The following story was sent to Historic Hamilton by David Cairns.
Jimmy Scott fae Ratho Park was the first guy ever-ever in the history of the entire world inside my mind, to imagine, design and build a plank on wheels…he even invented the name…”Skate-Plank”…the name never stuck..but his invention did…today…kids the world over…call it a ‘Skateboard’…the best, crazy-fast craze to come and go I ever saw growing up in Hamilton.
Early summer 1977, I saw Jimmy Scott wheeling his way doon the path that ran fae the top of Balmore Drive over tae Ratho Park…he wisnae on roller skates..they were for lassies..and it wisnae a bogey…too wee for a bogey ?? I decided I needed tae go over and talk to Jimmy aboot this contraption. Jimmy was 2 years older than me, and we were only pals part-time…other times, we wurnae on speaking terms…last time I saw him, he’d been oot on the skite in Hamilton aboot 1986 and he was staggering hame at three in the morning in a tee-shirt…and it was freezin’..I gave him a lift..he was a nice guy..wish I’d played with him mair…
Anyway, this ‘ thing’..plank hing ?..it was a dod of plank, and two halfs of a roller skate nailed through the dod …and that was pretty much it. He pushed off at the top and was travelling about a quarter the pace my granny wheeled a supermarket trolley full of cans of prunes, and by the time he got half way doon the slope..he was flyin’ aboot as fast as I could swim…and then jumped aff…cos of the speed…I mean…you could die…Jeezo…this was real breakneck stuff.
Mair and mair kids were coming for a shot..bless him, Jimmy let everybody have a go. Within a week, my next door neighbour Stuart Baird’s maw went oot and bought him an £18 clear, blue SKUDA board..with a kickboard tail. We were all now in an arms race…like it or not…anybody in the scheme who’s birthday was in the summer or Autumn, was getting a skate-plank…everybody else had tae get an emergency wan….oh, the embarrassment…the shame…we got wan oot the Catalogue Clubby book….a ‘SuperFlyerDeluxe’ widden monstrosity with a rubber bung on the underside heel. It was aboot two foot long, made of wood, and had the logo painted in blue on the tap…all the paint came aff in a week, all the rubber came aff the wheels in a fortnight, and all that…for £6-99.
The wheels wore doon intae a sideywyse ‘v’ shape. The ‘trucks’ were hopeless, and if ye went faster than 10 mile an hoor, ye gote a deadly speed wobble and fell aff….
During that time, ye could only see skateboarding on a wee snippet at the start of ‘World of Sport’ with Dickie Davis on a Saturday before the wrestling. Britain had some guy called Tim Levis who could slalom in and oot o’ tin cans and was going tae the world skateboarding championships in California, where the Yanks claimed, it had been invented…wis it fuck, it was Ratho Park, Meikle Earnock.
That sent ye oot ontae Meikle Earnock’s famous hilly paths, but, as it was September by then, the paths were already covered by Cooncil issue winter road salt. We had tae come doon oot of the altitude of Meiky tae find the best path in Hamilton…the long, path that ran fae Eddlewood Boolin’ Club, doon ower the Fairhill bing and ran steep doon tae Fairhill Avenue at Mill Road..that path was fucken dangerous. A speed wobble was the speed at which a board began to vibrate in the ‘trucks’..but if ye could control it AND were brave enough…ye could get through it….so on that lower path, headin doon parallel tae Buchan Street…I went through the first wobble…and went full pelt tae the bottom…but got another wan at twice the speed..I shit it…and jumped aff…and accidentally broke the world triple jump record en route tae a triple somersault and a triple salchow before skidding tae a halt with blood pouring oot all the new holes in my wooly jumper..it wis fucken magic.
Roon’ aboot that time, a new ‘ Skate-Park’ opened in Kelvingrove Park in Glesga, and Jimmy Scott was the guest of honour and opened it. Ye had tae have safety gear if I mind right, so my mam got us fucken auld yellow miners helmets. Even worse, some folk had skate pads on their elbows and knees made oot o’ auld socks.
It was a special treat that day, going to the park in Glesga, but fuck me, we were oot oor depth..kids were wheechin’ aboot upside doon and back tae front and never came aff…not like today, when they seem tae spend a’ their time jumpin aff the fucken hing.
Back in Hamilton, Christmas was coming, and I had my eye oan a £15 board oot a wee shoap near Woodside Road in Hamilton. Oor Scott on the other hand, was after a ‘Grentek Coyote’…I think that had to be ordered oot a magazine? it was £15 tae..and it was a much better board. Murray Clark and seven of his pals got in the Hamilton Ady for forming an ‘Octomaran’ where eight of them joined together and went doon a hill.
The Cooncil then gote tae work building us a long overdue ‘Skate-Park’..wan tae be proud of. They picked the site…Fairhill Bing !! doon on the grass near the bottom. The story wis at the time, a company were gaunae put in Snake runs and Torpedo Bowls and a half pipe and what have ye, for aboot £15,000…the Cooncil worked oot wi’ a bookies pencil oan the back of a fag packet in Skeltons, that they could dae it for aboot ten thoosand…and so , it came tae pass, that a concrete fucking carbuncle was built over a weekend…and before the concrete set, the locals in Fairhill threw bricks, shoes and auld wellys, car batteries and a shopping basket, two cookers and a Labrador intae the setting concrete…and totally fucked the project up afore the fuckin thing was built. It lay like that, collecting rainwater for about two years…then it was bulldozed…ye can still see a big bump at the bottom of the hill where it wis , I heard they buried a couple of Cooncilors in there tae.
That Christmas…everybody and their aunty woke up tae Grentek Coyotes, proper knee pads and helmets, skateboard annuals full of the best Californian Parks and pictures of skimpy bikini clad groupies…and seven fit snaw drifts…wish I’d got a fuckin sledge !