Glasgow Gallivanting: September 2018
The photograph above was actually taken on 31st August and so, strictly speaking, should have been in August’s Gallivanting post. However I’d already published it by then so – my blog, my rules – here it is in September’s. Glasgow Women’s Library held a quiz night (dress code green, white and purple) with all the questions based on women’s achievements. Our team of library volunteers, The Book Besoms, didn’t win, but we weren’t last either. The librarian’s secret is not that she knows lots of stuff, but that she knows how to look it up – which, unaccountably, wasn’t allowed. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!
An East End walk
I had already been to a meeting in GWL that day and didn’t have time to go home and back so, given that the sun was shining, I decided to go for a walk and return for the quiz later. From the library’s home in Bridgeton, I headed along Abercromby Street, passing the church above, before turning west along Gallowgate towards the city centre. In Graham Square are the remnants of the old Meat Market which I thought were an interesting example of façadery. Usually modern flats are built directly onto an old façade. This one sits out in front attached by struts. Bizarre!
I continued to High Street and its junction with my end destination: George Street, and the latest gable-end mural by Smug depicting an infant St Mungo (Glasgow’s patron saint) with his mother St Enoch. Opposite is a nice garden area with benches bearing the city’s motto, Let Glasgow Flourish.
Opposite that is another garden, Greyfriars, built on the site of a 15th century friary. It wasn’t open, but I could peer through the fence and admire the poetry and other plaques adorning it. The one in the gallery below is Glasgow’s coat of arms.
Walking back down High Street to Glasgow Cross, I then headed east again along London Road passing the corner of Charlotte Street, where number 52 is the last remaining of eight late-18th century villas, and another colourful gable-end.
From there, I cut through Glasgow Green, admiring my old friends the People’s Palace and the Doulton Fountain.
Almost back at the library – the two buildings below on Greenhead Street were both once schools. The white building was built as a private residence in 1846 before becoming a school for destitute boys, the Buchanan Institute, in 1859. The extension on the left with the scholarly boy was added in 1873. The red sandstone building educated girls between 1893 and 1936 as the Logan & Johnson School of Domestic Economy. If you zoom in on the sculpture underneath the middle chimney you will see that it is a beehive representing the industry of the girls within. Both buildings are now converted to flats.
Doors Open Day
Glasgow’s Doors Open Days go on for a whole week, but I only managed to take part on the Saturday – and that was mostly as a provider. I led a canal walk and a building tour at Maryhill Burgh Halls, then just had time to dash across the road to The Engine Works. As Clarkson’s, and later Craig and Buchanan, this was an engineering workshop right into the 21st century. It figures in one of the Halls’ stained glass windows showing the trades of Maryhill – you can see what is probably Mr Clarkson in the green coat bottom left in our sale of postcards and in a poster on the Engine Works’ walls.
As I’ve led people on walks along the canal, which runs behind the Works, I’ve watched restoration taking place and assumed it was to be more flats. But no, a young couple has bought it to turn into a combined office / events space. I was delighted to get a chance to see what progress they have made, and to find out that they are keeping the electrically powered crane designed by Sir Henry Royce of Rolls-Royce fame. It’s going to be an amazing space when it’s finished.
The nights are fair drawing in
We’ve passed the autumn equinox and the nights are fair drawing in, as we say in these parts. Time to think of booking tickets for indoor events! This month’s highlights were Garbage at the iconic Barrowland and a one-man play about Charles Rennie Mackintosh at the equally iconic Panopticon.
You might remember Jessie Stephen, the Suffragette I am promoting this year. Two developments this month: I discovered you could buy a Jessie mug as part of a set produced in Bristol, the city where she spent the latter part of her life.
Even more exciting – I knew that Jessie took part in the post-box protests in Glasgow in 1913 (Suffragettes dropped ink or acid into post-boxes to destroy the mail). I’d read that this was in Kirklee, near where I live, but hadn’t given it much thought until I was asked if I knew which post-box it might have been. I now have access to a copy of Jessie’s unpublished autobiography in which she details some of the houses she worked in as a domestic servant, and one of them is just across the road from the current Kirklee post-box. When I looked at this box more closely, I found the insignia was ERVII – Edward the Seventh who died in 1910. This is probably the very box that Jessie used!
I also attended a really interesting exhibition at my local library on women of the West End (of Glasgow) in the First World War. Institutions that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to shed light on this did so. For example, application forms from women to join the Arlington Baths Club showed they had moved into male occupations when the men were away fighting. The red costume is what they would have swum in – ugh! I’m surprised they managed to stay afloat.
The last bit
Back to St Mungo, aka St Kentigern, Glasgow’s patron saint. I’d read that a new statue of him was in place at City of Glasgow College’s City campus, and made a short detour to inspect it the other day. The campus has recently been rebuilt and its location, Cathedral Street, makes the addition particularly apt. It’s a very traditional statue, created by former stonemasonry student, Roddy McDowall.
Nearby on campus is another sculpture, Spirit of St Kentigern, which is very different in style. It represents the bird in one of Mungo’s four miracles (I think). Commissioned from Dundee art student Neil Livingstone as part of the pedestrianisation of much of the city centre, this stood on Buchanan Street from 1977 until 2000 when it was deemed no longer in keeping with the city’s image. It’s now been hauled out of storage and loaned to the College. It’s definitely dated, it says “1970s” very strongly to me, but I also think the new statue is rather too traditional to be entirely successful. What do others think?
Finally, to Scottish word of the month: remember The Book Besoms? A besom is a broom made of twigs tied round a stick, but in Scotland the word often refers to a woman with attitude – one might be called a cheeky wee besom, for example. That’s what we chose for our GWL quiz team name, but having checked the definition just now I see it originally referred to a woman of “loose character”. With the other connotations of broomsticks, and therefore witches, maybe I’ll make a different choice next time!
I hope you had a good September. Enjoy October!