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!
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.
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.
Another fabulously busy month! My summer programme of guided walks continues (I’ve led, or co-led, four in June) with a couple of twists. The Women’s Library is reprinting its walk leaflets, so John and I went on a reconnaissance mission to the Necropolis to check the route directions and take some new photographs. Not relevant to a women’s history walk, but something we hadn’t noticed before, was this monument to William Wallace (of Braveheart fame). And I couldn’t resist including my favourite angel as the post header.
William Wallace memorial
William Wallace memorial
I also went on someone else’s walk! The Royal College of Nursing guided a walk from the medieval cathedral to the Clyde looking at public health through the ages. I learned, amongst other things, that some of the tenements I pass often were built by Glasgow’s City Improvement Trust in the late 19th century – an early form of social housing to replace squalid slums. From now on I’ll be looking upwards even more than I do normally to spot their banner.
City Improvement Trust Tenements
City Improvement Trust Tenements
Happy 75th Billy Connolly
Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly (or Sir William Connolly, CBE, to give him his full title) turns 75 this year. To celebrate, his home city has commissioned a set of three murals by Rachel Maclean, Jack Vettriano and John Byrne. As a result of my guided walks in the city I’ve now spotted all three.
By Rachel Maclean
By Jack Vettriano
By John Byrne
As well as the murals and his knighthood, Billy recently received an honorary degree from Strathclyde University. I watched a clip of him in his robes, and he asked “I wonder if they know something I don’t? When you start getting the lifetime achievement awards……”, and his voice tailed off. I know his health isn’t good, but I hope he has many more years to come.
The Great Get Together
On 16th June 2016, during the EU Referendum campaign, Jo Cox MP was murdered by a fanatical white supremacist. One year later, thousands of events up and down the country took place under the banner of The Great Get Together to commemorate Jo and celebrate the phrase she used in her maiden speech to Parliament “We have more in common than that which divides us”. I attended an event at Glasgow Women’s Library at which the guest of honour was Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. I expected to encounter some extra security given recent terrorist attacks – but no. I walked into the library as usual, Nicola arrived, gave a moving speech, then moved round each table talking to everyone and posing for selfies as requested. Spot the fan girl!
Nicola Sturgeon speaks
Nicola and guests
Selfie with First Minister
Nicola pours tea
Jo Cox on the shelf
I’m proud to live in a country where politicians can still do this, where we don’t react to terrorism by shutting them away from the people they were elected to represent, and I’m proud to have a First Minister who can speak so well on the platform and also come across as friendly and approachable in person.
Rotundas on either side of the River Clyde mark each end of the Harbour Tunnel, built in the 1890s and long since fallen into disuse. A year ago, I wrote a post about an urban walk along the river in which I lamented that, although the North Rotunda had been a restaurant for as long as I can remember, the South Rotunda was boarded up. I didn’t know that renovation was well under way and it is now home to the Malin Group which offers services to the marine industry. Recently, they held open days in aid of the Ethiopia Medical Project, a charity run by two Glasgow women to assist the Buccama Clinic in its work healing thousands of mothers suffering from uterine prolapse.
I was expecting a simple tour of the building. However, we were entertained by actors playing “Willie”, one of the workmen who built the tunnels, and the shell-suited “Steph” who worked at the South Rotunda during the 1988 Garden Festival when it served as Nardini’s Ice Cream Parlour. Great fun, tea and cakes at the end, and all in a very worthy cause.
With Finnieston Crane
View to North Rotunda
Ethiopia Medical Project
Mum with “Superbia”
Pride of Paisley was a public art trail of lion sculptures last year – one of them, “Superbia”, has now returned permanently. Wasn’t my mum clever to wear such a perfectly matching cardigan?
The last bit
I could tell you about theatres, art exhibitions and gardens visited, but this post is getting too long so let’s skip to the last bit in which I teach you a new Scottish word. Some politicians have told us that we are scunnered (annoyed) with voting. True, since 2014 in Scotland we have had two referendums, two general elections and elections for local councils – but am I scunnered? I am not. People fought and died for my right to vote and I always do so with a lump in my throat, especially at the latest election which was held on the anniversary of the death of Emily Wilding Davison (the suffragette who threw herself in front of the King’s horse at Epsom). But as for the result and events since – now that’s what I call a scunner!
And finally, a bit of nostalgia. Who could this romantic young couple be? No prizes! I’ve been scanning old (and sadly faded) pictures again. This is us on holiday in Germany in 1985.
After Celtic Connections finished I had withdrawal symptoms and got on the internet straightaway to book tickets for something else to go to! As a result, we had a lovely evening at “The Citz” which first opened as a theatre in 1878 when it was known as the Royal Princess’s Theatre. The Citizens company was founded in 1943, and moved to this site in 1945. Since then it has been extended, as you can see in the photograph above, but the foyer retains reminders of the old days with a stained glass window from the Royal Princess and a collection of statues which used to adorn the façade.
The play we saw was Cuttin’ a Rug by John Byrne, set at the staff dance of a 1950s carpet factory – hence the punning title (to cut a rug is to dance really well). It was funny and had a great 50s soundtrack.
Of course, going to the theatre requires a pre-theatre meal and that, added to various dinners and lunches with friends, means that February has been almost as unkind to the waistline as January. Did we get a chance to walk it off? Not really…
A combination of weather, socialising, both being struck down by horrible colds, and John having a trip to China meant we only had time for one country excursion. We went to Finlaystone Estate, about half an hour down the Clyde from home. The view from the highest point of the forest walk was magnificent – but you would never know from the photo above that both the busy A8 and the railway run between the estate and the river, so you never quite get away from the noise of traffic. However, the snowdrops were blooming and John got to play on the children’s boat when no-one was looking. Some people never grow up!
Woman on the Shelf
I’ve written before about my connection with Glasgow Women’s Library where I’ve been volunteering since I retired over four years ago. As a charity, it has a constant need to raise money and one way is the Women on the Shelf scheme. A single book, a shelf, or a whole section can be sponsored in honour of your chosen woman. I’m so grateful to my lovely Mum who sponsored a shelf in my name because she wanted to support the organisation where I am so happy working. Sponsored shelves are marked with a wooden block and I was excited to find mine had been delivered last week with the latest batch.
Sponsored shelf blocks
Sponsored shelf blocks
The inscription says –
To my book-worm daughter Anabel, a dedicated librarian who loves libraries and has found a niche in GWL
I’ll be taking Mum into the library to see the block in place very soon, so watch this space.
The last bit
Last month, I introduced you to the word bawbag. Not long afterwards, #presidentbawbag trended on Twitter – nothing to do with me of course, but thanks to West Wing actor Richard Schiff. He’s just a tad more influential than I am, but I hope you were suitably grateful that I had given you advance warning of what it meant 😉
I thought I’d offer you another Scottish word this month, wabbit – partly because I’ve been feeling a bit wabbit myself, but also because it too has turned up in the news. Scientists at Edinburgh University have produced a paper arguing that people who claim to be feeling tired all the time might be doing so because of their genes. It’s probably the only scientific paper ever published to start with a definition of wabbit:
The Scots word wabbit encompasses both peripheral fatigue, the muscle weakness after a long walk, and central fatigue, the reduced ability to initiate and/or sustain mental and physical activity, such as we might experience while having flu.
So there you have it! I hope none of you are feeling wabbit, but if you are you have a new word to describe it.
This striking sculpture by Lauren Sagar and Sharon Campbell is made from over 3,000 single earrings donated by owners who have lost the other half of the pair. The women who contributed items to the project also shared, via letters, the stories attached to them and these have become part of the artwork’s legacy. It’s on display at Glasgow Women’s Library until the end of the year. I love it!
Chandelier of Lost Earrings
Chandelier of Lost Earrings – detail
Chandelier of Lost Earrings – detail
Do you end up with a collection of lost earrings, and what do you do with them if so? I know I do – but never enough to create my own sculpture. I have discovered, however, that some charities collect odd earrings and pieces of broken jewellery and can make money recycling them. If you’re in the UK, here are two:
Glasgow’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!
The Lord Provost badges up
Anabel, Beverly and Wendy
Wendy and Beverly
Beverly and the Lord Provost gie it laldy!
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.
Some time ago (ahem, over two months) Celine at Down the Rabbit Hole nominated me for a “day in the life” challenge – taking a photo every so often throughout the day and blogging about it. Now, Celine’s post documented a day in the South of France so I’ve given up waiting for something to compete with that – however, yesterday was a little bit special so I’ve decided to go for it. Rest assured, although there is some fairly routine stuff in this post, I’ve omitted the dullest parts of my day (believe it or not) – you don’t want to read about me doing laundry, do you?
So this is where my day begins – the kitchen. First thing in the morning is the only time it’s tidy enough to photograph! As a retired lady, I try to avoid anything which starts before 10am so it falls to me to make the breakfast for the working half of the partnership.
Today, I’m off for a haircut so that I look smart for this evening’s event. My appointment is, guess when? 10am. I’ve been going to the same hairdresser for over 20 years – when we moved into the area, he worked in the nearest salon. I’ve followed him twice since, and for the last few years he’s been in Broomhill, an area of Glasgow about 30 minutes walk away. I don’t drive anywhere unless I absolutely have to – walking is the only exercise I get. This is my street:
It’s a late 20th-century mix of flats (which you can see) and terraced houses (which we live in). However, turning the corner, everything becomes more grand – although many of the houses are now multi-occupancy, they are still imposing. This is Kelvinside.
Broomhill has lots of trees and green space, and a nice little row of shops. I have my haircut and a coffee in a nearby café in which I am almost alone.
So here’s a before and after. Can you tell the difference? Not really, it’s just tidier. In the third picture, I’ve had my lunch, showered and dressed, all ready to go – where? Let’s find out!
Ready to go
I set off again on foot, this time through the Botanic Gardens. There’s some lovely autumn colouring there.
I travel by Subway to Queen Street Station, meet two friends from Glasgow Women’s Library and take the train to Edinburgh – destination Scottish Parliament! This photo is a cheat – one I prepared earlier. It’s dark when we get there and we’re certainly not going to climb Salisbury Crags to get this view.
So why are we here? Some might remember my earlier post about the Women’s Library nominating Glasgow’s Suffragette Oak to be Scotland’s Tree of the Year. We reached the final, and tonight we’ll find out if we’ve won. The evening starts with drinks and canapés, then a few speeches followed by the prizegiving. The six finalists are read out in reverse order – every time it’s not us, we glance at each other. When we get to second – it’s still not us! We’ve won!
Scotland’s Tree of the Year 2015
Scotland’s Tree of the Year 2015
We stagger back to the train with the trophy, certificate and rolled up banner. I make it home about 10pm eager to tell John all about it. Thanks to any blog readers who voted for our tree.
Once again, thanks to Celine for nominating me for this challenge. Please visit her at Down the Rabbit Holeif you haven’t already done so. As is my usual habit, I’m not going to pass the challenge on but if you think it’s a good idea, please consider yourself nominated.
Finally, this is the tree that all the fuss is about:
I’d like to think that the Suffragettes who watched it being planted in 1918 would be delighted that it’s now Scotland’s Tree of the Year. Next stop, European Tree of the Year in February….
Last week, I had the weird experience of hearing my own voice twice. With another Glasgow Women’s Library volunteer I did an interview on Radio Scotland about the Suffragette Oak. This was planted in 1918 to commemorate women being granted the vote – well, some women: those over 30 who owned property. It wasn’t till 1928 that all women over 21 got it. The Library has nominated the tree to be Scotland’s Tree of the Year – it would be great if you could follow the link and vote for us please! The radio interview is on the BBC iPlayer – start at 1hr 49m to hear it.
Earlier in the week, I attended the premiere of the Library’s film Marchabout the suffragette pageant we…
Did that title get your attention? That was the name of a guided walk I went on during Glasgow’s Sexology Season in May. In association with the Wellcome Collection and Glasgow Fun Palace, it promised “the debauched history of Scotland’s most populated city” and “tales of sex in all its guises-from the scandals of Victorian society, burlesque, and queer lives to adult cinema”. Theatrical narration along the way was provided by two guides – writer Suzanne Egerton and singer-songwriter Horse MacDonald.
Helen MacKinven, the friend I went with, has written an account of the full walk – I just want to concentrate on two places which might be familiar if you were with me on the A to Z Challenge this year. I showed you the exterior of B for Barrowland and P for Panopticon – on this walk, we got to go inside both. Would you like to take a look?
The Barrowland Ballroom is pretty sleazy, and it’s interesting to know that the stars don’t get any better accommodation than the fans. We were also reminded of some of Barrowland’s dark history, such as the Bible John murders of the late 1960s: the killer picked up his victims there. On a lighter note, Horse posed with a poster for her own concert at the venue. The lyrics on the staircase, or at least the ones I’ve Googled, are by Biffy Clyro.
Approaching the stage
Horse and her poster
The world’s oldest surviving music hall has been entertaining since 1857 and was the first place Stan Laurel trod the boards.
Stan Laurel plaque
Stan wants your money
We were lucky enough to meet Judith Bowers who is in charge of the Panopticon and founded the campaign to restore it. She was very entertaining and told us of the significance of the three Ps in the building’s history: pee, poo and prostitutes. Yes really! Enjoy some more pictures, then read on….
Pee. The Panopticon had no toilet until 1893 and, unlike many music halls, it’s on the first floor. Men couldn’t be bothered fighting their way downstairs to the alleyway, so could this be why this music hall survived when others burned down? It was sodden!
Poo. A lump of horse sh*t collected from the streets made a great hand warmer, apparently. And a handy missile if the comedian was rubbish…..
Prostitutes. Ladies of uncertain virtue would congregate in one corner of the balcony. How do we know? The presence of large numbers of trouser buttons found in that area when it was excavated.
One other thing that interested me, but that Judith didn’t mention, was the Carrie Nation poster on the wall. Carrie was an American temperance campaigner who visited Glasgow in 1908 and spoke in both the City Halls and the Panopticon. She was famed for smashing up bars with a hatchet and had quite a theme going – a bi-weekly newspaper called The Smasher’s Mail, a newspaper called The Hatchet, and little hatchet pins to sell to raise funds. The one pictured below belongs to Glasgow Women’s Library: Carrie features on one of our Women’s History Walks.
Carrie Nation poster
Carrie Nation hatchet pin
Thanks to Suzanne, Horse and Judith for a fascinating and informative afternoon. I hope, Dear Reader, you’ve enjoyed it too.
I have come to know Garnethill well in recent years – it’s the topic of one of Glasgow Women’s Library’s Women’s Heritage Walks on which I act as a tour guide. There we are above, looking gallus. It’s a mainly residential area near the city centre which got the first part of its name from Thomas Garnett (1766-1802) who built a house here. The views below explain the second part of the name quite well! There’s a hill in every direction.
Despite its relatively small size, Garnethill packs in a lot of history. The tour explores women’s lives via churches, hospitals, schools, a park, a synagogue, a museum (The Tenement House) and Mackintosh’s iconic Art School, shown bottom right after the fire damage of May 2014. The other pictures show gable-end public art from the late 70s, the Pocket Park, the birthplace of novelist Catherine Carswell and one of Shona Kinloch’s Chookie Burdies (look for the wee bird on the lamp-post).
Street art. Photo credit Mardelle Ceaser
Birthplace of Catherine Carswell
Chookie Burdies. Photo credit Mardelle Ceaser
Glasgow School of Art. Photo credit Mardelle Ceaser
There is a Storify for this walk with more pictures, and see also my friend Mardelle Ceaser’s blog about her experience as a tour participant. Several of the pictures in this post are hers (used with permission and credited in the captions.) However, this is just a flavour of the two hours of history on offer. If you’re in the Glasgow area, I recommend coming on any of GWL’s walks (not that I’m biased, of course!)
In H tomorrow, you might be able to get a pint to go with that curry you had in C.
The People’s Palace is Glasgow’s social history museum. My latest visit was with Glasgow Women’s Library’s Seeing Things project – although I’ve been many times before, it was interesting to visit the Palace with a group and get different people’s take on the exhibits. Here’s what caught my eye.