LOCKDOWN, for many, was a chance to re-connect with family, to strengthen relationships - albeit from a distance - with friends, and to prioritise safety and security at a time of so much uncertainty.

For residents of Malcolm Place in Helensburgh, the months spent indoors due to coronavirus restrictions provided an opportunity to form new bonds with the people living through the wall and experiencing the same pressures.

This week neighbours of the street in the Churchill area of the town have been reflecting on the trials and tribulations of 2020 so far, which, by their own accounts, have “brought everyone together”.

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to dominate daily life, despite restrictions gradually easing, but for Debbie McCallum, who has lived in Malcolm Place for five years, there are plenty of positives to take from it.

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“A lot of the neighbours never really talked before lockdown, so it has brought a lot of people closer in the community”, she said.

“There has always been someone there to help during lockdown, we would all get together to sing happy birthday outside people’s houses, we have gone out our way to try to make it special for people who had to spend their birthday indoors. It was the same for the kids as well who had missed so much by not being at school.

“Before lockdown we just kept ourselves to ourselves, we would say hello in passing but we never really mixed together.

“It has definitely brought us all a lot closer, so much so that 30 or 40 of us have booked up to go away to Craig Tara holiday park in October. I never thought that would happen a few months ago!

“We have become friends now, more than just neighbours, and that will continue.”

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Debbie, along with like-minded neighbours, organised weekly bingo nights during the early days of lockdown, with raffles helping to raise money for the NHS, as well as local charities Enable, Jean’s Bothy and the Gary Andrews Remember A Life organisation.

Funds have also been donated to the family of 12-year-old Ava Gray, who tragically lost her life in Balloch in August.

Street parties have been held - with permission from the police and Dunbritton Housing Association - while sports days and BBQs have united the residents. Hallowe’en and Christmas events are already being planned too.

Stephanie Jones, a single mother of four who has lived in Malcolm Place for around 13 years, said many close relationships have been forged during lockdown.

“Our street has been amazing,” she told the Advertiser.

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“We have all kept each other going, from the little things like picking shopping up, to passing light bulbs over, or celebrating birthdays.

“I know a lot of the people on the street and have always found us to be there for each other through difficult times, but lockdown has made us grow so much closer.

“There are no more just ‘hellos’ when passing, it’s a full conversation.

“Debbie and Richard [McDonald] have both gone above and beyond for our events and I know we will all come out of this together and stronger for it.

“No one has been left out and I wouldn’t want to live in any other street.”

In an appreciation post shared on social media, Alastair Stenhouse said: “We used to be like any other street before all this, not really knowing our neighbours.

“Now we are all close friends with a proper old fashioned community spirit.

“Lovely to see and be part of.”

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Richard McDonald, who has lived in the street for 11 years, agreed.

He said: “It was just like a normal street before lockdown. You would pass your neighbours and say ‘Hi’ just out of common courtesy, but it wasn’t until the first ‘Clap for Carers’ when we all came out and decided to do something like street bingo to raise money for the NHS.

“The full street was out and we raised over £250 through a raffle on the first night.

“We got permission from the police and Dunbritton Housing Association for the end of lockdown street party and the police came up a few times during the night to check up.

“We had a bouncy castle, barbecue, singers in the evening, and over 100 people there. It was unreal. We raised over £1,000 for the three local charities.

“Some people with young kids would have been stuck in the house but now they’re out and mingling.

“It’s brought us all together.

“Events like the bingo help pass two or three hours and give folk a good chance to catch up and speak to other adults for a change.

“It has brought some of the neighbours out of their shells and if anyone needs something they can just ask around and someone will help them. We all help one another.

“It’s a laugh. I enjoy it and I think most of the street enjoy it too, they all look forward to it.

“Dunbritton and the police deserve our thanks for allowing these events to happen. They could’ve said ‘no, you’re not doing that’, but they didn’t.

“I also want to thank all the residents for making it feel like a wee community.”

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