and Graham, who also became railwaymen. His wife, Betty, died several years ago.

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“Betty worked at Teacher’s whisky bond,” says Billy. “I knew her family, her sister was in my class at school, but I didn’t know her well at all.Then I bumped into her in the street one day and said to myself – I’m going to marry that girl one day. And I did.”

He smiles: “We had the chance to move to one of the New Towns, you know – a garden, a fancy toilet inside. We took one look and said – naw, it’s not for us. We’ll just stay in Springburn, and I’m glad we did.”

Billy adds, sadly: “Betty was the love of my life. I visit her in the cemetery, talk to her every day.”

He pauses, then adds with a laugh: “If she starts talking back, I’m in trouble….”