You’re not Dunblane unless you’ve got a Laighills memory or story. The Laighills (or Lechills) is a large hilly park comprising 2 football pitches(top and bottom), playpark, skatepark and lots of paths through gorse bushes n bracken. It used to be a golf course, must have been a mental wee course! Also had a curling pond roond the back.
Its hemmed in by a loop in the River Allan to the north and west and by the railway to the east. You can only access it by foot via the narrow faery bridge or path from the Cathedral car park from the south or over the railway footbridge from the east (from Ramoyle or Cala’s).
My first ever football match was on the tiny bottom pitch. I got my first pair of boots that morning from Sandy Hunters and on arrival pitchside discovered there were two left boots (probably ironic haha). This was remedied and I scored in a 9-7 win. I was so small they carried me back down the pitch in celebration.
I played on that pitch many times for Dunblane BBs : we wore the Barcelona strip, what a buzz that was. I only recently found out the bottom pitch was built as a hockey pitch around 1960. It had a board around the perimeter. As a football pitch the problem was the river, or rather the ball going in the river. You had to follow the ball downstream and hopefully catch it before it went through the weir. The River Allan has claimed many lives over the years but we were too young to care : footballs were expensive!
The Laighills in the summer holidays was great fun. We built dams in the scouring burn at the entrance, spent hours there. On hot days we all jumped off the rocks in the deep pools across from the old mill. The old mill in the 70s was just that, an old mill. We used to pan in what was left of the windaes haha. Now its luxury flats for auld yins.
The hilly parts of the Laighills were ideal for our Amateur football pre-season training. Clutch had us running up n down the narrow grassy paths, doing piggy backs until someone was sick.
On summer nights the Laighills attracted a different crowd. Squads of teenagers wi cairry oots. Chatting up the girls, full of dutch courage (well, Skol lager n El Dorado more like). The polis would appear, causing widespread panic , it was like a scene from The Keystone Cops, great fun at the time. In hindsight, not so funny drunken kids next to the river but we wiz young and stupit.
Now I walk the dogs there. Its lovely in spring with all the bluebells on show. Kids still play on the swings and go down the slides. The football pitches are maintained but unused and the changing rooms are to be demolished. Maybe we, as a community, can do something about this. The problem is lack of access.
A final true story. Andy Murray, having just returned from a tournament abroad, went on twitter one night inviting questions as he couldn’t sleep. Well, one of our lads (who shall remain nameless) asked him if he’d ever had a drinking session doon the Laighills. He replied he’d sadly never taken part in this tradition, or words to that effect.
It’s never too late, Andy….. just sayin’.