Friday, 27 June 2014


The world-famous Nardini's

I took a little trip into the past recently and visited Largs and Millport for the first time since 1971.  It was an experience that I'm not quite sure how I feel about, nor am I sure whether my uncertainty is something I can adequately express.  The reason being that there was enough that was still recognizable to recapture glimpses of my past, but there had also been a few changes which somewhat prevented me from being able to fully immerse myself in yesteryear.  If I'd continued in a state of unawareness of present conditions, the place as it had been would have remained alive to me forever in the evergreen land of memory, but now, alas, I'm all too aware that things are no longer as they once were, which saddens me.

The new pier, built around five years ago

A new pier, the old war-mine and toy boating pond long-gone, the paddle-boat pond now used for remote-control model ships, the amusement arcade on the beach-front converted to other pursuits, the pier at Millport no longer visited by the ferry (thereby requiring a bus trip to and from the ferry's 'new' drop-off and pick-up point) - all this and more took a bit of the shine off my return to the holiday haunts of myself and my family back in the dim and distant days of 1968, '69 & '71.  I know that my parents and (separately, with pals) my brother returned at intervals, maybe only on day-trips, but those were experiences in which I never shared, and therefore my memories are time-locked into a specific period which remained inviolate - until recently, that is.

A stroll along the seafront

One thing that did please me was finding that the toy shop in Millport from which I had bought my STEVE ZODIAC and ZOONY The LAZOON friction-drive JETMOBILE in 1968, was still in business.  MAPES, it's called, and though it had closed for the day by the time I arrived, I could see from a glance through the windows that it seemed to be the same inside as it was in my day.  New stock obviously, but apparently the same general design and layout as on my visit 46 years previously.  The bus driver informed me that the gentleman who ran the shop back then (Mr. Mapes, I think it's safe to say) was his next-door neighbour and that the shop is still family-run today. 

The Waverley - "goin' doon the watter"

So, in some ways a rewarding experience, but in others a disappointing one - and also a strange one.  For, despite the changes, it felt as if I'd last visited the place only yesterday or the day before.  I think that's because my mind jumped straight back to 1971, leap-frogging over all the events in between as if they hadn't yet happened. Who knows, perhaps my memories of my recent visit will eventually recede, and allow my previous fond recollections to resurface in the ascendant once more;  then Largs and Millport as they were will live again, allowing me to re-walk their seaside streets as I knew them when I was a boy.

In the meantime, here's a brief photographic tour through Largs and Millport as they are today.

The street (or one very much like it in close proximity) where
we stayed in 1971.  Our house was one with an upstairs room
Might even have been this one

Formerly the paddle-boat pond... used for remote-control models

Adjoining flower area

Replica Viking ship outside The Vikingar Centre

Amazing the folk you meet in Largs

And now we're in Millport...

...where peace and serenity reign

The narrowest house in the world.  No -
I didn't know it was in Millport either

Mapes - where I bought my jetmobile toy in 1968...

...before hot-footing it back to the pier so as not to miss the ferry

The Royal George Hotel at the pier entrance

A medieval-looking church tower in the distance

The pier where the ferry once  plied its trade - but
not for 40-odd years, according to the bus driver

And here's a little friend I brought back with
me from Largs.  Cute little nipper, ain't he?

FOOTNOTE:  It was an odd feeling to return from Largs to a different home than the one in which I was living back in '68, '69 & '71.  So associated is Largs with that particular time in my life, that I feel I should've gone back to my old house rather than the one in which I now stay, had my tea, then ran around the field I used to play in just over the road (which would've been difficult as it no longer exists).  From my present dwelling I only ever holidayed in Blackpool, so had I revisited there instead, it would've felt more natural to return here. I now find myself curiously over-whelmed by the sensation that I'm out-of-step with my proper timeline.  Weird, eh?


moonmando said...

Your photographic presentation Kid is totally spot on. Stunning shots, full of nostalgic yearnings.
I particularly miss all the fishing boats that used to line the front, ready and willing to take you for a days fishing, their times and pricing displayed on the big blackboards adjoining their particular pitches. Then later on, high teas at a local cafe, cum restuarant.Fresh fish, a pile of hot chips coupled with a slice of buttered bread and a pot of steaming hot tea, rounding off a thoroughly enjoyable day.
Ahh, the good old days!

John Pitt said...

Every time I visit a town I knew well I find it changed beyond recognition and it saddens me. What should we do? Should we never revisit places, because of what it does to our emotions? It's a tricky one. I don't think I could bear to see what has become of the places where I grew up in the Midlands. I have kept them preserved as I left them in my mind.

John Pitt said...

Incidentally, you can't call THAT house small! We would have loved a house like that! It would have been a MANSION to us! 26 of us used to live in a cardboard box in t'tip! - and we were LUCKY!!........

Kid said...

Moony, I knew there was something missing - the rowing or motor-boat trips around the bay! I wonder when those faded away - or perhaps they still happen only at certain times in July? Had a fish tea in The Blue Lagoon - fish & chips, slice of buttered bread (cut diagonally in two) and a mug of tea. Totally hit the spot.


That's exactly what I was getting at, JP. In our minds, places still exist as they were and people we don't know are dead are still alive - then we revisit a place or someone tells us that so-and-so is dead and the illusion is shattered. (I see you've caught Monty Python fever.)

Unknown said...

Know exactly what you mean Kid! I still have ocassion to visit the town where I grew up (some family still reside there) and I'm sure I'm not the first to get the impression that everything looks so much smaller now. I wonder how my parents and three boys all lived in such a small home. And parts of the old schools (state and secondary schools are on opposite sides of the same street)look the same but additional buildings, new fences and the like have appeared in the years since to muddy the image from the childhood years spent there. Tempted every now and then to call in on old school friends but then I think what thirty years of life might have done to their memory of me and mine of them so I put it off 'till next time...
Great post.

Kid said...

Glad to hear that it resonated with you, PC, and thanks for your interesting comment. Good to know that these posts sometimes strike a cord with the readers - makes it all worthwhile.

Gey Blabby said...

Full agreement with the others, Kid — Great post!
We lived less than half an hour's drive from Largs and it's many's the summer night when we'd pile into the car and head down to Largs for an ice cream cone (Nardini's, of course), a game of putting, and a stroll along the front — sometimes in the direction of the pond, other times towards The Pencil.
Best when I was a wee boy was to watch the Hovercraft as they came racing back on top of the water from Cumbrae and drove straight up onto the beach — it was like something out of Joe 90, as if the future had come to the Clyde.
My family spent one glorious summer holiday on Big Cumbrae in 1968. We stayed in the caravan park on the hill above Millport, and every morning I'd run down and hire a bike from the shop and spend the rest of the day racing all over the island. At the same time my mother would go off and pick berries in the fields to earn some extra spending money for us.
It was so busy in those days, both with people on shore and the boats out on the bay. We'd play crazy golf on the front or spend time at The Garrison, or even take a dip in the Clyde at Kames Bay, which was jam-packed with people due to the heat. And like everyone else, we took photos sitting on top of Crocodile Rock.
In the evenings we'd stroll over to the far side of the island and, if we were lucky, catch a glimpse of the nuclear subs cruising down the river — whether they were the Yanks from Holy Loch or the British from Faslane I don't know, but it was a marvellous (if ominous) sight.
Anyway, thanks for nudging my memory. Some of those things, like the hovercraft, I hadn't thought of for years.

Kid said...

My pleasure, GB. One of the things I found quite sad was the fact that there were no holiday throngs in evidence as there had been on my previous three visits. I'd have thought with it being June, the place would've been jumping with holidaymakers. Just think, back in 1968 when I was buying my jetmobile from Mapes, we could've passed each other in the shop doorway as you were returning your hire-bike. Cue Twilight Zone music perhaps? Thanks for sharing your memories.

Dougie said...

This post really resonated with me since I have been trying to recapture childhood and teenage holidays in Galloway in the last couple of years

Last year I had an interview in Largs- the job went to a newly qualified ex-pupil. Ahem.
The high point was lunch in Nardini's but the return train to Glasgow broke down which meant an anxious hour's wait; a taxi ride to Kilwinning and a missed connection back to Elgin. The taxi driver said the rail service was notoriously unreliable.

I haven't visited Millport for about three or four years but have been about five times. Back in 2004 , I stayed overnight in the Cathedral of the Isles and would recommend it.

Kid said...

Thanks for your comment, Dougie, and if I ever get back to Largs and Millport for more than a few hours I'll certainly consider the Cathedral of the Isles as a place to stay.

I really do hope that L & M still have a holiday season where vast crowds of visitors take in the delights, but if what I saw on my visit was an indication of how things are, I sadly doubt it.

Gey Blabby said...

My goodness, Kid! I must have missed your photo of Mapes first time round, and it's only now that I'm realising that the bike shop was attached to the toy shop. And you were their at the same time? Crivens, indeed! By any chance were you there at the Glasgow Fair?

Kid said...

Wasn't there at the Fair, GB - we were there approximately the 2nd & 3rd week in June. Incidentally, Mapes has been trading from the same shop since around 1946. Wow!

TwoHeadedBoy said...

Missed this post first time round somehow...

I can understand how weird it must've felt to go back to a place such as that.

We (as in, myself, brother, sister, parents, auntie, uncle and three cousins) used to go and stay in a cottage in Norfolk many years ago. The last time I went was in early 1999, but my sister (eight years younger than me) went back there about five years ago, and even SHE said how different the place seemed. What to us at the time was a massive piece of the country all to ourselves was, with hindsight, a miserable, drafty little building stuck on the side of a potato field.

I'd like to go back to Westbay in Dorset one day, another frequent holiday haunt, but I'm not sure how I'd be able to take how "different" it'll no doubt feel.

I'm thinking one of the main problems with re-visiting these places is the company is different, as well as the age. Where there was once ten of us sharing constant adventures, now we are spread all over the country, divorced or attached at the hips to new partners and whatnot. The past was a fantastic place but it's one that can never be visited, sadly.

Think I've depressed myself a bit now, whoops.

Kid said...

I think it's possible to sometimes revisit the past (depending on one's age, etc), THB, but not to live there. The fact that the toyshop I'd visited in 1968 was still there made up for some of the changes, but I don't think I'd have been so affected by them if I'd occasionally revisited the place over the years, instead of waiting 43 years. Got your Summer Special by the way - I'll post it next week 'cos that's the earliest I'll be near the post office.

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