A Glasgow perspective: up on the roof

Three months in lockdown tramping the same few routes from our front door every day certainly gave us a new perspective on our city. We began to spot small details that had previously eluded us in our rush to get from one place to another. Definite themes emerged to our collection of photographs and, just when you need one, along comes a challenge that allows them to be shared – the ones that look good square at least. Becky’s July Squares theme is perspectives – various interpretations are possible, and mine is “Point of View – a particular way of considering (looking at) something”. I’ll be dropping in occasionally with a new point of view on Glasgow.

Today’s theme is roofs. You might well recognise my header which is Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, an unmistakeable Glasgow landmark, but what about the one below? This splendid roof belongs to Partick Burgh Hall, designed by William Leiper in the French Renaissance style and completed in 1872. It was the home of Partick Burgh Council until the Burgh was annexed by Glasgow in 1912.

Here is a selection of other roofs and roof decorations, all within walking distance of home. As you can see, we found them endlessly fascinating!

My title is, of course, taken from the marvellous Drifters’ song, Up on the roof. Enjoy!

Loch Trool

Loch Trool from Bruce’s Stone

On our second day in Newton Stewart last December we drove to Loch Trool, about 8 miles away, to take the 5 mile walk around its shores. We parked near Bruce’s Stone and started by climbing the small mound to view this huge boulder. It commemorates the battle of Glen Trool which took place on the other side of the loch in 1307. Leading a mere 300 Scots, King Robert Bruce enticed an English force of 1500 into an ambush. The Scots rolled boulders down the steep slopes knocking men and soldiers into the water with archers picking off the survivors as they fled. Today it looks much more peaceful.

Retracing our steps to the road, we looked for the path down to the loch, and followed it across several burns to Glenhead Farm.

The words at the farm are by Galloway novelist SR Crockett (1859-1914) and read “Glenhead I saw for the first time in the broad glare of a mid-noon sun. All the valley swam in a hazy blue mist…” A little different from the day we were there!

As the name suggests, at Glenhead we had reached the top of the loch and were now walking in the opposite direction (westwards) along the other side. The path, now part of the Southern Upland Way, meandered up and down from the lochside to the forest above it. Sometimes there was even a chance to rest for a few minutes.

Before turning eastwards again we took a short detour to visit the Martyrs’ Tomb in Caldons Wood. The walled enclosure commemorates the death of six Covenanters put to death in 1685.

Walking back to the car along the last section of the walk we were treated to some beautiful reflections.

Then it was time to go back to our hotel, and the following morning we packed up and left for home. We weren’t expecting this to be the last break we would have for some time, but so it turned out.

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.

A gale in Galloway!

Mull of Galloway Lighthouse

On the first day of our short break in Newton Stewart last December we planned a walk round the Mull of Galloway, Scotland’s most southerly point. Our guidebook describes it as a “dramatic windswept headland” which it certainly is. When we got out of the car at the lighthouse at its tip we could barely stand up. We turned right at the sign above to take a circular route to the lighthouse and made it as far as the first corner which we literally could not turn. We were blown right back.

We managed to get to the lighthouse (built by Robert Stevenson in 1828 and now automated) by a more direct route. I’m not sure that the gallery above gives any impression of how wild it actually was. We were certainly amused by the sign on the small visitor centre inviting us to come in out of the “breeze”.

Back at the car, we abandoned the rest of the walk and decided to head for Portpatrick instead. Plenty of wild sea on show here!

We had lunch and enjoyed a wander round the pretty village. The green house with the quirky outdoor decorations, Smuggler’s Cove, had a donation pot for the upkeep of the harbour which is run by a charitable Community Benefit Society.

Daylight was fading as we left, but we made one last call before going back to our hotel, Stranraer. The only other time we have been there was about 30 years ago for what we still remember as the best wedding ever. Although that day’s happy couple has long since divorced, the North West Castle Hotel where the reception was held is still there. At the time, Stranraer was a busy ferry port connecting Scotland with Northern Ireland, but in 2011 this business moved a few miles away to Cairnryan. There’s a lot of desolate space along the waterfront now, though some parts of the port are still in use.

The town was decked out in its Christmas decorations. The local crafters had been busy.

The Castle of St. John is a medieval tower house, built around 1500, and the Old Town Hall, built in 1776, now houses the Stranraer Museum.

We weren’t sure at the time what the rusty structure below was, but subsequent research tells me it is Blind Johnnie’s Monument.  John Alexander played street music on the recorder or his squeeze box, both of which are now in the Museum. He died at the age of 70 in 1905, and when in 2012 Stranraer residents were given their say on which character from the town’s history should be selected for a new piece of artwork they chose him. Opinion is apparently divided but I like it now that I can see what it is.

By this time it was fully dark and time to head back to Newton Stewart to prepare for dinner. We were cold and ready for some good food and drink!

Newton Stewart

Creebridge House Hotel

Between Christmas and New Year 2019 we spent three nights in the Creebridge House Hotel in Newton Stewart, Dumfries and Galloway. Apart from this one photograph of the hotel (which was excellent, by the way) we don’t seem to have taken any pictures of Newton Stewart during the day, but the it looked very pretty by night as you can see below.

On the way there and back we stopped both times for lunch in the excellent Balkenna Tearoom just outside Girvan on the Ayrshire coast. I loved their quirky collection of teapots, of which this is a small selection.

On the way home we also stopped in Girvan because the views over to Ailsa Craig and Arran were just stunning.

In the next couple of posts, I’ll tell you what we got up to during our short stay.

Broughty Ferry

Broughty Ferry on a November afternoon

Broughty Ferry is a suburb of Dundee, four miles east of the city centre on the north bank of the Firth of Tay. Formerly a prosperous fishing and whaling village, in the 19th century it attracted some of the wealthy jute barons to build luxury villas. As a result, Broughty Ferry was referred to at the time as the “richest square mile in Europe”. It was a separate burgh from 1864 until 1913, when it was incorporated into the city.

Having a couple of hours of daylight left on our last afternoon in Dundee we decided to explore the area, which we’d never visited before. The main attraction was the castle. Built in 1496 on a rocky promontory at the mouth of the Tay, it has faced many sieges and battles. In the 18th century it fell into ruins, but was rebuilt in the 1860s as part of the coastal defence system. Today, it functions as a museum with exhibits on various aspects of Broughty life.

The guns in the gallery above have an interesting history, having spent part of their lives as bollards on the pier! They were rescued and restored in the 1990s (click on image to enlarge for full explanation).

The castle’s top floors provided good views over the harbour and the beach. Not many people out there – it was cold!

After leaving the castle we wandered round the harbour. The sculpture is Wind Dial by Adrienne McStay, donated by Broughty Ferry Arts Society in 2006.

The town itself is rather charming and we enjoyed a stroll here too.

By the time we got back to the castle where our car was parked the light was fading and it was time to head back to our hotel in the city centre.

Dundee: unicorns and robots

North Carr Lightship with HMS Unicorn behind to the left

Our second day in Dundee was as wet and cold as the first. Fortunately, we weren’t planning to go far. Our hotel, the Apex, was right on the old Victoria Dock where our first target for the day, HMS Unicorn, is moored.

Making our way past North Carr, the last remaining Scottish lightship, and Chandlers Lane with the Tay Road Bridge visible at the end, we boarded the Unicorn to be met by the rather buxom lady in the gallery below.

HMS Unicorn was built for the Royal Navy in the Royal Dockyard at Chatham and launched in 1824.  She is a rare survivor from the days of sail, the sixth oldest ship in the world, and Scotland’s only representative of the sailing navy. On board there are unicorns everywhere, including a list of other Royal Navy ships which have borne the name since the 16th century, and many cannons.

It was interesting to see how the ordinary sailors slept and ate (guess who tried out the hammock) and to contrast the officers’ quarters. I was also intrigued by the information about musketry phrases. A flash in the pan and going off half-cocked I knew about, but not sideburns.

After exploring the Unicorn we made our way along the waterfront to the V&A where we had tickets for the exhibition Hello Robot. We found an intriguing geometric street sculpture about which I can’t find anything online, though the rope running along the wall is part of Stitch in time by Jeremy Cunningham.

We climbed this viewing platform and noticed that the concrete monument next to it was part of the Dundee Women’s Trail – too high to read the plaque from below and too far away to read from the platform! However, with the help of the zoom lens we established it was to commemorate Bella Keyzer, one of the women who took over the jobs of men who were away fighting in World War 2. She became a shipyard welder.

We passed under the Tay Road Bridge, and detoured onto it for a view of the V&A before arriving at the museum itself. This gallery shows how dreich the weather really was! With the exception of some painted pillars and a glimpse into a bright office it was totally grey.

Finally, a few shots from Hello Robot itself. In the entrance was this amazing wooden sculpture, Up Sticks. I would find it difficult to paraphrase, so have included the explanation in full.

I also liked this colourful wall of sayings, though I can’t say I agree with all of them.

My favourite item was probably the print Mobile Relationship by Manu Cornet, with which I could definitely identify, and just to prove there were some exhibits that actually looked like robots I’ve included one of those. Overall, the technical stuff interested me much less than the sociological stuff, and I was looking forward much more to the V&A’s next exhibition on Mary Quant which, like so much else, is currently postponed.

Having explored the Unicorn and the V&A, and had lunch, we still had quite a bit of wet afternoon left. We went back to the hotel to pick up the car and headed for Broughty Ferry, but I’ll leave that for my next post.

A daunder round Dundee

Dundee Law

In November last year, when the world was a different place, John had a Friday meeting at the University of Dundee. I decided to go with him and stay for the weekend. We set off early in the morning and arrived with time for a quick coffee before the meeting began. From the window I could see Dundee Law, which I have never climbed, and decided that would be the first thing I would do once John started work.

The 572-foot peak is the city’s most distinctive landmark. It’s a volcanic sill: an underground sideways flow of lava, forced through weaker rock 400 million years ago, which remained under layers of other rock for millions of years before wind, rain and glaciers cleared the softer rock away. At the top is a War Memorial with inscriptions to the memory of Dundee men who fell in the two World Wars, and a bronze brazier as a beacon which is lit on 5 days during the Autumn, marking important dates in the history of the wars. Normally, there are great views over the city but, as you can see, I was there on a rather wet day.

Oh well, never mind. I made my way back down to the university where there was an exhibition on housing I wanted to visit. While there I met these two characters. Oor Wullie is part of a 2016 public art trail. This model, When Wullie met Dr Manhattan by Sarah Coonan, was given to the university by an honorary graduate. The dog, Hope, is part of the mental health charity SANE’s Black Dog campaign to raise funds and awareness.

I visited several other exhibitions that day and, on the Saturday, we both visited Hello Robot at the V&A. Of course, all the exhibitions are now over and all the galleries are closed anyway, so instead of telling you about them I’ll show you some of the other characters I met around the city. These two were instantly recognisable as by street artists whose work I see round Glasgow a lot. Oh Pandah’s “big heids” pop up all over the city and, it seems, other cities too.

I loved these two elegant women at Spex Pistols, possibly the most interesting-looking opticians ever.

On a previous weekend in Dundee we visited Royal Research Ship Discovery which was built in the city, and in which the British National Antarctic Expedition set sail in 1901. Because of this Antarctic connection, Dundee seems to have an affinity with penguins. I came across a couple of remnants from another public art trail, and this little row, by Angela Hunter, running along the parish church wall. Apparently, they are often dressed up to suit local events, but were stark naked on this occasion.

Not so Oor Wullie, who was already decked out in his Christmas jumper. He comes from a comic strip produced by Dundee publisher D.C. Thomson, and is joined on street by some of their other characters: Desperate Dan and his dog, Dawg, and Minnie the Minx. The dragon is not a Thomson character, but is based on a local legend.

When it comes to statues of real people the choice, as usual, is dominated by men (other than the ubiquitous Queen Victoria). Below are Robert Burns and Adam Duncan (1731-1804), a Dundee born admiral who defeated the Dutch fleet off Camperdown (north of Haarlem) on 11 October 1797. However, I did find this monument to missionary Mary Slessor (1848-1915) who is also commemorated in a stained glass window in the McManus Galleries.

The Slessor window is in the gallery café so is hard to photograph without annoying people: however, on the stairs I managed to snap John’s hero, James Watt. And, always one to sniff out a bit of women’s history, I loved this portrait of Agnes Husband (1852-1929) by Alec Grieve. Agnes, a dressmaker by trade, campaigned for women’s suffrage and was active in the Labour Pary, becoming one of Dundee’s first women councillors.

By this time it was 3pm, I’d climbed the Law, visited three exhibitions in three different galleries, had lunch and a good old daunder round Dundee, getting wet and cold in the process. Hotel check-in would be open and it was time to retreat from the rain to wait in comfort for John to finish work.

#WomenMakeHistory

As many of you know, I’m a big enthusiast for women’s history and at this time of year I would normally be leading groups on heritage walks for both Glasgow Women’s Library and Maryhill Halls. At GWL we’ve been trying to think of ways to take the walks online, and this week I led our first ever Twitter “walk”! Even if you’re not on Twitter, you can follow it by clicking on the tweet below.

We’re also inviting everyone to look out for representations of women in their own areas all over the world. Can you think of any statues, buildings, plaques, murals, paintings, graffiti, or street names in your area? My fellow guide, Joy Charnley, has written a blog post with some ideas which you can access from the first tweet below.

If you’re on Twitter and / or Instagram, post your findings and tag them with @womenslibrary and #WomenMakeHistory. I’ll be adding contributions to my Twitter feed daily, or as often as I can think of something – it could be as prosaic as a gatepost, as you can see in the second tweet above. It would be great if some of you could join me!

Port Glasgow Heritage Walk

Newark Castle and Ferguson Marine

The name Port Glasgow means exactly what you might expect. It was originally a fishing hamlet called Newark which expanded because large ships were unable to navigate the River Clyde, then shallow and meandering, to the centre of Glasgow. Newark became the port for Glasgow in 1668 and was known as New Port Glasgow until this was shortened in 1775. By the 19th century Port Glasgow had become a centre for shipbuilding, but today only Ferguson Marine remains and in its shadow lies a lingering vestige of the old name, Newark Castle (c1484). It was once home to the Maxwell family, hence the initials PM on some of the windows.

This visit took place in November after the castle had closed for the winter (and the foreseeable future, as it turns out), but we had a look round the outside before setting off on our walk.

The Port Glasgow Heritage Walk has been created by the blogger The Greenockian and can be downloaded from the link. Before setting off west on her route, we walked east for a mile or so along the riverside walkway. The posts you can just see sticking out of the water, in the first picture below, are the remains of old timber ponds. At the beginning of the 18th century vast amounts of timber were imported into Port Glasgow and stored in the ponds, being seasoned by the salt water, until needed by local shipwrights or sawmills.

Once back at the castle, we started the walk proper by walking west past the gates of Ferguson Marine. Across the road is the Ropeworks Building where ropes and sails used to be made, but which was converted into housing in 2007/8.

The route then took us through Coronation Park. Points of interest included an old steam hammer, manufactured by Glen & Ross of Glasgow, and a memorial cairn to the Clyde Boating Tragedy of 1947 when 20 people died in an accident while on a pleasure cruise.

On the back wall of Fergus Monk’s garage at the West Quay are these two colourful murals by Jim Strachan. One shows fishing boats and the catch being processed on the quay, while the other shows people enjoying themselves in a non-socially-distanced way that seems but a dream now..

Looking out to the Clyde, there are two lighthouses here, Perch Lighthouse (1862) on the treacherous Perch Rock, and the taller West Quay Lighthouse built in the 1870s to guide ships using the docks.

Across a busy road from here is a large retail park (a good stop for lunch, if anything is open, I think we went to Marks and Spencer). Set into the pathway are slabs with the names of local shipyards, such as the Inch Yard. On the way out of the retail park going towards the town centre is a replica of the Comet, the first commercial steam-powered vessel in European waters (1812).

We passed two churches – St John the Baptist (left below) was built in 1854 for the growing number of Roman Catholics, many from Ireland, who came to work in the area. The current St Andrew’s Church dates from 1823, but there has been a church on the same site since 1719. You can see St Andrew’s again peeking out from behind the Old Bank Building.

Port Glasgow has had a railway since 1841. The current station building has 14 murals made by local people, each celebrating part of the town’s history. I had a hard time choosing favourites, so here’s a large selection, starting with the remembrance panel because our visit was very near Remembrance Sunday.

Opposite the station is the Star Hotel with a couple of interesting ghost signs – or are they really ghost signs if the original business is still there? Old signs anyway!

A stroll down King Street took us past the Salvation Army, then we turned down Customhouse Lane heading for the town buildings.

These date from 1816 and once included a court, a council chamber, prison and police department. Port Glasgow is now part of Inverclyde and no longer needs these things, so the building houses the public library. There are references to the town’s past with sailing ships everywhere, including the weather vane atop the 150ft steeple and on the coat of arms seen on the lamp.

Across from the town buildings are two monuments, the War Memorial and the Endeavour sculpture. The latter was created by Malcolm Robertson in 2012 and is another celebration of the town’s shipbuilding heritage.

From here, we crossed the main road again to return to our car. Port Glasgow is somewhere I drive through regularly without stopping, so I’m grateful to The Greenockian for opening my eyes to its interesting history. Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks.