Glasgow Gallivanting: September 2020

Craigmaddie Muir, Auld Wives’ Lifts and the Campsies

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

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

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

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

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

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

We saw more pretty countryside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dunning and Maggie Wall

St Serf’s Church, Dunning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

#WomenMakeHistory

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

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

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

Glasgow Gallivanting: July/August 2019

Loch Long from Eilean Donan Apartments

There was no Gallivanting post in July because we were too busy gallivanting away from home. We stayed in three different places, and just look at the views we had! First, we travelled up the west coast to Dornie and spent a week in a beautiful apartment on the banks of Loch Long (see above).

On our way home, we stopped for a couple of nights at the Isles of Glencoe hotel. I think the view from our window here was even better (see below).

Loch Leven from Isles of Glencoe Hotel

After a few days at home catching up with friends and family we were off again, this time to the east coast just this side of the English border. When I saw the view below online it sold me the cottage we rented in Lower Burnmouth. This is our bedroom window – I admit when we got there I was disappointed to find that high tide that week would always be during the night while we slept and mid-afternoon when we were out. The view at low tide was much less picturesque because there is no sandy beach. However, towards the end of our stay we made sure we were home early enough one day to catch the tide, and watched mesmerised as it receded. Expect many, many more pictures when I finally get round to writing this up …

The North Sea from the Old Lobster House

When we weren’t away gallivanting, we managed to get a few walks in from home. I’ve posted about the Greenock Cut walk before (in April 2016) and nothing much has changed, except there wasn’t a cruise liner in port at Greenock last time.

We’ve also done the walk to Callander Crags and Bracklinn Falls before. However, that was pre-blogging which allows me to do a then-and-now gallery. Here’s 2008:

Followed by 2019 – I don’t seem to have taken any pictures of John, how remiss of me! The cairn is to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 with a small plaque added (and later defaced) for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

A new-to-us walk was Eglinton Country Park. The park has a really interesting history and I might do a full post on that later, so just a couple of photos for now.

In June I wrote about the Oor Wullie art trail, which has taken over several Scottish cities this summer, and posted a few of the Wullies I had snapped. I have many, many more but some people found them ugly or scary so I’ll only add one, Wonder Wullie. I’ve met several other weird figures over the past couple of months though! Joining Wullie below are a cow met outside a pub in Dalwhinnie; Nutkin, from another art trail in the Highlands; the Clyde Mascot from the Commonwealth Games in 2014; Elvis, who has not left the building; and Glasgow University’s Lion and Unicorn which I’ve featured before, but not with their new lick of gold paint.

Clyde and Elvis can be found in Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery which we visited in August to see the excellent Linda McCartney Retrospective (on till January). No photography was allowed in the exhibition but, as always, we came away with a new set of shots. The organ in the Centre Hall is extremely photogenic.

So are the Floating Heads (by Sophie Cave) which grace the East Court, and the Spitfire which flies over the West.

However, I can’t believe I have never properly looked beyond these to the stained glass windows at the end of each gallery. They are quite different, but both stunning (though I prefer the blue bird).

Some new murals by Art Pistol have appeared along the Forth and Clyde Canal at Firhill. Inspired by Mackintosh, one is based on his well-known work Roses and the other on the lesser known Sailing Ships. They’re under a bridge so hard to capture, but I tried. Again, I think I prefer the blue one.

Glasgow Women’s Library welcomed some Kenyan visitors recently. As part of a British Council funded programme the Library has partnered with a group called Book Bunk in Nairobi. Founded by Wanjiru Koinange and Angela Wachuka, Book Bunk aims to transform three public libraries in Nairobi, from throwbacks to a colonial era which excluded Africans, into inclusive spaces with heritage, public art and shared experiences at their core. Read the GWL blogpost about Wanjiru and Wachuka’s visit, watch the Book Bunk video and weep – and if your finger strays towards the Donate Now button, so much the better. Wanjiru, on the left of the picture, is also an author and read some extracts from her debut novel, The havoc of choice, which follows one family during the 2007 Kenyan election and its violent aftermath. It’s not out till next week, but I’ve pre-ordered a copy and can’t wait for it to arrive.

Finally, to two fabulously floral events! My friend Irene held a garden party at which she raised over £1500 for Pancreatic Cancer UK. Cheers Irene! We had a great time.

September sees the heritage festival Doors Open swing into action throughout Scotland. Glasgow’s turn isn’t for another few weeks, but in this 30th anniversary year a celebration was held last weekend in the city’s Govanhill Baths. Blooms with a View filled the old Ladies’ Pool with flowers and acted as a base for various events. We had booked tickets for a talk on Saturday which was unfortunately cancelled, but decided to turn up anyway because we wanted to see the Baths. Here’s the Ladies’ Pool in its “glad rags”.

You might have noticed that underneath the flowers the pool is rather the worse for wear. Originally opened in 1917, the baths survived until 2001 when the city council decided to shut them down. Local residents were outraged and staged a 147 day occupation which saved the building from demolition. The campaign became a charitable trust and has so far raised about £7m towards refurbishment. Officially, the baths are closed again in preparation for work to start, so we were glad to get this opportunity to visit. We also sneaked a peek at the other two pools – the learners’ pool, which looked rather gross, and the main pool which looked rather better!

No Scottish words this month, I’m running out of time. Happy September!

Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi: Self Portrait as St Catherine of Alexandria

Artemisia Gentileschi, the most celebrated female painter of the 17th century, was born in Rome in 1593. Her date of death is unknown, but it must be after 1654 when she is recorded as living in Naples. Self Portrait as St Catherine of Alexandria (c 1615-17) has recently been acquired by the National Gallery in London, restored, and sent out on tour to unusual and unexpected destinations including a library, a school, and a health centre. The painting’s first stop is Glasgow Women’s Library where it is on display until 19th March, so hurry along if you are in the area.

Who was St Catherine of Alexandria? In the 4th century she was sentenced to death for her Christian beliefs and tied to a wheel studded with iron spikes. Although she was miraculously freed by angels, she could not escape a martyr’s death and was later beheaded. In Artemisia’s portrait she leans on the broken wheel with her left hand while her right hand holds a martyr’s palm. I spent an hour in the same room as Catherine / Artemisia and continually returned to that beautiful, clear gaze.

You can read more on the National Gallery’s site:

I wonder if Artemisia would approve of being added to a blogging challenge? If it gets more people looking at her wonderful painting, maybe she would. I’m linking to Becky’s Spiky Squares.

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 Abercromby 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!

Glasgow Gallivanting: April 2018

Provan Hall, Auchinlea Park

Well, April was certainly a better month weather-wise than March – we even had some sunshine, as proven by the picture above! But not every day, and the sweltering 29°C experienced in London did not make its way this far north. I think there has only been one day that could truly be described as taps aff.

Happy birthday, John!

April is John’s birthday month. You might remember that last month he celebrated our wedding anniversary by flying off to China. Well, he almost missed his birthday celebrations too. He came home for 9 days, went back to China for less than a week, and returned to Glasgow two days before his birthday. Phew! My gift to him was a visit to a local distillery where he chose a bottle of label-your-own Islay.

Places we’ve been

As well as the distillery, we’ve visited the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel – all to feature in later posts. We’ve had quite an arty month with concerts, galleries and a ballet. Seen in the second collage below: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum with added dragons for Glasgow International (contemporary art festival) which is taking place at the moment; looking up through the spiral staircase in the Theatre Royal; a yarn-bombed bench in the Botanic Gardens; and a screening of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

I’ve recently been very engaged with Miss Brodie, the 1930s Edinburgh school teacher from Muriel Spark’s 1961 novel. I attend a group called Drama Queens at the Women’s Library, where we spent a few meetings reading the play aloud, and then watched the film starring Maggie Smith. It was wonderful to see the reaction of a younger Drama Queen, who only knows her as the elderly Dowager in Downton, to Smith’s electrifying performance as a woman in her prime. She steals every scene.

The play and the film are both written by Jay Presson Allen, in 1966 and 1969 respectively, and differ considerably from the book, which I have since re-read. I was amazed how my memory had played tricks on me in confusing them! Normally, I prefer the book to the film, but this time? Not sure. Anyone else got any opinions?

Little things that made me smile

Spring flowers at last! But someone has subverted the city’s marketing slogan (People Make Glasgow, seen here above the unlovely Clyde Tunnel) on the current crop of hire-bikes. Puddles Make Glasgow indeed! That’s still true, despite the more Spring-like weather.

The Women’s Library has a new flag and banner, and the Suffrage Oak has a new ribbon to celebrate 100 years since it was planted in April 1918. I had hoped to spot some new growth since the beating it took in Storm Ophelia last year, but no luck yet.

A to Z Challenge

I’ve taken part in two A to Z Challenges myself, so I know how difficult it can be. Congratulations to all the bloggers I follow, listed below, who have completed the challenge this year. See a name you don’t recognise? Click on the link – they are all awesome!

I hope I haven’t missed anyone – and, as I’m writing and scheduling this a few days in advance, I hope that none of you fell at the last hurdle!

Sunshine Blogger

Last month, I started working my way through the Sunshine Blogger Award questions as set by Kim of Glover Gardens. Here’s another couple!

If you’ve experienced a time when everything stood still for a moment, and you realized in that split second that you would remember this event for your whole life, what was that time? I don’t think I have any split-second moments like that, but there are obviously important days that I know I will always remember: happy ones, such as the day we got married, and sad ones, such as the day my dad died. And like everyone else, I have those “I’ll always remember where I was when I heard …” moments. You can date a person that way: I can’t remember JFK being assassinated, though John, who is a year older, remembers his mother sending him out into the garden to tell his father. The first news story I remember clearly is the Aberfan Disaster in 1966, when a colliery spoil heap slid down a mountain in South Wales and engulfed the village school. It probably made a big impression because I could relate to it: the children who died were of a similar age to me and I was old enough to imagine myself in their place.

Where do you want to travel next, and why? This is an easy one! I look into my crystal ball and I see three trips in my near future. The first is to the south coast of England. Why? John is visiting a university and I’m going along for a short break. I lived in this area very briefly when I was young, and it’s also near the home of a blogging friend who I’m going to meet. Gold star to anyone who can guess where and who – though obviously if you are the blogger in question you will NOT get a gold star for answering.

The last bit

Lots of Scottish Words for you this month! Did you spot the expression taps aff in my opening paragraph? It’s said that a Glasgow weather gauge has two settings: taps aff when all and sundry (well, not me) take off their tops and expose their peely-wally (pale) bodies to the sun, and taps oan when everything (thankfully) gets covered up again. Here is a handy guide – and if you live elsewhere in the U.K. you can try it for your own town.

In February, my Scottish Word of the Month was oxter and I said:

It means armpit. It’s also possible to be oxtered up the road by your pals, maybe when a little the worse for wear. That has never happened to me, I can assure you, but it does make me think that some day I should run through all the Scottish words I can think of for drunk. That would certainly add colour to your vocabulary!

So, given I’ve been talking about whisky, now seems an appropriate time and here they are – all the Scottish words for drunk that I can find, having assiduously checked a variety of Scottish vocabulary sites on your behalf. I admit to being not 100% convinced about some of them, and Scottish readers might wish to take issue with me in the comments – or make some more suggestions. Feel free!

aff his/her heid, bevvied, blootered, buckled, fleein’, foo/fou/fu’, guttered, iled up, jaked, malkied, maroculous, mortal, paralytic, pished, puggled, rat-arsed, scuppered, steamin’, stoatin’, stocious/stoshious.

So I hope you’ve all enjoyed April, and here’s to a good May. Just watch you don’t get maroculous …

The Zombie Ward

I seem to have had no time for blogging recently – so here’s one I prepared earlier. In my July Gallivanting post I said:

Over the last few months, I’ve been taking part in a project at Glasgow Women’s Library to research the women associated with the Belvidere Fever Hospital in the East End of Glasgow around the time of the First World War. There isn’t much detail in the records, so the idea was to use our imaginations to create a series of dramatic monologues around our chosen women. On the 4th of July, this came to fruition with a performance and a book, both called Voices from the Belvidere, bringing to life fascinating stories of laundry maids who ran away, nurses who caught fever after fever, and the rare women doctors who followed their calling against all odds. My contribution was called The Zombie Ward: some day, with more time, I might tell you its story. 

Now is the time! Here’s my introduction and monologue as it appears in the book.

Introduction

At the first meeting of the Belvidere group, my eye was drawn to a picture from the Alice Bauchop collection showing a group of nurses and a young male doctor on a set of ward steps. In particular, I liked the woman in the middle with her arms crossed nonchalantly and a friendly smile on her face, so I was really lucky to find her again in a photograph in the Mitchell Library. Even better: her name, the name of the ward, which disease it treated and the year were all identified. After that it was just a case of using a little imagination – and Wikipedia! I was worried that the term zombie might be an anachronism, but it was first recorded in 1819 and films featuring zombies have been a part of cinema since the 1930s. The former Nurse Watt is talking to her grandson sometime in the 1960s.

The Zombie Ward

Och, Jimmy! You’re not watching zombie films again, are you? I hate that kind of film. Why? They remind me too much of my worst days at the Belvidere. Look, this is me here – your Granny was Nurse Watt in those days. I was an innocent young lassie, just up from Kilcreggan. I’d never even been to Glasgow before, so it was a big shock – so busy! But I loved my work, most of the time. I’d always wanted to be a nurse.

We look happy here, don’t we? That must have been, oh, 1923 I think. Sour-faced Dr Smith left in 1922 and we had the new young doctor. We all liked him. He was much more easy-going. And handsome! Look at his lovely hair. And if it had been 1924, I don’t think we’d have looked so cheerful. If I remember right, that was our worst year ever on Ward 14W.

Encephalitis Lethargica – that was the fancy name for what we treated. Sleepy sickness for short. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Sleepy; lethargic. But it attacks the brain and some of the patients were left like statues. Couldn’t speak. Couldn’t move. It was an epidemic for about 10 years – they say 5 million people round the world got it, and a third of them died. In one year we had more than 150 patients. Men. Women. Bairns. 15 died – one of them a little baby, not even a year old. That one nearly finished me.

Mind you, maybe the dead were lucky. Some of the ones that lived were never really alive afterwards. Conscious maybe, but not awake. Like ghosts. Or zombies. No, Jimmy, I can never watch films with zombies.