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.

Timesquare – Glasgow Cross

Tollbooth Steeple at Glasgow Cross

I haven’t got my blogging act together at the moment, so I’m just dropping in with another quick post for Becky’s timesquare challenge. I love the way the clock face matches the sky in this picture of the steeple at Glasgow Cross. This does not, unfortunately, reflect the weather today …

The Cross was the heart of the medieval city, the meeting place of five roads: High Street, Gallowgate, London Road, the Saltmarket and Trongate. Those roads are all still there, but Glasgow’s centre has moved west over the centuries and the only true remnant of the Cross’s former glory is the Tolbooth Steeple. Today, this sits alone on a traffic island, but when it was built in the 1620s it was part of a more extensive building. The Tolbooth had several uses, including as the seat of the Council until 1814 and, less pleasantly, as a place of public execution (hence Gallowgate). The rest of the Tolbooth was demolished in 1921.

Glaswegians like to think of themselves as gallus which has a connection:

gallus (ga·luss). Dialect, chiefly Scot ~adj.
1. self-confident, daring, cheeky.
2. stylish, impressive (esp. Glasgow “He’s pure gallus, by the way”).
3. Orig. derogatory, meaning wild; a rascal; deserving to be hanged (from the gallows).

I’m sure most of us would prefer the middle definition!

Timesquare – the Blackstone chair

The Blackstone Chair (detail)

Becky at The Life of B has a new square picture challenge for December – #timesquare. Follow the link for guidance if you have a timely contribution. As for me, I don’t have time to take part every day (well, it’s already on Day 7) but I’ll pop in when I have a minute to spare.

Last night, we attended an evening event for Glasgow University staff in the Hunterian Museum. On the way out, I spotted the Blackstone Chair. (Forgive the fuzzy photos – the light was poor and I’d had prosecco.) Can you believe that until the mid-19th century, all examinations took place orally on this chair? Your time was up when the sand ran through. Click on the gallery below for a full explanation.