Graveyards of Glasgow: Cathcart Cemetery

A few months ago, my friend Beverly McFarlane told me that she was engaged on some research about a forgotten suffragette, but she couldn’t reveal who or why. She knew I’d be intrigued, and at the end of August my anticipation was rewarded when her secret turned out to be even better than I had expected. A combination of an organisation called Protests and Suffragettes and journalist Dani Garavelli had discovered the presence of Henria Williams in Cathcart Cemetery and, via the Women’s Library, Beverly had been asked to find out more about her life. It’s worth clicking on the link in the tweet above to read the full story – suffice it to say, Henria was one of the few suffragettes who died in pursuit of the cause and her funeral was almost like that of a soldier.

Naturally, I wanted to see the grave myself and the day the article came out we set off for Cathcart, on Glasgow’s Southside, to view it. Despite Henria’s heroic send-off, the Williams family tomb had since been forgotten and neglected and was badly overgrown with a tree obscuring its angel.

But joy! Dani and fellow journalist Peter Ross (author of A tomb with a view which is high on my to-be-read list) both report that the grave has now been cleared. I feel another visit is called for …

When we had entered the cemetery we had thought it quite well kept, but the further in we got, the more overgrown it became. Henria was not the only one to be obscured. Here are a few more of the memorials which caught our eye in the main section of the cemetery.

There is also a large Jewish section where I was in pursuit of further women’s history, because Dani’s article mentioned that artist Hannah Frank is buried here. Hannah features in two of Glasgow Women’s Library’s walks: the Gorbals, where she was born in 1908 to Russian emigrants fleeing persecution, and Garnethill where she graduated from Glasgow School of Art.

In her early career Hannah was renowned for her distinctive black and white pen drawings, and she later took up sculpture. The example of her work shown next to her grave below is part of a set of murals, designed by artist Liz Peden and unveiled in 2016, under the Cleland Street railway arches in the Gorbals. Hannah’s section includes the quote “My ambition, in Longfellow’s words was to leave footprints on the sands of time”.  She almost didn’t: in 2002, by which time her work was almost forgotten, Hannah moved into a nursing home. She asked her niece Fiona to disperse her drawings and sculptures around her family and friends, but fortunately  Fiona showed the work to art curators, and from there exhibitions around the country and abroad were organised. Hannah lived a very long life, dying shortly after her 100th birthday in 2008.

This was a really interesting afternoon in a cemetery I didn’t know at all, thanks to Dani and her curiosity about a lost suffragette. The next Graveyards of Glasgow post will be Calton Burial Ground.

Graveyards of Glasgow: Western Necropolis and St Kentigern’s

Cenotaph, Western Necropolis

Glasgow’s main Necropolis, which I wrote about last time, is not the only one in the city which also boasts Southern, Eastern and Western Necropoli. I’ve yet to visit the Eastern one, the Southern has appeared in a long ago post on the Gorbals, and the Western first appeared (along with its neighbour, Lambhill Cemetery) in May’s Gallivanting post, a visit which inspired us to go back to explore further.

Western Necropolis

Established in 1882, the Western Necropolis was one of several non-denominational cemeteries established to cope with the huge demand for burial space created by the rapid expansion of Victorian Glasgow. Garden cemeteries were designed to be recreational spaces where contemplation of death was made less painful by careful layout and design. The Western was the last of the four Necropoli to be created, and the only one to have a crematorium on the grounds: built in 1895 it was the first crematorium in Scotland and only the third in Great Britain. Opposite the cenotaph and crematorium is the monument shown above, It commemorates the South African War of 1899-1902, the Second Boer War.

Further into the necropolis we found a grave for which we were specifically looking. Sir William Alexander Smith, who founded the Boys’ Brigade in Glasgow in 1883, is buried here with his wife and other family members. His headstone is shown below in a gallery which also includes images of the building in North Woodside Road where the BB began, and of its commemorative plaque.

Other graves to catch my eye included (left to right below) Isobel MacKinnon Gardner who died at the young age of 32 in 1908, an array of Celtic crosses, and the three-part Walker memorial. The last one prompted some further research into “David Walker of Belmont, Kelvinside Gardens, and Principal of Belgravia College, Glasgow” who died in 1906.

I had never heard of Belgravia College, but it turns out to be a school for young ladies situated on Newton Terrace, Sauchiehall Street. To appreciate fully the floridity of its description it’s worth following the link to this 1891 business directory entry, but here’s a flavour:

The College, which was established in the year 1868, has had a career of great usefulness and academical prosperity. Having been instituted for the special purpose of providing young ladies with a very complete course of instruction, in all branches of a liberal English education, upon the most moderate of terms, it has with a remarkable elasticity of constitution adjusted itself to the varying needs of the age, and to-day, by reason of its admirable appointments, excellent management, and efficient teaching staff, occupies a position of scholastic repute of no mean order.

Lucky young ladies!

The Western Necropolis forms part of a larger cemetery network with the adjoining Lambhill Cemetery and St Kentigern’s. Having visited the former last time, this time we crossed into the latter via the poignant Infant Memorial Garden, as shown above.

St Kentigern’s

St. Kentigern’s Roman Catholic Cemetery was established, like the Western Necropolis, in 1882 and is named after the founder of Glasgow (also known as St Mungo). Many memorials feature beautiful, if sentimental, sculptures.

Two memorials of note are shown below. The worst pit disaster in the area was at Cadder, in August 1913, when 22 miners were killed. Most lived locally and all of Lambhill turned out for the funeral cortege. This collective memorial for the eleven Catholic miners was erected in St Kentigern’s, while the others had individual stones in Lambhill Cemetery.

Benny Lynch (1913-1976) was the undefeated flyweight champion of the world and the first Scotsman to win a world boxing title. His black marble headstone was erected by fans, features an image of him boxing, and has the inscription “Always a fighter”

Jewish cemetery

Finally, we arrived back at the entrance to the Western Necropolis via the Jewish section which serves Garnethill Synagogue in the city centre (also shown).

Next time: Cathcart Cemetery

Graveyards of Glasgow: the Necropolis

Glasgow Necropolis, Scotland’s first garden cemetery, opened in 1833 on the hilly site of the former Fir Park, a location which gives a pleasing tiered view. At the bottom of the hill is Glasgow Cathedral, and the top is dominated by the 12 ft statue of John Knox on its 58 ft column. Knox, the most prominent figure of the Scottish Reformation, is not buried here: the statue predates the Necropolis by several years.

I have featured Glasgow Necropolis several times before – it’s a favourite place to wander, and is one of the Glasgow Women’s Library Heritage Walks that I help to lead in more normal years. However, there’s always something new to discover and my files are full of unused photographs of favourite graves. It won’t surprise you to know that many of them tell a women’s heritage story, and most of them are in GWL’s walk – here are a few which aren’t (but which might be in the future).

Margaret Montgomerie

This beautiful Gothic monument, modelled on Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster, was commissioned by Matthew Montgomerie in 1842 for his wife Margaret. Originally, it was adorned by Mossman sculptures of Hope and Resignation which have since disappeared. Poor Margaret (like many women alive in his time, including Mary Queen of Scots) cannot escape the scrutiny of John Knox who looks down on her from above.

Frances Phillips and Miss Cates

Miss Cates became the second wife of solicitor and travel writer William Rae Wilson, to whom she erected this mausoleum in 1849. It’s built in Moorish-style with inverted torches carved on the outside, symbolic of death and resurrection. Miss Cates is also buried here, but I can find no further information about her, other than that she was “an English lady of good family”. The inscription merely records her as William’s affectionate wife. The tomb’s third occupant is William’s first wife, Frances Phillips. I wonder who he chose to spend the afterlife with?

Eliza Jane Aikman

Eliza Jane Aikman (1852-1929) was Glasgow’s first female Parish Councillor and founded the Glasgow Infant Health Visitors Association, the basis for child welfare practice. “One who went about doing good and having served her day and generation by the will of God fell on sleep”.

Helen Marshall Rough

Helen Rough, who died in 1932, was the founder of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Cooperation of Trained Nurses. We specifically went looking for her grave during lockdown after my friend and fellow tour guide, Beverly McFarlane, did some research on her which gave me a personal interest. Helen is buried here with her sister, Jane, and brother-in-law, James Bell, English Master at the High School of Glasgow. In the census of 1871 Helen is recorded in James’s household, an address which I recognised instantly as the home of my mother-in-law over a century later (she died in 1993), although by then the house was divided into flats and she occupied what would have been the drawing room floor in Helen’s time. I was delighted by this coincidence.

More information

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour of some of the lesser known women in Glasgow Necropolis.

There are several places to go for more information. GWL and the City Council have downloadable guides and maps (and another guide, Louise Bell, has done a Twitter version of GWL’s). The Friends of Glasgow Necropolis is a splendid organisation which offers guided tours and raises money to restore neglected tombs.

GWL Glasgow Necropolis Women’s Heritage Walk

Glasgow City Council Necropolis Heritage Trail

Friends of Glasgow Necropolis

Next time: the Western Necropolis.

Kilmacolm: a family history

Kilmacolm War Memorial

In August, John and I had a day out to Kilmacolm, a village in Renfrewshire not far from Glasgow, to photograph some sites of family history. When we visited Islay last year, I wrote about my great-grandfather, John Joss Sinclair, who was born there in 1866. (See Islay: call to place). At 16 he moved to the mainland, becoming a noted ploughman and marrying a farmer’s daughter.

She was Janet Carson, of The Green Farm in Kilmacolm, who was born in 1864. She had two brothers, Tom and Bob, and at least three sisters, Susan, Bella and Maggie. The latter emigrated to Philadelphia and married Sam Bell. The pictures below show, on the left, Janet’s parents, my great-great-grandparents, with Jenny, one of the Bell children, and on the right, John and Janet with their first two children, John (born 1886) and Margaret (Meg). By 1901 another six daughters had been added to the family, so Janet’s life must have been a hard slog.

In his fifties, John gave up farm work and he and Janet, along with their three youngest daughters, moved into the Bridgend Toll House, which came with his new job as road foreman. The older children had married and moved out of the family home. Young John married Mary and had several children. Below left is Meg, with her husband Donald McPhail, around 1910. On the right, is the McClure family, Catherine (Kate), Stewart and Janet (Nettie or Netta) pictured around the end of the First World War. Netta settled in London and I think I met her only once, but I have clear memories of her much younger sister Isabella (Isa) who remained in the West of Scotland.

Three of the children emigrated, Meg and Donald McPhail sailing for Australia in 1924 – the photograph below, recently found by my aunt, shows them in later life. Two sisters went to Canada with their husbands – Isabella (Belle) and Tom Gibson, and Janet (Jen) and Bob Andrew. Both couples obtained sections of land in Saskatchewan, built houses there, and farmed successfully. Only Jen came back to visit – that’s her holding me as a baby (1957) with my grandmother looking on.

My grandmother was Christina (Teenie, later Chris), the oldest of the three girls who moved to the Toll with their parents. Eventually, they all married: Chris to Percy Stroud in 1925, Mary to Tom Stevenson in 1927, and Annabella (Annie) to Bob Maskell in 1931. In the wedding photos below, I’m fairly sure that Mary (centre) is wearing the same dress as my grandmother on the left.

Mum, also Christina, was born in 1926 and is shown here as a baby and toddler, “Wee Chrissie”, with her grandparents. For reference, Janet must be about the same age as I am now. How times have changed!

The Toll figures largely in Mum’s many happy memories of her childhood, surrounded by loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. In the gallery below Mum is carried by her dad in two of the photos, and is also the small girl in a wash tub.

Bridgend Toll House, shown in the gallery below in an old postcard, is long gone. The site is about a mile from the village, opposite the War Memorial from which you can see two houses which were built in its place.

Mum herself grew up in the centre of the village in a house called Low Shells, also long gone, but the empty space where it stood still retains the name. The picture of Mum sitting on one of the benches is from a previous visit in 2016.

At Kilmacolm Cross, the Cross Café and Parish Church sit opposite each other. Compare to the two old postcards underneath – completely recognisable, though no cows in the middle of the road these days.

The café has been run by several generations of Pignatellis, currently sisters Alda and Johanna, whom Mum has known since they were born. Because she was not with us on this latest trip, they sent her a box of Cross Café sweeties which we were happy to deliver!

On the other side of Kilmacolm from the War Memorial is the cemetery where we paid a visit to my great-grandparents’ grave.

As well as being the last resting place of John and Janet Sinclair, the cemetery is notable for having one of the few headstones designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Art Nouveau and unmistakably Mackintosh in style, it dates from 1898 and commemorates James Reid, who was a Telegraphic Superintendent of the Glasgow and South West Railway, and his wife Margaret. They were the parents-in-law of William Davidson, who was Mackintosh’s client at the house Windyhill, also in Kilmacolm.

We ended our day with a walk at Glen Moss Wildlife Reserve before returning home with a slightly closer acquaintance with some of my family history.

Glasgow Gallivanting: September 2020

Craigmaddie Muir, Auld Wives’ Lifts and the Campsies

We’ve had some lovely, bright weekends in September which have been great for getting out and about. The walk to the Auld Wives’ Lifts on Craigmaddie Muir was one we’d wanted to do for a while – the Lifts being the rocks you can see middle right in the image above, with the Campsie fells and the prominent knob of Dumgoyne visible in the background.

The Lifts consist of three extremely large pieces of grey sandstone, one propped on top of the other two with a space between them. Couples who were considering marriage used to try to squeeze through the gap in an anticlockwise direction; if they weren’t successful, the marriage was doomed! The stones might be connected with worship of some sort and have been a place of pilgrimage for centuries.

Legend has it that three witches from Baldernock, Strathblane and Campsie carried the stones to prove their strength. They are covered in Victorian graffiti as well as about eight carved heads or faces, which look ancient but seem not to have been noticed, or at least written about, until the 1970s.

The walk itself was not particularly pleasant, being over muddy, rutted fields and boggy ground, but the views, one way back towards Glasgow and the other to the Campsies and Ben Lomond, were beautiful.

A walk above the Ayrshire coastal town of Largs to Greeto Bridge also afforded good views and a welcome glimpse of the sea. The islands of Great Cumbrae and Arran can be seen beyond the town.

Milngavie, just north of Glasgow, is the start of the West Highland Way. We used the beginning of the trail to branch off onto a couple of other walks.

We saw more pretty countryside.

We came across several more sets of Scholars Rocks by Rachel Mimiec, previously encountered elsewhere in East Dunbartonshire in July, and parts of a new (to us) artwork, Home by Alex Allan, naming women workers in industries previously located in Milngavie.

And we skirted the edge of Mugdock and Craigmaddie Reservoirs. It’s a long time since we’ve walked all the way round these two – maybe next month!

September has also been a month for women’s history. Students returned to university and the usual Fresher’s Fairs were all conducted online. As part of this, Glasgow Women’s Library was invited to set out its wares in a programme for Subcity Radio and I did a slot on a couple of the women from our heritage tours. If you wish, you can listen here – I am on second, just after the two minute mark, and I speak for about six minutes.

I have also done another of my Twitter Walks, this time on the East End, which you can follow below.

While taking the photographs for the above walk we spotted a new mural in process on Abercromby Street. The third photograph shows the completed mural a few days later.

St Thenue (also known as St Enoch) is pictured wearing a shawl featuring 29 motifs in honour of the victims of the 1889 Templeton’s carpet factory disaster when 29 women were killed by a collapsing wall. Legend has it that Thenue’s father, a pagan king, ordered her to be hurled from a hill in East Lothian when she became pregnant out of wedlock. When she miraculously survived she was put into a small boat and cast adrift in the Firth of Forth to perish. She was guided to shore by a shoal of fish and given shelter at the community of St Serf in Culross where she gave birth to her son, St Mungo, the Patron Saint of Glasgow.

Annie Lennox, Calvin Harris, Emili Sandé and Lewis Capaldi on the wall of Embargo

Another new mural this month is on the side wall of Embargo, a pub on Byres Road in the West End, and portrays Scottish music stars Annie Lennox, Calvin Harris, Emili Sandé and Lewis Capaldi. The mural is the work of local artist Rogue-One and is intended, according to the bar’s manager, as “a visual celebration of Scottish musical talent during a difficult time for the creative and hospitality industries alike.”

Finally, we encountered the highland cattle of Dawsholm Park again this month, so here are two of the most photogenic especially for Jessica!

So that’s it for September and what turns out to be my 700th post.  Restrictions are closing in again, but let’s not focus on the bad stuff. Wishing you all a happy October.

Dunning and Maggie Wall

St Serf’s Church, Dunning

On our way home from our short break in Blairgowrie we stopped in the small Perthshire village of Dunning. We’d visited before to see the 9th century Dupplin Cross which honours Constantine, King of the Picts. It’s housed inside St Serf’s Church, which is dedicated to a 6th-century Pictish bishop also known as Servanus. Legend has it that he used his pastoral staff to slay a dragon in Dunning – aye, right! Because of Covid restrictions the church wasn’t open, but we knew that – it wasn’t what I wanted to see.

About a mile outside Dunning is this memorial, inscribed “Maggie Wall burnt here as a witch 1657”.

So who was Maggie Wall? She is said to be the last witch executed in Scotland, but this is a mysterious story. There is no official record of a Maggie Wall burned at the stake as a witch, and historically the last witch burned to death in Scotland was Janet Horne in Dornoch in 1727. Research has uncovered no confirmation that Maggie Wall ever existed –  although six alleged witches were executed near Dunning in 1663, Maggie  wasn’t one of them.  Nor does anyone know for sure who built the memorial, or who regularly maintains the lettering.  Some people think it’s a hoax, but many people are drawn to visit the memorial and leave small tributes such as painted stones or even a golf ball. I left a small, gold-coloured mirror from my handbag.

I’ve wanted to visit this site for years, ever since I first became a Glasgow Women’s Library tour guide. Maggie features in our East End Walk when we stop outside a pub on the Gallowgate, the Saracen Head, known locally as the Sarry Heid. The original Saracen Head was built in 1755 on land that used to be the kirkyard and burial grounds of Little St Mungo Church. It was a fashionable hotel, in which William and Dorothy Wordsworth stayed in 1803, but as the city moved west its reputation and standards declined. It was later converted to shops and dwellings then demolished in 1904, but the name survived.

The current pub has been here for over 100 years, but what does it have to do with Maggie? The Saracen Head claims to be Glasgow’s first (and possibly only?) pub-museum and one of the advertised exhibits is Maggie’s skull. (I have not been inside to verify this).

How did the skull of a woman who cannot be proved to have existed end up here? The cynical might say it could have been uncovered when the original building was demolished in 1904 – after all it was built on the site of an old burial ground and human remains have been uncovered there. But why Maggie Wall? Maybe this mythical figure represents all women who were executed as witches? It certainly makes a good story.

Back to Dunning before I finish – for a small village it has a lot of history with 108 listed buildings. It was the site of both an Iron Age fort and a Roman camp with the name probably deriving from the Gaelic Dùnainn meaning little fort.  For centuries it lay on the main route between Stirling and Perth, but in the nineteenth century it was bypassed by the railway and in the twentieth by road, the busy A9, so now it is a quiet little place. Here are a few things which caught our eye.

A tree was planted to commemorate the burning of Dunning during the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. The original tree blew down in 1936 and was replaced in 1937 “the year of the coronation of Their Majesties King George VI & Queen Elizabeth”.

The fountain at the centre of the village dates from 1874 and was gifted by Alexander Martin, a former Dunning resident, who made his fortune in New Brunswick as a confectioner.

Rollo Park was presented to the parish of Dunning in 1946 by John 12th Lord Rollo of Duncrub “to commemorate over 550 years of friendship between the families of Dunning and the family of Duncrub.” I’m not sure what the figure above the inscription is – could it be St Serf’s dragon? Whatever it is, it holds a large R for Rollo. Behind it you can glimpse a mural for Dunning’s 500th anniversary in 2011.

Finally, a few random shots of this pretty village. I was impressed with the modern extension to the old school building which is a lot more interesting than the boxy structures we get in Glasgow.

We enjoyed our short visit to a village of dragons and witches – not many places can claim both!

Blairgowrie: the walks

Footbridge over the River Ericht

The Knockie and Cargill’s Leap

During our week in Blairgowrie in August, several of our walks began, or ended, by crossing the footbridge just behind The Old Furnace where we were staying. On Day 1, we followed a 3 mile / 5 km circular route, turning right at the end of the bridge to follow the River Ericht upstream and climbing Knockie Hill. At one time there were 11 mills along this river: Oakland, above, is now derelict, but we also passed Brooklinn Mill which has been converted to a private house. The area is very fertile, as some of the images show, and fruit farming is a speciality, hence the polytunnels.

Can you spot two cats in the second picture below? The real one looks a lot less alert than the fake one …

After descending the Knockie, we made our way through residential streets to the riverside. It was lunchtime, so we popped into Cargill’s Bistro, or at least onto its outdoor courtyard. How could we not, when it looked so welcoming? Lunch was delicious, as was the beer.

Our walk back took us along the riverside path, with its attractive sculptures, past Cargill’s Leap.

At Cargill’s Leap there is a viewing platform into the river below. This is where Donald Cargill, a local minster and covenanter, escaped pursuing troops by leaping the falls below. The covenanters were Presbyterians who signed a National Covenant in 1638 to retain their way of worship; this led to their persecution by Charles II. Cargill was eventually captured and executed.

I like the little figure on the information board!

From here, it wasn’t long until the chimney of our temporary home came into view and we re-crossed the bridge from which we had started.

Ardblair Trail and Bluebell Wood

On Day 2, we combined two short trails to make a 5 mile / 8 km figure-of-eight (plus about half an hour’s walk at each end to get to and from the Old Furnace). We made a lot of use of that riverside path! It was a good day for spotting quirky sculpture and painted stones, as well as more natural features such as assorted fungi and two pretty lochs.

As luck would have it, the figure-of-eight popped us out onto the road at lunchtime, right opposite the Dalmore Inn. Again, our powers of resistance were low. This time, we ate indoors, only the second time we have done so since the pandemic began. Their hygiene practices were excellent, and we felt as safe as its possible to be under the circumstances.

Drimmie Wood

Day 3 – another day, another wood! Drimmie is about two miles from Blairgowrie: we could have walked, but as you can see, the weather was not very pleasant so we chose to drive to the start of this 4 mile / 7 km trail. We were home by lunchtime, and went out again in the afternoon to explore Blairgowrie itself (pictures in last post).

River Ericht Path

On Day 4, the weather had improved somewhat. We chose to walk up one side of the River Ericht and back down the other, crossing at Kitty Swanson’s Bridge. (Kitty Swanson operated a ferry crossing here for many years in the late 1800s, and lived in a cottage nearby). The fertility of the area was again apparent, and we got a close up of those polytunnels (and a chance to sample some strawberries). This trail is about 8 miles / 13 km.

Loch of the Lowes

On Day 5, we drove a bit further, towards Dunkeld. In another circular walk (5 miles / 8 km), we left the car in the Cally carpark, and walked through woods, and a golf course, to the Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve at Loch of the Lowes. It was their first day open after months of closure and we’d had to book a time slot online beforehand. They were understandably nervous about their procedures but, again, we were happy with hygiene and distancing standards. The only problem was the main attraction, the ospreys, hadn’t got the memo. While smaller birds cooperated by putting on a show outside the visitor centre, the only thing we saw from the hide at the lochside (with lots of zooming) was a large, empty osprey nest. Not even any swans! Our local pond can do better than that …

We walked back to the car through Dunkeld, and at least we saw some handsome sheep to compensate. Some quirky signage too.

Stormont and Meikleour

Day 6, our last day, was wet most of the time, but we soldiered on. In the morning, we parked the car in the village of Carsie and made up a circular tour including Stormont Loch which just happened to take us past the Dalmore Inn again at lunchtime – what a coincidence! We only once got a glimpse of Stormont because it was surrounded by trees. Much prettier was the smaller Hare Myre, and an unexpected bonus was a honey farm.

After lunch, we drove on to the village of Meikleour where North Wood hides the Cleaven Dyke dating back to the Neolithic period. It just looks like a long mound!

The village itself is pretty and features the Meikleour Beech Hedge (snapped from the car) which is in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest hedge in the world!

Conclusion

We had a lovely, relaxing week in Blairgowrie with comfortable, self-contained accommodation and gentle walks easing us into the idea of travelling again. All the trails we did, apart from Loch of the Lowes, are from the Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust Blairgowrie leaflet which you can download here. We found it really helpful.

On our way home to Glasgow we stopped in another pretty village with its own story to tell – but that can wait for next time.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk.

Blairgowrie and The Old Furnace

Keathbank Mill, Blairgowrie

Way back in January we booked a week in a cottage over Easter. Well, you can guess what happened to that – zilch. However, rather than cancel, we pushed it back to mid-August, hoping, successfully, that travel would be possible by then. Blairgowrie in Perthshire is under two hours’ drive away, but so far this trip remains the furthest we have travelled all year.

Blairgowrie was built around the River Ericht which powered its textile industry: in 1860 it had eleven water-powered mills employing 1600 people. Today, many have been converted to apartments, as with Keathbank where we stayed, and some remain derelict, including the one on the opposite bank of the river to us.

Our cottage was The Old Furnace, seen on the right of the picture above. Our front door was in the chimney and above the entrance area was an octagonal shower! It was these quirky features which sold it to me when I saw it online. Below are some more views of the cottage inside and out. Sadly, there was only one day when it was warm enough to take our post-walk cuppa on the patio.

Blairgowrie itself is a very attractive little town in a slightly old-fashioned sort of way. We liked the buildings and the interesting shopfronts. Many houses had beautiful, well-tended gardens, and some had unusual names. I’m not entirely sure I’d like to live at Wits End though!

We spotted some ghost signs, though strictly speaking the one to Cargill’s Leap is just an old sign, not a ghost, as Cargill’s Leap still exists.

Finally, this old church now functions as Little’s Restaurant where we booked dinner for our last evening. It was lovely, but dining indoors still makes me nervous.

We spent the week following local paths and trails, mostly straight from our front door. More next time!

Glasgow Gallivanting: August 2020

River Ericht at Blairgowrie

August was a month of activity on three levels. From the top – we went on holiday! Admittedly, this was our Easter Holiday postponed, but it still felt good to be out of the city for a while. The view above was ours for a week – more to follow in due course.

Level two – at weekends, we continued to walk in areas on the edge of or just outside Glasgow. Sometimes, this meant pretty countryside as below.

At other times we went to places that are not maybe obvious ones to visit, such as Bishopbriggs just over the  Glasgow border in East Dunbartonshire. However, this town has some interesting historical sites we wanted to visit. Mavis Valley, on the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal, existed as a mining village from 1851 to 1955. You can see the rows of houses on the information board below. Today trees have reclaimed the site, but if you look carefully you can still see the remains of a wall here and there.

Tragedy struck Mavis Valley in 1913 when six of the 22 men who died in the Cadder Pit disaster were residents. There’s a memorial to them outside Bishopbriggs Library. (There’s another memorial at Lambhill Stables which I’ve posted about before).

In between Mavis Valley and the library, we came across some quirky critters!

We then walked out the other side of Bishopbriggs to Huntershill, home of 18th century radical Thomas Muir. Here we found a memorial cairn and the Martyr’s Gate commemorating Muir and four other men who were transported to Australia for sedition in 1793-4.

Muir’s family home, Huntershill House, is just across the road, and what a sorry state it is in! For a while, it was owned by the local council who sold it on a few years ago. It’s now on the Buildings at Risk Register – see what it should look like here.

Finally, on weekdays we continued with our lockdown routes after John finished work. We don’t take as many photographs now, but I still have a large backlog of themes that piqued our interest. Today, I’ve collected together some of the many messages that people have sent out during the various stages of lockdown. This bench in Partickhill, for example, has a message which changes daily. On both occasions that we stopped to photograph it we met the woman who created it. She seemed delighted by our interest.

In deepest, darkest lockdown people were sending messages to loved ones they could not meet, and a school gate held a poignant tribute to a teacher who had died.

Some messages expressed thanks, encouragement, or hope.

Children created lending libraries on tables and art galleries on fences.

Even canal boats had something to say.

I wasn’t sure what this was all about until I looked up Conversations From Calais which aims to re-humanise those affected by the refugee crisis by using public space to share conversations volunteers have had with migrants met in Calais.

There were many other political messages in evidence.

And finally, there was the plain odd!

So that was my August – a month of widening horizons. Unfortunately, this week things took a backward step with Glasgow being put into “local measures” because of increasing infection levels. It’s not lockdown, but we’re no longer allowed to visit other people’s homes. Here’s hoping that will have changed for the better by the end of the month. Happy September everyone!

Australia 2004, part 5: WINE-ding our way home

Bob’s lookout

We travelled the 332km back to Cairns via the inland route, stopping off at a few lookouts along the way.

We had one night in Cairns, where we stayed in a Holiday Inn. Rather than brave the town, I opted for my first ever experience of a room-service dinner which was surprisingly pleasurable. (Actually, this remains my only room-service dinner, although we did have room-service lunch in Sydney before flying home.) Our table was set up by the huge windows overlooking the harbour and served with what I considered to be a finesse well beyond the grade of the hotel. These days, I would take photographs but we have none at all.

The following day we flew back to Sydney, and the day after that we embarked on an overnight Mount ‘N Beach Safari. This was a trip we had booked before leaving home: the first day was to be spent touring Hunter Valley wineries, and the second day included visits to Nelson Bay and Port Stephens to drive on sand dunes and go on a dolphin cruise. After my accident, we phoned to cancel on the grounds that my injury would make it very difficult. However, the company could not have been more helpful and assured us that they would choose the wineries with ease of access in mind. I am so glad we went, because the first day especially was a real highlight.

A misty Hunter Valley

We were picked up early and driven out to Hunter Valley, still shrouded in mist when we approached. True to the company’s word, the driver took us to wineries where he could park close to the door and there were no steps. Obviously, we couldn’t buy much wine because it had to fit into our luggage, but I think we did acquire three bottles. We stayed overnight at the Hunter Valley Resort where we had lunched earlier in the day. I remember sitting outside at a lovely table, with delicious food and a glass of wine, and feeling very happy and relaxed. The resort also has a brewery, so in the evening we sampled its products too. It was a special day – and so it should have been. It was my birthday! But do we have any photographs, other than the one above? Nope, that’s it. What were we thinking? I can only assume that the wine addled our brains.

The following day was slightly less successful. We were picked up after breakfast by a different guide, and taken for a drive on the sand dunes near Nelson Bay, then to Port Stephens for a dolphin watching cruise. The dune trip was fun, and in no way affected by my gammy leg.

After lunch, we boarded the boat for the dolphin-watching cruise. This was very tricky for me, and once settled in a seat I found it difficult to move again, especially at the speed required to get to the front of the crowd to see dolphins. So I didn’t see any – John did, but something went wrong with the camera, and after a few shots looking back at Port Stephens we have no pictures of this either!

We returned to Sydney for one last night before flying home the next day. I was very well looked after in all airports and on all flights  – until we got to Heathrow. We were met from the plane and got a ride through the corridors on a motorised buggy, which was fun, but were then dumped in an unstaffed area for passengers requiring assistance. Someone was supposed to come to wheel me onto the plane before general boarding, but only one staff member appeared and he took the other lady who was waiting. A few minutes later, she was wheeled back, loudly declaring “But I don’t want to go to Glasgow! I’m going to Newcastle!” By the time I finally got to the plane, many others had boarded and I had to hop through the crowds on my crutches. My carefully chosen aisle seat had been swapped for the other side so that I couldn’t, when safe, stretch my plastered leg out into the aisle, but had to cram it under the seat in front the whole time. (We found out later that a bigger plane had been put on the route to bring back the golfers from the Open which had just finished at one of the Scottish courses. This meant that seat bookings were all rejigged.)

Once home, I was faced with several more weeks on crutches and in physiotherapy. As I said in an earlier post, I still feel the injury today and will probably never be completely free of it. I bitterly regret that moment of carelessness. However, we had an amazing holiday despite the accident, and would love to return to Australia some day if that sort of travel ever becomes feasible again.