Obituary: William Sloan, master butcher and businessman

William Sloan was born into the family business

William Sloan was born into the family business

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William Sloan, master butcher and businessman. Born: 16 December, 1944 in Dumbarton on December 16, 1944. Died: February 10, 2017 in Paisley, aged 72.

William (Willie) Sloan was born into the trade in which he and his forebears specialised for more than a century.

Sloan the Butcher, founded in Dumbarton in 1898, passed down to the fourth generation of the family when Willie Sloan handed it on to his son, Derek.

The business, started by Willie’s grandfather, suffered a serious setback when the family shop in Glasgow Road, Dumbarton, was the victim of a Second World War bombing by the Luftwaffe on 5 May, 1941. Considerable damage was caused by high explosive bombs and incendiaries which wrecked two tenements, where the majority of casualties were badly injured and one woman was killed.

Undeterred, however, the Sloans moved from their blitzed premises to another shop across the road, near the landmark Jock McQueen’s clock in the Newtown.

The clock, which was perched high on an ornate, grey sandstone tower above the Co-op bakery at Park Street, was destroyed by the German bomb, which also razed the old Co-op shops to the ground.

Sloans’ new shop was at the foot of the pend which leads up to Eastfield Bowling Club, and that is how bowling and business first came to be closely linked for the Sloan family.

Willie was a fervent fan of Dumbarton FC and he played golf in his youth, but bowls came to be the sport he loved most and latterly he was a popular player and a patron at Vale of Leven Bowling Club.

Butchering was big business during that post-war era when there were no Chinese, Italian or Indian restaurants, supermarket ready meals or food to go, as there is nowadays.

Meat was the staple diet for families despite food rationing in post-war Scotland.

Dumbarton had its own livestock market in College Street and its own abattoir round Bankend Road, near the Leven.

Farmers from Garshake, the Long Crags, Kipperoch and the Old Kilpatrick Hills sold their cattle up the undertaker’s pend in College Street, an event that occasionally was not without incident or excitement.

Sometimes a bullock or a heifer would escape and be chased by its handlers down the Vennel into High Street or College Park Street.

If the animal wasn’t caught and returned to the sale ring then a police marksman would be called in to bring the chaos and drama to an abrupt end.

Although there was rationing into the early 1950s, meat was by far the most popular item in the butcher’s shops.

Sloan’s bought only the best beef and brightly-coloured rosettes from prize-winning beasts festooned the shop window in Glasgow Road.

Large sides of beef, pork and mutton hung on tenterhooks in the popular premises.

Behind the glistening, glass-fronted counter, spotless white trays of much sought after steaks, chops, pork links, steak mince, square and round sausage, black pudding, haggis, Scotch pies and offal were displayed.

Housewives who formed long queues for their “messages” on a Saturday – the day after pay day in the shipyard – sat waiting to be served on long wooden benches with their feet planted in the shop’s sawdust-strewn floor, exchanging news and gossip.

Sloans’ steak pies were on the menu at every bowling club supper and prize-giving and at functions on New Year’s Day, Burns’ Night and St Andrew’s Day.

Willie Sloan, who was educated at Knoxland Primary School and Dumbarton Academy, slipped quietly into the business.

The Rev Ian Miller, who conducted the funeral service at Jamestown Parish Church on Thursday, told the large congregation that Willie never distinguished himself academically.

He said: “He didn’t have to exert himself in the classroom. Willie knew that his life was mapped out for him, and that he would go into the family business.”

Willie took over initially as the delivery boy who took parcels around the town on his distinctive message bike and eventually completed his apprenticeship as a butcher under his father’s tutelage.

More than 50 years later, the business still has that message bike.

Willie Sloan was born at the family home in Dumbuck Crescent and lived there during his early life with his parents and siblings, Christine and Marion.

The Sloans moved house twice more, to Willcomlea on Glasgow Road and then to Round Riding Road.

Willie married his wife, Jean, in 1968 and set up home at Lorne Drive in Balloch before moving on to Mollanbowie Road and then, 35 years ago, to Whitegables in Upper Smollett Street, Alexandria.

The Sloan family opened a shop in Main Street, Alexandria, near the Fountain, in 1965, and Derek has taken over there, carrying on the family tradition and moving into 21st century business mode by operating a freezer pack home delivery service linked to a website.

The Rev Mr Miller said: “Willie Sloan gave loving and faithful service to his many customers in the community, which he served well. His business was an institution here for more than 100 years.

“Sadly he lost his beloved Jean some 17 years ago, which was a loss he bore bravely, but part of Willie went with her.”

Willie Sloan, whose burial took place at Vale of Leven Cemetery on Thursday, is survived by his two children, Derek and Lynn, and five grandchildren, Rebecca, Jamie, Megan, Abby and Jennifer, to whom he was a devoted grandfather.

BILL HEANEY

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