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.
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! 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 and Anne Galastro
Joan Eardley collage
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
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.
Memorial in Budapest
Jane Haining rakpart, Budapest
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.
Thanks to Elaine at I used to be indecisive whose postGlen 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.
On Lendrick Hill
On Lendrick Hill
On Lendrick Hill
On Lendrick Hill
Glen Finglas Reservoir
Glen Finglas Dam
Glen Finglas Dam
Glen Finglas Dam
Glen Finglas Dam
Site of Ruskin’s portrait
Brig o’ Turk
Byre Inn, Brig o’ Turk
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.
Loch Ardinning and Dumgoyne
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.)
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.
Go to jail!
Women of Wyoming
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 Franchise” by John D. Baker
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!
This wall grows food
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.
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!
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.
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 …
Women of Maryhill tour launch
Women of Maryhill tour launch
… and enjoying tea and scones with some of the participants after the most recent tour on Saturday.
Tea party at Maryhill Halls
If you’re in and around Glasgow, keep an eye on the Maryhill Burgh Halls website for news of more tours and events.
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.
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..