Glasgow Gallivanting: June 2019

Monzie Castle

Despite a wet forecast earlier in the week, the first day of June, a Saturday, turned out to be a good one. We headed for Perthshire to two castles with lovely gardens. One is above, and the other – well, wait for the full post to follow soon!

Lambhill Stables

The second of June was less good so we settled for one of our local canal walks, eastwards this time to Lambhill Stables and Possil Loch. The Stables were built around 1830 when horses pulling barges were the main means of moving goods along the canal. Today they have been restored as a community facility with a café, heritage displays, and a garden. The Stables are closed on Sundays, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. We enjoyed a stroll round the Community Garden which has some interesting sculptures.

Possil Loch is a nature reserve which we walked round, but it’s very marshy and you don’t get close to the loch itself. The best view is actually from Lambhill’s garden. On previous visits, we had to peer through the hedge. This time, there was an official gap with an information board explaining the same view in Roman times. The route of the Antonine Wall, the Empire’s northernmost outpost, is very close.

On another, solo, walk I went to find the new statue of architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh which was unveiled last year. Well not find exactly, as I knew exactly where it was and had walked past it before but without time to stop. For those who know the Falkirk Kelpies, Andy Scott sculpted both them and this statue. It’s in a part of Glasgow called Finnieston which, as far as I know, has no specific connection to CRM, nor does the new housing development it fronts come anywhere near him for architectural flair. But for whatever reason it’s there, I like it – although I do wonder why his wife, Margaret MacDonald, could not be included. As Mackintosh said, she had genius whereas he had only talent. Yeah, I know I said that last week too but it can’t be repeated often enough in my opinion.

On the way home through Kelvingrove Park I stopped at Lord Kelvin’s statue, one I know well – but not with a traffic cone on his head! If you have been following me for a while, you might remember my Gallus Glasgow A-Z Challenge a few years ago. ‘W’ featured the permanently be-coned statue of the Duke of Wellington. ‘K’ was for Kelvin – the river and all things named after it, including physicist William Thomson, Lord Kelvin. It seems the cones are spreading!

Lord Kelvin joins the Traffic Cone Set

We have a new public art trail in Glasgow at the moment – in fact it’s nationwide, covering Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness as well. Oor Wullie is an iconic comic strip figure who has appeared in the Sunday Post since 1937 with his spiky hair, dungarees, and an upturned bucket, often used as a seat. Now 200 artists have given him a makeover in Oor Wullie’s Big Bucket Trail. In September, all the statues will be auctioned in aid of local children’s hospital charities.

So far, I have bagged quite a few Wullies and will no doubt find more before they disappear from our streets at the end of August. In fact, I spotted my first one before the trail even began. Late one night, we were waiting for a taxi outside Central Station and saw him being delivered. I met him again a few days later.

The Wullie in the collage below could almost serve as Scottish Word of the Month, but I’ve already written that bit! Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye (what’s meant for you won’t pass you by) is by Natasha Zelen Forrest.

And what was I saying before about the Duke of Wellington and his cone? Triple whammy below! Wellington, his horse Copenhagen, and Wullie all have cones.

In addition, there are over 300 Wee Wullies painted by local schoolchildren. I found these cheeky chappies in the Kibble Palace in the Botanic Gardens.

I’ll leave Wullie there for the moment, but he will no doubt appear in future months’ Gallivanting posts as I collect more. A more sombre piece of street sculpture appeared temporarily in St Enoch’s Square. Rubble Theatre by Syrian-German artist Manaf Halbounis recreated a scene from war-torn Syria where he lived as a child, and was part of Refugee Festival Scotland. Halbounis hoped to make people think about the issues around forced migration. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in conditions like this – I’m grateful I don’t have to.

Also part of Refugee Festival Scotland was the Refuweegee exhibition at Kelvingrove, a section of which is shown below. Refuweegee is a community charity which makes up welcome packs, including letters from the locals, for forcibly displaced people arriving in Glasgow. The name is a combination of refugee and Weegie, a shortened form of Glaswegian. I’m glad to know that my city is (mostly) welcoming to refugees.

Refuweegee could also be a Scottish Word of the Month, but here’s the one I prepared earlier. I don’t think I’ve ever discussed the meaning of Glasgow before. It’s thought to derive from the Gaelic Glaschu which, roughly, means green place – and that still describes it. We are the UK’s second greenest city with 32% green space, only beaten by (gulp) Edinburgh with 49%. The scenes below are both about 10 minute’s walk from my house in the west end of the city, the Botanic Gardens and the Forth and Clyde Canal respectively.

Finally on Glasgow, a word about pronunciation which visitors often get wrong. The ow in Glasgow rhymes with “oh” and not with the ow sound as in “ouch”. In Glaswegian it often comes out Glesga. So now you know!

And finally, finally – an unexpected meeting. The women’s history walk season is well under way, and on Saturday I was one of the guides on the Women’s Library Merchant City Walk. As you can see it was wet! We had the full gamut of weather from sunshine to thunderstorms, but that’s Glasgow for you.

It was a lovely surprise when one of the attendees turned out to be Natalie, pictured with me above, of Wednesday’s Child. Natalie is a Glaswegian but now lives in Manchester, so although we’ve chatted online we’ve never met in person before – next time, we’ll have to make it a proper scheduled meet-up when we can chat properly.

So who can believe we are now half way through the year? Here’s to July – may it bring you all you wish for including, if you live in the UK, summer. She has tantalised us with brief glimpses but doesn’t seem to want to stay.

Glasgow Gallivanting: May 2019

Islay, May 2019

We gallivanted off on two trips in May. We had a glorious week on the Hebridean island of Islay with lots of walking and whisky tasting (there are nine distilleries at the last count). We also spent a long weekend with friends in the beautiful Northumberland countryside near Allendale.

Walking near Allendale, May 2019

More on those two trips will follow in due course, which means this will be quite a short gallivanting post because we didn’t do much else to write about. We went to the annual Orchid Fair in the Botanic Gardens, though it seemed to me much smaller than normal and didn’t detain us long.

John bought a new car! I find the unveiling thing hilarious, I didn’t get that last year when I bought my humble little Clio. As you can see, he’s very pleased with it – even if its first outing was wet.

Forgive the terrible image below (scanned from an actual newspaper cutting, I couldn’t find it in The Herald‘s digital copy). Strictly speaking, this belongs to April when the event happened, but the photograph wasn’t published till May so here it is. I attended the Women of Scotland Lunch with my friends Sheana and Ann – they are the women with whom I’ve been promoting suffragette Jessie Stephen, Sheana being Jessie’s great-niece. I’m not sure I count as a prominent woman, as the cutting describes us – Sheana invited me, so I went! It was very enjoyable and raised a large amount of money for Mental Health Foundation Scotland.

Speaking of Jessie, I loved cataloguing this new book at Glasgow Women’s Library. Where are the women? by Sara Sheridan is a guide to an imagined Scotland where women are commemorated as prominently as men. Jessie’s in there!

Finally, many of my Scottish words of late have referred to Brexit and the political difficulties it has created. How about fankle for another one? It’s a muddle or tangle, and can also be used as a verb. It seems appropriate to me – but who’s going to unfankle it all? I wish I knew!

Happy June to you all.

Glasgow Gallivanting: April 2019

April is John’s birthday month! How do you buy gifts for someone you’ve known for almost four decades without repeating yourself? It’s impossible, so I now give “experiences” rather than objects. This year, on the day itself, we enjoyed a Chinese dinner in Opium, an “oriental fusion” restaurant in the city centre. The weekend before, I surprised John with tickets for a very special Glasgow tour.

Above right is Cam of Once Upon a Whisky. Now, if a young man in Glasgow tells me his name is Cam I would normally assume it was short for Cameron, or possibly Campbell. However, meet Camilo from Bogotá: formerly Colombian Ambassador for Glenfiddich, a well-known whisky brand, he came to Glasgow to do an MBA and never left. (Well, why would anyone IMHO?) Now he runs a variety of whisky tours and events – I chose the West End Whisky tour which consists of four drams in four bars and a lot of stories along the way. Despite living in the West End, and being reasonably knowledgeable about whisky, we learned a lot and had never actually been in two of the bars before so we can now add them to our repertoire. It was also fun chatting and comparing notes with the other two couples on the tour.

I highly recommend Cam’s tours – here’s a wee video of him in action.

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park

In April, the weather took a definite turn for the better, Easter Weekend being particularly beautiful. It was great to get out for more walks, some of which might eventually end up on here as complete posts. Queen Elizabeth Forest Park is one of our favourite places to go, but I’ve written about it before so I’ll just give you a quick gallery of our Easter Monday visit.

The Abbess of Crewe

It’s been a busy month at Glasgow Women’s Library, the highlight for me being The Abbess of Crewe. Since before Christmas, the Drama Queens group, of which I am a member, has been reading Muriel Spark’s 1974 novel, adapting it into a play and rehearsing for a dramatic reading (close your eyes and it should be like a radio play). This month, we presented it to an audience and they loved it, even laughing in all the right places! The dress code was black but with fabulous shoes. Now, after a foot injury some years ago, I don’t do fabulous shoes, but Marks and Spencer came up trumps with a pair of silver brogues which I’m sure I’ll never wear again, but at least I looked the part on the night.

Dippy on tour

Dippy, the Natural History Museum’s replica Diplodocus dinosaur skeleton, has been visiting Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. We caught him almost at the end of his trip. Can you spot the woman in the padded dinosaur costume in the third picture? I wouldn’t have liked to have her job!

We also viewed an exhibition of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and listened to part of the daily organ concert so, all in all, it was an excellent afternoon, and I haven’t even mentioned the lunch. Kelvingrove rarely disappoints.

Random Ramblings: West End Mews

There are days when I can only keep my step count up by going on a random walk around the neighbourhood or taking a large circular detour to my destination. This can get quite boring, so I’m grateful to Neil of Yeah, another blogger for his idea of setting mini-challenges, in his case Seeing Green: A Philadelphia Story. I’ve done this a few times now – here’s one where I set out to find as many mews properties as I could. Although our home is modern, it’s on the edge of an area of Victorian and Edwardian terraces and villas so there are plenty of lanes tucked away behind where the stables and carriage houses have been converted into attractive dwellings. Look out for more Random Ramblings as I warm to my theme!

Just because I like them

These don’t fit any particular theme, but here we have the Doulton Fountain on Glasgow Green, St Andrew’s in the Square, reflections on the canal, and the Suffrage Oak which is showing a pleasing amount of regrowth this Spring after the extensive storm damage it suffered two winters ago.

The last bit

You could catch something from this sandwich …

Spotted by John at a street-food stall, which I shan’t name and shame, this might make you smile. I think a heavier black marker is required to obliterate the unfortunate typo which originally appeared instead of herbs.

And finally to the Scottish word(s) of the month. One of the people we met on the whisky tour was from Portugal, and she was astonished at how little Glaswegians wore in what she considered quite cold weather. It’s true, the slightest hint of sun and the parks are covered in half-naked bodies (never mine, I hasten to add). This is known as taps aff weather (tops off) when people discard as many claes (clothes) as possible and prostrate themselves under the sun’s rays. Sometimes there are sights that you wish you could unsee …

That’s it for April’s (slightly late) roundup. Have a great May!

Glasgow Gallivanting: March 2019

One of the best things that happened in March was that Janet, an old friend from university days, visited for the weekend. We hadn’t met for over 30 years, but it could have been yesterday. Janet was one of my flat-mates the year that I met John – he lived in the flat above us as I’ve recounted before. Apart from lots of chatting and catching up, we braved the terrible weather to visit two museums.

Scotland Street School Museum

Scotland Street School was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh between 1903 and 1906 for the School Board of Glasgow. Now a museum, it tells the story of 100 years of education in Scotland, from the late 19th century to the late 20th century. Amongst other features, it has three reconstructed classrooms: Victorian, World War II, and 1950s/60s. The last one reminded me very much of my own school days. Spot the class dunce!

I loved the reasons some parents gave for their children to be excused gym when the idea of removing garments became common in the 1930s:

  • My Bertie has never worn underpants, so he is not to take off his trousers
  • Nobody is going to force Marjorie to take off her clothes in public
  • I object to Harry exposing himself

What would they think of the minuscule lycra outfits worn by athletes today?

New Lanark

The cotton mill village of New Lanark was founded in the 18th century and quickly became known for the enlightened management of social pioneer, Robert Owen. He provided decent homes, fair wages, free health care, a new education system for villagers and the first workplace nursery school in the world. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, New Lanark is both a living community and an award-winning museum. Although we go there quite often, it’s usually for a specific exhibition or to take a walk to the Falls of Clyde – our visit with Janet was the first time we’ve been in the museum part for some time, and we’ve certainly never accessed the lovely roof garden before (see above, and below for specific features).

One of the mills has a working loom and its products are sold in the Visitor Centre shop. The mill worker looks tired!

We toured Robert Owen’s own house which, although much larger than a mill-workers house, wasn’t spectacularly grand. It can be seen on the left, below, from the Roof Garden.

I bet the bathroom facilities were better than those for the workers though! Stairheid cludgies (shared indoor toilets) were only installed in the 1930s.

It was interesting to see the schoolroom after our visit to Scotland Street the day before. It’s much bigger than the classrooms there, but children of all ages would have been educated in the same space.

Finally, we popped into the current exhibition, the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry in which communities across the world document their Scottish connections. We saw this in Paisley a few years ago, but enjoyed a second look. A small flavour:

The Tenement House

We also meant to visit The Tenement House with Janet, but ran out of time, so John and I went ourselves the following weekend. 145 Buccleuch Street in Garnethill appears to be an ordinary red sandstone tenement building from the late 19th century, but inside lies a time capsule.

Shorthand typist Agnes Toward (1886-1975) moved in to one of the first floor flats with her mother, a dressmaker, in 1911 and lived here until her last ten years which she spent in hospital. After her death, it was found that she had made so few changes over the years that the early 20th century interior was intact. When the National Trust for Scotland acquired the property and opened it as a museum in the 1980s, the only major change they made was to replace the electric lighting Miss Toward had installed in the 1960s with more authentic gas. Just looking round these four rooms took me back to my childhood because it reminded me so much of my paternal grandparents’ home, particularly the black range and the bed recess in the kitchen.

Garnethill (the clue is in the name) is quite hilly, so as we left we stopped to admire the view towards Glasgow’s West End.

Thomas Coats Memorial Church

My sister was up visiting from London over the Mothers’ Day weekend. We had family meals on the Friday and Sunday, but on Saturday she and I were free to wander around Paisley where Mum lives. The highlight was a tour of Coats Memorial Church, formerly known as the “Baptist Cathedral” of Europe. It was commissioned by the family of Thomas Coats (1809-1883), one of the founders of Coats the thread-makers, and held its first service in 1894 and its last in August 2018 when the dwindling congregation could no longer sustain a building designed for 1000 worshippers. It’s now owned by a Trust which is raising money to turn it into a venue for concerts, weddings, conferences and so on. As part of the campaign, there are open days every Saturday from 12-4pm.

The interior was every bit as grand as the exterior, though it was the behind-the-scenes parts that I enjoyed most. The splendid Doulton toilet in the vestry was something to see!

The last bit

First a post-script to my Dundee posts, in one of which I expressed the hope that the new V&A wasn’t sucking in visitors from other museums in the city. Quite the reverse! I recently read a report that showed numbers at the Discovery were up 40.5% in 2018, at the McManus 31.2% and at Verdant Works 23.8%. The V&A itself recently hit 500,000 visitors six months earlier than targeted. We visited all of those, so I’m glad to have played my small part in putting Dundee more firmly on the tourist map.

I gave my talk on suffragette Jessie Stephen again, this time at a suffrage event in Govanhill. As part of the associated exhibition artist Ann Vance has created a portrait of Jessie, and two beautiful banners were also on display.

I read a lovely article about new Scottish words which have been included in the latest Oxford English Dictionary update: Fantoosh sitooteries and more. However, I’m saving that as a rich seam for future posts and sticking to the word I had originally chosen for this month. You might have noticed that our Brexit deadline sailed past last week and yet we’re still in the EU. “Stramash” is a noisy commotion or uproar, and seems to me to describe recent proceedings in parliament perfectly. Who knows what will have happened by April’s gallivanting post?

Have a great month!

Glasgow Gallivanting: February 2019

Window Wanderland, Strathbungo

Window Wanderland started in (I think) Bristol in 2015 and has now spread worldwide. It’s a scheme in which communities brighten up winter by transforming their streets into an outdoor gallery. We visited one for the first time in Strathbungo on the south side of Glasgow, and loved it. We came back with over 100 images of windows so you are getting off lightly with the selection below! I particularly liked the ones where the theme was continued over several storeys.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse (Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture) is always worth visiting, and currently has an exhibition about the life of Nelson Mandela (closes 3rd March, hurry along if you can). I don’t think I’ve ever come out of an exhibition snuffling quite so much. He was a unique human being.

Glasgow had a special relationship with Mandela. It was the first place in the UK to bestow Freedom of the City on him in 1981 (though for obvious reasons he wasn’t able to visit in person to receive the honour until 1993). In 1985 a year-long picket began outside apartheid South Africa’s consulate in St George’s Place, which was renamed Nelson Mandela Place in 1986. How it must have galled them to use that address! The Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation is currently raising money to erect a statue near where the consulate stood until it closed in 1992. Follow the link to find out more.

I also loved the Three Legged Stool exhibition by design workshop Still Life. There was a collection box for recycling plastic bottle tops and some examples of what they could be turned into – stools and trays. The impressive wall hanging is Care by Poppy Nash, which highlights the feelings of over 50 people about living close to someone with a long-term health condition or disability.

The last bit

Christmas 1984

Much of February has been spent catching up with old friends over coffee or lunch, mostly in Glasgow but also in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, where John and I met as students in 1979 (story here). John still has connections with the University of Sheffield and visits from time to time, but I hadn’t been back for about 25 years until this month. There will be posts on the wonderful weekend we had in due course. In the meantime, enjoy this photograph which one friend produced and which we’d never seen before: it look as though we didn’t even know it was being taken. I’m particularly impressed by our luxuriant hair, and the fact that John is wearing a Christmas hat in public without apparent coercion.

Finally, to my Scottish word of the month. In December I chose bùrach, Gaelic for complete mess – specifically referring to the ongoing Brexit bùrach. Well, guess what? As I write, the UK government is still footering about in a complete guddle. To footer: to bungle or botch. A guddle: a mess, muddle, confusion. By my next Gallivanting post we are meant to have left the EU. It’s anyone’s guess what will happen. Happy March …

Glasgow Gallivanting: January 2019

The Giant Lanterns of China

On the first Saturday of the New Year we headed over to Edinburgh armed with tickets for The Giant Lanterns of China at the Zoo (still on till mid-February). It was amazing! Three sections covered Chinese legends, Scottish myths and animal species, especially those threatened or extinct. It was good that even the information boards about the mythical creatures all had a section on conservation, eg The Monkey King board warned against the trade in exotic pets.

Chinese legends
Scottish myths
Animal species

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

We visit Kelvingrove regularly throughout the year. While another Glasgow Museum, the Burrell Collection, is closed for refurbishment Kelvingrove has a changing display of some of its treasures. The current exhibition is on medieval art which has some stunning stained glass panels.

However often we go, I always spot something new. How did I miss this, I wonder? It’s A big cat with a bit of writing underneath by John Knowles which has been in the collection since 1992. Bright and eye-catching though it is, it was the words (to which the information panel made no reference) that drew my attention: WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union) and 1913 Cat and Mouse Bill. This was the common name for the Bill which became the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health) Act, by which the government sought to deal with the problem of hunger striking suffragettes. It allowed the early release of prisoners who were so weakened that they were at risk of death.  They would be recalled to prison once their health was recovered, where the process would begin again, hence cat and mouse. Horrific!

Celtic Connections

I never have that feeling of January being a bleak month after Christmas. In Glasgow we have Celtic Connections, the brilliant winter music festival!

This year we went to six events with musicians from Scotland, Ireland, the US and Canada. The most moving was An Treas Suaile (The Third Wave) written and performed by Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis and fiddler Duncan Chisholm. It commemorated the Iolaire disaster which I wrote about in one of my Hebridean Hop posts. In the early hours of New Year’s Day 1919 the Iolaire, carrying 280 servicemen home to Lewis, sank just outside Stornoway harbour, almost certainly due to navigational errors. Overcrowding (the capacity was only about 100) and insufficient crew compounded the problems, with the result that 201 men were lost in a tragedy which reverberates in Lewis and Harris to this day. Fowlis and Chisholm created a multimedia event honouring both those who died and those who survived, many of whom performed heroic feats. I can’t say I “enjoyed” this exactly, but it was definitely a highlight.

No photographs of that concert, but below are Rhiannon Giddens, Karan Casey and Loudon Wainwright III. Can’t wait for next year!

Burns Night

January also has Burns Night in memory of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns. This year we celebrated at a local restaurant, The Bothy, with good food, good company from our friends John and Pat and good entertainment from The Caledonian Cowboy who piped, recited and made us all laugh. I learned that, when you take religious subjects out of the count, the three most popular people for statues are Christopher Columbus, Queen Victoria and Robert Burns.

The menu wasn’t wholly traditional – there was haggis but not in its plain haggis, neeps and tatties version – and I’m fairly sure Burns never ate a deep-fried Mars Bar. I can now say I have. The verdict? Not as sweet as expected but not something I plan to repeat either.

Glasgow Cathedral

It’s a while since I’ve been into the cathedral – the last time was for a funeral. This time I wanted to see a new exhibition, Scotland From The Sky, which features a series of aerial photographs from around the First World War onwards. We spent a long time in front of a shot of Glasgow in 1988, of which you can see a detail below. X marks roughly the site of our house which wouldn’t be built for another five years.

Whilst there, we also took time to look at features such as the stained glass and the crests on the ends of the pews. I picked out a few crests that meant something to us (clockwise from top left): Glasgow University (John’s employer), Glasgow Academy (his old school), the city council and Strathclyde University (my former employer).

Banton Loch and Colzium

The weather in January wasn’t great, but we did seize one sunny Sunday afternoon to stroll round Colzium Estate and Banton Loch. Once home to the Edmonstone family, Colzium House now belongs to the local council and its grounds are very popular with walkers. Banton Loch is actually a reservoir – it was built in 1773 to feed the new Forth and Clyde canal, flooding the site of the Battle of Kilsyth (1645). Apparently, bones and armoury are still being found in the fields to the north of the loch – although fortunately not by us!

The last bit

I wrote a different kind of guest post this month for my professional body, CILIPS, which is running a Meet our Members strand. I was invited to reflect on library life after retirement – you can read it here. I’ll let you into a little secret. I’d actually decided that, six years after I finished work, it was time to let my membership lapse. Then they asked me so nicely to write this post that I paid up again. Don’t tell CILIPS or they’ll be asking me to write something every year …

Finally, to my Scottish word of the month – in fact I’ll give you two. The word bothy has cropped up twice: once as the name of the restaurant where we had our Burns Supper, and then in the gallery above where you might have noticed the sign for Stoury Bothy. Many of you will know that a bothy is a hut, either basic accommodation for estate workers or a shelter in mountainous areas. “Basic” certainly doesn’t apply to the restaurant, but what about Stoury Bothy? Looking on Trip Advisor I find it is a very attractive holiday cottage, not basic and not stoury either – stour being a Scottish word for a cloud or mass of dust (pronounce stoor as opposed to the English place name which is pronounced to rhyme with flower. See also oose which has a similar meaning.)

In conclusion 1) if that were my cottage I would call it something else and 2) I do not mean to imply that you need lots of synonyms for dust. I’m sure you never have any.

Happy February!

Glasgow Gallivanting: December 2018

In December I gave my talk! As part of a Suffrage afternoon at the Mitchell Library I spoke about Jessie Stephen, the Glasgow Suffragette I have been researching this year. It was well received I’m glad to report, in fact the Chair described it as a barnstorm. The pictures show me giving it laldy (ie speaking with great gusto).

The Hunterian

We visited the Hunterian a couple of times, Glasgow University’s museum and art gallery. The first time was an evening event in the museum for university staff and their guests, which we enjoyed. Prosecco and canapés, what’s not to love?

Our second visit was across the road in the art gallery. The Hunterian is named after William Hunter (1718-1783) who started it all off by leaving his collections to the University, his alma mater, and the gallery has currently been cleared of its usual contents for an exhibition marking the tercentenary of his birth (closes this weekend, so hurry along). Hunter was an anatomist and physician (he delivered most of the children of  Queen Charlotte and George III) but also a collector of books, paintings and other artefacts so the exhibition was not just medical. Here are two portraits of Hunter, for example, one by his friend Allan Ramsay, and the other commissioned from Sir Joshua Reynolds after Hunter’s death.

Other than the exhibits themselves, there were two things I really liked. First, the booklet which replaced labels meaning you didn’t have to peer at the wall to find out what you were looking at and, second, the fact that we arrived just at the right time to join a tour by volunteer guide Finlay, a medical student, who added a lot to the experience.

My friend Jessica of Diverting Journeys has reviewed this exhibition concentrating largely on the anatomy exhibits, so head over there if you want to know more. I’ll restrict myself to the anatomy section I found most disturbing, the display of drawings and models contributing to Hunter’s 1774 Anatomy of the human gravid uterus. I’ve seen some of the models before – they are usually displayed vertically in the museum, but lying them on their backs as if in childbirth made them much more poignant. Who were these women? When and how did they and their unborn children die? If they had known that three centuries later we would be looking at their most intimate parts how would they feel? Troubling questions to which we’ll never know the answer.

It will, of course, not surprise you to know that I was fascinated by Hunter’s book collection. Most were difficult to photograph because of the glass cases, but here are a few examples. There were actually three copies of Newton’s Principia Mathematica on display, but I liked the one below best because it was published by the Royal Society in 1687 while Samuel Pepys, one of my historical heroes, was President and thus has his name on it.

Even better, I note that Hunter looked after his books carefully and created both a catalogue and a list of books lent. A man after my own heart!

Carmunnock

Carmunnock describes itself as “the only village in Glasgow” and had two attractions for us one cold Sunday afternoon: a heritage trail round its historic centre and an excellent restaurant, Mitchell’s, where we could warm up after our short walk. The restaurant originated in 1755 as Boghead farmhouse and steadings, and became the Boghead Inn in the late 19th or early 20th century when it was also the centre for public transport in the village. Quite a lot of history to contemplate while enjoying delicious food!

Sighthill Cemetery

One of John’s historical heroes now. Over the last year or so, we’ve made three visits to Sighthill Cemetery looking for a particular grave, each time armed with slightly more information. This month we found it! William John Macquorn Rankine was Professor of Civil Engineering and Mechanics at Glasgow University (where a building is named after him) from 1855 to his death in 1872, aged only 52. It’s not surprising we missed it the first twice as the gravestone has tumbled downhill and now stands on its head. 2020 is the bicentenary of Rankine’s birth, so hopefully something can be done about this before then.

I do like a wander around an old graveyard – here are some of the other things that caught my eye over our three visits. The Martyrs’ Monument commemorates two men, John Baird and Andrew Harding, who were executed after a radical uprising in 1820.

Eighteen other rebels were transported to Australia, including Benjamin Moir. His brother James, a tea merchant and Glasgow councillor, has a rather fine obelisk elsewhere in the cemetery. As mentioned on the inscription, on his death he left his books and £12,000 to the Mitchell Library where I gave my talk earlier in the month – in the Moir Room!

Some of the family gravestones are a sad testament to the scourge of infant mortality.

Some stones I just liked – particularly the tribute to the lady who worked for Henglers Circus for 45 years.

As we left on our most recent visit, the sun was setting. A graveyard at dusk? Not spooky at all!

The last bit

Al fresco art spotted this month includes this lovely house decorated with shells in Anstruther in Fife. And the gap site on Sauchiehall Street caused by a fire (not the Art School one – this one was earlier in the year) has been concealed by some adorable cats.

My Scottish word of the month is a Gaelic one. As I write, British politicians are still fighting like ferrets in a sack over what some of the Scottish media have started to refer to as the Brexit bùrach (boo-rach with a guttural Germanic ch sound). It means complete mess, enough said …

So I’ve almost got to the end of a post about December without mentioning Christmas and New Year! We had a lovely time at both with family and friends, as I hope you did too, and in between we visited Dunkeld for a few nights. That’s added to the list of posts I still have to write – my New Year’s Resolution is to get back to blogging regularly.

This is also the time that I look to see what have been the most popular posts written over the past year. I’m usually surprised – 2018’s top read by some way was A walk on Great Cumbrae in April, I’ve no idea why. I suspect WordPress gremlins!

Finally, my heartfelt thanks to you all for your friendship over the last year and a special mention for one who is absent. Rest in peace, Joy loves travel. You are missed.

Glasgow Gallivanting: November 2018

We didn’t intend to visit GlasGLOW, a Halloween event that ran in the Botanic Gardens for almost two weeks, but after passing by one night and seeing what we could from the road, we changed our minds. About the only tickets left were for 9 o’clock on a Monday night so, after dinner, we wrapped up warmly and strolled through the lights for an hour or so.

Kintyre and Dundee

We had two weekends away in November! Firstly, a couple of nights near Tarbert on the Kintyre peninsula, then three nights in Dundee, mainly to visit the new V&A Museum. Country life and city life: couldn’t have been more different. More on both to come in due course.

Blogger shout-outs

I met another blogger in real life, which I think brings my total to seven – I’ll be losing count soon. Jessica of Diverting Journeys and her partner, Marcus, visited Glasgow for a long weekend and we met up on the Sunday afternoon. We visited the viewing platform at the Lighthouse which, unusually, contained a piano and a mural reading: We should have it all. We certainly should!

Then we went in search of Billy Connolly murals before repairing to the Scotia, one of Glasgow’s oldest pubs. It was great to meet them!

There’s been much discussion lately amongst bloggers about comments, and how difficult it can be to make them sometimes. I’d been having terrible trouble – even clicking Like was problematic.  I don’t think WordPress is blameless but, because weird things happened with Blogger too, my chief suspect was a recent update to Apple’s Safari browser. I had no idea how to fix it though, and I’m therefore hugely grateful to Jemima Pett for publishing When Privacy stops you Blogging – Safari and Comments. I’ve made one simple change in my settings and everything is now (almost) hunky-dory. Whoopee! Thanks, Jemima.

A musical month

We found time for three gigs this month. Two big ones: King Crimson, because John likes them, and Seasick Steve because we both do. He was great! The support band, Prinz Grizzley and his Beargaroos, was awesome too.

But my favourite was maybe the small pub gig where my friend Lesley was part of both support (the Carlton Three) and main act (the Carlton Jug Band). Previously, I’d only heard her sing her own music in her own band, Kittlin, which is very Scottish, so I was surprised when this turned out to be another dose of Americana. I’m not complaining – and we got to eat pizza at the same time so it was a great night.

The last bit

I’ve been to two women’s history events this month, but Glasgow’s biggest women’s history event of the year (ha, ha) is still to come. Me! Gulp! On Tuesday 4th December there’s an afternoon of Suffrage talks at the Mitchell – and I’m one of the speakers. This explains the lack of posts recently – any writing time I’ve managed to find has been dedicated to my talk which is still, by the way, five minutes too long. I’m working on it – wish me luck!

Maybe after Tuesday I’ll get back to regular blogging, and finish off my Hebridean Hop. December should be a quiet month – shouldn’t it?

Glasgow Gallivanting: October 2018

Autumn is well and truly here – above is my favourite splash of colour in the Botanic Gardens, as it changed from September to October.

More autumn colour: on a dry, crisp Sunday we took a walk to the nearby town of Milngavie (pronounced Mulguy). The drive there would be completely urban – no gaps at all – but we can walk all the way from our house along the River Kelvin and Allander Water. This also doubles the distance from 4 miles to about 8! We got public transport back, needless to say.

Re the last two pictures above – what on earth is wrong with people, stealing memorial plaques? I despair.

October also means the end of the guided walk season, with my last one being in Garnethill, the first time the Women’s Library has run that walk since the Art School fire earlier in the year. We got as close as we could to the School, but had to change our route because there is still a cordon around it.

As one walker observed, even the scaffolding looks like a work of art, and the stop sign definitely is one.

The cultural highlight of the month was 306: Dusk, the final part in the National Theatre of Scotland’s trilogy of plays about the First World War. The title comes from the 306 soldiers who were shot for “cowardice”, or what would now be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder. Even at the time, officers such as the war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen were diagnosed with shell shock and treated (though both later went back to the front line where Owen died in November 1918). The class system was rigidly in place.

In 2016 part 1, 306: Dawn, told the stories of some of the condemned men. Last year part 2, 306: Day, gave voice to the women and families at home, many of whom were shamed into changing their names and leaving their communities. This year’s play tells three stories in a series of overlapping monologues: a school teacher of the present day, a veteran of the Iraq War and a soldier who turns out to be the last of the 306 to be shot, just days before the armistice. Only in the final scene do the characters interact and the connections between them become explicit. The name and date of death of each man is projected onto the backdrop, accompanied by a choir singing out the names.

As we reach the centenary of the end of the Great War, it’s important to remember all its aspects, including these men who have been more or less erased from history. In 2006, then defence secretary Des Browne, announced pardons for the 306, for what that’s worth. The presence of the Iraq War veteran, clearly suffering from PTSD, questions how much better society has become at dealing with traumatised soldiers. He wasn’t shot, but his life fell apart and in some ways his was the saddest story. Overall, the trilogy was thought-provoking and intensely moving.

The last bit

Exactly a year ago I found a new piece of street art by Pink Bear Rebel (Free WiFi, above). That wall has since been scrubbed clean, but this month I found a new one – a blind-folded Theresa May being led by a blind-folded British bulldog. A neat piece of political commentary, and top marks for the facial expression which is spot-on. The body looks all wrong to me though, too short and stout. I can’t remember who said that Mrs May always looks as if she has been illustrated by Quentin Blake but I heartily agree. His characters tend to be long and gangly: she might be in this picture, for example.

Time for Scottish word of the month! Over coffee with a couple of friends I observed of an organisation with which we are all involved that they “couldn’t run a minodge”. Blank looks – well they are both from Edinburgh, and I admit the phrase puzzled me when I first came to Glasgow. The word is derived from ménage, French for household, but has acquired various spellings according to local pronunciation. In the days before widespread credit, minodge took on the meaning of a self-help savings scheme whereby everyone made regular payments and took turns at getting the whole amount. So if you say someone “couldnae run a minodge” you are calling into account their competence. I put my alternative, couldn’t run a piss-up in a brewery, to my friends but they considered that vulgar. I did say they were from Edinburgh …

So November has arrived and we are hurtling towards the end of the year. The next Gallivant will probably be quite wintry. Have a great month.

Glasgow Gallivanting: September 2018

The Book Besoms

The photograph above was actually taken on 31st August and so, strictly speaking, should have been in August’s Gallivanting post. However I’d already published it by then so – my blog, my rules – here it is in September’s. Glasgow Women’s Library held a quiz night (dress code green, white and purple) with all the questions based on women’s achievements. Our team of library volunteers, The Book Besoms, didn’t win, but we weren’t last either. The librarian’s secret is not that she knows lots of stuff, but that she knows how to look it up – which, unaccountably, wasn’t allowed. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

An East End walk

St Mary’s, Calton

I had already been to a meeting in GWL that day and didn’t have time to go home and back so, given that the sun was shining, I decided to go for a walk and return for the quiz later. From the library’s home in Bridgeton, I headed along Abercrombie Street, passing the church above, before turning west along Gallowgate towards the city centre. In Graham Square are the remnants of the old Meat Market which I thought were an interesting example of façadery. Usually modern flats are built directly onto an old façade. This one sits out in front attached by struts. Bizarre!

I continued to High Street and its junction with my end destination: George Street, and the latest gable-end mural by Smug depicting an infant St Mungo (Glasgow’s patron saint) with his mother St Enoch. Opposite is a nice garden area with benches bearing the city’s motto, Let Glasgow Flourish.

Opposite that is another garden, Greyfriars, built on the site of a 15th century friary. It wasn’t open, but I could peer through the fence and admire the poetry and other plaques adorning it. The one in the gallery below is Glasgow’s coat of arms.

Walking back down High Street to Glasgow Cross, I then headed east again along London Road passing the corner of Charlotte Street, where number 52 is the last remaining of eight late-18th century villas, and another colourful gable-end.

From there, I cut through Glasgow Green, admiring my old friends the People’s Palace and the Doulton Fountain.

Almost back at the library – the two buildings below on Greenhead Street were both once schools. The white building was built as a private residence in 1846 before becoming a school for destitute boys, the Buchanan Institute, in 1859. The extension on the left with the scholarly boy was added in 1873. The red sandstone building educated girls between 1893 and 1936 as the Logan & Johnson School of Domestic Economy. If you zoom in on the sculpture underneath the middle chimney you will see that it is a beehive representing the industry of the girls within. Both buildings are now converted to flats.

Doors Open Day

Glasgow’s Doors Open Days go on for a whole week, but I only managed to take part on the Saturday – and that was mostly as a provider. I led a canal walk and a building tour at Maryhill Burgh Halls, then just had time to dash across the road to The Engine Works. As Clarkson’s, and later Craig and Buchanan, this was an engineering workshop right into the 21st century. It figures in one of the Halls’ stained glass windows showing the trades of Maryhill – you can see what is probably Mr Clarkson in the green coat bottom left in our sale of postcards and in a poster on the Engine Works’ walls.

As I’ve led people on walks along the canal, which runs behind the Works, I’ve watched restoration taking place and assumed it was to be more flats. But no, a young couple has bought it to turn into a combined office / events space. I was delighted to get a chance to see what progress they have made, and to find out that they are keeping the electrically powered crane designed by Sir Henry Royce of Rolls-Royce fame. It’s going to be an amazing space when it’s finished.

The nights are fair drawing in

We’ve passed the autumn equinox and the nights are fair drawing in, as we say in these parts. Time to think of booking tickets for indoor events! This month’s highlights were Garbage at the iconic Barrowland and a one-man play about Charles Rennie Mackintosh at the equally iconic Panopticon.

Women’s history

You might remember Jessie Stephen, the Suffragette I am promoting this year. Two developments this month: I discovered you could buy a Jessie mug as part of a set produced in Bristol, the city where she spent the latter part of her life.

Even more exciting – I knew that Jessie took part in the post-box protests in Glasgow in 1913 (Suffragettes dropped ink or acid into post-boxes to destroy the mail). I’d read that this was in Kirklee, near where I live, but hadn’t given it much thought until I was asked if I knew which post-box it might have been. I now have access to a copy of Jessie’s unpublished autobiography in which she details some of the houses she worked in as a domestic servant, and one of them is just across the road from the current Kirklee post-box. When I looked at this box more closely, I found the insignia was ERVII – Edward the Seventh who died in 1910. This is probably the very box that Jessie used!

I also attended a really interesting exhibition at my local library on women of the West End (of Glasgow) in the First World War. Institutions that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to shed light on this did so. For example, application forms from women to join the Arlington Baths Club showed they had moved into male occupations when the men were away fighting. The red costume is what they would have swum in – ugh! I’m surprised they managed to stay afloat.

The last bit

Back to St Mungo, aka St Kentigern, Glasgow’s patron saint. I’d read that a new statue of him was in place at City of Glasgow College’s City campus, and made a short detour to inspect it the other day. The campus has recently been rebuilt and its location, Cathedral Street, makes the addition particularly apt. It’s a very traditional statue, created by former stonemasonry student, Roddy McDowall.

Nearby on campus is another sculpture, Spirit of St Kentigern, which is very different in style. It represents the bird in one of Mungo’s four miracles (I think). Commissioned from Dundee art student Neil Livingstone as part of the pedestrianisation of much of the city centre, this stood on Buchanan Street from 1977 until 2000 when it was deemed no longer in keeping with the city’s image. It’s now been hauled out of storage and loaned to the College. It’s definitely dated, it says “1970s” very strongly to me, but I also think the new statue is rather too traditional to be entirely successful. What do others think?

Finally, to Scottish word of the month: remember The Book Besoms? A besom is a broom made of twigs tied round a stick, but in Scotland the word often refers to a woman with attitude – one might be called a cheeky wee besom, for example. That’s what we chose for our GWL quiz team name, but having checked the definition just now I see it originally referred to a woman of “loose character”. With the other connotations of broomsticks, and therefore witches, maybe I’ll make a different choice next time!

I hope you had a good September. Enjoy October!