The Zombie Ward

I seem to have had no time for blogging recently – so here’s one I prepared earlier. In my July Gallivanting post I said:

Over the last few months, I’ve been taking part in a project at Glasgow Women’s Library to research the women associated with the Belvidere Fever Hospital in the East End of Glasgow around the time of the First World War. There isn’t much detail in the records, so the idea was to use our imaginations to create a series of dramatic monologues around our chosen women. On the 4th of July, this came to fruition with a performance and a book, both called Voices from the Belvidere, bringing to life fascinating stories of laundry maids who ran away, nurses who caught fever after fever, and the rare women doctors who followed their calling against all odds. My contribution was called The Zombie Ward: some day, with more time, I might tell you its story. 

Now is the time! Here’s my introduction and monologue as it appears in the book.


At the first meeting of the Belvidere group, my eye was drawn to a picture from the Alice Bauchop collection showing a group of nurses and a young male doctor on a set of ward steps. In particular, I liked the woman in the middle with her arms crossed nonchalantly and a friendly smile on her face, so I was really lucky to find her again in a photograph in the Mitchell Library. Even better: her name, the name of the ward, which disease it treated and the year were all identified. After that it was just a case of using a little imagination – and Wikipedia! I was worried that the term zombie might be an anachronism, but it was first recorded in 1819 and films featuring zombies have been a part of cinema since the 1930s. The former Nurse Watt is talking to her grandson sometime in the 1960s.

The Zombie Ward

Och, Jimmy! You’re not watching zombie films again, are you? I hate that kind of film. Why? They remind me too much of my worst days at the Belvidere. Look, this is me here – your Granny was Nurse Watt in those days. I was an innocent young lassie, just up from Kilcreggan. I’d never even been to Glasgow before, so it was a big shock – so busy! But I loved my work, most of the time. I’d always wanted to be a nurse.

We look happy here, don’t we? That must have been, oh, 1923 I think. Sour-faced Dr Smith left in 1922 and we had the new young doctor. We all liked him. He was much more easy-going. And handsome! Look at his lovely hair. And if it had been 1924, I don’t think we’d have looked so cheerful. If I remember right, that was our worst year ever on Ward 14W.

Encephalitis Lethargica – that was the fancy name for what we treated. Sleepy sickness for short. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Sleepy; lethargic. But it attacks the brain and some of the patients were left like statues. Couldn’t speak. Couldn’t move. It was an epidemic for about 10 years – they say 5 million people round the world got it, and a third of them died. In one year we had more than 150 patients. Men. Women. Bairns. 15 died – one of them a little baby, not even a year old. That one nearly finished me.

Mind you, maybe the dead were lucky. Some of the ones that lived were never really alive afterwards. Conscious maybe, but not awake. Like ghosts. Or zombies. No, Jimmy, I can never watch films with zombies.

Glasgow Gallivanting: January 2018

Mine Woods Walk

Hello, and welcome to Year 2 of my monthly Glasgow Gallivanting posts! January has been busy for various reasons, most of them not particularly photogenic, but we did get one lovely walk on a Sunday afternoon – even if it wasn’t the one we set out for. We wanted to climb a little hill called Dumyat in Stirlingshire (Doo-my-at and not, as I used to think, Dum-yat), but all roads leading there were closed. Instead, we walked through Mine Woods above the pretty little spa town of Bridge of Allan. Even though we weren’t as high up, the views were still great as you can see above.

25 years ago.

We had an anniversary this month: in January 1993 we moved into our current house. I’ve worked out that in my 60 years I’ve had 18 addresses in 10 different towns or cities, so this is quite a big deal. Once we’d unpacked, we took a lot of photos in our new house, and here are a couple with 2018 recreations.

So, I’m older, heavier, greyer and I can’t see without my glasses now, but there’s one thing that’s the same about me in these pictures. Enlarge, and you might spot what it is. Answer at the end!

The Suffragette Oak

I’ve posted several times about Glasgow’s Suffragette Oak, the last time in November (first picture) when I reported the sad news that it had been damaged by Storm Ophelia. The second picture shows what it looks like now. As well as the tear on the trunk, around 30% of the canopy was lost and to make the tree safe the council had to reduce its height and rebalance it. Its health will be closely monitored and some of the offcuts have been given to Glasgow Women’s Library to make commemorative items. We still hope it will survive in this, its centenary year. (The first women in the UK got the vote in February 1918.)

What about the women?

Maryhill Burgh Halls, where I volunteer as a Heritage Tour Guide, currently has an exhibition of old photographs of Glasgow accompanied by a series of events, one of which is me talking about women’s history in Glasgow. I’ve been busy this month working out what I want to say – then cutting it down drastically – and creating a slide-show. The tickets sold out a couple of weeks ago (only 40, but still) and so I’m repeating it two weeks later. Eep! No pressure, no pressure at all. I’ll let you know next month how it goes.

The last bit

Did you spot the common factor in the 1993 and 2018 pictures of me? It’s the ear-rings! This was entirely unintentional. Just after we moved into the house, John went to a conference in Freiburg and brought them back as a gift (I have a fine collection of ear-rings from all over the world as a result of his travels). On the day we took the new photos I chose them because they reflected the diamond shapes on my top, and I only realised when I looked at the old photos again that I was wearing the same pair!

Finally, here’s a short (1 minute) promotional video about Glasgow which I think sums it up really well. You might even recognise some of the places from my blog!

Isn’t Glasgow braw? That’s my Scottish word for this month – it means beautiful. I hope you agree.

So those were some of the things that have kept me busy in January. How has your month been?

Hidden histories

Victoria, Dolores and Isabella

There’s a lot going on round here at the moment, and I don’t have a blog post prepared for today, so it’s lucky that a few weeks ago the lovely Donna at Retirement_Reflections asked me to write something for her series of guest posts and it was published yesterday! So now I can quickly point you in her direction and hope I get caught up for next week.

Donna and her husband retired in June 2015 from their jobs in Beijing, China, where they had lived for fourteen years. They moved back to Canada, and Donna’s blog is about the adventures, discoveries, and reflections she has made since then. Every Sunday, she has a guest blogger – usually, but not always, someone who is, like me, of a certain age. In our primes, in other words. I chose to write about the hidden histories of women in Glasgow, and challenged readers to tell me how women are commemorated in their home towns. Who are Victoria, Dolores and Isabella? Pop over to Hidden Histories to find out, and maybe stay to acquaint yourself with Donna’s blog if you don’t know it already.



When in Rome…..

The first thing I did in Calgary was buy myself a big hat – yeehaw! I’m not sure it really helped me to blend in with the locals, but it kept the sun off my pale Scottish skin.

Our flight from the UK landed in early afternoon, so despite feeling as though we’d been awake for hours more than was natural (we had) we decided to see a bit of the place. The Stampede was about to begin, so it was buzzing. First, we went up the Calgary Tower for great views and a turn on the scary glass floor.

After that, we took a wee wander round town, enjoying some of its more quirky aspects.

My favourite, which will come as no surprise to those who know of my interest in women’s history, was the “Women are Persons!” or “Famous Five” monument (link has more information about the sculpture).

Wikipedia explains the background thus:

The Famous Five … were five Alberta women who asked the Supreme Court of Canada to answer the question, “Does the word ‘Persons’ in Section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?” in the case Edwards v. Canada (Attorney General). The five women, Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards, created a petition to ask this question. They sought to have women legally considered persons so that women could be appointed to the Senate. The petition was filed on August 27, 1927, and on 24 April 1928, Canada’s Supreme Court summarized its unanimous decision that women are not such “persons”.

Fortunately sense prevailed the following year, which reduced the sense of outrage  I was feeling a little – that, and the waves of tiredness which were now washing over me. An early dinner and an early night called. The next day, we battled our way through the Stampede crowds to collect our car and set off for the mountains.

Glasgow Gallivanting: July 2017

Over the last few months, I’ve been taking part in a project at Glasgow Women’s Library to research the women associated with the Belvidere Fever Hospital in the East End of Glasgow around the time of the First World War. There isn’t much detail in the records, so the idea was to use our imaginations to create a series of dramatic monologues around our chosen women. On the 4th of July, this came to fruition with a performance and a book, both called Voices from the Belvidere, bringing to life fascinating stories of laundry maids who ran away, nurses who caught fever after fever, and the rare women doctors who followed their calling against all odds. My contribution was called The Zombie Ward: some day, with more time, I might tell you its story. In the meantime, here’s my protagonist, Nurse Watt, who caught my eye smiling in the centre of the picture above.

Happy birthday to me!

60th birthday in Jasper

My birthday is in July, and 2017 was a big one. 60! I can’t quite believe it. I celebrated on vacation in Canada, and here I am with some of my cards – from the three people who managed to send one in advance, and John who made me stand outside a shop in Canmore, Alberta, while he selected his.

Lake Louise

As I spent most of July in the Canadian Rockies, including Lake Louise as seen above, and I intend to blog much more about that later, it doesn’t leave a great deal of Glasgow Gallivanting to write about. So that’s it for this month – except to say that I hope you’ve had a great July too.

Glasgow Gallivanting: March 2017

In March, we gallivanted as far away as Budapest! More, much more, to come on that in due course.

So what else has been going on?

Aye Write!

Aye Write! is Glasgow’s book festival. For a couple of years I volunteered at it, but last year and this year we missed most of it by being on holiday. However, we attended a couple of sessions on the last weekend of this year’s festival.

Elaine C Smith is a Scottish actress, comedian and activist. Outside Scotland – and I’m not even sure how far this travels – she’s probably best known as Mary Doll from Rab C Nesbitt. In discussion with novelist Alan Bissett, Elaine considered The books that made me – six titles that had a defining effect on her life. She’s maybe a year younger than I am so it was intriguing to match experiences: for example, we were both entranced by The lion, the witch and the wardrobe when a teacher read it aloud to our class of seven-year olds (and we both checked our Mum’s wardrobe in case Narnia was lurking there). I’m not sure if there was meant to be time for questions – there usually is – but the conversation flowed on and on. It was great!

The other session was more formal, an excellent talk by Anne Galastro based on the current exhibition in Edinburgh Joan Eardley: a sense of place, which we saw at the end of last year, and her book of the same title. I’m not sure how many of you will have heard of Eardley (1921-1963) because she died tragically young just as she was becoming well-known outside Scotland. She had two main subjects – the area around her studio in Townhead, Glasgow, where she befriended and painted the local children, and the fishing village of Catterline in North East Scotland where she had a (very primitive) cottage. If you’re anywhere near Edinburgh I recommend going to the exhibition before it closes on May 21st. Follow the link above for details and some highlights.

Women’s History Month

Maryhill WHM Editathon

March was Women’s History Month. To celebrate, we had a Wikipedia Editathon at Maryhill where we looked for articles to update with information about women’s history and wrote some new ones.

International Women’s Day (8th March) fell while we were in Budapest, as did the European Day of the Righteous on the 6th which honours those who have resisted crimes against humanity and totalitarianism. Jane Haining brings both these commemorations and Budapest together: She was a Church of Scotland missionary working in the city when she was arrested by the Nazis in 1944. She died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz later that year, and is the only Scot to be officially honoured for giving her life to help Jews in the Holocaust. We found her name on a memorial in the synagogue that we visited, and on a road called after her.

Wedding anniversary

On 21st March John and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. We do have some more formal photographs in the loft somewhere, but finding them would involve climbing a ladder. This one comes from some old slides of Mum’s that I’ve been scanning, and shows the less than picturesque car park at the back of the church. As you can see, we didn’t go for the big white wedding – we were keen on being married, but not so keen on parties, so we kept it very small. We look so young!

Glen Finglas and Loch Ardinning

I thought I was going to have to report zero country walks, but the last weekend in March was absolutely glorious. Luckily, for the first time in weeks, we had nothing else planned so out we went.

Glen Finglas

Thanks to Elaine at I used to be indecisive whose post Glen Finglas Reservoir inspired us to take this walk on the Saturday. Our circular route climbed above the reservoir then dropped to the dam, and the site of Ruskin’s painting by Millais, before taking in the Byre Inn (excellent late lunch / early dinner) on our way back to the car.

Loch Ardinning

On Sunday, we went back to a walk that I’ve written about before – Loch Ardinning – so I’m just including a couple of shots here.

The last bit

Instead of offering you a Scottish word to enrich your vocabulary this month, I’m offering you a phrase. You might have wondered about the title of Glasgow’s book festival, as mentioned above, Aye Write! I’m not sure exactly what the organisers intend, but I see several levels of pun. Yes, write! and I write! are probably obvious, but non-Scots might not know that Aye, right! is a Glaswegian expression of some scepticism, a double positive resulting in a negative meaning, i.e. I don’t believe it! or Not likely! (Anabel: I don’t eat out much, I prefer to watch my waistline. You: Aye, right! Your observation would be quite correct.)

So that was my March. How was yours?

Laramie, Wyoming

Landing in Denver, Colorado, added another state to my US tally. The next morning, we picked up our hire car and set off on our three-week road-trip: first stop, Laramie, Wyoming, which immediately added my second new state. As we crossed the state line, we spotted a beautiful modern visitor centre which turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever visited. Not only did I get the chance to consign John to jail, about which he doesn’t look too happy, but I was also able to indulge my interest in women’s history.

Women of Wyoming were the first in America to be granted the right to vote – in 1869 – well before this became part of the US Constitution in 1920. When we got to Laramie, we discovered that the first woman to exercise that right, 70-year old Louisa Swain, did so there in 1870. The town is proud of this and commemorates Louisa with a statue and an entry in its sidewalk map.

The building behind Louisa is Wyoming Women’s History house which we tried in vain to visit on the morning we left Laramie. The leaflet we picked up at the visitor centre said it opened at 10am, but the notice on the door said 11am and we didn’t have time to wait. Almost three weeks later, we passed through Laramie again  – only to find that the museum had closed for the season at the end of August, and by this time it was September. Foiled again!

However, we enjoyed walking round the town which was colourful and aromatic – check out the wall growing herbs. Also, if you enlarge the picture with the yellow awning you will see that it is a microbrewery called The Library. Along the awning it says “Don’t lie to your Mom. Tell her you’re at The Library”. A sense of humour too!

We stayed in a comfortable B&B called the Mad Carpenter Inn – when you see the pictures you’ll understand the name. Lawrence and Danny Rue were wonderful hosts and the breakfasts were delicious. Our room was a separate little cottage called The Dollhouse (seen with our hire-car outside it), which was great for my jetlag because I could go downstairs to sit and read without disturbing John. The stained glass panel is in the bedroom ceiling. If you ever go to Laramie, stay there!

Even better, I discovered that Laramie has an entirely vegetarian restaurant, Sweet Melissa. I hardly ever get to choose from the whole menu and, fortunately, John liked it as much as I did so we ate there both nights of our stay – and went back for lunch the day we passed through later in our trip.

Sweet Melissa
Sweet Melissa

Finally, Laramie is near great hiking trails which I’ll tell you more about in my next post. We left wishing we had more time there, but we said that nearly everywhere we went. The next question was always – what would we have cut out to compensate? To that we never had an answer. There’s always something to go back for!

People Make Glasgow: Mary Hill

Maryhill Burgh Halls
Maryhill Burgh Halls

Today is the day when many of my blogging friends are revealing their A to Z Challenge themes. I had a brilliant idea for a theme, based on the success of last year’s Gallus Glasgow. (Actually, what I mean is that pal Helen MacKinven had the brilliant idea for me. Check out her site if you want to see a poodle in pink shades.) People make Glasgow is the city’s current marketing slogan, and the idea was to choose some of the city’s historical figures to show how they still influence Glasgow today. The downside is that I left the research too late and had too many letters missing, so it’s going to appear as an occasional series instead. This is the first.

One way of influencing a city is to have part of it named after you – impressive! Mary Hill (1730-1809) and her husband, Robert Graham, inherited the Gairbraid Estate because Mary’s father, Hew Hill, had no male heirs. Mary and Robert ran into money troubles after speculating in coal-mining, but their big break came when parliament approved the planning of the route of the Forth & Clyde Canal in 1768, which went through the estate. They were compensated for this and once the canal was completed, around 1790, their land along the canal suddenly became much more valuable and they sold it with the condition that if a town was to develop in the area it would be named after Mary.

Maryhill became a burgh in 1856 and was incorporated into the City of Glasgow 1891. Its Burgh Halls were built in 1878, fell into disrepair in the 1960s and were rescued and reopened in 2012. A major factor in raising money for the refurbishment was the stained glass – 20 panels featuring the small industries and factories in 1870s Maryhill. Normally, stained glass is seen in churches and palaces, so I think it was visionary for the time to create windows showing ordinary people in their ordinary working clothes going about their daily tasks.

Maryhill Burgh Halls stained glass
Iron moulders and calico printers

I live very close to Maryhill, and since last autumn I’ve been volunteering as a Heritage Tour Guide at the Burgh Halls, on both the general tour and the Women of Maryhill tour which I’ve researched and developed myself. I graduated in history a very long time ago and I’m really enjoying being able to put that to use in retirement. You can see me (red stripey jumper) at the tour launch below …

… and enjoying tea and scones with some of the participants after the most recent tour on Saturday.

If you’re in and around Glasgow, keep an eye on the Maryhill Burgh Halls website for news of more tours and events.


Vote for the Oak! European Tree of the Year

European Tree of the YearGlasgow’s Suffragette Oak was planted on 20 April 1918 to commemorate the granting of votes to (some) women. Last year, Glasgow Women’s Library nominated it as Scotland’s Tree of the Year and I know that some of you voted for it, for which many thanks. It won, and throughout February the Suffragette Oak is part of the European Tree of the Year competition. On Monday I and GWL colleagues Wendy and Beverly braved the wind, rain and mud to promote it while shivering in white dresses. The photo-call was also attended by the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Sadie Docherty. (A Provost is a Mayor, and a Lord Provost is always a Lord even when she’s actually a Lady.) I would be so grateful if you could reward our dedication by voting for us here!

A bit of background information about some Scottish Suffragettes:

  • Mary Hamilton – later a Labour MP (1929) and a lifelong campaigner for equal pay.
  • Marion Dunlop – held in Holloway, the first suffragette to go on hunger strike.
  • Dorothea Chalmers Smith – Doctor and minister’s wife who was imprisoned for house-breaking with intent to set fire. The church told her husband to control or divorce his wife. Dorothea left him and they divorced, after which she wasn’t allowed to see her sons.
  • Flora Drummond – aka The General, she led marches on horseback. She said the Suffragettes wanted “to make things intolerable so that [they] will say for heaven’s sake give the women what they want and let’s have peace.”
  • Jessie Stephen – domestic servant who carried out acid attacks on post boxes and was never caught, because nobody suspected a maid in uniform.
  • Helen Crawfurd – arrested for protecting Emmeline Pankhurst from police when she came to Glasgow’s St Andrew’s Halls. She was also part of the Rent Strikes movement and started the Women’s Peace Crusade after the First World War broke out.

Although some women got the vote in 1918, those over 30 who owned property, women couldn’t vote on the same terms as men until 1928. To put that in context, when my Mum was born in 1926 her mother, my Granny, was 27 and would not have been eligible to vote. That takes it out of history for me and makes it personal. Please thank the Suffragettes and *Vote for the Oak!

*The beautiful Vote for the Oak bunting was designed by artist Louise Kirby who has blogged here about how she created it.


Glasgow Women’s Heritage Walks

If you don’t know Glasgow, a great way to explore the city is on a guided walk. And if you DO know Glasgow it’s still great, because you will find out all sorts of hidden histories and little known facts. Several organisations can help, but my favourite walks (DISCLAMER! I help with them) are Glasgow Women’s Library’s Heritage Walks. There are five in total: West End, East End, Merchant City, Garnethill and the Necropolis. In addition, for most of them you can download maps from the link above to follow the walks yourself and for the West End walk there is even a podcast at £3. Walks are £7.50 and the programme runs regularly throughout the year. Below is a montage of three of the walks, and a link to a great blog post by a recent participant on the Necropolis Walk. I also wrote in more detail on this blog about the Necropolis after my last tour exactly one year ago and I’ve created a Storify about this one..

Women of the Necropolis Walking Tour