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!

Artist Textiles at New Lanark

Horrockses Fashions c1949

Horrockses Fashions epitomised the traditional cotton summer frock in the 1940s and 50s. They were considered affordable, but were also worn by celebrities including the Queen, Princess Margaret and Margot Fonteyn, and the fabric was often designed by well-known artists. The dress on the left uses fabric by Alastair Morton and the other two are by Graham Sutherland.

Aztec by Patrick Heron 1946

The dresses and fabrics in this post are part of the exhibition Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol which began life at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London in 2014. Since then, it has been to the Netherlands, the USA and Canada, and now it has arrived in Scotland where you can see it at New Lanark until 29th April. Follow the link for details – I highly recommend it. Three things amazed me – how many of the artists I had never associated with textiles, how different their designs were to their other work, and how many of the garments could be worn today without looking out of place. See what you think!

Henry Moore

Salvador Dalí

Pablo Picasso

Joan Miró

Andy Warhol

A final selection

As with all the images, clicking to enlarge will reveal artist, title and date.

Do you have a favourite? Let me know in the comments. I would love to have that very first dress by Alastair Morton – and the waistline to carry it off!

Lanark and the Mouse Water

New Lanark
New Lanark

This time last year, I wrote about New Lanark and the Falls of Clyde. The other Sunday we were back in New Lanark, but this time walking in the other direction. However, as before, we started with the exhibition in the Institute for the Formation of Character – followed by lunch, of course. No walking on an empty stomach!

Currently showing (till 31st March) is Keeping Glasgow in Stitches. This series of banners was made to celebrate Glasgow’s year as European Capital of Culture in 1990. Each of the 12 panels was made by a different group and represents one month of the year. When displayed in order, a representation of the River Clyde runs along the top and they spell out GLASGOW – 1990. It made me feel very nostalgic, especially when reading comments in the Visitors’ Book from embroiderers who had contributed to the work.

The first part of the walk was on pavement – climbing out of New Lanark’s valley, we reached the original town of Lanark and walked down its main street. The imposing church is St Nicholas with its statue of William Wallace.

After passing through the town, we took a small country road above the Mouse Water, dropping down to cross it by the bridge in the picture below.

Mouse Water
Mouse Water

From there, we climbed up the other side to Cartland Crags  and followed Mouse Water again, with good views back to Lanark, until it reached the Clyde at Kirkfieldbank.

Here, we crossed the Clyde twice, first on the 1950s road bridge which carries the A72, then we immediately went back over the much more picturesque Clydesholm Bridge which dates from the 1690s. This is now pedestrianised and forms part of the Clyde Walkway.

It was now a straightforward route along the Walkway to New Lanark, a nice cup of tea and the car – but it wasn’t exactly an easy riverside stroll. The banks of the Clyde here are steep and forested, and the path zigzags up and down several times. (My Fitbit told me I had achieved 145 floors that day, one floor being equivalent to about 10 feet.)

Our route on this walk came from a new purchase – The Clyde : 25 walks from source to sea by KR Fergus. It’s one of a great series published by PocketMountains which a) aren’t all about mountains but b) do fit into your pocket. Another series we like, which we first bought in the Lake District and have since added several Scottish titles to our collection, is Hallewell’s Pocket Walking Guides. If either of these series publishes guides to where you like to hike then I highly recommend them.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks. Head over there for worldwide cyber-hiking.

 

New Lanark and the Falls of Clyde

New Lanark
New Lanark

New Lanark was built in the 1780s by cotton mill owner David Dale to house his workers. His son-in-law, Robert Owen, became a managing partner of New Lanark in 1800 and expanded the business while also implementing a series of social and educational reforms designed to improve the quality of life of his workforce. Today, the village is owned by a trust – the mills have been turned into museums and a hotel, and many of the millworkers’ homes have been restored and reoccupied.

Our most recent visit was not to view the mills – we’ve done that several times. We wanted to see a tapestry that was on display, and then have a walk up to the Falls of Clyde. Tapestries are quite the thing at the moment – last year, I wrote about both the Great Tapestry of Scotland and the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry. Those two were similar in that they had a theme but each panel stood on its own. This one told the story of the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745 (when Bonnie Prince Charlie defeated the government army) so it was like a giant comic-strip. Here’s just a flavour:

I also loved the banners round the walls:

Then it was off for our walk. We’ve done this before too, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much water in the Falls – the immense power which was available to the mills is obvious. We followed the Clyde Walkway past Corra Linn….

….as far as the even more spectacular Bonnington Linn.

We then looped back on the woodland trail and had a last stroll round the village before starting the climb back up to the carpark….

….via the Old Cemetery, reflecting on Robert Owen’s words as we went. Truly a man ahead of his time.

I’ve added this to Jo’s Monday Walk collection.