DURING lockdown, author, playwright and former River City scriptwriter Jack Dickson spent a lot of time walking his dog around Springburn.

As a result, he has been inspired to write a play about the area’s rich railway past, and its multicultural present.

“I’ve known the Winter Gardens for years, and Springburn Park, which is one of the city’s wilder parks, which sprawls right up to Stobhill Hospital,” he explains.

Glasgow Times: Jack Dickson at the 'Apprentice's Pillar'Jack Dickson at the 'Apprentice's Pillar' (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

“On my walks, I found where the world-famous Cowlairs locomotives works used to be - there’s ONE sandstone pillar left – and the beautiful Flemington House, former headquarters of the North British Locomotive Company.”

He adds: “I stood in the very doorway where Lawrence of Arabia and Prince Faisal of Iraq stood when they came to buy trains for that soon-to-be-established new nation.

“We found Atlas Industrial estate, from where, as Atlas Railway works, locomotives were exported to India, Egypt and South Africa.

“So much was just knocked down, swept away to make room for…what, exactly? One of the few beacons of hope is the glorious Springburn campus of Kelvin College. Standing on the site of the Hyde Park locomotive yards, its bold architecture echoes the slanting, sky-lit roofs of those long-vanished sheds.”

Jack, who lives in Dennistoun, has always been fascinated by the ‘apprentice’s pillar’ in the supermarket car park at St Rollox.

“The pillar was salvaged when they tore down the massive St Rollox railway works on the site of where Tesco now stands,” he explains.

“It was a tradition, within the works, that as soon as you became a time-served tradesman, you got your name stamped on the pillar.”

He grins: “The last one is the very intriguing ‘Mad Dog Sweeney, 1972’.”

Glasgow Times:

Train-building and maintenance in Springburn gave the whole of Glasgow skilled, secure and well-paid employment for generations, points out Jack.

“The world came to Springburn for all its locomotive needs,” he says, simply. “Springburn’s contribution to the economy of Glasgow and Scotland was massive.

“Now it’s all retail parks, zero-hour contracts and precarious employment. In fact, bizarrely - just across the road, there’s a huge Costco...and on Sunday mornings there’s a massive queue to get in - on the very site where tens of thousands queued to go into their work, less than 50 years ago.

“We’ve stopped making stuff - we just buy stuff…a lot of stuff we don’t really need. I want to find out why that happened, how local people feel about that and what we can do to raise the profile of Springburn.

“Industrial heritage gets overlooked, when we think about our country’s history - it’s all Braveheart and kings and queens. Springburn was a centre of innovation for nearly 200 years: we need to celebrate that.”

Glasgow Times:

Jack, whose previous works have been performed in Glasgow as part of A Play A Pie and A Pint, and around Scotland and beyond, previously worked on River City, and was recently announced as one of the recipients of the SSP@50 Fellowship Awards, the 50th anniversary programme of the Scottish Society of Playwrights.

Supported by The National Lottery through Creative Scotland, each Fellowship, which includes a £4000 bursary, has been awarded to “exceptional projects that foster new writing in and with local communities…and celebrate the vital role theatre plays in Scotland’s life and culture.”

“As a playwright, I’m stimulated by decay - and decay is what’s been happening in Springburn, since the locomotive industry closed - because decay can ultimately create the best conditions for new life to grow and thrive,” says Jack.

“Despite multiple acts of civic vandalism visited on Springburn from the 1970s onwards (everything sacrificed to that HUGE road, designed to carry commuters from the suburbs THROUGH Springburn rather than INTO Springburn), the community remains strong and has been invigorated by the many new locals from a refugee background who bring new skills and a new energy to the area they now call home.”

Jack’s project, Off the Rails/Back on Track, in conjunction with Springburn Winter Gardens Trust, will include writing workshops in July and a performance as part of Doors Open Day in September, followed by a new piece of community theatre.

“I want to celebrate Springburn’s rich railway and heavy industry heritage while showcasing the multicultural diversity of the area’s present,” adds Jack. “And I want to celebrate the area’s potential future through the multiple invigorations of our many ‘New Springburnians’ whom this strongly working-class area of my city has welcomed over the last four decades.”