Glasgow Gallivanting: June 2020

Martyrs’ School

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve lived in Glasgow for 35 years and there is one Charles Rennie Mackintosh building that I have never seen before, so one sunny Sunday in June we made the Martyrs’ Public School, in Parson Street in Townhead, the goal of our daily walk. It’s one of the earlier buildings Mackintosh worked on, and hasn’t been a school for many years, though unlike others it hasn’t been coverted to housing but is part of the city’s social work department.

Commissioned by the School Board of Glasgow and built between 1895 and 1898, the architects were Honeyman and Keppie, the practice in which Mackintosh was a senior assistant: his strong influence can be seen clearly in the building’s style. At the time it was set in the middle of a densely populated area of tenement buildings which have long since vanished to be replaced by more modern homes (as seen in the first picture below) and a busy dual carriageway. Mackintosh himself was born at 70 Parson Street and a plaque next to the school commemorates this. The black sculpture has an inscription by Mackintosh: Without you, everything has a flatness. I feel as if I’m waiting for something all the time. I guess, but don’t know, that this was addressed to his wife, Margaret Macdonald.

Across the road two other buildings complete this island of tradition amongst modernity. St Mungo’s Church, designed by George Goldie in an Italian Gothic style, was built in 1841, with later work in 1877. Next to the church, to the east, is St Mungo’s Retreat.

On the way to Townhead, we stopped to look at the Orient Buildings in Cowcaddens. Originally a boarding house, then a warehouse, this iron-framed construction was designed by William James Anderson in an Italianate style and completed in 1895. We couldn’t help but notice that we were being spied upon from one of the windows …

Another place we have long known about, but never visited, is the memorial garden on the site of the Stockline Plastics Factory explosion in 2004 in which nine people died. One of our walks took us past it by chance and we spent a few minutes paying our respects. It’s beautifully maintained. The red building in the background of the first shot is the current Stockline Factory.

This next section is not something that happened this month: I’m including it specially for Geoff LePard who has, amongst many other things, been writing about his undergraduate adventures as a law student in Bristol. In one post he included a passage about his grapplings with the law of tort and the case of the snail in the ginger beer. I knew all about this – and I probably first heard about it around the same time as Geoff, because we both went to university in 1975 and my boyfriend in my undergraduate years was a law student. Anyway, enough said about him, he’s history, which coincidentally is what I was studying. Back to the snail …

The case in question originated in Paisley, the town my mum lives in, where a sculpture of May Donoghue, who drank the contaminated ginger beer in 1928, was erected in 2018. The plaque below explains it better than I ever could – and not till I was preparing this post did I notice that the artist is Mandy McIntosh, whom I have met a few times through a project she led at the women’s library.

Across the road is even more information, at the site of the Wellmeadow Café where Mrs Donoghue’s friend bought the ginger beer. Possibly only Geoff will want to read it, but I include it for him to peruse if he wishes!

I know I said I’d give up photographing the rainbows and teddies which decorated Glasgow during lockdown, but I haven’t – although I have cut down. This month, the Black Lives Matter message has been included in, or replaced, many of them.

And finally, last month I wrote about the virtual Twitter walk that I’d done for the Women’s Library. One of the other guides has done a short video trailer for the same walk, embedded below. Can you guess which voice is mine in the audio description? I’ll leave you with that puzzle – happy July!

West End Women’s Heritage Walk Trailer from Glasgow Women’s Library on Vimeo.


  1. I read the whole snail story! I accidentally stepped on a slug that was on my kitchen floor a while back, and the sensation of cold slime between my bare toes was just horrible, so I can imagine how unpleasant it would be to find out you’d been drinking a rotting snail. Blech!
    I’ve read a few books on the adulteration of products and the movements for pure food and drink, and whilst the snail wasn’t an intentional addition, it fits into the same category of holding manufacturers responsible, and knowing how they did anything they could to avoid liability, I really admire Mary Donaghue’s determination. I do have more questions about this snail that the plaques didn’t answer though. I want to know how big it was, and how big the mouth of the bottle was, just to help me visualise it. I could see a slug oozing into a bottle of ginger beer easy, but I reckon it would have to be a fairly small snail for the shell to have fit in!


  2. Anabel – such fun, the walk and the promo. Did you introduce ‘Big Rachel’? – or maybe ‘the gate’ – I forget the name!
    The window decor is really nice – a way to communicate during stay-at-home times. Thanks for sharing – Susan


  3. Blue skies in June and plenty of new sites to visit! I still think it’s awesome that there are new buildings or gardens for you to explore after 35 years. Glasgow keeps entertaining – you and us! 🙂


  4. Hi Anabel – this deserves a longer read through and look around … fascinating – the snail the beer … etc etc … if I ever get to Glasgow again – this is a post I can come back to … take care – Hilary


  5. An upside of lockdown discovering parts of Glasgow you have never visited before!

    I’d never heard about Mary Donoghue before, what a woman. Four years is a long time to fight a legal battle.