West Kilbride could be a high street hero, and for me, there would be something very apt about that.

I spent the first ten years of my life in the village, and it has plenty of rosy memories for me - not rose wine, I should point out, that comes much later!

When growing up in the neighbourhood, I recall so many local shops which seemed to be the centre of my wee world.

In the early 1980s, I always remember the marvellous Mary who used to work in Ramages fruit shop at the top end of the high street.

She always gave me a special welcome, with an enigmatic smile, and it was really what the heart of community life was all about. Mary always used to give me a bunch grapes when I went in. This was during the days when 'Crackerjack' was still on TV on a Friday afternoon, and Stu Francis could 'crush a grape!', as he often used to say.

There used to be several newsagents including Donald Ribbeck's, who always use to give me a warm welcome to his shop - it was expansive with pet food, books, and all sorts of handy items - comics, magazines, and a love of newspapers were first nurtured here.

Dunlop and Blyth was the equivalent of Simpsons or WH Smith in Largs, and was run by Mr Blyth for many years, with all sorts of magazines, stationary and books.

Largs had Nardini's restaurant, but on the hill, I remember Pisani's which was West Kilbride's art deco equivalent.

I can vividly remember watching Charles and Diana's wedding in there at the age of five - royal memorabilia was everywhere in those days with tea trays, mugs, cups and plates, all commemorating one of the biggest occasions I can remember in the village.

I even saw Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on her visit on her way to visit Hunterston Nuclear Power Station in primary 3, as her limo slowly passed by the school.

Regardless of politics, is it any wonder that I thought West Kilbride was centre of the universe at this point in time?


West Kilbride Parish Church, recently transformed itself, was then St Andrew's Church, and I remember the Rev. Ross Mitchell, being an influential figure in my young church-going days.

Dunlop and Blyths expanded in the neighbourhood and used to have a separate toy shop which was a real treasure trove for sought after Star Wars toys.

Across the road from the toy shop was the D&B Art Gallery, which interestingly enough, still survives today, and that is quite fitting when you think about it, given the town's lofty Craft Town status.

Mr Blyth was always a very kindly soul, and was always busy in his cavernous shop which really was a first stop shop for everything of a literary nature.

In the early 1980s, I remember I used to be first in the queue with my pocket money to get the latest Doctor Who Target novelisation - this is something which Mr Blyth once tried to gently encourage me away from, and I remember he handed me a boys adventure book instead.

However, nearly 35 years later, and that love of science fiction and Doctor Who, in the days before DVDs and videos could be purchased, were harnessed by the Dunlop and Blyth book store. If you missed an episode on the tv, there was no iPlayer, and sometimes the best way of re-living a classic story from the Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker era was via Dunlop and Blyth's book shop!

The Craft Town concept has really transformed the village, giving it a new lease of life.

The splendid Barony Church is very much the focal point with exhibitions, craft events, and even the future with 3D printing and Maklab providing a taste of things to come in a digital world.

I was astonished to see this innovative printing in action - with hopes expressed that even 3D shoes can be 'printed' in future years via a computer programme, although there is still no sign of Back to the Future hoverboards yet!

The village still retains its Victorian feel with some beautiful old buildings, and has a real elegance about it.

I hope that West Kilbride gets the votes necessary, so not only was it the centre of my world when I was growing up, but a UK Champion of the high street!

Vote online at thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk