Glasgow Gallivanting: September 2017

Forth Bridge View

Let’s start with the highlight! That has to be our trip to the top of the Forth Bridge, part of a charity event in aid of Barnardo’s. Here we are 361 feet above the Firth of Forth. In case of doubt, we are holding hands romantically, not clinging on to the rail for safety ūüėČ

We had booked the sunset slot, hoping for colourful skies, but it had been a cloudy day so they didn’t materialise. However, we still got great views both on the ground and from the top. There are now three bridges crossing the Forth from South Queensferry to North Queensferry (where the event took place), each from a different century – full history on the Forth Bridges website, but here’s the potted version. Until the Forth Bridge opened to trains in 1890, the only crossing was by ferry. In 1964, a road bridge was added, but by the 21st century it was proving inadequate for the volume of traffic passing over it. This year, the new Queensferry Crossing has opened with the original road bridge now reserved for pedestrians, cyclists and, eventually, public transport. Unlike many public infrastructure projects, the new bridge actually came in under budget (by ¬£245m). Well done Scottish Government!

We arrived early to look round the village of North Queensferry and admire all the bridges.

Then it was time to don our hard-hats before riding the shoogly hoist to the top of the North Cantilever. The hoist was a tight squeeze, but the viewing platform was surprisingly large and we had about 20 minutes to wander about and take photographs. Several trains passed underneath us, each producing another little shoogle.

Then it was back down to earth, and dinner in one of the local hotels before getting the train back to Glasgow – across the Forth Bridge of course!

Doors Open Days

For the week of 11th-17th September, many institutions in Glasgow which would not normally be open to the public threw wide their doors for tours and events. I took part at two venues myself – on Wednesday, I was part of a Glasgow Women’s Library event on the hidden histories of women and how we can uncover them through, for example, heritage walks and a databases of monuments and memorials. On Saturday, I led a canal walk at Maryhill (and totally forgot to take any photographs).

Sunday was our day for exploring, so I booked a back-stage tour of the Citizen’s Theatre for the morning. Our guide, Martin, was fabulous and gave us a bit of history before taking us behind the scenes. Originally opened in 1878, what became “The Citz” is the second oldest operational theatre in the UK (Leeds Grand opened 6 weeks earlier). Once we got out of the 1990 foyer this certainly showed, and I can understand why the theatre is closing next summer for two years of much-needed redevelopment. It’s what I would call a bit of a¬†guddle.

However, the Citz will not dispose of its historical artefacts. It has the most complete working Victorian theatre machinery in the UK, and is the only theatre in Scotland still to have its original machinery under the stage. We got to visit that – and also stand on stage looking out to the auditorium.

Another piece of history is the original Victorian paint frame which is still used today to paint backcloths.

The Christmas production of Cinderella is coming up, and we saw a huge clock in preparation, which presumably will chime midnight at the appropriate time.

Designs for Cinderella were also in evidence in the costume department. I somehow don’t think any of these shoes will be suitable to play the glass slipper!

After lunch, we visited St Columba’s Gaelic Church, and Scottish Opera’s HQ. This was of interest less for its current role than for its origins (1907) as the home of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, as illustrated in the splendid stained glass by Stephen Adam.

I really appreciate the work of the hundreds of volunteers across the city who make these days such a success every year.

Blogging news

A new badge has appeared in my sidebar! I was very pleased to be included in a list of Top 30 International Retirement Blogs 2017 by Maxwell Salo of WeLoveCostaRica.com –¬†thank you so much! I haven’t had time to explore the other 27 yet, but I did spot two friends, Donna of Retirement_Reflections and Debbie of Deb’s World. If you don’t know them too, why not visit?

I also joined in with Ishita of Italophilia and her #ItalophiliaPostcards project. Exchange a postcard with her and share the results on social media. Ishita’s card of Vienna has arrived here, but my card of Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens seems to have got lost somewhere on its way. Maybe it will have arrived by next month’s roundup….

Family news

I’m sad to say that one of my uncles, Ian McKay, died in September, just short of his 89th birthday. Ian was married to Elspeth, one of my Dad’s three younger sisters, and although they settled in Brisbane before I was born I still had opportunities to get to know them on their visits back to Scotland. It was Elspeth who looked after Dad and me when Mum was in hospital having my baby sister and it was Ian who taught me to swim. The last time I saw them in person was on our only visit (so far) to Australia, in 2004 when this picture was taken. Ian will be missed.

On a much happier note, John has been presented with the prestigious Chengdu Jinsha Friendship Award for “foreign experts” in recognition of his role in the development of the relationship between the University of Glasgow and the University of Electronic Science and Technology China in the city of Chengdu. As you usually see him wearing walking gear (and now a hard-hat) you might not recognise him in this smartly turned out gentleman. Doesn’t he scrub up well? More info on the University of Glasgow news page if you are interested.

The last bit

And finally, on to Scottish words of the month! I’ve used three that might not be totally familiar. If you’re puzzling over Firth of Forth, it means the mouth of the River Forth. (Firth is pronounced the same but spelled differently from furth meaning outside, e.g. outside Scotland would be “furth of Scotland”.)

The shoogly lift and bridge were shaking, but I think shoogle is a much more evocative word than shake. The Glasgow Subway makes extensive use of it in its advertising. It is also used in the phrase “yer jaiket’s on a shoogly nail” meaning “your jacket is hanging on a loose peg”, i.e. you could be out on your ear at any time.

Earlier, I described backstage at The Citz as a bit of a guddle, which is my favourite word to describe a mess of impressive proportions. It’s also possible to guddle about, which I quite enjoy doing, or to find yourself in a bit of a guddle, or a confusing situation where you don’t quite know what to do. I enjoy that less.

Of course, guddle rhymes with puddle – plenty of those here at the moment, where¬†the weather is getting colder and wetter and the nights are fair drawing in, as my Grandad used to say. Who can believe we’re into the last quarter of the year already?

Let’s see what October brings.

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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 Рit 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.

Glasgow’s Doors Open 2013

Doors Open Days happen¬†throughout September¬†in different cities in Scotland – this last weekend it was Glasgow’s event¬†and we went exploring on Sunday, concentrating our efforts on the area near Glasgow Green between the City Centre and the East End.

Glasgow Green

It was a lovely day so we wandered round the Green first – it’s home to a beautifully restored fountain, the People’s Palace and the former Templeton’s Carpet Factory (modelled on the Doge’s Palace, no less). The latter is now an office block and also houses WEST Brewery, which proved to be an excellent¬†stop for lunch. So it was almost 2.30pm before we got going on Doors Open proper. Oh dear….

The Pipe Factory

As with Templeton’s above, this building features intricate and ornate brickwork. I’d never heard of it before – this was its first outing in Doors Open – but it was originally¬†a clay pipe factory (nothing to do with bagpipes as I thought it might be)¬†and is now home to a group of architects, writers and artist who are turning it into studios. The group has kept the Pipe Factory name.

Barrowland Ballroom

As we left the Pipe factory, I overheard a young woman excitedly telling her friend about another Doors Open she had discovered just round the corner: an old ballroom. I though to myself “new student, not been here long” because the Barrowland is a Glasgow legend. It’s now a rock venue, and as seedy as they come: even during the day, entering the black, windowless bar felt like descending into hell! This was a rare chance to see backstage – and to discover that the stars don’t enjoy much more luxury than the punters. I think the pictures flatter it (the exterior shot at night is from a previous visit). If all this sounds as though I hate it, I don’t, I love it. Our next date with Barrowland is next month (Nick Cave).

The Barony

The Barony, formerly a church, completed in 1890, is now the ceremonial hall of the University of Strathclyde. Despite having worked for the University for 20 years I had never been in, so this filled a gap in my education. By this time, everything was starting to close so we wended our way home to rest our weary feet.

Stained glass and puppets

We’ve lived in our present house for nearly twenty years, and every time we leave it we pass this at the end of the road, yet we’ve never been in:

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Doors Open Day seemed a good chance to rectify this so we visited on Saturday morning. The Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre has existed since 1981 and has been in its current premises (an old council cleansing depot) since 1989. It’s a lot more attractive inside than it looks from the outside! They do puppet shows, birthday parties, workshops with schools, exhibitions, training and much more – check the website for details. We met founder Malcolm Knight, manager Sarah Lee and Ken Barnard who, at 90 years old, is still carving marionettes in the workshop. Definitely worth a visit, especially for those with small children.

The Theatre and the masks on its walls:

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The Café and exhibition area:

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In the workshops:

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After this, it was on to Maryhill Burgh Halls, which I blogged about on an earlier visit. This time they had special events on for Doors Open Day and we went to a talk by Alec Galloway on the stained glass, old and new. When opened in 1878, the halls had 20 stained glass panels by Stephen Adam, depicting the trades then carried out in Maryhill. It must have been a hive of activity. Ten of the panels are now back on display – here are a couple of examples, the Iron Moulders and the Calico Printers:

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What surprised me is that there seems to be no documentation from the time to identify the exact locations and the people depicted in the panels, and no pictures of them in their original positions in the Hall. Research has come up with some likely possibilities and there’s an interesting booklet you can pick up to read about it. There’s also a display in the foyer of miniature replicas of all 20 panels set against a map showing roughly where the businesses were that they are thought to represent. What is known, is that they were ahead of their time, as most stained glass at this time was in churches and showed religious subjects. I think their simplicity is modern too, and you would not be surprised if you were told these were the new designs.

Alec went on to talk about the new panels which he designed and created. The brief was to reflect Maryhill as it is today, but not to replicate the style of the original glass. After much research and workshops with local people, not to mention time spent in Jaconnelli’s caf√©, ten themes emerged for the panes. Techniques used included screenprinting photographs onto the glass with fascinating results – as with the original glass, you can pick up a booklet in the halls to find out more. Here are the Space Age and Regeneration panels:

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The first has a QR code in the corner, which actually works, making it possibly the first interactive stained glass panel in the world.

Because we had other things going on over the weekend, that was all the Doors Open we had time for this year, but we made the most of what we had and learned a lot from both visits as well as enjoying them.

Doors Open Glasgow, 18 September 2011

So, day two of Doors Open and, in contrast to yesterday, a lovely sunny afternoon. I’d planned a route with seven sites, but in the end we only managed five. We had to fit lunch and cake in, you see!

We set off walking from home and called in at Kelvinside Hillhead Parish Church. Like yesterday’s visits, this is somewhere I have walked past hundreds of times but never gone in.

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If you think the outline looks familiar, it might be because it reminds you of the Sainte Chapelle in Paris – the plans for the church (completed 1876) were modelled on it.

An interlude for lunch then followed. Wudon Noodle Bar on Great Western Road was perfect – quick, friendly service and tasty food. We shared edamame beans to start then I had veggie noodles. Scrumptious – it’s not the number five Glasgow restaurant on Trip Advisor for nothing then.

Stop two was the Red Hackle Building on Otago Street, the former headquarters of Hepburn and Ross whisky company:

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Red Hackle was one of their blends. The building is now a carpet shop, but you can still see the heraldic ceiling and the frieze of famous Scots painted for Mr Hepburn by Alex McGregor in 1952.

Next up – Lansdowne Parish Church (1863). You can see its spire in this view of Great Western Road (the nearer spire is St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral).

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Off all the churches we saw over the weekend, this was the only dilapidated one – a charitable trust has been set up for its restoration. You can get an idea of its potential magnificence by going up to the balcony:

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A couple of stops on the subway took us to the next church, St Andrew’s Cathedral, which, in contrast, was the most splendid. Originally built in 1816, it has recently been renovated and is light, airy and magnificently decorated. It also boasts Peter Howson’s portrait of St John Ogilvie. The lighting made this hard to photograph without glare, but I’ve included the picture anyway.

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Finally, we went to Sloans. This has been a Glasgow institution since 1828 – three floors of venues: pub, tearoom and ballroom. Again, I’ve passed the entrance many times without going in, but this time I was a little disappointed. The ingredients are all there: vaulted ceilings, marble fireplaces and stained glass, and you get the impression that the layout hasn’t changed much over the years so it’s quite atmospheric, but it seemed quite shabby and in need of some tlc to restore it to its former glory. I did like this ceiling though, and the tiling on the Argyll Arcade entrance.

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So that was our day – apart from the cup of tea and cake before we wended our weary way home. We saw some of the best of Glasgow, but we also saw the worst. There was an Old Firm match today and we were unfortunate enough to share a subway carriage with two foul-mouthed, bigoted “fans” singing sectarian songs. I exclaimed many times over the weekend about how lucky we are to live in such an amazing place, and I refuse to let boneheads like that spoil it. I hope nobody else does either.

Doors Open Glasgow, 17 September 2011

Doors Open Days have been taking place in Glasgow since 1990. They are a fabulous way to see buildings, or parts of buildings, you might not normally get into and we’ve taken part most years. Occasionally we’ve booked tours (Scottish Ballet last year was particularly good) but usually we just wander round and see what takes our fancy. This year, I had been invited to a party on the Saturday afternoon so we needed some local visits to do in the morning, i.e. In the West End. We found two good ones.

St John’s-Renfield Church is just up the hill from our house and I’ve walked or driven past it many, many times but have never been in. It dominates the skyline in Kelvindale:

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The church was built between 1929 and 1931 and is light and spacious inside. It is not terribly ornate apart form its beautiful stained glass windows. I particularly liked the series of small side windows by Gordon Webster, an elder of the church, which date from the late 60s and early 70s. My favourite is this one dedicated to the church’s women:

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Next port of call: Anniesland College. Every day on my way to work I stop at a certain set of traffic lights and stare straight up the hill at it. I watched as it was rebuilt a couple of years ago and have been dying to see inside ever since.

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We had tours from two different guides. Nicola took us round some of the more unusual classrooms, such as this one for practising the skills of an air steward (no drinks were served unfortunately.)

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We also saw the library, which was of particular interest to me, and I discovered that as a local resident I can join it for free.

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Finally, Paul took us round the different workshops – joinery, painting and decorating, engineering etc. Here, my favourites were the musical instrument and car workshops.

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We spent so long there that I had to rush home to change to go to my friend’s and didn’t have time for lunch. But hey, there was cake at the party, so who’s worrying?