Zoom into West Dunbartonshire

Collated by: Veronica Bell.

Situated between Glasgow to the west and Loch Lomond to the north, West Dunbartonshire is a county centred around three main towns: Dumbarton, Clydebank, and the Vale of Leven district. It is historically significant – the town of Dumbarton was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde, and its famous landmark, Dumbarton Castle, has held many notable figures in Scottish history, including Mary Queen of Scots and William Wallace.

More recently, the area suffered extensive damage and loss of life in World War II raids that have become known as ‘The Clydebank Blitz’. The county has been home to thriving industries such as the Singer sewing machine factory, whisky distilling and, perhaps most famously, its shipyards. HMS Hood, RMS Queen Mary and the Cutty Sark were all built here.

Where to find local collections:

Dumbarton and Clydebank Heritage Centres



Books – non fiction:

Book of Dunbartonshire (Vols I: County; II: Parishes; III: Portraits and Mansions), by Joseph Irving. 1879. https://digital.nls.uk/97147280

True and genuine account of Murdoch Currie. Date of event in text 1754. [In Chapbooks printed in Scotland] https://digital.nls.uk/104187018


Dumbarton 1944-1946: https://movingimage-onsite.nls.uk/film/1871

Launch at Denny’s: “Shamrock III”. 1903. https://movingimage.nls.uk/film/2115   

Visit to a Shipbuilding Yard. 1949. https://movingimage.nls.uk/film/1270        


Copies of ten unpublished poems by Agnes Owens. [Agnes Owens lived in Balloch, and was inspired to write after attending a writing class in nearby Alexandria.] https://manuscripts.nls.uk/repositories/2/resources/3833


Plan of the Castle of Dunbarton. 18th Century [In Military Maps of Scotland (18th Century)]   https://maps.nls.uk/view/00003210

Johnston’s map of the county of Dumbarton with the railways, ca 1845. [In Counties of Scotland, 1580s – 1940s] https://maps.nls.uk/view/216442665

Loch Lomond. (Vol. 6, Plates 124, 125) From: Bathymetrical Survey of the Fresh-Water Lochs of Scotland; constructed under the direction of Sir John Murray And Laurence Pullar during the years 1897 to 1909. 1908. Upper section: https://maps.nls.uk/view/74400558 Lower section: https://maps.nls.uk/view/74400559

An e-resource:

Interview with David Sillars. 2001. [Oral history interview with Dumbarton born man David Sillars. Part 1 discusses his childhood growing up in the area. Access via Europaena] http://www.europeana.eu/en/item/2059209/data_sounds_C0821X0051XX_0001

A business:

Singer memorial, 1914-1918, [Roll of honour of employees of the Singer Manufacturing Co. Ltd. Ca. 1919. In Rolls of Honour] https://digital.nls.uk/100547178

Singer Sports and Gala 1954. https://movingimage-onsite.nls.uk/film/1585

A person:

“Ode, to Leven Water” in Emigrant [In Chapbooks Printed in Scotland. 1796. Tobias Smollett (born 1721) was born in what is now called Renton, and became well known in the literary world for his picaresque novels.] https://digital.nls.uk/104184116

A song or piece of music:

Dumbarton’s Drums [In Inglis collection of printed music] https://digital.nls.uk/special-collections-of-printed-music/archive/94504500

A ghost/mythical creature: 

The ‘Dog Suicide Bridge’: A Gothic Mystery in Gothic Stone [Newspaper article in The New York Times detailing the mystery and hauntings surrounding Overtoun Bridge in Dumbarton.] https://search.nls.uk/permalink/f/a4ga0e/TN_cdi_proquest_newspapers_2198358754

A castle or other historic building:

The Castle of Dumbritton from Kilpatrick. Engraving by John Slezer, 1693.[In Slezer’s Scotland] https://digital.nls.uk/slezer/engraving/?sl=3


A sad day for Dumbarton as distillery is reduced to a pile of rubble…2017. [Newspaper article from Daily Record via Newsbank. NLS login required] https://infoweb-newsbank-com.nls.idm.oclc.org/apps/news/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info%3Asid/infoweb.newsbank.com&svc_dat=UKNB&req_dat=A1194290412D455C8584EB4D9AE76D7B&rft_val_format=info%3Aofi/fmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Actx&rft_dat=document_id%3Anews%252F1624C00D23F450B0

A photograph:

Gravestones, damaged by machine gunfire during World War II blitz, Old Kirkpatrick. [In University of St Andrews Photographic Collection. Access provided through NLS https://search.nls.uk/permalink/f/sbbkgr/44NLS_ALMA21464027400004341https://collections.st-andrews.ac.uk/item/gravestones-damaged-by-machine-gunfire-during- world-war-ii-blitz-old-kirkpatrick/553654

Something about the county town: Dumbarton is the county town.

Containing ane encomaistick character of the famous city of Dumbrittain..[Scots ballad from1685, on ProQuest. Access provided by NLS] https://search.nls.uk/permalink/f/sbbkgr/44NLS_ALMA51586258220004341

 “Dumbarton’s Bonny Dell”, broadside ballad, ca. 1852-59. https://digital.nls.uk/broadsides/view/?id=14793

Something about a village or small place:

View of Duntocher Bridge, on Grime’s Dyke [In William Roy – Military Antiquities of the Romans in North Britain, 1793. Although this bridge dates from the 18th Century, it is very likely that a bridge existed on the spot in Roman times] https://maps.nls.uk/view/74486039

Trace the remains of the Antonine Wall from Duntocher, here: Plan shewing the course of the Roman wall called Grime’s Dyke… https://maps.nls.uk/view/74486036

Further reading:

Changing identities, ancient roots: the history of West Dunbartonshire from earliest times, by Ian Brown. 2006. https://search.nls.uk/permalink/f/1jc5lod/44NLS_ALMA21534547140004341

Old Kilpatrick Parish Church Halls Bazaar. 6th, 7th, and 8th December, 1900. : 250 choice cookery recipes and household hints.. 1900. https://search.nls.uk/permalink/f/sbbkgr/44NLS_ALMA21613777950004341

Untold stories: remembering Clydebank in wartime by the Clydebank Life Story Group. 1999. https://search.nls.uk/permalink/f/sbbkgr/44NLS_ALMA21519027400004341