Cumbernauld man pens novel view of new town childhood

AN eight-year-old boy’s close encounter with the Queen during a royal visit to Cumbernauld more than 50 years ago is revisited in a new book.

‘The Fenian’ written by Mike Kernan, is a nostalgic love story set against the backdrop of sectarian divide as a pair of teenage sweethearts and their pals grow up in a new town.

One flashback sequence is based on an incident involving the author which made national news when the Queen visited Kildrum.

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Angling columnist and lecturer Mike, 63, said: “Many of the episodes in the book are exaggerated versions of events that happened or that I heard about when I was growing up in Cumbernauld.

Meadow View, Kildrum. Pic courtesy of Adam Smith.

“But the one about the royal visit was the easiest and the best fun to write because it was 100 per cent true.”

The Queen was on a tour of Scotland in June 1965 when she came to Lochlea Road, Kildrum to open a health centre at the top of the street, Mike believes.

He recalled: “I was playing with pals in the swing park nearby and thought it must be about lunchtime because I was starving, so I set out for home halfway down the street.

“My way was blocked by crowds of people but I squeezed through then saw a lady in a fancy coat and politely asked her for the right time. I had no idea who she was.

“I was grabbed by a man in a suit who took down my name and address and I thought he must be the police and I was in trouble.

“But he came to my house that evening and it turned out he was a reporter and told my mum and dad I’d been marching beside the Queen and that I’d spoken to her.

“I got my photo taken and the story was on the front page of a national newspaper the next morning.

“I still have the cutting to this day and I’m sure that incident must have partly inspired me to become a journalist myself.”

The Fenian is based in the fictional new town of Cumbride with the action switching mainly between the 1970s and the start of the new millennium.

The setting is a thinly disguised version of Cumbernauld with a string of recognisable features including the districts of Cardrum and Ravenshill, a pub named The Common and a swimming pool called the Tryst.

The two secondary schools in the book are Cumbride High and St Joseph’s, after the RC church in Carbrain, and a structure inspired by St Mungo’s Church is featured on the cover.

Mike said: “I lived in Cumbernauld til I was 21 so it made sense to set a story about growing up in a place I was familiar with and some of the characters are based on people I knew or combinations of them.”

The retired newspaper executive, who now lectures in journalism at Strathclyde University. lives in Largs but still has connections to the town.

He said: “Our house in Lochlea Road was the family home from when it was built in the early 1960s until my father, Frank Kernan, died four years ago.

“My brother Kevin and some of his family still stay in Cumbernauld and in the last few years I have reconnected with friends from my teenage years through social media.”

The Fenian is now available on Amazon.

Mike’s novel is not the only book about the town to come out this year.

Writer Paul Gillon who has the pen name Kirkland Ciccone has also penned a novel set in Cumbernauld.

Called ‘Happiness is Wasted on Me’ it was originally intended for publication in May but will now be released by Fledgling Press on October 29.

Cumbernauld Library staffer Paul has described it as both “a love letter and hate mail to the town”.