photo: Greenock, west coast of Scotland.
What follows is a true tale – kind of.
The house had belonged to a brewing family who had commissioned it to be built when Victoria was still on the throne. However, by the 1930s they had all scattered far and wide in the world and the house lay empty for several years.
It began to gain a reputation as the ‘haunted house’ and children would dare each other to look in the windows and not move for as long as they could. All it took was one of their pals to tap them on the shoulder and they would let out and almighty scream, followed by burst of laughter.
The house stood high on a hill and had a little tower which allowed a spectacular view of the river Clyde. On a good day a person could see as far as Glasgow and as far north as Loch Lomond. There was only a little garden to the rear as a cliff face limited the amount available to plant flowers.
To the front was a steep path which led down to Finnart Street and only provided enough room to allow a little lawn to be maintained.
The Thirties led into the war years and still the house had no occupants. That is, until a family from the down south moved to the area. The father’s work was to oversee shipbuilding on the Clyde as part of the war effort.
The man’s wife had one stipulation and that was that the house should have electricity. It was an amenity that the whole family had grown accustomed to in their leafy little Surrey town of Leatherhead.
The shipyard sent a couple of electricians to wire the house from top to bottom, and by the end of that week there was electric light available in the tower and an electric toaster in the kitchen – among other things, that is.
Two weeks later the family: mother, father and two sons arrived to take up residence (however temporary) in their new abode.
It was just approaching dusk when the father tried the new electrical switches and to his disappointment, they would not work. Being late in the day, they decided to retire to the Tontine Hotel and come back in the daylight.
What they found the next morning shocked them. It wasn’t so much that the electricity had failed, but that the wiring had all been ripped out. Now I know what you’re thinking (much like the family did) that this was wartime and resources were scarce. Someone or several people had broken in and stolen the precious cables and fixtures.
There was no alternative but to stay on in the Tontine until a second lot of wiring took place. This is what happened and by the following week the house was ready to be occupied.
Except – and you might see what is coming – when the family arrived, the wiring had once again been removed hurriedly from the premises.
The father’s employers, the shipyard owners’, called in the local police to ascertain what had actually occurred in the house. It was done on the proviso that no findings were ever to be made public; after all, the country was at war and story like this would do nothing for morale.
What the police observed, and I suppose it should have been obvious, was that there was no sign of a break-in. Which meant that either the thief or thieves had keys or something more peculiar had happened.
The order was given to re-wire the house a third time but on this occasion, two members of the local constabulary hid themselves in the basement.
The theory was that perhaps there wasn’t someone trying to break in, rather there was someone trying to stop the family moving in.
In the middle of that night the two men could hear activity on the floors above. Both the police had guns given the unusual circumstances and because there was a war on.
Once the noise has settled down, the policemen crawled out of their hiding area to find that the wiring had once again been ripped out.
They could hear what sounded like two men in conversation in the tower of the house and so the police quietly climbed the stairs.
What they found in the tower was totally unexpected. Two Nazi spies, with binoculars, were watching the movement of all the ships in the Clyde Basin.
Of course the men were arrested and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp but the news of their arrest was never made public.
The story was told to my father by one of the electricians.
bobby stevenson 2016