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!

East Dunbartonshire: Trails + Tales

Baldernock Parish Church

In early July, John took a week off work. This coincided with the time when restrictions on how far you could travel for leisure in Scotland eased slightly, and we ventured into the countryside for the first time since lockdown. Not too far, just over the city boundary to East Dunbartonshire where we discovered a network of Trails + Tales, several of which we followed.

Baldernock Trail

The Baldernock trail started at the pretty parish church, and had attractive views – even if we could still see the city in the distance.

Torrance Trail

The Torrance Trail started at the village war memorial. It was cold and wet as the pictures probably show.

A feature of most of the trails is a series of public artworks (Jaqueline Donachie’s tributes to women health workers already appeared in my Three times a lady post). Here we found Gumnut and a whole row of eight or nine Scholars Rocks, one of which had been customised with a small plaque reading “ALS and RR Kissing Post 2019”. Aww!

My lockdown hair was bad, but not usually this bad! The wind and rain had done their worst. Towards the end of the walk we came across a row of tenements which looked quite odd set amongst fields.

Once back in Torrance, we added on an extra loop out to Cadder Church via the River Kelvin and the golf course, and back along the Forth and Clyde Canal.

Lennoxtown / Clachan of Campsie trail

The highlight of this day was not part of the trail as such. We went “off piste” to tour the immaculate grounds of Schoenstatt. The Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt is a Roman Catholic Marian movement founded in Germany in 1914 by Father Joseph Kentenich. Its name, which aptly means beautiful place, refers to a small village near Koblenz. Schoenstatt Scotland operates as a Retreat Centre.

Kirkintilloch

The final trail we followed was round the town of Kirkintilloch and the nearby village of Waterside. It was very green with parkland, river and canal, an old cemetery to explore, historic buildings, and artworks. There was even a ghost sign to enjoy. However, we got very wet again – John does know how to pick a week off!

So those were our first, baby steps outside the city after lockdown: life was starting to feel more normal. Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks. Her temperatures are a bit hotter than mine!

Stirling

Stirling Castle: Royal Palace from Queen Anne Garden

An excursion to Stirling was one of the few days out we had at the beginning of the year before the torrential rains of February / March and the following months of lockdown. As Stirling Castle reopened on 1st August (pre-booked tickets only) this seems an appropriate time to publish my post about it which has been lingering in drafts for some months. It was a fabulous day, so be prepared for a lot of photographs!

Starting at the castle, we first of all wandered around the outside. The grey building is the Royal Palace and the golden one is the Great Hall. Views from the walls round the Palace are magnificent.

The first building we went into was the Royal Palace, one of the best-preserved Renaissance buildings in the UK, which has been refurbished to look as it might have done in the 1540s. This includes ceilings with brightly-painted replicas of the Stirling Heads (the originals can be seen in a museum onsite which we didn’t visit this time) and unicorns everywhere. The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries are also replicas, based on a series created in the Low Countries in the early 1500s which are now in the Metropolitan Museum of New York’s Cloisters. They took 13 years to weave and cost £2 million.

It’s not so long since you could watch part of the tapestry being woven in one of the castle’s outlying buildings (they were completed in 2014). Now the same building hosts an exhibition about the weaving process. I learned a lot from the panel of samples shown below, especially the knee samples. The single knee was woven at eight warps per centimetre which matches the 15th century originals. The other two knees are woven at four warps per centimetre, which is the warp count chosen for the replicas. This saved 13 years of production time – how much respect is due to the original weavers? What an achievement.

Next, we visited the Chapel Royal, built in 1593-4 on the orders of James VI who wanted somewhere suitable for the baptism of his son and heir, Prince Henry. In 1603 the Union of the Crowns saw James head south to rule from England, and in 1625 he was succeeded by his surviving younger son Charles I. The frieze was painted by Valentine Jenkin in 1628 in the expectation of a coronation visit to Scotland by the new king. He didn’t come.

The Great Hall is the largest banqueting hall ever built in Scotland and was used for feasts, dances and pageants. Completed for James IV in 1503, it has four pairs of tall windows at the dais end, where the king and queen sat, and an impressive Scottish oak triple height ceiling.

Of course, you would not expect us to miss out on a visit, or two, to the Café! Having already had lunch there, we popped back for a cup of tea before venturing out again.

Suitably fortified , we explored the Old Town Graveyard which lies between the castle and Holy Rude Church. The ladies in the glass case are “Margaret, virgin martyr of the ocean wave, with her like-minded sister Agnes”. These were part of the educational and “improving” atmosphere of Victorian Stirling. Eighteen year old Margaret Wilson was a heroine of the Presbyterian Reformation who was executed by drowning in the Solway Firth for refusing to renounce her Protestant faith.

Shown below are Argyll’s Lodging (pink) and Cowane’s Trust (yellow). The former is a 17th century townhouse which can be visited with a castle entry ticket. Cowane’s Hospital, now run by a charitable trust, is also a 17th-century building. The merchant John Cowane (1570–1633), whose statue adorns the front, left 40,000 merks in his will for the establishment of an almshouse.

On nearby Broad Street is the Mercat Cross (another unicorn) and Norie’s House. James Norie was a lawyer and town clerk who built his fashionable new house in 1671.  His bewigged head looks down from the top of the roof.

Walking further down into town we came across representations of various historic figures. A howling wolf, here carved from a tree stump, appears on Stirling’s coat of arms. Legend has it that in the 9th century a wolf saved the town by howling in response to a Viking raid. Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1836-1908) was the Member of Parliament for Stirling Burghs for almost 40 years, including a term as Prime Minister from 1905 to 1908. Rob Roy, Robert Burns and William Wallace probably need less of an introduction to anyone interested in Scottish history and literature.

Our final stop before heading back up to the castle was outside Central Library which opened in 1904 and, like so many others, was funded by Andrew Carnegie.

As we walked back to the car, the sky began to change colour. We rushed up to a vantage point in the Old Town Cemetery from which we watched a spectacular sunset unfold. A perfect end to a perfect day.