A year in the life and the lens of Brian at Dumbarton shopping centre

1979 was a big year for Scotland and the UK – but life went on as usual in Dumbarton and was faithfully recorded through the lens of press photographer Brian Averell.

Back then the Winter of Discontent was coming to an end. Scotland’s vote in favour of devolution was so small Labour decided not to press ahead with devolution, resulting in the SNP withdrawing support and a no confidence motion in Jim Callaghan’s Government.

It sparked an election which brought Margaret Thatcher to power.

But back in West Dunbartonshire and Helensburgh, whatever the political upheavals nationally there were still New Year swims, sports events, first Communicants, theatre and youth groups, the exploits of Dumbarton FC, charity events and school life, which all needed recording.

And Brian recorded them all. He even got to photograph Mrs Thatcher, not to mention a young Tony Blair before he too became prime minister.

Some of those pictures form part of an exhibition being staged at the new Community Hub at the Artizan Shopping Centre, in Dumbarton.

Helensburgh man Brian who has been behind the lens capturing the news of his area for over four decades, also produced a book, called ‘Farewell to the Seventies’ which catalogues events throughout 1979 in around 80 black and white photographs.

Look out for the photo’ of the local garage which was selling 4-star petrol at the time for 79p a gallon!

Brian picked 1979 as it was the first full year that he and former business partner Dave Mitchell worked as freelancers for the Helensburgh Times and the then Lennox Herald.

An exhibition of the photographs from the book went on display at The Hub in the Artizan Shopping Centre in Dumbarton, for its recent craft fair, and will remain there for the public to see for some time.

Louise Scott, Marketing Executive for the Artizan Shopping Centre, said: “Brian’s photos make a fantastic pictorial record of a year in the life of the area and we’re delighted to have them on as part of the display in the new Community Hub.

“That’s proving very popular and has become something of a focal point for the town and we’re delighted to have been able to make it available for the community – we’re open to further ideas about its use.”

Born and raised in Helensburgh, Brian, 63, left school after his O-Grades on a Friday and on the Monday started work as an editorial assistant in May 1968, securing the job mainly because he had been in the school’s photographic club and in addition to proof reading he could develop and print films – and of course, make tea.

“I always had an interest in photography. At that time I think the editor or the chief reporter took the photographs and I developed the film,” said Brian who became a photographer and stayed with the independent weekly Advertiser for 10 years before setting up a freelance agency with David Mitchell in 1978 and began providing the photographic coverage for the Lennox Herald and the Helensburgh Times.

“I had the idea for the book because it was the first full year we worked for the papers. To be honest I don’t particularly remember 1979! I look at the photographs now and I can remember taking the odd one. Things blur over the years.”

Considering he would have had around 15,000 prints from that year alone to choose from it’s hardly surprising.

Although the digital revolution has simplified picture taking, Brian still misses the old days when far more care had to be taken to frame the picture and get it right first time, rather than simply blasting away taking dozens of digital pictures which can simply be deleted later.

It’s not been all local news for Brian. He’s photographed pretty well everything from Roger Moore filming one of the Bond movies Live and Let Die at Faslane Naval Base to the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986 for News International.

But about a year ago Brian decided to retire from the local newspaper business, a decision partly prompted by age but also an eye condition, toxoplasmosis, which although stable has left Brian registered partially sighted.

He is still able to take photographs but it meant Brian could no longer drive which made covering his patch too difficult.

Apart from the exhibition, Brian is trying to sort out his huge archive of pictures, hoping he can establish a website for them in the near future.

Anyone interested in pictures from the exhibition, or Brian’s book “Farewell to the Seventies” (£9.99) should contact Brian on 07802 425082.

In the meantime many of his pictures, along with those of other local photographers, are on display at the Community Hub which is open every Thursday from 10am to 4pm and on other occasions.

For more information about the Centre and the Community Hub and how to make use of it go to www.artizancentre.co.uk or Facebook page www.facebook.com/artizangallerydumbarton or contact artizan@6274.co.uk

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