John’s memories of the move to Livingston
“MY son was christened at Riverside School. The minister held him up and spoke about the community looking after him. That’s the way it was then.”
John Stewart clearly remembers the move that helped to shape his young family.
Living in Leith, he decided to come to Livingston with his wife Olive and two young daughters after reading a newspaper article about the new town in early 1966.
“Everyone moving from Glasgow and the west got their expenses paid because there was overcrowding in the city,” he said. “If you were from the east you needed to get a job to get a house.”
John got himself a job at Drake and Scull, working on the plumbing on the new houses in Craigshill.
He could see others moving into their new homes and his family weren’t far behind.
“We were the 33rd family to move in back in November 1966,” he said.
“When we got the letter we went into Livingston that night to look at the maisonette at 12 Leven Walk.”
The family had to contend with an outside view of the house – in the dark, as there were no streetlights in operation – but soon got the chance to see their new home properly.
A representative from the LDC showed John and Olive around personally and they were handed the keys for a closer look.
“It was a nice personal touch from the LDC, helping us out. How many people now would get that?
“In Leith, the girls’ room was like a box room. Now they would be getting a room each – you can imagine how good it was for them.”
While new settlers were moving into the houses, building work was still ongoing throughout the town.
“I was prepared because I worked here. It was new, it was like the Wild West,” John added.
“Streets and cars were covered with red shale. If you were in Edinburgh you could always tell the Livingston cars because they were coated with the dust.
“There also wasn’t any birdlife. There were no worms because the place had all been dug up and it was just a building site.”
But they quickly settled into the community, even welcoming Alan, the newest addition to the Stewart family in the late 1960s.
John added: “We had a weekly Forum meeting and the LDC sent along officials to answer questions.
“Doctors and all the other professionals were there just mixing with local people and after that there were different church services.”
The family had to be moved after just a year as the houses in Leven Walk suffered from leakage when it rained due to their Swedish design .
Before that, however, in January 1968, a storm ravaged the area with roofs being blown off houses and debris littering the streets.
John said: “Jesperson houses had been built and the LDC had insisted that balconies be included, which caused leaks. We were to be rehoused in Canberra Street but we had to deal with the storm first.”
As John recalls on his Livingston website: “Neighbours could not do enough for each other and were drawn together more closely in their adversity.
“I could not help comparing this with my early war time experience in Leith. We had the makings of a community it seemed.”
And the 77-year-old insists that spirit hasn’t died out completely.
He said: “Even now, my next door neighbour can’t do enough for me.
“I love Livingston; there are some great people. If I had the chance to turn back time I would still do the same again.”
John’s memories of Livingston can be found at http://www.livingstonourhometown.com/index.html