Glasgow's 'gunner girls' based on Drumchapel farm inspire new book

Carol MacLean <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
Carol MacLean (Image: Newsquest)

A PIECE of the city’s famous war history has inspired a popular local author - after she read about it in the Glasgow Times.

Carol MacLean was fascinated by our Times Past story about the Drumchapel “ack-ack girls” – members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service stationed at the area’s anti-aircraft battery.

More than 250,000 women served in the ATS during the Second World War, making it the largest of the women’s services.

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:

The first recruits were employed as cooks, clerks and storekeepers, but eventually - mainly because of the shortage of men - women were also recruited to become radar operators and anti-aircraft battery crews.

Around 80 men and 80 women were stationed at Garscadden Mains Farm in Drumchapel by 1941, where the Buchanans put them to work on the land in between their duties. Garscadden Mains is now part of Jedworth Avenue.

With our help, Carol tracked down local man Eric Flack, who is a mine of information about Drumchapel.

Glasgow Times: Eric Flack
Glasgow Times: Eric Flack

The result is Kathy’s Courage, the story of a young Glasgow woman who runs away from heartbreak by joining the ATS.

“Eric Flack’s information was invaluable,” says Carol.


READ NEXT: Rebus star on 'exciting' role in new TV drama and her Doctor Who past


“He gave me personal accounts of some of those who served on the ack-ack site, and from his own memory as a wee boy, and it meant I could make my story authentic.

“I loved reading about the family who lived at the farm and the fact that the farmer got the ATS girls and other soldiers to help plant the potatoes.”

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:

She adds: “I have changed the name of the farm to make mine fictional so that I could have my own characters there but I got some great inspiration from Eric’s notes so generously provided.”

Eric also told Carol about the camp radio.

“They had loudspeakers which played dance music, and he told me he found it incongruous to walk along a country road of a Sunday afternoon and come upon huts, gates, barbed wire and a loudspeaker,” she says.

Glasgow Times: Kathy's Courage is out now
Glasgow Times: Kathy's Courage is out now

“I’ve incorporated that. It’s the little details which make a historical novel interesting to read and with Eric’s information I could be confident in what I was writing.”

Carol started writing pocket novels and stories for women’s magazines many years ago, but it was during lockdown that she wrote her debut novel, Jeannie’s War.

It was the first in her historical saga series The Kiltie Street Girls, about a group of young women living on a Maryhill street during World War Two,

Both Jeannie’s War and Carol’s second book, Elsie’s Wartime Wish, were huge successes. Kathy’s Courage is the latest instalment, following the story of a young single woman who becomes pregnant and fears for her future until her mother agrees to raise the baby as her own.


READ NEXT: Astonishing past of Glasgow ice cream shops once slammed as 'evil'


Everything changes after she meets handsome RAF pilot Alisdair, but when their relationship is threatened, Kathy runs away to join the ATS.

Her new life is a world away from her Glasgow tenement, and despite being surrounded by new faces, Kathy can’t get Alisdair, nor her secret child, out of her mind.

“I was intrigued by the ATS women,” says Carol.

“I discovered they were a tough bunch, slogging away in the mud and the freezing cold and all weathers, either helping to guide the shells that deflected, or brought down, enemy planes, or taking their turn on sentry duties,” she explains.

“They also had fun putting on musical shows and entertainment in the brick building that was the army canteen. And they made lifelong friendships.”

Carol adds: “I really enjoyed writing about them and as I did so, they came to life for me and I felt immersed in their story.”

She smiles: “And I actually met Eric, by sheer coincidence, at a community event in Drumchapel last year, so I was able to thank him in person for all his help.”

Kathy's Courage is out now.