Tag Archives: castle

The Castle, the Gypsy and the Fire Dance

Mark Arbuckle: Glasgow 2021

Now this might sound like an unwritten Harry Potter novel but with apologies to Ms. Rowling these events are true and took place a decade or so before she conjured up the young wizard.

Names have been withheld to protect our idiocy!

It all began on a cold but bright Sunday morning in March 1974. A group of around a dozen teenagers, including myself, gathered at the Radnor Hotel on Kilbowie Road, Clydebank to begin our quest to the mythical Mugdock Castle.
We were all suitably dressed for our adventure….

Flared Jeans (more on them later) T-shirts, Denim Jackets and the obligatory Baseball Boots (Basies) or Gola Trainers.
All perfect for the 8°C weather!

The girls had been tasked with supplying the food and the guys with procuring whatever alcohol that they could get their underage hands on. One clever chap (I or C) also brought his battery powered cassette player and a selection of classic 70’s rock music….Purple, Yes, ELP and the mighty Zep

Hoisting our duffle bags we set off and quickly decided that if we were going to hitchhike it would be best if we split up into twos or threes.
We reached Kilbowie roundabout and already a few lucky couples had managed to get a lift. The rest of us continued to walk towards Hardgate and onwards to Milngavie.

MK and I finally got a lift from a lorry driver, who, obviously concerned for our safety, put his large left arm around both of us! 
I risked a glance at MK’s face and she was as shocked as I was!
Thankfully it was a short journey and he dropped us off half a mile from the Mugdock Park entrance. 

The first thing we saw, apart from trees, was an ornately painted Gypsy caravan close to a narrow stream. The resident wasn’t around but it was easy to imagine an old, grey haired, shawl wearing, woman with a stunningly beautiful daughter remarkably similar to Cher singing Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves…..well easy for me to imagine this scene….not too sure about MK who was probably still thinking about our over friendly lorry driver!


We reached the Castle in about 20 minutes.
Remember this was 1974, long before Mugdock had a visitor centre, gift shop or cafe. 
Most of our merry gang were already setting up camp at the derelict castle, swapping stories about their individual hitchhiking journeys.

A couple of the guys had brought fishing lines, presumably to catch their supper in the lake adjacent to the Castle.

However there was one little problem ….the lake was frozen solid!
The fishing line weights merely hit the ice and skidded 10 yards away.

Undaunted by this setback, large stones were launched onto the ice which eventually created a couple of holes. Now the only problem was aiming the fishing line weights at said holes!
After several attempts our ‘would be’ Captain Birdseye’s gave up completely.

Couples were exploring the darker recesses of the castle, which are sadly closed to the public nowadays…. probably just as well!
The music was on, a good fire was lit and everybody was enjoying a drink, a sandwich, or a sausage roll.


The temperature had dropped and the fire was kept going with bits of wood, twigs and leaves and, to howls of derision, a quarter bottle of vodka!

My great friend Peter (who is sadly no longer with us )  moved closer to the fire, enjoying it’s warmth. Suddenly he leapt to his feet screaming and kicking his legs in the air in a demented dance around the flames!
The rest of us laughed, hooted and clapped at his crazy antics.
He then shocked everybody by kicking his basies off and dragged his jeans down!…. 


Now the fashion at the time was to take an ordinary pair of jeans and open the side seams 15″ from the ankles and then plead with your mum to sew in a triangular piece of coloured cloth (mine was yellow) thus making them flared and fashionable. 

Dancing Peter had done this himself, but instead of sewing he had stapled the insert to the denim!
When he sat too close to the fire the staples had melted into his skin causing his mad Fire Dance!

It was now getting dark and had also started to snow.
Peter for one, was grateful, rubbing handfuls of the stuff onto his burnt flesh.
We packed up ready to head home, but for some unknown reason instead of heading back the way we had come, towards Cher’s Gypsy caravan, we started to walk in the opposite direction??

The snow was getting very heavy now, which actually helped us to see as there was no other light and of course nobody had brought a torch!


We were making decent progress when the gradient suddenly slanted downward causing 3 or 4 people to slip and fall in the snow.

One poor guy (MG) got back up only to fall again over a small ‘hillock’ which bleated in surprise and moved off followed by a few of it’s woolly friends! 

We continued slip- slidin’ away on this downward slope for about half an hour until we entered thick woodland. We could now see streetlights about a mile ahead so had no option but to head for them.

We eventually emerged onto a farm track with houses about 500 yards ahead. Everybody was muddy, shivering and scratched from branches and brambles in the wood. A few of the girls had started to cry (probably guys too) and everybody was cold, hungry and miserable.

I was ‘volunteered’ to go to the first house to ask where we were.
A woman answered and was shocked at my disheveled appearance before politely telling me ‘You’re in Milngavie son’.
I pointed to the sad huddle of my companions and asked if there was a chip shop nearby and to our delight she said there was, just a few hundred yards from her house.

This news lifted our spirits and we trudged off to find it.
Cobbling our money together we had enough to buy three fish suppers to share….. they were ravenously devoured!

I had also ensured that I kept back enough change to use in the phone-box next to the chippy.

I phoned my Dad who voicing a combination of anger and relief agreed to take myself and three more of our motley crew home.
Two others followed suit and got family members to come to their rescue.

I don’t remember much about what followed as nobody really talked about it at school the next week.
I think we all realised how daft we’d been and how fortunate we were that nobody had got hypothermia or been badly injured on the journey home.

We were all a bit sheepish….

Especially MG – who still claims that he ‘fell over’ that one, on that snow covered hillside!