Virtual Inchinnan


I have spent about half of my life away from my native Scotland, eight years of it abroad in Hong Kong and Belgium, the remainder in England. People sometimes ask me why I'm not homesick. The truth is that sometimes I am homesick, but if I returned to the area I grew up in, my homesickness would only get worse, as the area now bears no resemblance to its former state.

I spent most of my childhood in Inchinnan (see also Inchinnan). While I lived there in the 1960s, it was mostly countryside. There were some housing schemes: Beardmore Cottages (originally built for the workers at the airship factory which constructed the R34 and other airships), India Drive and Allans Avenue (built for the workers at the India Tyres factory which replaced it), the village, some houses on Park Road, and the houses built by Laurence (in one of which I lived) and Keaney. Each of these housing schemes fitted in with what preceded it, and development was gradual.

Then (while in primary school) I heard of news that a new town was to be built over most of Inchinnan, and saw a map of it. Most of the countryside I played in was to be built over. I left Inchinnan the early 1970s, shortly after development began, first for Glasgow, then further afield, returning only rarely.

If you're going to develop somewhere, there's a right way and a wrong way. The right way is to leave things and fill in the gaps. Build on the least picturesque parts. If possible, hide some of development behind woodland. Leave the existing road pattern intact (or widen it where necessary), and add looped local roads. Leave farmhouses standing even when they cease to function as farmhouses. Leave woodland standing, and convert it to nature reserves and parks. Add local industry close to the housing. And do it gradually over many decades.

This was not done. Woodland was cut down and built over. Roads that have been used for centuries were blocked off and new roads build near them, on slightly different routes. Farmhouses were demolished. In the space of two decades, the area had changed out of all recognition. In other words, the new town, New Erskine, seems to have been designed without any consideration being given to where it was being built or what preceded it. This might be understandable in, say, Hiroshima or Nagasaki, but in Inchinnan it was, I think, inexcusable.

Here is a map showing Inchinnan as it once was (apart from the housing schemes mentioned above, it was not much different in the 1960s). Here is how it is now. The area shown is not ground zero. That's further west, around Erskine, Rashielee, Craigends and Park Mains on the Free Historical Maps web site.

I cannot deny that some other villages have suffered a worse fate, for example Imber. However, instead of merely ranting, I intend to do something about it. How far I get depends on how much spare time I can devote.

What I intend to do about it

It is, of course, impossible to turn the clock back, but thanks to "new" technology (developed in the 1980s) it's possible to recreate in virtual reality, or at least 3d graphics, Inchinnan as it once was. I have already made a start, with All Hallows Kirk, its original church built upon one of the earliest Christian sites in Scotland. Sadly it no longer exists, not because of New Erskine, but because its tower was on the flight path of Glasgow Airport. (Most of the stained glass windows were rescued, and now are part of the new St Conval's Kirk on the Old Greenock Road.)

I've decided to discontinue development of my own 3d Graphics system (see 3d Images) and use an OpenGL based extension to Emblem instead. This means that I no longer need to worry about how to implement advanced graphics features. OpenGL has a steep learning curve, and I'm still getting to grips with it, but I have already made some progress with All Hallows, and have captured some images and placed them on All Hallows Kirk. These are incomplete, but I will improve them later.

To start with, I've been using old Ordnance Survey maps as well as Inchinnan in Old Picture Postcards by Wilson Holland.

Inchinnan on the web





Me at Garnieland Cave

Me, at the entrance to the cave near Garnieland in November 1987. The cave, like many places I grew up near, no longer exists.

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and was last updated on 2006-02-21 at 03:10.

© Copyright Donald Fisk 2006