By Brian Wright
Have you noticed how maps sneaked their way into our lives.
It used to be there was maybe a touring map on a shelf in your hall cupboard, under the BT phone book and the Yellow Pages.
It was always at least a year or two out of date when planning next summer’s holiday route to North Berwick, or Newquay, or possibly all the way to a ferry for Ostend — but roads didn’t change all that much.
Then the map would be put back in the cupboard until it was needed again; another year out of date.
But then the digital age dawned, and along came Garmin sat-navs and Google Earth, smart phones and fitbits, and now we carry a map with us everywhere we go — either in our pocket, on our wrist, or as a built-in part of our car.
No more need to plan a journey in advance.
Simply switch on and tell your selected system personalisation where you want to go.
Five Minute Trips Around The World
In fact, in this lockdown age when we’re hardly permitted to drive out of our street, Google’s Street View can take you on a virtual trip to anywhere that takes your fancy.
The biggest choice you have to make is whether to enjoy it on your phone, tablet, laptop, or PC.
I had a stroll down the Champs Elysées on Monday.
Tomorrow, I fancy visiting Niagara Falls, or perhaps New York’s 5th Avenue to look at Saks’ window display.
I’ll decide in the morning.
Recently, I’ve also spent quite a bit of time with different online maps.
In one particular visit the “time” I spent was from 1823 through to 1896.
And not a DeLorean or Marty McFly anywhere in sight.
Local Map Resources
Let me ask, did you ever have cause to see an old map of Clydebank or Dumbarton at your local library?
All the main branches have a set of wide shallow drawers containing cumbersomely large, plastic protected, Ordinance Survey produced district plans.
Well, nowadays, all of those maps, every single one ever commissioned, of every part of Scotland, is available to view online.
On the National Library of Scotland digital archive.
Du(m/n)bartonshire maps range from 1583 to 1961 in 59 series.
That’s quite a resource.
I’d used them previously with my family history research.
My family lived more than 40 years in the Beardmore Yard’s factory house in Dalmuir.
It was actually the prototype Atholl Steel House that was itself a forerunner of those widely used post-war prefabs.
Orders for the steel houses were completed in the Dalmuir Locomotive Works, and I believe there were four-in-a-block Atholl steel flats put up in Whitecrook, Clydebank, during the late 1920s.
Anyway, all the photographs I’d seen of our family house at Beardmores give the impression of a rural bungalow, vegetable plots aplenty, and a rustic wooden fence and gate.
But those images don’t sit well with the knowledge that a massive, thundering, riverside dockyard and engineering works sat (almost literally) on the house’s doorstep.
By uploading the appropriate mapping, I could see how little the layouts related to my imagined reality or, indeed, to what exists in Bridge Street and Beardmore Street today.
With an accurate picture now in mind, I could make sense of those photographs.