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: 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.

Glasgow Gallivanting: March 2018

In like a lion, out like a lamb? March certainly lived up to the first part of that proverb: in fact snow has been a feature of most of it. There were plenty of snowmen/women about, but this year igloos seemed to be in fashion too. This one is in the Botanic Gardens.

Neptune’s Steps

When it wasn’t snowing, it was often raining. Neptune’s Steps is an annual swimming and climbing event which takes place on the flight of locks on the Forth and Clyde Canal at Maryhill. This year, I was determined to see some of it despite the cold, wet weather. The races went on all day but we only caught two, the last women’s heat and the first men’s semi-final, before retreating somewhere that served hot coffee.

I was quite pleased to capture the belly flop above on my phone – I didn’t realise till I looked at my photos later that I had pictured the same woman attempting the climbing wall towards the end. For her, it was the end: a few seconds later she dropped back into the water and admitted defeat.

The gallery below includes some of John’s pictures. When I looked at the results later, I realised he had a portrait of the eventual men’s winner. I bet that hot tub at the end was welcome!

Women’s history

Two follow ups to things I have written about before. Glasgow’s fourth statue to a named woman was unveiled on International Women’s Day (8th March). Mary Barbour organised rent strikes in World War One when rapacious landlords thought they could charge anything they liked while the men were away fighting. Her campaign resulted in a law being passed fixing rents at pre-war levels. My pals Beverly, Mary Alice and Louisina were well prepared for the event!

(I haven’t yet been back to take pictures of the statue without hundreds of people thronging around, but Kev over at Walking Talking has a few good ones.)

Last month, I mentioned Jessie Stephen, the Scottish Suffragette whose life and work I am celebrating throughout this anniversary year of the first women in the UK getting the vote. This month, I travelled to Edinburgh to meet Ann Henderson, who had also nominated Jessie for the Suffrage Pioneers project, and she introduced me to Sheana and Kirsteen, great-nieces of Jessie. Over lunch at Sheana’s house plans started to be made – watch this space, you have not heard the last of Jessie.

For US friends, here’s a great list I found in Forbes: A state-by-state guide to the top women’s history landmarks in America. Anyone been to any?

A wedding!

After 23 years together, our friends Jayne and Mark decided to get married. We were very honoured to be asked to be their witnesses and enjoyed the intimate ceremony at the City Chambers with just the four of us.

Afterwards, we all went to Port Appin for the weekend. Although familiar to Jayne and Mark, John and I had never been before. What a treat! Airds Hotel was perfect and the walks straight from the door were beautiful, particularly the one to Castle Stalker. We were blessed with beautiful blue skies, but don’t let that fool you – it was freezing, and it did snow the day we drove home.

Although I joked that this was the first time I’d ever been invited to the honeymoon as well as the wedding, in reality the happy couple flew off to Athens for the real honeymoon a few days later! What a great way to get married.

Aye Write!

Glasgow’s book festival, Aye, Write!, has been running this month. I went to four sessions and, well, I might have bought a few books. Oops!

Sunshine Blogger

Do you know Kim from Glover Gardens (“A multifaceted blog for multifaceted people”)? If not, pop over and have a look at her mixture of food, gardens and travel. Kim has nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award, for bloggers who inspire positivity and creativity in the blogging community. Many thanks, Kim! I don’t advertise myself as an award-free blog, but I don’t always have time to follow awards and challenges up and when I do I usually break the rules. This time, I hit upon the wheeze of answering Kim’s 11 questions one or two at a time over several monthly gallivants. Here’s the first two!

What advice would you give to your younger self? Assuming I could talk to the angst-ridden teenager (that’s everyone, right, not just me?) I would simply say “Don’t worry! Everything’s going to be great!”

What’s your favourite food memory, a meaningful meal that you will never forget, and why? What was so special about it? Well, at the moment Airds Hotel, mentioned above, is uppermost in my memory. Unlike many fancy hotels and restaurants, which usually only offer one vegetarian choice, often bland, I had a whole menu to choose from and everything I ate was delicious. In fact, everything everybody ate was declared  delicious and dinner was a real event on both nights. As you can see, Mark and John were most definitely relaxed afterwards.

The last bit

So if March came in like a lion, did it go out like a lamb? Well, not exactly. There was no snow, but it was certainly blowing a hoolie. On Good Friday (30th) we went for one of our favourite canal walks before climbing to a viewpoint above the old claypits at Hamiltonhill which now form a nature reserve. The whole West End was spread out before us. As we shivered, we agreed it was beautiful, and that we were thankful to be dry at least.

Easter Saturday was a little better – we took a ferry to the island of Great Cumbrae and had a lovely walk there, but that merits its own post later on.

Finally, for my Scottish Word of the Month I’ve chosen one I used in the comments on a previous post – remember the story of Miss Inglis and the dog? I suggested that Miss Inglis was a bit crabbit, i.e. grumpy or bad-tempered. I’ve been feeling a bit crabbit myself at all this March weather! Let’s hope April does better. Snow is forecast but has not yet appeared …

Glasgow Gallivanting: February 2018

Celtic Connections

Glasgow’s traditional music festival, Celtic Connections, runs from late January into February. As usual, we booked several gigs – Friday 1st February saw us at Òran Mór to see Kathryn Williams, a singer from the North of England. I first came across her many years ago in a documentary about Leonard Cohen in which she covered Hallelujah, and I’ve been a fan ever since. She didn’t sing that, but she closed with Bird on the Wire which brought a tear to my eye and sent me home happy (if that’s not contradictory).

Equally enjoyable was the support – not often I say that! The Brother Brothers, from Brooklyn via Illinois, had such delightful folk / bluegrass harmonies that I bought their CD on the spot. Charming young men too – real brothers, twins in fact, whose surname is Moss. I didn’t bother asking why they hadn’t called themselves Moss Bros, they’ve probably heard it before (might be a British only joke though).

What about the women?

“With” Jessie Stephen

I mentioned last month that I had two women’s history talks coming up in February – I’m pleased to report that they both went really well. The first one took place the day after the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, 1918, through which the first women in Britain got the vote, hence I’m proudly wearing my Suffragette rosette. Jessie Stephen, on the screen, is one of the women I feature – she’s one of the few working-class Scottish Suffragettes whose history we know. I recently nominated her for a scheme called Suffrage Pioneers and was delighted that she was accepted – now I just have to think of ways to celebrate her all year! As a start, I’ve guest-posted on The History Girls Frae Scotland where you can read more about Jessie if interested.

Another Suffrage Pioneer is Helen Crawfurd, and Glasgow Women’s Library currently has an exhibition, Our Red Aunt, by New Zealand artist Fiona Jack, Helen’s Great-grand-niece.

Some of the banners on the table read The world is ours, let us go in and possess it and What a debt we owe these women. Very true!

Mystical Gardens

Oo-err – strange goings on in the park! It’s part of an evening light show, Mystical Gardens, which we didn’t go to. These figures are scary enough for me …

A few days later (yesterday) the figures had gone and the slope they stood on was a winter wonderland.

A wintry Glasgow Botanic Gardens

And today, these are the views from my window.

Going nowhere!

Artist Textiles

Who do you think designed these silk squares? The first one is by Henry Moore, whom I usually associate with large sculptures, and the other is by Salvador Dali. They are from a wonderful exhibition we attended called Artist Textiles, so good that I think I’ll give it its own post later. I had no idea that at one time you could buy Picasso, for example, by the yard. Not only were the fabrics on display, but also dresses made from some of them. I loved it!

The last bit

It’s been a busy month, but not a very exciting one in terms of things to write about. As well as my talks, I’ve been up to my oxters in revisions and rewrites before the guided walk season begins.

What is an oxter, I hear you ask? It’s my Scottish word of the month, of course! 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!

I hope you’ve all had a good February too. Onwards to Spring at last!