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 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!

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.

Glasgow Gallivanting: July 2017

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. In the meantime, here’s my protagonist, Nurse Watt, who caught my eye smiling in the centre of the picture above.

Happy birthday to me!

60th birthday in Jasper

My birthday is in July, and 2017 was a big one. 60! I can’t quite believe it. I celebrated on vacation in Canada, and here I am with some of my cards – from the three people who managed to send one in advance, and John who made me stand outside a shop in Canmore, Alberta, while he selected his.

Lake Louise

As I spent most of July in the Canadian Rockies, including Lake Louise as seen above, and I intend to blog much more about that later, it doesn’t leave a great deal of Glasgow Gallivanting to write about. So that’s it for this month – except to say that I hope you’ve had a great July too.

Glasgow Gallivanting: June 2017

Another fabulously busy month! My summer programme of guided walks continues (I’ve led, or co-led, four in June) with a couple of twists. The Women’s Library is reprinting its walk leaflets, so John and I went on a reconnaissance mission to the Necropolis to check the route directions and take some new photographs. Not relevant to a women’s history walk, but something we hadn’t noticed before, was this monument to William Wallace (of Braveheart fame). And I couldn’t resist including my favourite angel as the post header.

 

I also went on someone else’s walk! The Royal College of Nursing guided a walk from the medieval cathedral to the Clyde looking at public health through the ages. I learned, amongst other things, that some of the tenements I pass often were built by Glasgow’s City Improvement Trust in the late 19th century – an early form of social housing to replace squalid slums. From now on I’ll be looking upwards even more than I do normally to spot their banner.

 

Happy 75th Billy Connolly

Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly (or Sir William Connolly, CBE, to give him his full title) turns 75 this year. To celebrate, his home city has commissioned a set of three murals by Rachel Maclean, Jack Vettriano and John Byrne. As a result of my guided walks in the city I’ve now spotted all three.

 

As well as the murals and his knighthood, Billy recently received an honorary degree from Strathclyde University. I watched a clip of him in his robes, and he asked “I wonder if they know something I don’t? When you start getting the lifetime achievement awards……”, and his voice tailed off. I know his health isn’t good, but I hope he has many more years to come.

The Great Get Together

On 16th June 2016, during the EU Referendum campaign, Jo Cox MP was murdered by a fanatical white supremacist. One year later, thousands of events up and down the country took place under the banner of The Great Get Together to commemorate Jo and celebrate the phrase she used in her maiden speech to Parliament “We have more in common than that which divides us”. I attended an event at Glasgow Women’s Library at which the guest of honour was Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. I expected to encounter some extra security given recent terrorist attacks – but no. I walked into the library as usual, Nicola arrived, gave a moving speech, then moved round each table talking to everyone and posing for selfies as requested. Spot the fan girl!

 

I’m proud to live in a country where politicians can still do this, where we don’t react to terrorism by shutting them away from the people they were elected to represent, and I’m proud to have a First Minister who can speak so well on the platform and also come across as friendly and approachable in person.

South Rotunda

South Rotunda

Rotundas on either side of the River Clyde mark each end of the Harbour Tunnel, built in the 1890s and long since fallen into disuse. A year ago, I wrote a post about an urban walk along the river in which I lamented that, although the North Rotunda had been a restaurant for as long as I can remember, the South Rotunda was boarded up. I didn’t know that renovation was well under way and it is now home to the Malin Group which offers services to the marine industry. Recently, they held open days in aid of the Ethiopia Medical Project, a charity run by two Glasgow women to assist the Buccama Clinic in its work healing thousands of mothers suffering from uterine prolapse.

I was expecting a simple tour of the building. However, we were entertained by actors playing “Willie”, one of the workmen who built the tunnels, and the shell-suited “Steph” who worked at the South Rotunda during the 1988 Garden Festival when it served as Nardini’s Ice Cream Parlour. Great fun, tea and cakes at the end, and all in a very worthy cause.

 

Paisley buddies

 

Pride of Paisley was a public art trail of lion sculptures last year – one of them, “Superbia”, has now returned permanently. Wasn’t my mum clever to wear such a perfectly matching cardigan?

The last bit

I could tell you about theatres, art exhibitions and gardens visited, but this post is getting too long so let’s skip to the last bit in which I teach you a new Scottish word. Some politicians have told us that we are scunnered (annoyed) with voting. True, since 2014 in Scotland we have had two referendums, two general elections and elections for local councils – but am I scunnered? I am not. People fought and died for my right to vote and I always do so with a lump in my throat, especially at the latest election which was held on the anniversary of the death of Emily Wilding Davison (the suffragette who threw herself in front of the King’s horse at Epsom). But as for the result and events since – now that’s what I call a scunner!

And finally, a bit of nostalgia. Who could this romantic young couple be? No prizes! I’ve been scanning old (and sadly faded) pictures again. This is us on holiday in Germany in 1985.

 

So that was my June. How was yours?