Bent almost double, Paul Noble squeezed into the tight space beneath the floorboards of his 1930s home, flicked on his phone’s torch and shone light onto a fascinating past.

The gap beneath the floor was dusty and a haven for spiders; just roomy enough to crawl in to check the wiring or the joists, where most homeowners only venture if it’s entirely necessary.

But, newly retired with time on his hands, he was curious for a closer look at what might be lurking out of sight, out of mind, right beneath his feet.

What he found stashed under the floor of his Giffnock property were simple discarded items of no great value – no long-lost oil paintings or forgotten Indiana Jones treasures.

But the seemingly disparate bits and pieces – an old crate, a faded dry cleaner’s receipt, foreign train ticket and one item that even now sends shivers down his spine – would send him spiralling back in time, to the intriguing lives of the people who once lived under his roof and the changing landscape and rich history right outside his door.

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Rather like an archaeologist digging on an ancient site, he painstakingly pieced together the snippets of information to weave a meandering story spanning centuries of land ownership - from the farms and industries that once thrived in Giffnock, to city centre slums – the brutality of the First World War, hardship, and one woman’s determination to make her life better.

Now having built up a picture of the past, Paul, 60, is seeking people of the present day, who he hopes can complete the story of number 10 Carleton Drive, Giffnock.

Not that this was his plan last summer when, clutching his phone in his hand, the retired engineer lifted the floorboards and ventured below.

“I’d gone down a handful of times to tend to cables or fix leaks,” he says. “But it was case of get down, get out again.

“This time, I thought I’d have a better look. I started to push things out of the way, and saw things I’d never really looked at before.”

The Herald:

Paul Noble and his wife Linzie

There was a wooden crate, stamped ‘Grangemouth’ and ‘SCWS Ltd Soapworks’, a walking cane, a receipt from Kinning Park Co-operative Society for Diamond Flake soap, and a dry cleaner’s ticket marked with the name Brown and Paul’s address.

“But the thing that really made me stop and think was a very small item in the dust that looked like a train ticket, for a journey from Zeebrugge to Heist in north Belgium.

“I thought ‘what is that doing there?’.”

It launched months of detective work using property title deeds, company records, birth and death certificates and a laborious search of the parish rolls at his local library. Eventually he began to unravel the story of his home’s first occupant, Jessie Brown, an ordinary yet, at the same time rather remarkable, Glasgow woman.

His house was brand new when she bought it with younger sister Edith in 1934, when, unlike today’s built-up landscape, the view was of rolling, open farmland.

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Their story, however, began in the second half of the 19th century in the oldest part of Glasgow, Blackfriars, and the harsh living conditions of its ageing homes and lanes.

Paul found Jessie was born in 1877, the eldest of seven children. But by 23 - just as she might have expected to settle down and marry - her 55-year-old father Duncan, an assistant surveyor, was dead from a heart attack.

With a humble job as a dressmaker, she became head of the family and chief breadwinner.

Trawling census records he traced the family around the  Southside, to homes in Albert Road, Langside Road, Kenmuir Street and Princess Street in Govan.

“This was the ‘garments district’ where businesses like Kinning Park Wholesale Society required the seamstresses, tailors and milliners,” he adds.

“Kinning Park Wholesale Society trained women, including Mary Barbour.”

The Herald:

An old map, found within the house

Born just two years before Jessie, she was the main organiser of the Govan women’s rent strikes of 1915, and an active member of Kinning Park Co-operative Guild.

It’s not known whether their paths crossed but Jessie shared her determination to make a better life and move up in the world.

“In 1901, aged 23, Jessie is a dress maker, but by 1911, she is a teacher of dress making and by 1921 she’s a domestic science teacher,” says Paul.

But while the crate, receipts and other items appeared to link Jessie with the Kinning Park Co-op, the train ticket from Zeebrugge to Heist remained a mystery.

“It struck me at the time I looked at the parish roll and found Jessie and Edith’s names, there were quite a lot of women listed as ‘spinsters’,” adds Paul.

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“I realised it wasn’t really that long after the First World War, there were not a lot of men left, and a lot of spinsters.”

Heist, he realised, was around an hour away from Passchendaele, and tens of thousands of war graves.

The 1911 census had showed Jessie had two brothers in the family home, John and William. But by 1921, he could only find one, John.

His further search showed William had been killed in action in either France or Belgium, in 1917, aged 36.

The ticket, he now suspects, was probably for a heart wrenching trip some time before the outbreak of the Second World War to visit his war grave or the newly constructed Menin Gate.

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An old Easter egg wrapper

Jessie died, aged 82, in the house in 1960. Neither she nor Edith ever married.

Although a simple life, it encapsulates the challenges and hunt for a better life that must have touched many women of her era, adds Paul.

“She is born in slums, becomes her family’s main breadwinner and lives through two world wars.

“But I guess she worked hard, saved her money and comes with her sister to Giffnock to live in a house where there’s a farm outside her window, she can easily get fruit and vegetables on her doorstep.

“It’s very different from the place where she grew up.”

But Jessie’s story is just one element of his ‘archaeological’ exploration.

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His hunt to find out about the history of the land on which his suburban home sits, to William the Conqueror and his Earl Marshall, Robert de Montgomery.

“He came across at the time of the Battle of Hastings, and his descendant, Hugh Montgomerie became the 12th Earl of Eglinton, Lord of Eaglesham and Eastwood and Baron of Ardrossan,” says Paul.

“He owned huge areas of land, including the farm where my house now sits.

“In the early 1800s, he wanted to build a canal from Glasgow to Ardrossan but ran out of money, so sold the Barony of Eastwood, including Giffnock Farm.”

Some of the land he sold provided coveted blonde sandstone for the interior of the Kelvingrove Museum, while industry sprouted including coal mines, brickworks, tile works and lime kilns.

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As Glasgow’s population spilled outwards, swathes of farmland destined to become a new housing estate including Jessie’s home was sold, the deal signed on, of all days, the same day she was born.

“In some ways, my house also tells a story of the regeneration of Giffnock, from farm, to industry and suburbia,” adds Paul, bought the property with wife, Linzie, 54, and raised their two children, Fraser and Emma under its roof.

One question remained, however. Could he ever find a photograph of Jessie?

“Five weeks ago, I crawled under the floor again, crouched down and saw a bit of paper I’d never seen before. I turned it over and it was a photograph of a man and woman.

The Herald:

A possible picture of Jessie with her brother

“The hairs on back of my neck still rise when I think of it. I’d been looking for a photograph of Jessie – was it here in my house the whole time?”

He now hopes that someone might recognise the couple in the black and white image: he hopes it might be Jessie and her younger brother, John.

While his ‘archaeological’ exploration has been fascinating, he adds: “I’ve had restless nights wondering how it all fits.

“There must be some of the Brown family out there – it would be fantastic to find out if it is Jessie that I’ve found.”