Cumbernauld may be a dump, but it’s our dump

What life is like in Scumbernauld, Scotland’s fifth-largest town


Everyone thinks that their home town is a dump, because the grass is always greener elsewhere, isn’t it? It seems that’s true as long as elsewhere is anywhere but Cumbernauld.

It’s a dump, apparently 

“What’s it called?” Very funny. For anyone lucky enough to not understand that joke, it’s a reference to an obnoxiously optimistic ad for the town that was made during the eighties. I’m sorry torture you with it, but here it is:

However, I’ll tell you what it doesn’t say:

Cumbernauld is the most frequently nominated town in Scotland for the Plook on a Plinth award. It’s where Craig Ferguson moved away from. It’s where they filmed Gregory’s Girl – not that you’d know now since they knocked the school (which I went to) down. I used to be able to see it from my bedroom window but now all I see is a fenced off empty lot – well, empty apart from the cans, bottles and (probably) a used condom or two.

Because Cumbernauld is a dump, didn’t you know?

The site where Abronhill High used to be

The site where Abronhill High used to be

But it’s not a bad place to live 

Everyone thinks where they come from is the worst. I think it’s built into us – that need to keep moving, to constantly continue bettering ourselves and our surroundings. It could be an admirable trait if we actually did anything about it. Instead, we sit, we whinge and we moan about how everything around us is shit, how there’s nothing to do and how everyone who lives here is a joke. It’s a depressing state of mind to match a depressing looking place. Grey buildings, a grey sky and grey moods.

I’m sick of it. I’m sick of walking around with my fists plunged deep into my pockets, staring at the ground. I’m sick of writing about how “depressing” it is to live here. Why? Because that’s bullshit in itself.

As I look out of my bedroom window even now I see trees and leaves painted in rich, dark autumn colours. Admittedly, they are surrounded by bare trees, dull grey houses, dirty lampposts and an overcast sky, but to call everything I see outside of my window horrible is bullshit.

People don’t hate it as much as they make out

Dare I say, without throwing up, that I actually like my home town? Yeah, I’ll say it. I like Cumbernauld (overall) and I think a lot of other people do too. Now, of course, I know people my age who decided they’d had enough of this place and moved on – to go to university elsewhere, to join the army… but I also know many people who stayed.

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At times I think about what it’d be like to live somewhere else and eventually my mind comes to what I’d miss. I’d miss my friends, my (parents’) house, the places I go for a walk, the shopping centre across the road from my house where I can get a box of chips, cheese and curry sauce for one pound fifty. To put it succinctly, Cumbernauld has a character. He’s a moody bastard but there’s a certain charm to be found if you look under the grime and filth.

Abronhill Shopping Centre

Abronhill Shopping Centre

From Abronhill High to Cumbernauld Academy 

I was in fourth-year when Abronhill High School closed. People who couldn’t care less about the school before came to campaign against the closure. A few threatened to move elsewhere if it happened.

For a year or so, the fight against the council continued but, ultimately, there was nothing to be done. In August 2014, I was set to attend the newly titled ‘Cumbernauld Academy’ for what would be my last two years of high school.

During those final few days of Abronhill High, people wept like the world was coming to an end and, a few months later, the demolition crew arrived to tear that building down. Almost two years later, I saw people crying again – this time because they were leaving Cumbernauld Academy. After all the doubts, after all the tears and after the fear of being stabbed on the walk to school (because apparently Cumbernauld is more dangerous than Mogadishu), people were sad to leave it all behind.

Cumbernauld Academy - while it still lasts.

Cumbernauld Academy – also set to be demolished to make way for a new, modern campus

It’s home

I’m not saying Cumbernauld is perfect. I’m also not saying it deserved to be the Plook on a Plinth. Part of me wants to kill myself for writing something so soppy but, ultimately, it’s the people that matter: the staff at the schools, your friends, family and neighbours, and even the folks who run Dee’s Rolls across the road from my house. Perhaps being here is like getting used to life in prison. Instead of walls, there’s a big, grey dome over all of us.

An old photograph of the demolition of Abronhill High

An old photograph of the demolition of Abronhill High

Ultimately, there are worse places to live than Cumbernauld.