Glasgow Gallivanting: February 2020

Glasgow Cathedral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Coats Observatory and Paisley Philosophical Institution:

The Peter Brough District Nursing Home, now private accommodation:

Old weavers’ cottages:

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

A selection of statues:

The recently refurbished Russell Institute:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glasgow Gallivanting: June 2018

Miners’ Cottages, Wanlockhead

Wanlockhead is the highest village in Scotland. We took a detour to visit its Lead Mining Museum on our way back from our Lake District holiday at the beginning of June. It’s a lovely place! We started in the café (of course), then toured the mine and the row of cottages above. Each one was furnished in a different period – 1750, 1850 and 1910 (shown below).

Best of all – it has a library! Wanlockhead Miners’ Library was established in 1756 and is the second-oldest subscription library in Europe. And where is the oldest? Leadhills Miners’ Library, just a few miles up the road, which dates from 1741. We had hoped to visit it too, but spent so long at Wanlockhead that we didn’t have time.

Joining the Library was a privilege, and potential new members were subjected to a rigorous interrogation by the Librarian before being admitted – you can see this happening in one of the pictures above. Unusually for the time, women were allowed to subscribe: in 1784 it is recorded that there were 32 male members and 1 female, Isabella Rutherford. However, according to our guide, only one membership per household was allowed so Isabella lost hers when her nephew came of age. Boo!

The other model represents the book checker (there might have been a more technical term, I can’t remember). Each returned book was checked page by page for damage – and the checker also had the power to visit a member’s home to search for missing books. Hmm – I could have done with that power in my working days 😉

Jessie Stephen

If you’ve been following for a while, you might remember that I’m part of a group promoting a Scottish Suffragette, Jessie Stephen, in this centenary year for women’s suffrage. June was a good month – three events!

On Sunday 10th of June, thousands of women in the four capitals of the UK (Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London) took part in Processions 2018. Although we walked about two miles, this was not a march or demonstration – it was an artwork. Women were issued with scarves in one of the suffragette colours (green for hope, white for purity and purple for loyalty and dignity) so from above we looked like one long suffragette ribbon. In theory, anyway! We took our Jessie Stephen banner, made by her great-niece Sheana (in the large black hat), who was interviewed live by the BBC.  Ours was the only double-sided banner I saw: it said Votes for Women on the back. Sheana is a stickler for detail!

I thought I had broken my jinx on walks – last year, I seemed to get soaked every time I acted as a tour guide. This year, I’ve done two walks for the Women’s Library, both in bright sunshine, and Processions was also a lovely day. My luck ran out the following weekend when my Maryhill Women’s History walk attracted the rain back. Despite that, all 15 participants turned up and stayed to the end. Jessie features in it too – here, I’m passing her picture around. (Though since I drafted this, I’ve done another Women’s Library Walk – yesterday, 1st July, which was scorching.)

The final event was part of another strand in the suffrage celebrations, EqualiTeas. A tea party was held in the Bowling Club near Sheana’s home and, once again, Jessie was celebrated – this time, with suitably decorated cake. Yum!

Museum of the Moon and other gallivants

It’s been a sad month for Charles Rennie Mackintosh fans, so here’s some more cheerful stuff. During the recent West End Festival, the Mackintosh Church at Queen’s Cross (the only one he designed which was actually built, and now home of the CRM Society) hosted an installation called Museum of the Moon. Created by artist Luke Jerram, this 1:500,000 scale model features detailed NASA imagery of the moon’s surface. You could walk under it through the body of the church, and view it from different angles from two balconies. It was also a good chance to get close to some of the Mackintosh details in the church and see an exhibition of his chairs.

As I walked into town afterwards, I noted that the local housing reflected the Mackintosh Style with its squares and angles.

And this was my next destination, the new Mackintosh mural on a gable end above the Clutha Bar. Created by street artist Rogue One, it was given to the city by a local Radisson Hotel to mark CRM’s 150th birthday – and unveiled hours before the fire at his masterpiece, Glasgow School of Art.

Reluctant to end my gallivanting just yet, I hopped on the Subway to Govan because I still hadn’t viewed the Mary Barbour statue without the hundreds of people surrounding it at its opening (as described in March’s Gallivanting post). On my way to the café across the road, I stopped to admire the cast iron Aitken Memorial Fountain and spotted a sign for the Govan Ferry so, on the spur of the moment, I crossed the river and had my coffee in the Riverside Museum instead.

After that, I caught the Subway from Partick Station, home of the GI Bride. Not very bonny, is she?

And because the information board mentions Lobey Dosser, and my dedication to your education about Glasgow knows no bounds, a few days later I trekked down to Woodlands to capture him for you. He is even less bonny. Spot the inadvertent selfie in the plaque here!

The last bit

Just because it made me smile!

My Scottish word of the month is not one I have ever used, but it illustrates a strange coincidence. My mum asked me one day if I knew the word skail. I didn’t, but the very next day it turned up on Anu Garg’s Word A Day site! It means to scatter or disperse, is of Scottish or Scandinavian origin, and dates from 1300. So that’s a new one for me to learn too.

Finally, I’m still working my way through Kim’s questions for the Sunshine Blogger Award. The next two are “What’s your favorite book?” and “What skill have you always wanted to master, but haven’t yet started on?”

Favourite book? Oh dear, where to start? I suppose the books I have read and reread more than any others are those by Jane Austen. I love her feisty heroines and acerbic style. Forced to choose just one, I would go for Emma with Pride and Prejudice a close second. Emma is just so spectacularly wrong about everything, and Mr Knightly waits so patiently for her to come to her senses. To me, he seems far better husband material than P&P’s Mr Darcy who, despite being softened by Lizzie, will, I suspect, always be rather haughty. I also suspect there is more than a hint of truth in Lizzie’s joke that she fell in love with him when she saw his large estate at Pemberley! Despite all that, I have never been swept away by any of the men playing Mr Knightly, but I certainly succumbed, with half the women in the country, to Darcymania during the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of P&P. The words “Colin Firth” and “wet shirt” can still induce a swoon.

As for skills, well the only way I can see myself mastering any new ones now is by the magic wand method – and that won’t happen any time soon!

Happy July everyone.

Doors Open in Govan

Last weekend saw Glasgow’s Doors Open Day and we headed for Govan which is on the south bank of the Clyde. It was a lovely sunny day, so the views back across to the north were glorious.

First, we visited the Govan Stones in Govan Old Church. This is a collection of sculpture from the 9th-11th centuries which were carved to commemorate the power of the Kings of Strathclyde. The hogback stones are Viking and the sarcophagus is the only one of its kind carved from solid stone from northern Britain. However, my favourite is top right in the gallery, the Jordanhill Cross, so-called because it was presented to James Smith of Jordanhill in recognition of his contribution to the design of the new church in Govan in 1856. James Smith’s estate was the site of the library I used to work in – however, the cross had been returned to Govan in 1928 which, I must assure you, long predates my service there!

The exteriors of the next two buildings featured in a previous post (Elder Park and Govan) and I was looking forward to seeing their interiors. The Fairfield Shipyard Offices were designed by John Keppie of Honeyman and Keppie, the firm of which Charles Rennie Mackintosh later became a partner, and have recently been turned into workspaces, with a small heritage centre about the shipyards. I thought it would be a lovely place to work and will definitely go back at a quieter time to look at the exhibitions again – it was just too busy to appreciate properly.

Finally, the Pearce Institute has served the community of Govan for more than a century. It has several large halls for events and also houses offices of charitable organisations. Although it could do with some upgrading in parts, its magnificence was still evident.

Doors Open Day is a wonderful idea, and I discover something new about Glasgow every year.

Elder Park and Govan

Like many major cities, Glasgow has grown by incorporating surrounding towns and villages. Govan was a separate burgh until 1912 – it once had a population of 60,000 when shipbuilding on the Clyde was at its height. Now it is more like 16,000, and is a sadly rundown district of decaying historic buildings and boarded up shops. In the 19th century it was dominated by the Elder family – they lived across the river in Glasgow, but John Elder (1824-1869) was boss of the Fairfield Shipyard in Govan employing 4,000 men. He was known for good worker relations and, after his untimely death, his widow Isabella (1828-1905) carried on his good works. In Govan itself, she provided a park, a library and a hospital and in Glasgow she contributed to the University, including providing a property for the fledgling Queen Margaret College for the education of women. Today’s millionaires, including the shower in the UK cabinet, could learn a lot from such Victorian philanthropists.

Govan is only a few stops on the Subway from us, so yesterday we went over to have a look at Isabella’s legacy. On the way to Elder Park, we passed the Aitken Memorial Fountain, the Pearce Institute and the old Fairfield Shipyard itself.

Although funded by Isabella, Elder Park Library was opened by Andrew Carnegie in 1903 – he later funded several others in Glasgow himself. We could only visit the outside as it was closed for the Easter Weekend.

Elder Park has statues to both John (erected 1888) and Isabella (erected 1906).

Other features of the park include two memorials to shipping disasters, the K13 submarine which sank during trials on the Gareloch in 1917 and the SS Daphne which capsized during her launch in 1883; “The Launch” by George Wylie, a sculpture of the bow of a ship complete with champagne bottle; and the portico of the former mansion-house of the Linthouse Estate.

We used Glasgow City Council’s Elder Park Heritage Trail – if visiting Glasgow, check out the council’s excellent page of this and similar trails. They are usually well illustrated and packed full of historical information – highly recommended.