Barrhead lies eight miles to the south west of Glasgow, near Paisley. M J STEEL COLLINS spent the majority of her childhood there, so gives a personal take on the town’s haunted places. She would like to add the disclaimer that her connection the town in no way enhances the its eeriness (though the editor of the Spooky Isles disagrees!)
Former Council Offices, Lowndes Street
Lowndes Street, named after a prominent Barrhead family, is a leafy thoroughfare located near the Main Street. The old council offices where locals would pay their rent and attend to other similarly civic duties, were located here. I have quite a clear early memory of being a bored wean waiting while my mum or gran went into pay something. Local legend has it that the offices are haunted by the ghost of a White Lady. A member of the “Barrhead When I Grew Up There” Facebook group, stated that when they worked in the offices, colleagues refused to stay late unless someone else was with them. There were also strange bangs and things being moved about. The White Lady is said to have been seen in the attic.
St Mary’s Convent, Arthurlie (now Convent St)
New housing now stands in place of the convent, which was demolished in 2007. However, the loss of the original building hasn’t kept a good ghost down before. As to what haunted the Convent, it’s not too clear, but it is so known as a local legend, the Barrhead News once featured it in a Hallowe’en feature a few years back. Speculation is that may be the spirits of nuns who died on the site. It stands just opposite Barrhead High, where I completed my first year of secondary. And stood looking at what appeared to be fairly creepy ground behind a wall whilst waiting to be picked up after school…
Glasgow Road, Barrhead
Running from Crossmill, up to the Hurlet, my uncle, the folklorist and historian Alan Steel, describes this area as a hotbed haunting in a collection he did on the town’s folklore in the 1980s. The tales in Alan’s collection go back a couple of centuries, when it was more rural setting of farms. Crossmill children had horrors of the ghost of a murdered packman, who was said to blunder around looking for his severed head. Then there were also tales of dancing coffins. The tales predate the massive St Convals cemetery that runs alongside part of the road. Things appearing unexpectedly in the road during the night is a common trope – take for example the boys found in terrified heap by their parents after seeing what they later described as a ten feet tall red figure with elephant tusks following them home at one night in 1837 after being sent to Paisley to borrow a mort cloth for use in a local funeral. And of course, a fair number of my relatives lived round here when I was a kid!
United Services Club, Paisley Road, Barrhead
Another interesting tale in my uncle’s collection features the old Drill Hall, built in 1902. Once heavily used by the armed forces, it appeared the building was going to be demolished, so the United Services Club stepped in, with renovations being carried out by volunteers. The work was accompanied by ghostly activity. A volunteer working in the attic went to answer a knock at the downstairs door. It was one of his fellow renovators, who took one look at his mate in the attic, and walked away without a word. Later, the worker who had knocked the attic door said he could see a weird glow all around his friend. After that, there were incidences of poltergeist activity, with bangs, strange footsteps and a belt being removed from under a man’s overalls. It stopped once the work was finished.
Barrhead Foundry, Main Street
Better known to me as the Barrhead Sports Centre, the Foundry stands on what was once the site of the White Washed Kirk and surrounding graveyard. During the 1960s, Barrhead underwent great change, and the White Washed Kirk was one of the casualties; it was demolished to make way for the new Sports Centre. Even the graveyard went, the incumbents being removed quietly to Neilston Cemetery. As someone who spent quite a lot of time swimming badly in the ground floor pools as a kid, it certainly puts a whole new spin on fond childhood memories. And unsurprisingly, the place has associated ghost tales. The stories date back to the Sports Centre’s rebirth as an all inclusive community hub, The Foundry. One man working the night shift saw a ghostly woman wearing robes diving into the swimming pool from the cafeteria window.
Many thanks to the folk on the Barrhead, When I Grew Up There Facebook group, Alan Steel and Michael S Collins for helping piece this together!