THE road signs welcoming you to Alloa announce “Aloha! This is Alloa!”
Of course they don’t. Sadly. They are missing a golden opportunity to introduce the idea that this small Scottish town is a northern, Clackmannanshire version of an Hawaiian hula heaven. Pity.
To get here I have passed over one of my favourite Scottish bridges, The Kincardine Bridge, with it’s imposing 1930’s architecture. My grandfather, decades ago, once applied for a job to operate the swing bridge machinery. He was unsuccessful and was very keen to point out that the fellow who did
get the job was a freemason...
Coming from a small town myself (it now calls itself a city, but there is little wrong with being a town) I feel an affinity with places like Alloa. These small towns tend to be places that send their sons and daughters off out into the wider world where in other towns and other cities bonds are instantly made with the words “I’m from there too!”.
Alloa was, and it is a ‘was’, famous for being a centre of brewing. At it’s height there were nine major breweries in the town and Alloa ale slaked the thirsts of men and women in London, the West Indies, Egypt and the Far East. Only one brewery remains today.
The first image this week shows the original Forth Rail Bridge – built several years before its more illustrious namesake further down the river. Over this bridge the ales and beers of Alloa poured into the industrial heartlands of thirsty Scotland before travelling on south to England and beyond. Opened in 1853 the bridge was closed permanently in 1968. A big thank you to the woman who let me traipse through her garden to get to the bridge as all other access is now almost impossible.
My main aim of my visit was just to photograph as many people as I could. I didn’t want to get posed shots, rather images of people going about their daily business. Often asking someone if you can take his or her photo ruins the very thing you wanted to photograph in the first place. The alternative is to take photos as surreptitiously as possible. Otherwise known as stalking, snooping and spying.
I liked Alloa very much. It isn’t very big but feels big enough. You can walk from the town centre to the harbour, with its huge bottling plant, in under ten minutes, passing the large imposing houses that must have once belonged to the merchants and brewery-owners of the town. The population of roughly 16000 all know each other, or at least that is how it seemed as I wandered around through the town centre. No mischief or extra-curricular hanky-panky would go unnoticed here, which is possibly why alcohol was once so popular.
Interestingly ‘Aloha’ also means ‘goodbye’, which could conceivably double the work for the sign writers of the town. It can also mean “I love you”. I don’t think I do love Alloa but I would be more than happy to take it down the docks for a good snog – although somebody would be bound to notice.
• Alan McCredie began the ‘100 weeks of Scotland’ website in October last year, and it will conclude in Autumn 2014. McCredie’s goal is to chronicle two years of Scottish life in the run-up to the independence referendum.
Alan says ‘one hundred weeks...’ is intended to show all sides of the country over the next two years. On the site, he says: “Whatever the result of the vote Scotland will be a different country afterward. These images will show a snapshot of the country in the run up to the referendum.
“The photos will be of all aspects of Scottish culture - politics, art, social issues, sport and anything else that catches the eye.”