Glasgow Gallivanting: December 2019

Watt Institution

The Watt Institution in James Watt’s hometown of Greenock houses the McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Watt Library and Watt Hall. Recently closed for several years, it re-opened in November after a £2.1 million refurbishment programme funded by Inverclyde Council and Historic Environment Scotland. Watt (1736-1819) being an engineering hero of John’s, we went along to have a look in early December. It was a very miserable day outside, as you can tell from the photo above, but plenty to do inside.

The museum is called after its founder, James McLean, and first opened in 1876. I don’t know what it was like pre-refurbishment, but now it is light and airy (above) with various local history displays. I found the quilt embroidered with the names of the children of Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow who died in the Blitz of 6/7 May 1941 particularly poignant – especially when I found four members of the same family.

The Watt Lecture Hall opened at the same time as the museum. Today it holds a new exhibition celebrating Watt’s life and works.

Upstairs is the Art Gallery with its small, but interesting, collection of local views as well as more famous works by the likes of the Scottish Colourists, Boudin, Courbet, and Corot. Again, my eye was drawn to a poignant memorial, this time at the bottom of the gallery stairs. Too many names (Pat Leiper, 2014) lists the 1500 local men who died in the Great War.

Of course, I have left the best (from my point of view) till last. The Watt Library houses local history reference books and archives, and is dominated by a large sculpture of James Watt himself.

I just loved looking at all the old books, many of which were on open shelves. Greenock Infirmary’s Fever Journal from the 1860s must be unique, so it was a surprise to be able to pick it up and handle it.

I took many more photos of old labels which would only be of interest to library geeks, so I have spared you most of those!

Feminism and the servant problem: book launch

From one of John’s heroes, to one of mine. “My” suffragette, Jessie Stephen, was a woman of many talents. By the time she was twenty, in addition to her suffrage activities, she had been the Vice-Chair of her local Independent Labour Party (at 16, the youngest you could be a full member) and organised her fellow domestic servants into the Scottish Federation of Domestic Workers. When writing the first version of my talk on Jessie last year, I read a couple of articles by Dr Laura Schwartz of Warwick University, so I was delighted when she got in touch to tell me that she had written a book in which Jessie had a large role. Even better, I was asked to give a shorter version of my talk at an event in the Mitchell Library to launch the book in Scotland. Below, you can see Laura and me with the third speaker, Paula Larkin (in grey) and a member of library staff.

The publisher very kindly donated a copy of the book to Glasgow Women’s Library, which I’ve read and will be reviewing for their website. And if you’re having an allergic reaction to the Mitchell’s carpet, see my story from an A to Z Challenge a few years ago:

Gallus Glasgow M: The Mitchell

Glasgow Coat of Arms

In that same A to Z Challenge, I also wrote about Glasgow’s motto and Coat of Arms:

Gallus Glasgow L: Let Glasgow Flourish

More recently, my friend Becky wrote about them after I gave her a whistle stop tour of Glasgow:

Let Glasgow Flourish

I’ve recently been following a Twitter account, @GlasgowCoA, run by Caroline Scott who aims to collect as many examples of the Coat of Arms as possible. Glasgow City Heritage Trust (the organisation which put on the Ghost Signs talk we went to in November) was running an exhibition of some of the photographs she has amassed and we went along to the opening.

If you are wandering round Glasgow, be sure to tweet @GlasgowCoA any examples you find. It doesn’t matter if they’re already on the map – as Caroline points out, everyone’s take is different. These doorplates from the Mitchell featured twice, for example, and I was tickled to notice my friend Lynn was one of the contributors.

Books are your ticket to the whole world

Just in case you thought there weren’t enough libraries in this post, here’s another one which has just reopened after refurbishment. Partick is not my local library, but it’s not far away. I love that they have decorated the walls with quotations from local hero, comedian Billy Connolly. Books are your ticket to the whole world is possibly too small to read in the picture below. Another wall has: There’s no right way to read. You are not studying for an exam. The important thing is that books do you good. They improve your life, and the lives of the people around you. They improve you. Wise man!

Out and about

So far, all the activities I have mentioned have been indoor – par for the course in December. However, we did get out for a few walks. We did the Drumchapel Way, which might sound a bit odd to those who know Glasgow, Drumchapel being a housing estate in the north-west of the city. However, it’s possible to walk a 4.5 mile circuit around it almost entirely in parks and woodland. We found pigeons, a deer (a bit blurry, but it ran past very quickly), a very kitsch memorial garden and, yes, another library. This one looks as though it needs refurbishment.

Another wintry walk was in Palacerigg Country Park – some nice reflections.

Between Christmas and New Year we had a few days in Galloway – there will be posts about that later. In the meantime, here are some shots of Arran taken from Girvan on our journey home. It looked so stunning, we just had to stop.

The last bit

A few odds and ends to finish with. We found a new ghost sign on Whittinghame Drive! Thanks to Jayne for the tip.

The hothouses at the Botanic Gardens are always good for a stroll when it’s cold outside. Shades of pinks and red cheer me up.

And finally, with the holiday season well and truly over, we are back tae auld claes and parritch (old clothes and porridge, i.e. back to normal). But of course, some of us have Becky’s #JanuaryLight Square Challenge to distract us (click on the logo for info if you don’t know about it). I’ve taken today off to Gallivant but will be back to the Squares tomorrow.

 

2016 – the ones that nearly got away

30 years at the University of Glasgow
30 years at the University of Glasgow

A Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2017 will be good to us all. I’m trying to polish off 2016 by clearing out old photos and ideas for blog posts. Some will get an entry to themselves; this is a catch-up for the rest – the ones that nearly got away.

John

You’ll all be familiar with John, my partner in life and photographer-in-chief. He had a big birthday this year – can you guess which one from the pictures below? Not hard! He also had a presentation to mark 30 years of service at the University of Glasgow (top image), which means we’ve lived 30 years in Glasgow as we moved up from Yorkshire when he got his lectureship. That’s over half my life – in the first half I lived in 9 different towns or cities, so I think I can now call myself settled.

Mum

The other big family milestone last year was my Mum’s 90th birthday which I’ve already written about (here). Earlier in the year, she and I paid a visit to the village she grew up in, Kilmacolm. We’ve been before, many times, but this time we took some photographs where her home used to stand. The name of the building was Low Shells – now, there is only a grassy area and some benches but the name lives on.

Dams to Darnley

Dams to Darnley is a newish country park which sits between Barrhead, Darnley and Newton Mearns to the south of Glasgow. We found it almost by accident when we were looking for somewhere else and enjoyed a pleasant Sunday afternoon stroll there. Centred on a series of reservoirs and bisected by a railway, it’s not particularly spectacular but I’ve included it because I’m impressed that two councils (it falls between Glasgow City and East Renfrewshire) have co-operated to make the most of limited green space and not build all over it.

Palacerigg

Palacerigg is another minor country park within half an hour of Glasgow. Again, the local council, North Lanarkshire this time, has made a big effort to introduce nature trails, birds and animals, particularly with children in mind. This was July, but I see I am wearing winter clothes. The joys of a Scottish summer!

Loch Leven

In December we had a couple of nights in Perth. I’ve started some posts about that, but I don’t think I’ll get round to writing about the lovely walk at Loch Leven we did on the way home. Here’s a slide-show of some of the best images. It was a stunningly crisp morning as you can see.

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2016 Stats

Finally, speaking of the ones that got away, whatever has happened to WordPress’s stats helper monkeys? You know, the ones that send you a report with fireworks that tells you how your blog did that year? Or is it just me they’ve decided not to visit? *Sulks*. Anyway, being a resourceful type, I’ve looked at the 2016 stats all by myself. They’re up by over 50% compared to 2015, which is lovely, and of the ten most read posts nine were about Scotland (one of my Yellowstone posts just scraped in at number ten). I guess you like reading about my home country! There will be much more of the same this year so I hope you will keep visiting. I’m grateful to everyone who has read, liked, commented or all three. As a TV series of my youth used to end “Thank you for coming to my little show. I love you all!” (Brownie points if you can identify which one….)