Glasgow Gallivanting: July 2020

Strathkelvin Railway Path and Billy the Train

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 on and around the old Strathkelvin railway path, several of which we followed. I’ve written a post about that week which will follow shortly, but since then we’ve covered another couple of the trails. The first started in Milton of Campsie where we came across this cute display in the old station.

The second took us to Lennox Castle. I always thought this had originated as a Victorian “lunatic asylum” but, although the house was built between 1837 and 1841, it didn’t become a hospital until 1936 as a “mental deficiency institution” – such terrible terms to modern ears. The castle itself became the nurses’ home, and patients’ accommodation was built in the grounds: this was demolished after the last parts of the hospital finally closed in 2002, but the castle itself remains as a sad ruin and a reminder of all the suffering souls who lived there.

I did another Twitter walk for the Women’s Library this month, this time in Garnethill, and my fellow volunteer Melody has made a trailer for the same walk. Both are below for anyone interested. On the trailer, my voice is the one that starts by telling you the walk is available to download. It has been great fun doing these, and we hope to do more.

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

As lockdown eases, the growth of my collection of photographs of rainbows and teddy bears is diminishing. Indeed, many of the old displays have been taken down. We’ve seen more painted stones this month though, mostly in the small towns in East Dunbartonshire that we visited. People have been very artistic in lockdown!

So it’s been a month of easing restrictions with two major events: I’ve had a haircut and a birthday! Unfortunately not in that order. My birthday was the day after restaurants were allowed to re-open, so we had dinner out for the first time in four months. It felt strange and rather lacking in atmosphere, but it’s progress. What will next month bring?

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.

Glasgow Gallivanting: May 2020

Glasgow University from Ruchill Park

And another month in lockdown has passed. We are still tramping the streets round home on our daily walk, in between John finishing work and dinner time, but at the weekends we go a bit further. This is Ruchill Park. It’s less fashionable, and therefore quieter, than the Botanic Gardens, our closest park, but it’s very rewarding, especially if you climb the little mound with the flagpole. Glasgow is spread out before you.

Victoria Park

This is another park slightly further away, though it’s also very busy so I’m not sure I would go back here despite its pretty pond with ducks and swans.

Western Necropolis and Lambhill Cemetery

Possil Loch

We walked out to the Western Necropolis via Maryhill, and back via Possil Loch and the canal. I always find graveyards interesting in a sad sort of way. Here, we found lots of Commonwealth War Graves, including soldiers from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The only famous person I spotted was Will Fyffe (1885-1947), a music hall star from well before my time, but whom my mum remembers fondly. His grave is marked “I belong to Glasgow”, the title of a song he wrote.

The Necropolis runs seamlessly into two other cemeteries, St Kentigern’s, which we didn’t visit on this occasion, and Lambhill. Here, I was looking for the monument to the architect, James Sellars (1843-1888), seen in the gallery below.

Many of Sellars’ buildings still exist in Glasgow including one which, coincidentally, we photographed earlier in the month – Anderson’s College Medical School on Dumbarton Road. Sellars died during its construction and the building was completed by his head draughtsman, John Keppie who, as part of Honeyman and Keppie, went on to employ Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

After this visit, we found cemetery maps online and printed them out (might have been an idea to do that first) and noticed all the things we’d missed. More about a subsequent visit next month!

Floral attraction

Our more local routes have provided some stunning colour, especially the Botanic Gardens and Glasgow University’s grounds:

Rainbows and teddies

Every time I go out I declare that I’m not going to photograph any more windows with rainbows and teddies. Then this happens:

Maybe in June I’ll give up!

Street art

In April, I shared a coronavirus mural by street artist Rebel Bear. A new one, depicting a health worker, has appeared on the wall of the Ubiquitous Chip bar and restaurant in Ashton Lane off Byres Road. There is another in the series, depicting a man with a coronavirus round his ankle like a ball and chain, but it’s in the city centre where I no longer go. You can, however, see all three in this BBC article.

The same wall used to be decorated with the advert for Auchentoshan whisky shown above. This is one of nearly 200 photos in a file on my phone marked Street Art, so I thought the current circumstances would be a good excuse to get rid of a few. Those below, a mix of official and unofficial decoration, were all taken in and around Byres Road, though some no longer exist.

Tartan paint is on the wall of De Courcy’s Arcade in Cresswell Lane. The two pieces of graffiti art on crumbling old buildings were added to the Western Infirmary as it was being demolished last year and have long since gone. Embargo (the wings) on Byres Road and Bar Gallus both still have their murals, but the final two images of the building opposite Gallus on Church Street have been painted over. No great loss!

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Normally when we visit Kelvingrove we’re there for an exhibition. Now that we can’t go inside we pay far more attention to the outside of the building. The rather grand entrance above presided over by St Mungo, Glasgow’s patron saint, is just the back door! The front entrance is shown in the gallery below, along with various exterior adornments including the four elements of Glasgow’s coat of arms: the tree, the bird, the fish, and the bell.

The last bit

As we head into our third full month of lockdown, things have eased a little here in Scotland. We’re allowed to meet members of another household in an outdoor space, so we celebrated this on Saturday by visiting friends who have a very large garden. We took our own bottle and glasses, keeping the required 2m / 6ft apart at all times, and had a lovely time. The length of such visits is determined by the strength of one’s bladder as going indoors is still not allowed!

Another concession is that we can drive somewhere to exercise, roughly within five miles. This doesn’t really help much in our urban situation, and given reports over the weekend from beauty spots a little further afield, I think I’ll stick to what I can do from my front door at the moment. Even those routes make me nervous because of the increase in crowds. I don’t think our infection rate is anywhere near low enough to take risks.

And finally to my Scottish word of the month. Sleekit can just mean sleek, as in smooth and shiny, but to describe a person as sleekit is usually pejorative, meaning sly, crafty, or sneaky. I have seen this word used more than a few times recently in relation to a certain government advisor. My choice of words for him was a little stronger!

I hope you are all keeping safe, well and happy. Enjoy June as best you can!

Glasgow Gallivanting: April 2020

Hillhead Primary
Hillhead Primary: a smile can travel 2m

I cut short my last Gallivanting post at the point when lockdown began on the grounds that there wouldn’t be anything further to report. Not strictly true! On our one approved daily walk, we look about us even more than usual and notice a lot of things in our own area that are worth documenting.

Rainbows and teddies

In common with other cities in the world, many of Glasgow’s windows have been decorated with rainbows and teddy bears. The rainbows, usually thanking NHS and other key workers, have also strayed onto fences and pavements. Although often created by children for children, I can’t help myself snapping away and now have a huge collection on my phone. Here are some of my favourites. Can you spot Elvis? And the one person who seems not to have got the right memo!

Chalking has also been used for things other than rainbows. We often see messages between those who can’t meet in person, and children seem to have rediscovered hopscotch.

Gartnavel

One of the quietest places to walk is Gartnavel, our local hospital. 1051 GWR is a restaurant on Great Western Road, just before you turn into the hospital grounds. Since it closed to the public it has been raising funds to provide free food to those in need, including NHS staff. So many businesses have transformed themselves during this crisis to provide what is needed, whether food, hand-sanitiser, PPE or hospital scrubs.

The hospital itself is in two parts, Gartnavel General, which comprises undistinguished buildings dating from the 1970s onwards, and Gartnavel Royal, an inpatient psychiatric unit which originated as a 19th century “lunatic asylum”. The Victorian buildings still exist as offices, though some parts are derelict, but patients today are housed in more modern comfort.

Dunard Street

I didn’t realise how colourful some of our schools are. This one in Dunard Street, Maryhill, has a lovely mural and colourful mosaic planters designed by the children on the street outside.

Spring

And, of course, the signs of Spring were everywhere. Nature continues to do what nature does, even if we don’t get the opportunity to appreciate it as much. Unfortunately, the kingfisher is a sad story: a couple of big thumps on one of our back windows and a dead bird on the conservatory roof below. It’s so beautiful, poor thing.

The last bit

So it seems it’s perfectly possibly to create a gallivanting post in lockdown. As the weeks go by, and we walk the same routes again and again on our daily exercise, the number of photographs will inevitably diminish. However, I still have plenty of themes to explore which should keep the gallivanting going. In the meantime, we just have to thole the current circumstances as best we can – thole being my Scottish word of the month. It means to endure patiently, to slog through tough times. I hope you are staying safe and well, everyone! I’ll be back next week with tales of last summer’s trip to Berwickshire.

Glasgow Gallivanting: March 2020

Maryhill Window Wanderland 2020

Many of you liked the photos I posted of the two Window Wanderlands we attended in February, so I thought I’d start with more of the same – Window Wanderland Part 3! As with the other events, Maryhill’s took place on a wet, cold night, but the colourful displays cheered us up. I think cheering up is what we all need at the moment, with so much closed down because of the coronavirus, COVID-19, so I’m going to show you lots and lots of windows and gardens in this post.

The top image has a musical theme with The Beatle’s Yellow Submarine on one side and Pink Floyd’s The Wall on the other. The Beatles cropped up again with Norwegian Wood, which included the song itself playing, one of two windows we found with sound effects. Round the corner, this seascape was accompanied by the sound of rushing waves.

The Wanderland took place on the eve of International Women’s Day (8th March) so we appreciated that one household had chosen to celebrate this. The nearby Be Kind message is also very relevant today.

Here’s a great big gallery for your delectation!

Finally, one householder had set up a cinema in his back garden, complete with popcorn and – because the film was Whisky Galore – a wee dram.

Stank Glen

Ben Ledi from Stank Glen

The last weekend before everything started to shut down was amazingly dry, and we got a couple of outings. A circular route took us up the forested Stank Glen, above Loch Lubnaig, and in the shadow of Ben Ledi. Dry it might have been but, after all the rain we have had, some of the paths were like small streams, and crossing the actual streams was tricky because any stepping stones, natural or otherwise, were submerged. Cue wet feet!

Snowdrops

That same weekend, we visited a couple of the gardens advertising snowdrops through Scotland’s Gardens Scheme. It was right at the end of the snowdrop season, and not much else was out, but it got us into the fresh air again at a troubling time.

Kilbryde Castle has been home to the Campbell family since 1659. The current owners, Sir James and Lady (Carola) Campbell were out gardening when we arrived and greeted us from a safe distance. We had a rather slithery, muddy walk round the property.

We dropped into nearby Dunblane for lunch. The restaurant we chose, Allanview, had just opened the week before. What an unfortunate time to start a new venture: I feel so sorry for the owners. The food was excellent, but now they will have had to close like every restaurant in the country.

Things we noticed in Dunblane: I’ve posted Andy Murray’s gold post-box before (all home-grown 2012 Olympic gold medallists got one in their home town), but not since it had a plaque celebrating his special stamps, and I don’t remember his Wimbledon bench either.

We loved this quirky signpost.

And we also loved the mosaics decorating the bridge over the Allan Water.

Finally, on our way back to the car we spotted a ghost sign. This house is called The Old Bakery, and the ghost sign tells us why – Tea Room.

From Dunblane, we drove to our second garden of the day, Braco Castle. The oldest part of this house dates from before 1600, a rectangular tower built by the 3rd Earl of Montrose for his son, William Graham. It has been owned and adapted by several families since – judging by the surname, the current owners might be Dutch.

Braco Castle

The gardens were more elaborate here than at Kilbryde – still not much out, but there was more colour than just snowdrops.

The last bit

I gave my talk, Jessie Stephen: Scottish Suffragette, to the Drymen Lunch Club – the last talk for some time, and the first one to actually have my name on a ticket! I quite liked that. I also saw my talk in print for the first time in Gallus, the journal of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society, who hosted me back in September. They have made a clever acronym out of Gallus – Glasgow Ancestry Links the Life of Us. I’ve explained gallus before: in fact five years ago I did a whole A to Z Challenge on Gallus Glasgow – here’s the explanation if you don’t know what it means.

The week before Glasgow Women’s Library closed down (though we didn’t know that at the time) we had a tea party to say goodbye to one of my fellow volunteers, Eleanor, who is moving to Berkshire to live nearer her son. We’ll miss her – that’s Eleanor in the middle with me and Anna. The three of us comprised the Thursday morning cataloguing team.

As you might expect, all of these events took place in the first part of March before life changed utterly. I don’t expect anything worth writing about to happen between now and the end of the month so I’m clearing the decks and publishing early. We can still walk outside, and we’re lucky to live near a river and a canal – however, the banks are quite narrow and it’s hard to keep the recommended 2m distance from passers by. At least the weather is now dry. To illustrate the difference, here are two pictures taken across the Kelvin in February and March. In the first, the little seating area is completely flooded. In the second, the river has retreated to its natural level.

COVID-19 is already spawning its own art. Street artist Rebel Bear, who has featured here several times before, has contributed this mural on Bank Street.

And Twitter, which can be an absolute cesspit sometimes, has the lovely hashtag #COVIDCeilidh in which traditional musicians post videos of themselves performing to create an online ceilidh (a social event with Scottish or Irish folk music and singing, traditional dancing, and storytelling). You don’t have to be on Twitter to see it, just clink my link above. Here’s one of my favourites so far, Anna Massie of Blazin’ Fiddles, a band we’ve seen a few times, accompanied by her mum on the spoons. Watch for the head movements at the end!

Will there be another Gallivanting post when I can’t gallivant? At the moment I haven’t a scooby*, but at least I have plenty of backlog to keep up with, and I’m thinking of joining Becky’s latest Squares challenge in April, SquareTops, hopefully with a travel theme. Virtual travel is the best we can do at the moment.

*I’ve already had two Scottish words in this post, but Scooby is my actual Scottish word of the month – I didn’t realise it was Scottish, but it’s in my book 100 favourite Scots words so it must be! It means I haven’t a clue and is rhyming slang for the cartoon character, Scooby Doo. First found in print in the Glasgow Herald in 1993 apparently!

Stay safe everyone. As we practice social distancing, or self-isolate, our online buddies are even more important. Till the next time.

Glasgow Gallivanting: February 2020

Glasgow Cathedral

Rain, sleet, rain, hail the size of marbles, rain, howling winds – and did I mention the rain? February has been a terrible month, but there’s no point in sitting at home moping about it so there’s still plenty report. We visited Glasgow Cathedral where, although we’ve been there umpteen times, John always finds new things to snap, such as these grotesques and a poignant memorial which I’ve never noticed before.

The memorial below is to Thomas Hutcheson (1590-1641) who, along with his brother George, bequeathed money to found a hospital for the elderly and a school for poor boys. The school is still operating today, although fee-paying and co-educational, as Hutchesons’ Grammar School. The original Hutchesons’ Hospital was replaced between 1802 and 1805 – this building still exists and now houses a fancy restaurant.

Peter Lowe or Low (c. 1550 – 1610), whose memorial is on the left below, was a surgeon and founder of the institution now known as the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. The image on the right is at the entrance to the churchyard, with the Museum of Religion behind it and two lampposts featuring Glasgow’s Coat of Arms.

Some interior shots below include the Martyr’s Memorial which commemorates nine Covenanters executed in Glasgow between 1666 and 1684. Covenanters believed in the Presbyterian form of worship. Scotland wanted to keep its church independent from the English episcopal church headed by the monarch, and this led to a political crisis as signing the Covenant was seen as treason. In the 30 years up to 1690, around 18,000 people died in battles and persecutions.

In the two shots below, you can just see at the edges the reason for our visit – a Historic Scotland exhibition called Romantic Scotland through a lens which explores life in 19th century Scotland through HS’s photographic archives (on throughout March).

The explanation is here if you want it, but life did not look very romantic to me! Blood, sweat, toil and tears sounds about right.

However, I enjoyed the exhibition – some of my favourite images are below. My great-grandfather would have been a ploughman around the same time as this man, portrayed c1890.

Across town at GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art) we visited a couple of good exhibitions this month (both now finished). The thought-provoking Everyday Racism documented ten micro-acts of racism. Though the photographs are staged, the incidents are all true, for example the story of Simone’s hair. It doesn’t matter how “micro” the action, the effect of such depersonalisation can be huge.

Domestic Bliss explored “domestic labour and feminism, public and private space, intimate relationships and historical narratives”. I liked the faux-domestic setting of some of the exhibits, and the interesting juxtapositions from different periods, such as this bathroom cabinet containing early 20th century shaving mugs by Jessie M King and pefume bottles by Niki de Saint Phalle (1982).

Paisley, the town my Mum lives in, is about half an hour’s drive from us. We don’t often act as tourists there, but it’s well worth a wander and we took advantage of that on one of the few dry afternoons of the month. Paisley town centre has the highest concentration of listed buildings anywhere in Scotland outside Edinburgh, plus a great selection of street art, but I’ll keep that for later. Let’s start with churches:

The Coats Observatory and Paisley Philosophical Institution:

The Peter Brough District Nursing Home, now private accommodation:

Old weavers’ cottages:

The Town Hall and the Coat of Arms on a nearby bridge:

A selection of statues:

The recently refurbished Russell Institute:

And some faded grandeur to finish. I think the ghost sign on the left says Royal Bank of Scotland. The building on the right is the Paisley Trophy Centre.

In February, we went to not just one Window Wanderland, but two. Window Wanderland is a scheme in which communities brighten up winter by transforming their streets into an outdoor gallery. Govan joined in for the first time this year – there were some good windows, but they were very spread out and as it was a cold, wet evening we didn’t explore the whole thing.

Govan’s buildings looked splendid by night, as did the statue to Mary Barbour, leader of the Rent Strikes in the First World War (you can also spot her in the Govan Gals window above).

Another of my sheroes appears in the window gallery – 19th century philanthropist, Isabella Elder “a true woman, a wise benefactress of the public and of learning”. One of the buildings she gave to Govan, Elderpark Library, is in the gallery below. We also visited the early medieval Govan Stones in the Old Parish Church – it was a relief to get out of the cold for a while.

The second Window Wanderland was in Strathbungo, which we also visited last year. It was an even colder, wetter night, but this was a more compact site so we persevered and saw most of it. Red Riding Hood is my absolute favourite of all the windows we saw over the two events. It’s simple on the surface, but so clever.

There were many, many more: below is a flavour of the ingenuity on show. Some householders even put on performances, and we were very grateful to the lady who came out with a tray of mulled wine. That warmed us up for a while.

I’m running out of time, so on that colourful note I shall wrap up February – here’s hoping for a warmer March!

Glasgow Gallivanting: January 2020

Celtic Connections, 2020

Music lovers don’t get long to recover from the festive season in Glasgow: Celtic Connections, Glasgow’s annual folk, roots and world music festival, arrives in the last two weeks of January. This year there were over 300 events, 2,100 musicians performing, and 130,000 attendees. As usual we had a ball, attending six concerts at four different venues. We ended the month exhausted, in a happy sort of way, and considerably heavier given that before every concert we had a pre-theatre meal and sometimes a pint of Festival Ale.

Out and about

The weather has been dreadful – rain, rain, rain. Our only day out away from Glasgow was an exception – a bright, cold Sunday in Stirling. Some aspects of that day have already featured as part of Becky’s January Squares Challenge, and there are so many other photographs that I feel it merits a post of its own. However, we did quite a lot of wandering around Glasgow, always searching for interesting details. For example, I didn’t know before that the CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts) on Sauchiehall Street is housed in a ‘Greek’ Thomson building (Alexander Thomson, 1817-1875, so-called because of the many Grecian features of his architecture). It’s obvious when you look up!

Further along Sauchiehall Street, we came across ghost signs, angels, torch bearers and regimental flags.

Round the corner at Charing Cross are the magnificent Charing Cross Mansions and the drunken-looking Cameron Memorial Fountain. No longer in use, it was built as a tribute to Sir Charles Cameron (1843 – 1913), a much respected newspaper editor and Liberal MP. Some say its tipsy lean is due to subsidence from the building of the nearby M8 motorway in the 1960s, but apparently photographs from the 1950s show that it was already listing then.

Moving down to Argyle Street, I have long been fascinated by the Buck’s Head Buildings – also by Alexander Thomson (1863). I was glad John had his camera with him to get a close up of the buck itself, now sadly eroded.

We were on our way to Street Level Photoworks at Trongate 103 to see their Oscar Marzaroli exhibition (on till 15th March). Italian-Scot Marzaroli (1933-1988) photographed Glasgow from the 1950s to the 1980s, often concentrating on the poorer areas. Many of his images are very well known – I particularly wanted to capture Gorbals Boys, three young lads playing in high-heeled shoes, but it was in the corner by the window and the reflections were terrible. For comparison, see the sculpture by Liz Peden which reproduces the scene in today’s more modern Gorbals.

Marzaroli was a friend of artist Joan Eardly, and I loved the portrait shown below of some of the Samson children whom she often used as models. Another comparison – check this link for an example of Eardley’s painting and a picture of two of the Samson children as they were in 2016. Bonus image – a smiling John in the gallery complex at Trongate 103.

Street art

At the beginning of January, I noticed that many of the Big Heids seen around town had been upgraded to Christmas versions, and some of them had acquired wee pals.

Where’s a bench challenge when you need it?

Can it really be 5 years since Jude was looking for our benches? My eye was caught by this one in George Square, set up in memory of a long running equal pay dispute with Glasgow City Council. 163 women died while they were waiting for their claims to be settled, a disgraceful statistic.

 

Burns Night

We were out at a concert on Burns Night this year. However, John was invited to a Chinese Burns Supper (not painful!) a few nights before which looks to have been a glorious cultural mix. On the same night, I was out at a party at the Women’s Library to celebrate the installation of their new boiler. I don’t have a boiler suit so couldn’t dress the part, but several people did, including my friend Anna. I’m happy to self-identify as an Old Boiler without labelling myself as such!

The last bit

So after many false starts, the UK finally Brexited at 11pm on 31st January – sort of. There’s a transition period till the end of the year so not much will change till then. There were some celebrations in Scotland, but mostly sorrowful vigils – this country voted to remain by 62%. In Glasgow that figure was almost 67%, and in typical Glaswegian fashion Wellington’s traffic cone was updated to suit the occasion.

So those are my January highlights – better late than never! Happy what’s-left-of-February to you all.

Glasgow Gallivanting: December 2019

Watt Institution

The Watt Institution in James Watt’s hometown of Greenock houses the McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Watt Library and Watt Hall. Recently closed for several years, it re-opened in November after a £2.1 million refurbishment programme funded by Inverclyde Council and Historic Environment Scotland. Watt (1736-1819) being an engineering hero of John’s, we went along to have a look in early December. It was a very miserable day outside, as you can tell from the photo above, but plenty to do inside.

The museum is called after its founder, James McLean, and first opened in 1876. I don’t know what it was like pre-refurbishment, but now it is light and airy (above) with various local history displays. I found the quilt embroidered with the names of the children of Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow who died in the Blitz of 6/7 May 1941 particularly poignant – especially when I found four members of the same family.

The Watt Lecture Hall opened at the same time as the museum. Today it holds a new exhibition celebrating Watt’s life and works.

Upstairs is the Art Gallery with its small, but interesting, collection of local views as well as more famous works by the likes of the Scottish Colourists, Boudin, Courbet, and Corot. Again, my eye was drawn to a poignant memorial, this time at the bottom of the gallery stairs. Too many names (Pat Leiper, 2014) lists the 1500 local men who died in the Great War.

Of course, I have left the best (from my point of view) till last. The Watt Library houses local history reference books and archives, and is dominated by a large sculpture of James Watt himself.

I just loved looking at all the old books, many of which were on open shelves. Greenock Infirmary’s Fever Journal from the 1860s must be unique, so it was a surprise to be able to pick it up and handle it.

I took many more photos of old labels which would only be of interest to library geeks, so I have spared you most of those!

Feminism and the servant problem: book launch

From one of John’s heroes, to one of mine. “My” suffragette, Jessie Stephen, was a woman of many talents. By the time she was twenty, in addition to her suffrage activities, she had been the Vice-Chair of her local Independent Labour Party (at 16, the youngest you could be a full member) and organised her fellow domestic servants into the Scottish Federation of Domestic Workers. When writing the first version of my talk on Jessie last year, I read a couple of articles by Dr Laura Schwartz of Warwick University, so I was delighted when she got in touch to tell me that she had written a book in which Jessie had a large role. Even better, I was asked to give a shorter version of my talk at an event in the Mitchell Library to launch the book in Scotland. Below, you can see Laura and me with the third speaker, Paula Larkin (in grey) and a member of library staff.

The publisher very kindly donated a copy of the book to Glasgow Women’s Library, which I’ve read and will be reviewing for their website. And if you’re having an allergic reaction to the Mitchell’s carpet, see my story from an A to Z Challenge a few years ago:

Gallus Glasgow M: The Mitchell

Glasgow Coat of Arms

In that same A to Z Challenge, I also wrote about Glasgow’s motto and Coat of Arms:

Gallus Glasgow L: Let Glasgow Flourish

More recently, my friend Becky wrote about them after I gave her a whistle stop tour of Glasgow:

Let Glasgow Flourish

I’ve recently been following a Twitter account, @GlasgowCoA, run by Caroline Scott who aims to collect as many examples of the Coat of Arms as possible. Glasgow City Heritage Trust (the organisation which put on the Ghost Signs talk we went to in November) was running an exhibition of some of the photographs she has amassed and we went along to the opening.

If you are wandering round Glasgow, be sure to tweet @GlasgowCoA any examples you find. It doesn’t matter if they’re already on the map – as Caroline points out, everyone’s take is different. These doorplates from the Mitchell featured twice, for example, and I was tickled to notice my friend Lynn was one of the contributors.

Books are your ticket to the whole world

Just in case you thought there weren’t enough libraries in this post, here’s another one which has just reopened after refurbishment. Partick is not my local library, but it’s not far away. I love that they have decorated the walls with quotations from local hero, comedian Billy Connolly. Books are your ticket to the whole world is possibly too small to read in the picture below. Another wall has: There’s no right way to read. You are not studying for an exam. The important thing is that books do you good. They improve your life, and the lives of the people around you. They improve you. Wise man!

Out and about

So far, all the activities I have mentioned have been indoor – par for the course in December. However, we did get out for a few walks. We did the Drumchapel Way, which might sound a bit odd to those who know Glasgow, Drumchapel being a housing estate in the north-west of the city. However, it’s possible to walk a 4.5 mile circuit around it almost entirely in parks and woodland. We found pigeons, a deer (a bit blurry, but it ran past very quickly), a very kitsch memorial garden and, yes, another library. This one looks as though it needs refurbishment.

Another wintry walk was in Palacerigg Country Park – some nice reflections.

Between Christmas and New Year we had a few days in Galloway – there will be posts about that later. In the meantime, here are some shots of Arran taken from Girvan on our journey home. It looked so stunning, we just had to stop.

The last bit

A few odds and ends to finish with. We found a new ghost sign on Whittinghame Drive! Thanks to Jayne for the tip.

The hothouses at the Botanic Gardens are always good for a stroll when it’s cold outside. Shades of pinks and red cheer me up.

And finally, with the holiday season well and truly over, we are back tae auld claes and parritch (old clothes and porridge, i.e. back to normal). But of course, some of us have Becky’s #JanuaryLight Square Challenge to distract us (click on the logo for info if you don’t know about it). I’ve taken today off to Gallivant but will be back to the Squares tomorrow.

 

Glasgow Gallivanting: November 2019

Glasgow from Cathkin Braes. The Gothic tower, centre right, is the main building of the University of Glasgow. The mountain in the background is Ben Lomond.

I can hardly believe we are now hurtling towards Christmas! November turned out much busier than expected, and December is much the same, hence the lateness of this post.

Out and about

The introductory image is taken from Cathkin Braes on the southern edge of Glasgow, and shows how close we are to the Highlands. This was Remembrance Sunday, and our walk that day took us through the village of Carmunnock at the foot of the Braes. We admired the War Memorial with its hand-crafted poppies from the service earlier in the day.

We managed to get a few more walks in November, despite the wintry weather. The late afternoon light on the Carron Valley Reservoir provided some beautiful reflections.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve at Loch Ardinning has featured before, so just merits a couple of shots this time.

I’ve featured many Scottish castles in beautiful locations – Newark Castle is rather different: it stands next to a shipyard. From here, we followed the Port Glasgow Heritage Walk, which might sound unlikely to those who know the area, but which was interesting enough to merit its own post at some (much) later date.

We gallivanted up to Dundee! I had a day on my own while John was at a meeting, then we stayed on for a couple of nights. Again, a full post will follow, but here’s a couple of tasters. I climbed Dundee Law where, as you can see, the weather was dreich. Outside the McManus Art Gallery, Oor Wullie was keeping warm in his Christmas jumper / sweater – but I bet he got wet!

Happy talk

The guided walk season ended in October, and what was supposed to be my last talk of the year, What about the women?, took place in Maryhill in November, billed as follows:

When Maryhill Burgh Halls opened in 1878, stained glass artist Stephen Adam was commissioned to produce twenty windows representing local trades of which eighteen showed men and only two showed women. Adam was representing what he saw at the time, but what about the women of Maryhill? What are their stories? This talk seeks to redress the balance of history by looking at how we commemorate women in Glasgow generally before telling some historic tales about Maryhill’s women – from factory worker to heiress, and everything in between.

Well – I thought that was going to be my last talk, until I was invited to do another one in December! And, gulp, it’s tonight! More about that next time.

Ghost Signs

We went to a really interesting talk at Glasgow City Heritage Trust on their current project to document as many of the city’s ghost signs as possible. What is a ghost sign? Well, my definition would be a faded old sign from times gone by, which has never been completely obliterated or which reappears when newer signs are removed. I was surprised to find how many Glasgow examples I had in my files.

This project’s remit is wider than that, and includes signs which are integral to the building. Some examples from my collection include the former Sorn Dairy, now a block of flats in Maryhill, with its name picked out in brickwork on the front (though still quite ghostly).

The former Tobacco Warehouse and the Children’s Hospital Dispensary (now part of the Art School) have solidly carved signs which I would probably not count as ghost signs at all, but they feature in the project because they advertise businesses or institutions which are no longer there.

Former tobacco warehouse, James Watt Street
Children’s Hospital Dispensary, West Graham Street

I definitely wouldn’t count the Jacobite Corsetry sign which could easily be removed, and remains by choice of the current owners. Not ghostly at all in my book! But definition disagreements apart, it was a fascinating talk and I now have something else to look out for on my walks around Glasgow.

Jacobite Corsetry, Virginia Street

The last bit

So many other things! Of course, there’s been a bit of political stuff going on – as if you hadn’t noticed. By Friday we should know the worst. In better news, we’ve had lots of family and friends stuff happening.

The main family news is the first baby of a new generation. Tommy was born in October, and Mum and I met him for the first time in November. He’s my cousin’s daughter’s son, which I think makes him my first cousin twice removed, but I’m prepared to be corrected. Here he is being held by his Great-Great Aunt (my mum) with his proud Great-Granny (my aunt) alongside.

As for friends, one of the most notable events was the visit to Glasgow of the lovely Becky of  The life of B. It was our second “real-life” meeting, the first being on her home turf of Winchester last year. She hadn’t been to Glasgow before, so I took her on a tour of the city centre.

Left to right above, a unicorn in the Cathedral, the dome of the Gallery of Modern Art which started life as an 18th century mansion house, and the Argyll Arcade, one of Europe’s oldest covered shopping arcades (1827) and Scotland’s first ever indoor shopping mall. We got wet, because it was – guess what? – dreich.

That’s twice I’ve mentioned dreich in connection with the weather! We had Book Week Scotland in November, which this year included a vote for the most iconic Scots word, and dreich was the winner. Originally meaning enduring or slow, tedious, over time these definitions gave way to dreary, hard to bear and from there to dull, gloomy. Dreich has been one of my Scottish words of the month before, as have many of the rest of the top ten: glaikit, scunnered, shoogle, wheesht, fankle, outwith, braw, beastie and bumfle. Maybe I’ll feature some in later months – in the meantime, if any intrigue you, you can ask me about them in the comments.

Finally, I’m never one to turn down a chance to rootle around in someone else’s library. Three of us from the Women’s Library visited the Goethe Institut and Alliance Française which share a 19th century terraced house in the Park District of Glasgow. Library staff were very welcoming (and served lovely cake and biscuits / cookies) and we came away with several ideas for future collaborations.

So that’s it for my November roundup, and I’m not anticipating posting again until December’s Glasgow Gallivanting. I hope we will meet elsewhere in the blogosphere before then, but if we don’t I wish you all the very best for the festive season. See you in the New Year!

Glasgow Gallivanting: October 2019

Rainbow over Nethy Bridge

Strictly speaking, the rainbow above should have been in last month’s Gallivanting post. It was taken on a visit to my cousin on the last weekend of September, by which time the post was written and scheduled. However, it’s too good to waste! That’s it again below, along with a much feebler effort from Argyle Street in Glasgow. We had a lot of rainbows in the early part of the month, but every time I whipped out my phone they instantly faded. I liked this shot though, becuase it shows I wasn’t the only one making the attempt.

Riverside Museum / Street art

Riverside Museum, home of Glasgow’s transport collection. The Rest and be Thankful is a pass at the top of a steep climb on the A83 through the Arrochar Alps

The Riverside Museum down by the Clyde is somewhere we pop into often, but our latest visit was briefer than normal. We were on a hunt for street art! The railway arches opposite the museum have recently been given a makeover with 27 graffiti artists contributing. The murals are quite hard to photograph because it’s difficult to get far enough back without throwing yourself into the traffic on the Clydeside Expressway, but John did his best. NB a wean is a child – short for wee one and pronounced wane.