***SOLD OUT*** Workshop: Weaving Festive Willow Stars

2 star decorations made of willow

Wednesday 6th December 2023 | 6:30-8:30pm | GCHT, 54 Bell Street, G1 1LQ

Join Max Johnson from Seileach Basketry for weaving and mince pies at this cosy festive event! Max is a longtime forager, foodie and crafter, who lovingly weaves baskets & decorations using materials foraged in a range of landscapes, from idyllic rural riversides to derelict post-industrial sites.

People have been weaving with willow for at least 10,000 years. In this workshop we’ll use this ancient practice to weave festive star decorations. Making them is incredibly relaxing and meditative; a chance to engage with nature and express yourself creatively.

This session is suitable for beginners, no weaving experience necessary. All equipment and materials provided.

£30 per person

You might also be interested in…

Glasgow Historic Environment: A Snapshot – 2019

Ever wondered which buildings in your neighbourhood are listed, or even on Scotland’s Buildings at Risk Register?

Our new interactive map shows data collated between February and April 2018 which gives a snapshot of the current state of Glasgow’s historic built environment.

Blog Post: Ghosts and Zombies

Read our latest blog post about our Ghost Signs of Glasgow project, pondering the nature of ghost signs and what they tell us about the urban landscape.

Enjoy Family Fun with our Kids Trails!

Download our Kid’s Heritage Trails!

Become a Friend of Glasgow City Heritage Trust

Each year, our events help over 2000 people to understand and appreciate Glasgow's irreplaceable built heritage. Can you help us to reach more people?

We are hugely grateful for the support of our Friends whose subscriptions help cover the costs of these events, thereby ensuring accessible pricing for everyone in Glasgow in these challenging times.

The easiest way to support the Trust’s work is to join our Friends scheme. Our tiered loyalty scheme means you can choose the level that’s right for you.

**Sold Out** CPD: Showcasing Stone Carving

An ornately carved stone cross that sits on the top of Miller Hall, a Category A listed church in Dennistoun.

Monday 9th October | 10am – 12 noon | On site at Conservation Masonry, 942-944 South Street, Whiteinch, Glasgow, G14 0AR

This event provides an opportunity to see the craft of stone carving in action, as you’ll see the carving of a new Arts & Crafts influenced stone cross for the apex of the roof at Miller Hall.  A Category A-listed historic church in Dennistoun, designed by celebrated architect James Miller, the building was previously known as St Andrew’s East Church and was converted into flats in the early 2000s.

The historic cross is beginning to disintegrate and can’t be left in place due to the risk of pieces of stone falling. It is too important a feature to take away, so the decision was taken to create a replica cut from a new piece of stone.

We will explain the background to the current conservation project, supported by Glasgow City Heritage Trust, and will see the historic stone cross which has been carefully removed from the church. Attendees will learn the various stages of carving involved, from processing a sandstone block, setting out, initial shaping and hand chiselling the stone down to the finished article, including cutting all the exquisite relief detail.

PPE can be provided if necessary, however it would be helpful if attendees could bring their own hard hats, safety eyewear and hi-viz vests/jackets if they can.

All GCHT CPD sessions are recognised by the IHBC, and attendees can obtain a CPD certificate upon completion.

Spaces are limited to 8 people, booking essential.

£10 per person / £5 for students

 

All sessions are recognised by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) as being capable of contributing to the obligatory CPD requirements of Full Members (see www.ihbc.org.uk)

You might also be interested in…

Glasgow Historic Environment: A Snapshot – 2019

Ever wondered which buildings in your neighbourhood are listed, or even on Scotland’s Buildings at Risk Register?

Our new interactive map shows data collated between February and April 2018 which gives a snapshot of the current state of Glasgow’s historic built environment.

Blog Post: Ghosts and Zombies

Read our latest blog post about our Ghost Signs of Glasgow project, pondering the nature of ghost signs and what they tell us about the urban landscape.

Enjoy Family Fun with our Kids Trails!

Download our Kid’s Heritage Trails!

Become a Friend of Glasgow City Heritage Trust

Glasgow City Heritage Trust is an independent charity and your support is crucial to ensure that our charitable work promoting the understanding, appreciation and conservation of Glasgow’s historic buildings for the benefit of the city’s communities and its visitors continues now, and in the future.

The easiest way to support the Trust’s work is to join our loyalty scheme. Our tiered loyalty scheme means you can choose the level that’s right for you.

**Sold Out** Moments of Beauty in Glasgow: A Walking Tour (Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival)

A tweet by Niall Murphy. It features a photograph of a red sandstone tenement with shops on the bottom. The writing says: #MomentsOfBeauty in #Glasgow: Good to see architect David Barclay's huge Guild Hall - one of the city's jolly red giants - emerge smart and refreshed from its scaffold. I love the weighty muscular mass and rippling depth of the masonry and how it's sculpted to be deeply shadowed.'

Sunday 17th September | 11am – 1pm | Meet at 54 Bell Street, G1 1LQ

If you enjoy Moments of Beauty in Glasgow on Twitter, join Niall Murphy, conservation architect and Director of Glasgow City Heritage Trust, for a walking tour exploring the highlights, both big and small, as part of Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival 2023.

Starting from Bell Street, the walk will head into Glasgow Cross via the High Street then on into the Merchant City via Albion Street. The tour will take in Wilson Street, Glassford Street, Ingram Street, Virginia Street, Miller Street, and Royal Exchange Square before finishing at the Lighthouse. Highlights include the lost realm of the Tobacco Lords, the high jinks of the Hellfire club, the devastation caused by the collapse of the City of Glasgow Bank, the works of the Glasgow City Improvement Trust, Glasgow’s interwar ‘Avenue of the Americas’ and the County Buildings, Robert Adam’s Trades House, a Post-modern courtyard, Sir JJ Burnet’s baroque banking hall, a precocious facade, the site of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Ingram Street tea rooms, the link between Paris’s Arc du Triomphe and the Equestrian Statue of the Duke of Wellington, Glasgow’s links to slavery, and, the symbology of the Lighthouse.

Free but booking is essential: Please note booking is managed by Doors Open Days and will be available from 1st September, details to follow. 

You might also be interested in…

Glasgow Historic Environment: A Snapshot – 2019

Ever wondered which buildings in your neighbourhood are listed, or even on Scotland’s Buildings at Risk Register?

Our new interactive map shows data collated between February and April 2018 which gives a snapshot of the current state of Glasgow’s historic built environment.

Blog Post: Ghosts and Zombies

Read our latest blog post about our Ghost Signs of Glasgow project, pondering the nature of ghost signs and what they tell us about the urban landscape.

Enjoy Family Fun with our Kids Trails!

Download our Kid’s Heritage Trails!

Become a Friend of Glasgow City Heritage Trust

Each year, our events help over 2000 people to understand and appreciate Glasgow's irreplaceable built heritage. Can you help us to reach more people?

We are hugely grateful for the support of our Friends whose subscriptions help cover the costs of these events, thereby ensuring accessible pricing for everyone in Glasgow in these challenging times.

The easiest way to support the Trust’s work is to join our Friends scheme. Our tiered loyalty scheme means you can choose the level that’s right for you.

The Knight Map: An Artist’s Process (Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival)

Watercolour pallets sitting on top of a line drawing of Glasgow city centre

Thursday 14th September | 7:30 – 8:30pm | The ARC, University of Glasgow, G11 6EW

Join artist Will Knight to hear about the process for creating this incredible new map of Glasgow, as part of the Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival 2023.

Find out about the inspiration for the project as well as the techniques Will used in order to create the final work – tracing and updating Thomas Sulman’s 1864 Bird’s Eye View of Glasgow. Each working drawing is a step towards the final artwork, but the construction of each layer was thought out and planned with a rigorous process for creating each one.

Will studied Architecture at the Glasgow School of Art, and this training has informed his approach to understanding the dynamic relationship between people and place. He has spent the last ten years observing, recording and interpreting Glasgow’s built environment – from the celebrated work of Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson to the ubiquitous tiled tenement close; from some of the city’s cherished eateries to the scratch bakery and local newsagent.  Every subject is explored through measurement and drawn by hand, elevating everyday buildings so that they are revealed afresh.

 

Free but booking is essential: Please note booking is managed by Doors Open Days and will be available from 1st September, details to follow. 

You might also be interested in…

Glasgow Historic Environment: A Snapshot – 2019

Ever wondered which buildings in your neighbourhood are listed, or even on Scotland’s Buildings at Risk Register?

Our new interactive map shows data collated between February and April 2018 which gives a snapshot of the current state of Glasgow’s historic built environment.

Blog Post: Ghosts and Zombies

Read our latest blog post about our Ghost Signs of Glasgow project, pondering the nature of ghost signs and what they tell us about the urban landscape.

Enjoy Family Fun with our Kids Trails!

Download our Kid’s Heritage Trails!

Become a Friend of Glasgow City Heritage Trust

Each year, our events help over 2000 people to understand and appreciate Glasgow's irreplaceable built heritage. Can you help us to reach more people?

We are hugely grateful for the support of our Friends whose subscriptions help cover the costs of these events, thereby ensuring accessible pricing for everyone in Glasgow in these challenging times.

The easiest way to support the Trust’s work is to join our Friends scheme. Our tiered loyalty scheme means you can choose the level that’s right for you.

The Glasgow City Improvement Trust and the Transformation of the Victorian City (Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival)

Thursday 14th September | 6 – 7pm | Advanced Research Centre, University of Glasgow, G11 6EW

Join GCHT Director Niall Murphy to find out about the achievements of the Glasgow City Improvement Trust, as part of the Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival 2023.
.
Over the course of the 19th Century, Glasgow suffered explosive city growth, with its population increasing from 77,000 in 1801 to 762,000 by 1901. This created problems of overcrowding, poor sanitation and population health issues, with the city’s housing conditions regarded as amongst the worst in Europe.
.
To combat this, in 1866 Lord Provost Blackie led a delegation including Glasgow’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr William Tennant Gairdner, and the City Architect, John Carrick to Europe to see what lessons could be learned. Having visited Amsterdam and Brussels it was Baron Haussmann’s Paris where they were most impressed by the urban innovations being introduced for Napoleon III.
.
Upon his return to Glasgow, Carrick drew up the City Improvement Act of 1866 with a programme of slum clearance to clear out and introduce light and air to the medieval heart of the city, making Glasgow a pioneer for municipal improvements.

Free but booking is essential: Please note booking is managed by Doors Open Days and will be available from 1st September, details to follow.  

You might also be interested in…

Glasgow Historic Environment: A Snapshot – 2019

Ever wondered which buildings in your neighbourhood are listed, or even on Scotland’s Buildings at Risk Register?

Our new interactive map shows data collated between February and April 2018 which gives a snapshot of the current state of Glasgow’s historic built environment.

Blog Post: Ghosts and Zombies

Read our latest blog post about our Ghost Signs of Glasgow project, pondering the nature of ghost signs and what they tell us about the urban landscape.

Enjoy Family Fun with our Kids Trails!

Download our Kid’s Heritage Trails!

Become a Friend of Glasgow City Heritage Trust

Each year, our events help over 2000 people to understand and appreciate Glasgow's irreplaceable built heritage. Can you help us to reach more people?

We are hugely grateful for the support of our Friends whose subscriptions help cover the costs of these events, thereby ensuring accessible pricing for everyone in Glasgow in these challenging times.

The easiest way to support the Trust’s work is to join our Friends scheme. Our tiered loyalty scheme means you can choose the level that’s right for you.

Recording – ‘Many a Chill and Lonely Vigil’: George McCulloch’s View of Glasgow in 1853

You might also be interested in…

Enjoy Family Fun with our Kids Trails!

Download our Kid’s Heritage Trails!

Online Talk: 19th Century Retail and the Rise of the Department Store

Wednesday 8th December 2021 | 7.30pm GMT | via Zoom

Focusing on architecture, window displays, and internal design, this talk will examine how Glasgow department stores, like their Parisian counterparts, became spaces not just of spectacle, but also of manipulation and disorientation.

The Map

“I feel like a bird soaring over the city when I gaze upon Sulman’s map, every nook and cranny with every detail so exact.

I can see where I came from and where I’m at.”

Become a Friend of Glasgow City Heritage Trust

Glasgow City Heritage Trust is an independent charity and your support is crucial to ensure that our charitable work promoting the understanding, appreciation and conservation of Glasgow’s historic buildings for the benefit of the city’s communities and its visitors continues now, and in the future.

The easiest way to support the Trust’s work is to join our loyalty scheme. Our tiered loyalty scheme means you can choose the level that’s right for you.

Support us

Like many other charities, the coronavirus outbreak is having a major impact on our activities, threatening our crucial work to protect, repair and celebrate Glasgow’s rich built heritage. As a result, we expect to lose an important part of our income this year.

We are therefore asking that if you are able to support our conservation and outreach work,
please consider donating to the Trust.

“Many a chill and lonely vigil”: George McCulloch’s View of Glasgow in 1853 (Online Talk)

A black and white line drawing of Glasgow. McCulloch's 'View'

Wednesday 28th June | 7pm – 8pm | Online, via Zoom

Eleven years before Thomas Sulman’s famous bird’s-eye view of Glasgow appeared in the Illustrated London News, a young local artist named George McCulloch produced his own. It gives a vivid glimpse of the industrial city that had sprung up over the past two generations, smeared with smoke and crowded with activity. David Pritchard will describe what he’s been able to find out about the creation of McCulloch’s View, take you on a tour of some of his favourite details and the human stories they hint at, and think a little about the View in relation to other images of Glasgow, from Thomas Sulman to Will Knight.

*

David Pritchard is an adoptive Glaswegian, an occasional mathematician, an enthusiastic but uninformed wanderer of the city’s interesting corners, and a map nerd who spends far too much time in the nineteenth century.

Free, booking essential, donations welcome. 

Please note: Payment is taken via PayPal but you do not need to have a PayPal account to pay online. 

You might also be interested in…

Glasgow Historic Environment: A Snapshot – 2019

Ever wondered which buildings in your neighbourhood are listed, or even on Scotland’s Buildings at Risk Register?

Our new interactive map shows data collated between February and April 2018 which gives a snapshot of the current state of Glasgow’s historic built environment.

Blog Post: Ghosts and Zombies

Read our latest blog post about our Ghost Signs of Glasgow project, pondering the nature of ghost signs and what they tell us about the urban landscape.

Enjoy Family Fun with our Kids Trails!

Download our Kid’s Heritage Trails!

Become a Friend of Glasgow City Heritage Trust

Each year, our events help over 2000 people to understand and appreciate Glasgow's irreplaceable built heritage. Can you help us to reach more people?

We are hugely grateful for the support of our Friends whose subscriptions help cover the costs of these events, thereby ensuring accessible pricing for everyone in Glasgow in these challenging times.

The easiest way to support the Trust’s work is to join our Friends scheme. Our tiered loyalty scheme means you can choose the level that’s right for you.

Series 2 Episode 10: A Natter with Niall, with Norry Wilson from Lost Glasgow

Norry Wilson:
Hello, I’m Norry Wilson. Welcome to If Glasgow’s Walls Could Talk, a podcast by Glasgow City Heritage Trust about the stories, relationships between historic buildings, and the people of Glasgow. You’ll usually be used to hearing Niall introduce the podcast, but now, for the final episode in series two, we’re doing something a little bit different and I get to turn the tables on Niall to hear his thoughts and opinions about Glasgow, its built heritage, and how it impacts upon the communities that we all live in. So, to get started, Niall, can you tell us a bit about your own journey, how you ended up in Glasgow, and how you have risen to become the Director of the Glasgow City Heritage Trust?

Niall Murphy:
Gosh, that sounds very posh. Okay. Right, how did I wind up here? It’s a long story. So, yeah, I originally come from Hong Kong, so I was born and brought up in Hong Kong in the 1970s, and I absolutely loved living in Hong Kong. It’s a fantastic city. But both my parents came from Scotland, though my mum technically was born in Birmingham, her family are from Leith and Newhaven, in Edinburgh direction, Leith obviously separate from Edinburgh, so you can’t make that mistake.

Norry Wilson:
Always got to remember that.

Niall Murphy:
Whereas my dad comes from Kilmaurs, which is a wee village just outside of Kilmarnock. And so they both wound up in Hong Kong separately and met there and got married there and had a family with my brother and I. And because they were both employed by the Hong Kong government in the 1960s, they were still on colonial contracts. And so they both come from quite lowly backgrounds. My dad’s family were builders and miners in Ayrshire, and my mum’s family, they were involved in ship building on the Firth of Forth, and so that was their background.

So, anyway, as part of your colonial contract, you could send your children to school in the UK, and their thinking at the time, in the mid ’70s, was they were going to be coming back to the UK at some point, and so they thought they would send my brother and I ahead to school in Edinburgh to get us used to it. And so I wound up going to boarding school in Edinburgh, which was a horrible experience and absolutely not me, and got sent when I was nine, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy because it was a really horrible experience and it made me terribly homesick.

Norry Wilson:
I’m not surprised.

Niall Murphy:
But it was funny because I found the Edinburgh Botanics and the glass houses in the Botanics, and I used to escape to them because I was really badly bullied at school. So, I used to escape to them and hang out, and I’ve always wondered whether any of the staff in the Botanics thought, “Why is there this 10 year old kid hanging around in the Botanics all the time?” But in the glasshouses, because they were the tropical ones, they were so nice and steamy, it was a nice escape for me.

Norry Wilson:
I suppose it would almost be like being back in Hong Kong temperature wise?

Niall Murphy:
Well, absolutely, it was that. It made me feel at home because it was like the rainforest in Hong Kong. So, it was nice to discover that. But anyway, the good thing about that school was it had a really excellent art department, which you could escape to, and we had a really good set of teachers there who were fantastic. This husband and wife couple, Mark and Lottie Cheverton, who were really lovely, very Christian. And they went on to establish the Leith School of Art in Leith. And very sadly they both died in a car crash when they were very young, but Leith School of Art has kept on going that they set up. And they believed firmly that anyone could draw, and so they were really rigorous in doing this. And you had to do these exercises where basically you weren’t allowed to take your pen or your pencil off-

Norry Wilson:
Off the page.

Niall Murphy:
You had to do the whole thing in a single line. Oh my God, it was so difficult. But that was the discipline of doing it. That really taught me how to draw and how to look. And then the other thing that they did, which I’ve really appreciated in hindsight, was they sent you out to draw en plein air in the city, and so you got to know Edinburgh. And it’s funny, I hated Edinburgh at the time, because I just wanted to be back in Hong Kong and Edinburgh was so not me. And I now look back and realise, oh, my God, I was so spoiled because Edinburgh is such a fantastic city.

So, it was really interesting and that was what taught me to look at cities and begin to appreciate cities. And because I was growing up in Hong Kong and it was such a fantastic city, it’s interesting because I’ve realised now in hindsight in my life that growing up in Hong Kong would’ve been the equivalent of growing up in Victorian Glasgow, because it was going through that same kind of boom. And then what I’ve done is effectively, by travelling back to Scotland, moved forward in time to a post-industrial city from a city that was going from pre-industrial to industrial to a post-industrial city, which has been quite interesting because I can look back and compare the two, with Glasgow being this incredible Victorian boom town.

And so I realised as I was looking at the city evolving, that I was actually really interested in cities and how they evolved. And I was particularly fascinated, Norman Foster’s Hong Kong Shanghai Bank, which was the world’s most expensive building which was being built in Hong Kong when I was in my early teens, and so it was that that that eventually switched me onto architecture. And when you have to apply for schools of architecture, I had all the wrong exam results, but I had a really good portfolio. And so my school were like, “Yeah, you’ll never get in,” and totally discouraged me from doing architecture anywhere. If you weren’t going to be a doctor or a lawyer, they didn’t want to know. And they were like, “Why do you want to be an architect? Architects don’t make any money.” And it was like, yeah, I discovered that later that they were in fact correct.

But anyway, I applied to the Glasgow School of Art and I got in on the strength of my portfolio. And it’s funny, I also had to apply to Edinburgh as well, but if you put Glasgow first, Edinburgh reject you completely. So, I got unconditionals from Glasgow and from Dundee, and I opted for Glasgow because when I came to Glasgow, the Art school was so fantastic, and it was after I left the interview, I was walking down through the city because I didn’t know Glasgow at all, and got to St. Vincent Street and was walking down St. Vincent Street. And the way that St. Vincent Street, the buildings really rise up and it becomes this canyon of stone and all these fantastic facades, and it really reminded me of Causeway Bay in Hong Kong where it’s really densely packed buildings and you’re in a canyon of buildings and I thought, “I could live here. I like this city.”

And it was a bit of a shock to the system coming here. So, the first night I was here, this is 1981, I was with a Singaporean friend who was studying medicine up at the university and we were going to the ABC. So, we’re standing in the queue to get into the ABC on Sauchiehall Street and chatting away, and this guy taps me on my back and says to me, “Where are you from?” And I’m like, “Should I explain the whole Hong Kong bit or do you think that’s probably a bit much?” So, I said, “I’m from Edinburgh.” And he said, “Right, so you’re a snob.” And that was when I realised that whole public school accent I’d picked up by being in Edinburgh for too long had to go, you couldn’t do that in Glasgow.
So, yeah, on the back of that, I began to get to know Glasgow. The good thing about the Mackintosh School of Architecture, which had a really good reputation, not just in Scotland but in the UK and globally at that time because it was headed up by Professor Andy MacMillan.

Norry Wilson:
Who went on to Chicago School of Art. No, it was the guy after Andy MacMillan that went on and headed up the Chicago Institute of Art.

Niall Murphy:
That’s right, yeah. But Andy was a real salt of the earth Glaswegian, and with him, he was quite funny, so he did the introductory lessons when you start in year one and he’s so no nonsense Glaswegian. He had just come back from a summer in Hong Kong, and he’d been kicked out the Hong Kong Club, which is the poshest club in Hong Kong, for refusing to wear a tie. And he was like, “These snobs, I hate public school snobs.” And I was like, “Uh-oh, I better do something about that as well.” So, it was a bit of a baptism of fire, doing architecture here, but the good thing about the Mac was it was all based in Glasgow. Any exercises you did, any building that you were set a brief to design, it had to respond to a typology in Glasgow. So, you had to design a tenement, you had to design a civic building that had to be on particular sites in Glasgow, you were always set these tests. And so you got to know the city really well as a consequence of that.

And you got the feel of the place as an urban city. And it was unusual because most schools of architecture just focused on the building themselves, whereas in Glasgow there was a real element of urbanism to it. And so you got to have a better feel for how a city actually is pieced together and works so that the city is, not to sound pretentious, but as this spatial experience of being able to pass through and understand the city, you really got to know that at the Mackintosh School of Architecture. And that’s never left me. And it’s something you didn’t get in other schools of architecture, and it’s really tough course. So, it’s a seven year long course and part of it is you get what are called crits where you basically have to pin up your work for the entire school to evaluate.

And you have a panel of lecturers and professors that sit and pass judgement on your work in front of everybody. So, there’s nowhere to hide, so it can be really demoralising, though it can be, if you get good feedback, it can obviously be quite good too. There’s some funny stories there with Andy. There was one time, there was this huge crit space at the back of the Mac where there were three sliding boards, so the first person would be pinning up, the second person would be getting critted, and then the third person would be taking their work down and they would just slide the boards over so that they could get one after the other. So, Andy’s not paying attention to this person in the middle who’s giving their whole spiel on how wonderful their building is. And he’s focused on this guy who’s pinning up, and the guy slides his work over and Andy just goes, “Just keep going.”
It was so cruel, but that’s what the place was like. So, I ended up on the back of that, because I did do lots of sketching en plein air, I won the Robert Lorimer Award for my sketchbooks, which was really nice. I just did that off my own back. I was being encouraged by an American friend of mine who was an exchange student who was like, “You do really good sketches, why don’t you just fire it in and see what happens?” Because at that time I had no confidence in myself. And so I did, and that was all on sketches around Glasgow and some sketches in Boston, and so I won this award on the back of that. And then after that, having finished that, I’d gone back to Hong Kong for a couple of years. I was working in Hong Kong for a couple of years and then you have to come back for your final two years at the Mac, and then after that, basically that’s you. You’ve kind of…

Norry Wilson:
Set free into the wild.

Niall Murphy:
Set free into the wild, though you have to do a further year of professional studies and then you can sit your part three exam. So, that’s why it’s such a long process, so when I got out, there were no jobs in Glasgow at that point, and Hong Kong had been handed back to the Chinese by that point. So, 1997 had happened and the Far East Asian financial crisis was happening, and so I couldn’t go back to Hong Kong because there were no jobs there. And by that point, I’d been doing some work, because I had worked in Hong Kong for two years and I’d been able to save money, I’d spent a summer doing voluntary work for Scottish Aids Monitor, and because this was all part of coming out and accepting that I was gay, and I met my partner there.

And so my partner’s very working class Glaswegian, and so we’ve been together ever since, but still there were no jobs in Glasgow. So, I eventually ended up working in Berlin. I had friends in Berlin who had been at the Mac and they needed people in their office, so I ended up going over to Berlin to work. And at that point I really wasn’t sure what I was doing with my life, and it turned out, ironically, that the one thing the Germans aren’t terribly good at is their postal service outside of Germany. And so I was sitting writing all these letters back to my partner at home and he wasn’t getting anything and he thought I’d just cut him off and that I’d basically just done a runner. And then one night I was thinking about, and this is about three months in, I was living in Prenzlauer Berg at this point, in a tenement in Prenzlauer Berg.

Norry Wilson:
I know the area.

Niall Murphy:
Which is now very posh, but at the time was in the East, and so was still quite impoverished. And the experience of living in a tenement in Berlin is quite tough. When you live in the tenement in Berlin, you realise how well the Glaswegians build by tenements. So, things like our stairs, because all the building code here was pretty strong compared to Germany, the stairs in Germany were timber stairs. Six story tenements with timber stairs, and you used to go up them and think what would happen if there was a fire? You’d be stuffed. There was no way out. It’s shocking, it was so poorly built.

Norry Wilson:
It’s strange. My stepson, who’s a graphic designer, and his girlfriend because he’s a graphic designer, as long as he’s got an internet, he can work anywhere. So, they did about three years of living in Berlin, in various parts of Berlin. And of course it was my first thought, I had been through Berlin a couple of times, Eurorailing years back before the fall of the wall, So I remembered the East West thing. But obviously they were there after the wall was down, so myself and David’s mother were like, brill, we’ve got a base in Berlin. So, it was literally every three or four months we just went, right, cheap flight to Berlin, and we’ll go out and have a weekend.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely, it was the same thing with my friends, it was exactly the same thing.

Norry Wilson:
And it’s that strange aspects of Berlin I saw there in Glasgow, except for the fact that in Berlin you can catch the U-Bahn at 3:00 o’clock in the morning.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely, their public transport network is fabulous.

Norry Wilson:
Whereas in Glasgow on a Sunday after 6:00 o’clock. No, sorry. You’ve had your fun.

Niall Murphy:
When you come back from Berlin you think, oh, my God, Glasgow, you’ve really got to up your game, and it still hasn’t upped its game, but it’s got to do so much better. But, yeah, absolutely. That was my experience in Berlin and with my friends there. It was one time, New Year’s Eve, 1995, there was a huge party in front of the Brandenburg Gate, and it was still complete desolation at that point except for the Hotel Adlon had been rebuilt by that point, but nothing else was there. And I remember doing this huge conga at midnight through the Brandenburg Gate and thinking, oh, my God, this is just so bizarre.

Just a handful of years beforehand you’d have been shot because you were in no man’s land. And it was just how much Europe had changed, it was such a fantastic experience. But at the same time I began to realise I actually really missed Glasgow and I missed my partner. So, yeah, this one night he turned up out of the blue, opened the door to the tenement, and there he is sitting on the stairs, and it was like, what are you doing here? And he was like, “I hadn’t heard from you, what’s going on?” And I was like, “I’ve been sending you letters.”

Norry Wilson:
And I take it this was pre-ubiquitous mobile phone days?

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, exactly, pre-mobile phone and internet. And the ironic thing was as soon as he got back to Glasgow, all my letters arrived. I was like, “See? I was telling the truth.” And so after that I decided, right, well… Because Berlin is a really fantastic city, it was great fun living there, but at the same time it’s so flat. And it began to do my head in, because coming from Hong Kong as a harbour city which is all surrounded by steep mountains, and then Glasgow is surrounded by steep mountains and a fantastic harbour as well, really began to miss the sea and began to miss the mountains. And one time someone said, “Why don’t you go and try one of the hills in Berlin?” And it was this mound in East Berlin, which was about 100 foot high.

Norry Wilson:
And is that the one that they built from the rubble?

Niall Murphy:
I think it might have been, yes. That’s it, that’s all. But at the same time you do realise that there are really strong parallels between Berlin and Glasgow, particularly the grids of tenement streets, where you get datums in Glasgow, the three or four story tenement streets that were imposed by John Carrick, the city architect. You get all that stuff happening in Berlin too, these really long linear streets, really appreciated that quality and can see that when you’re standing in areas like Pollokshields, you can really see it, or Govanhill, you can really see that really clearly. So, I appreciated those qualities too. So, anyway, came back to Glasgow, we’d bought a flat in Pollokshields by that point, and fell in quite accidentally with the folk from Pollokshields Heritage. And so that switched me onto conservation.

It was quite funny because it brought down the average age quite a bit, which I think they were interested in. It was, “You’re an architect as well, so we’ll have one of you.” But actually it made me think about conservations and cities and what’s special in cities. And so that did really switch me onto it, and Glasgow had a lot of value in that. And I remember going to an interview as an architect in Glasgow and commenting on how fabulous the Victorian and Edwardian buildings were and how beautifully they were ornamented in the city centre, and this guy in the interview commenting, “I know, it’s such a shame, the planners want us to keep them.”

Norry Wilson:
There’s a problem with that? pointless comment.

Niall Murphy:
I know, absolutely. They wouldn’t let us do anything modern, I’m thinking, but these are so fantastic and you’re never going to be able to emulate them. You’re really going to struggle. And having real debates with people about that 123 St. Vincent Street, I remember having a debate with one well known architect about that, that it was just sham facadism. And I’m like, but it’s such a fantastic series of facades. Okay, I completely agree that the interior shouldn’t have been lost, but he was basically like, it should have been demolished completely, start again, but you’d never be able to match that kind of quality.

Norry Wilson:
It is that strange thing, folk talk about knowing a city like the back of their hands, and there’s hundreds of bits in Glasgow that I know that I could be dropped in and I can tell you within less than a second exactly where I am, exactly which way I’m facing, and what I’m surrounded by. And yet there’s other more modern bits of Glasgow where if you dropped me, I’d be looking about for 30 seconds before I went, “Ah, this used to be…”

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, exactly. And so, anyway, on the back of being involved in Pollokshields Heritage, I wound up sitting on Glasgow City Council’s Glasgow Urban Design panel, and to get to see all the big planning applications that basically affect the city centre or other parts of the city. If there’s a major planning application, it usually gets run past the Glasgow Urban Design Panel for a comment. They don’t have any statutory weight, but if the planning officer is interested in what their commentary is, it can end up being put into the report that goes through the planning applications committee, so it has a bit of influence. So, anyway, I felt that being on that panel, it was incumbent upon me to know something about Glasgow, to know about its history, to know about how it developed urbanistically, and that’s it.

Norry Wilson:
Put your money mouth where your mouth is.

Niall Murphy:
And to get to know what all the buildings were in the city, what was special about them and who the architects were, because I felt that if you were there to serve a civil purpose on that committee, you had to know your stuff. That turned out that not everybody agreed with me on that particular point, but anyway, so that was how I really began to… And I’d also, having been to boarding school and had this pretty horrendous experience there, I still have friends who are from that boarding school, but they’ve been scattered to the four winds, and so they’re all over the world.
And one thing, because I’d been so badly bullied and I’d been so homesick for Hong Kong, I really wanted to put down roots in a place and I didn’t want to be this rootless person that didn’t really know where they belonged in the world. I wanted to be somewhere that I could call home. And so I have done my utmost to make Glasgow my home on the back of that, and so it was all that too. And then it’s just a series of coincidences. So, Doors Open Day came up, this was in 2001, and Alison Grey-

Norry Wilson:
Sorry, I’m laughing slightly because I’d been doing my own heritage thing, the then Doors Open Day came along, and they got in touch with me and before I knew it, I was…

Niall Murphy:
You got sucked into all that?

Norry Wilson:
Yeah.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah. Well, this is back in 2001, and Alison Tanner, who was running Doors Open Day for Glasgow Building Preservation Trust at the time, put out this email to people who she thought might be interested in the city basically saying, “Would you be interested in suggesting any buildings that you want to see opened up on Doors Open Day?” And I was the only person who responded to her email and it was these buildings I’d really like to get into. And so she said, “Okay, right, I’ll do my utmost to get those open for you, but here’s the quid pro quo, would you do a walking tour in Glasgow for me?” And it was like, well, okay. And so I volunteered to do this walking tour up Buchanan Street, and I thought, well, I’ll give that a go.

And then of course this is six months before Doors Open Day happened, and so about a month beforehand, started panicking about the whole thing. Oh, my God, they’re going to rumble me, anyone who comes on this, because it sold out, and anyone who comes in this is going to straight away go, “You’re not a Glaswegian, what are you doing this?”

Norry Wilson:
Imposter syndrome.

Niall Murphy:
Imposter syndrome, and I was really terrifying. So, I dragged both my partner and my mum along on it, which was quite funny too, and we started at what’s now the Caffè Nero in St. Enoch’s Square, which was originally the entrance to the Glasgow subway. And so I was standing in front of it and I suddenly noticed that James Miller, who designed that lovely little Scottish perennial jewel of a building, that the archway has these devils masks around it, and basically this was…

Norry Wilson:
The entrance to hell.

Niall Murphy:
It was the Buffy The Vampire Slayer, is it hell gate? It’s Glasgow’s hell gate, and so I said that, “Here we are at the starting point, this is Glasgow’s hell gate,” and everyone started laughing and I thought, this is good, humour can connect to people. And so we ended up going way over shot, so we ended up doing this two and a half hour walk that went up Buchanan Street and then hung a left and eventually got into Central Station, then we stopped in Central and I left everyone there and this elderly Glaswegian lady grabbed my arm at the end and she was in tears and said, “Son, you’ve completely transformed the way I look at Glasgow. Thank you so much.” And I was really touched.

Norry Wilson:
I’m not surprised.

Niall Murphy:
And meanwhile on this route with my partner and my mum, my mum’s standing there because she’s a school teachers, “No, don’t talk to the buildings, talk to the audience.” It’s like, okay, mum, I will. And so it was training on how to do a walk and it was after that point I thought, yeah, I’m here amongst my people.

Norry Wilson:
I belong to Glasgow and Glasgow belongs to me.

Niall Murphy:
It’s true, and it’s also because it does remind me of Hong Kong in so many ways because Glaswegians are real salt of the earth and the Cantonese in Hong Kong were real salt of the earth too. And they know how to party, so that’s critical too.

Norry Wilson:
Well, it’s strange cause the only times I’ve ever been in Hong Kong, the first time I was delighted and surprised to meet a Glasgow tram.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, I know. Absolutely.

Norry Wilson:
And it’s still running, and then the Coronation trams.

Niall Murphy:
Quite a lot of them were burned, but others of them did wind up in Hong Kong.

Norry Wilson:
And the other amazing thing was getting in the Star Ferry and seeing a Glasgow maker’s plate.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, absolutely.

Norry Wilson:
Everyone else is admiring the scenery and taking photographs, and I’m walking around staring at bits of machinery, looking for Glasgow marks.

Niall Murphy:
See, I used to do that too because the stuff, it was dirt cheap, but you could nip across between the island and the Kowloon side on it, and all the tourists went on the upper deck, but it was like, no, who’s interested in the upper deck? You go to the lower deck because you get to see all of the machinery, it’s much more interesting.

Norry Wilson:
It’s a bit like going in the Waverley and going to see the paddles.

Niall Murphy:
Indeed, it’s exactly the same. Yeah, great fun. I miss old stuff like that. And, yeah, I suppose that when I’m thinking about Glasgow, the first night I spent in here, in Glasgow that is, this is back in 1989, there was a ferry that tooted its horn on the Clyde, and I thought, a-ha, harbour city, I could live here. But I’d never heard a ferry toot its horn on the Clyde.

Norry Wilson:
And it’s one of these strange things because my grandfather, who was born in Aberdeen in 1886, and had been four times around the world under sail before he was 21, ended up being a chief engineer out of the Clyde, 30 years in the Eastern Mediterranean, six weeks way down to Israel. Well, obviously it was at that point it was pre-Israel, but right the way down to the Eastern Mediterranean. And I grew up with him living in the house. And when I was wee, one of the great treats every Hogmanay, apart from the fact that grandpa would give you a cigar and a dram when you were about eight, you were allowed to stay up till midnight. And at midnight he’d rush you out into the garden and at that point there was still a lot of shipping in the Clyde, and you’d hear all the ships’ hooters and bells and everything going.

And my grandpa always said the amount of New Years that he’d spent in foreign ports when he was all alone and he was the only man on the ship, and he said, “Tonight, in Glasgow, there’s shipmates from all over the world alone in those ships, so raise a glass to your shipmates.” I still do it every year I dash out at midnight thinking, “Am I going to hear a ghostly hooter?” It was such a shame, the situation this year that the two cruise liners that are down in the… Is it King George the fifth dock?

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Norry Wilson:
Might have done their hooters, but probably the wind was in the wrong direction.

Niall Murphy:
Right, you didn’t hear it.

Norry Wilson:
And the amount of fireworks now at midnight. You can’t hear it.

Niall Murphy:
It’s a shame, it really is. We need to get ships back on the Clyde somehow.

Norry Wilson:
Even just some hooters.

Niall Murphy:
So, anyway, fast forward a bit, I was still at that point thinking about being a commercial architect and then mysteriously managed to win this competition for what was going to be Glasgow and Scotland’s tallest building, which was where the Scottish Power building now is on St. Vincent Street. And so that was called Elphinstone Place. And it was on the back of that, it was originally going to be three towers and we’d called it the Trinity Project to begin with in the office, and we had to do wind tunnel testing for it. Because if you’re building a tall building, you can’t make the wind conditions around your building any worse than they currently are. That planning is that that’s not allowed, so we had to do wind tunnel testing, and so it turned out the design was an absolute disaster from wind tunnel testing.

And it was standing, and so we had to build this whole scale model of Glasgow city centre, and this was working with our engineers. And there were only two places in the world that did this at this point. One of them was in London and the other one was in Toronto. So, we were at the wind tunnel in London and we had to basically do 92 different runs to end up with a solution that actually worked in wind tunnels, because it turned out it was one of Glasgow’s big firms of solicitors was in the building right next door. And the wind conditions at that would knock you off your feet, you were thinking, “Hmm, could possibly get sued, that might not be a good idea.” So, we had to rethink the whole thing, and so it was while I was doing that, and I’m standing this wind tunnel looking at the scale model of Glasgow City Centre and everything’s pretty low rise in Glasgow.

And the engineer from Arup is saying, “Yeah, Glasgow’s actually really well designed from the point of view of wind because that four datum tenements actually works really well in deflecting winds, and what you’re doing is basically bringing the winds down into the city centre.” And I’m looking at this tall building thinking, what have I done? And had this complete road to Damascus conversion thinking this is not what I want to do with my life. I want to go more into conservation. And so ultimately that’s what I ended up doing. I got made redundant from a big firm of architects in 2011 and got snapped up straight away by a friend of mine, Peter Drummond, who’s one of Scotland’s top conservation architects, and retrained as a conservation architect. And while I was doing that, I was getting invited in here to give lectures on occasion.

And then the post of grants officer came up here and the then director just asked me if I’d be interested and I had to apply along with with everybody else. And I thought, I don’t know, I’ve really enjoyed being an architect, but maybe it’s time for something different. I’ll give this a go for six months. And I absolutely loved it because it was things that was the educational part of it, being able to connect with people and see what you do to help people about what was happening with their buildings or explain why something has happened a particular way in Glasgow or how the city has developed a particular way. So, it was being able to apply my skillset set to things like that, so from that point of view, it was absolutely a dream job.

I absolutely loved working here, so it was a good fit. And it’s funny, I knew various politicians at the time and they were all having a good laugh saying, “You’re a square peg in a square hole, well done you, and it’s a good fit for you.” So, yeah, I’ve really enjoyed it ever since.

Norry Wilson:
Fabulous. Now, during lockdown, we were all holed up like moles, you started Tweeting about Glasgow’s architectural heritage using the hashtag #MomentsOfBeautyInGlasgow. And you’ve amassed a huge number of followers with that, obviously not quite as many as Los Glasgow has.

Niall Murphy:
He says modestly.

Norry Wilson:
I know. Can you tell us a bit about that? I follow it and have done I think since the earliest days. And again, I think I know Glasgow and then you’ll pick out some tiny, almost unseen detail in a building and I’ll think, why have I not noticed that before?

Niall Murphy:
That’s well spotted that, yeah. It’s good because there’s a bunch of folk who do that kind of thing, so it’s always interesting to see what people come up with. But, no, the Tweeting was a complete accident, and I was actually getting completely slagged off by Stuart McDonald MP and Paul Sweeney, who’s now an MSP. And the two of them were completely slagging me off, going, “Come on Niall, get into the 21st century, how come you’re not on social media?” And it was things like Twitter and stuff like that, to me it was so easy to trip yourself up. And I was thinking, career suicide.

Norry Wilson:
Just ask Gary Lineker.

Niall Murphy:
Just really not a good idea. And then it was one day, unfortunately I suffer from poor lung health because of having grown up in Hong Kong, and the pollution there was really bad, and I’ve had pneumonia three times, sadly, and I’ve wound up apparently with lungs that would suit a smoker and I’ve never smoked. So, oops, anyway, just one of the things in life. So, after the third time I had pneumonia, I decided I was going to start walking into the city centre and try and use that to get fit. So, I was walking into the city centre down the South City Way one day, and I won’t name the bus company, but this particular bus who were sponsoring, it was world pollution day that day to stop bad emissions, and a bus with this advert on it sponsoring this thing sails past me belching out diesel black smoke down the South City Way.

And I was like, this is ridiculous, got into the office and kind of checked their website and I could not find a phone number for complaints because I was so angry about it. It was like, this is outrageous. And it was Taylor in the office said, “Why didn’t you try Tweeting?” And I was so mad that I forgot all my don’t ever do this and thought I am going to. So, she showed me how to set this up, and that was the first thing I did was like, “How could you do this? It’s a disgrace,” and then was able to copy it to several of Glasgow’s politicians.

And then it took off from there quite accidentally. And it was when lockdown started, I just started deciding I was going to do a Tweet a day of my walks around the South Side. And then it was funny because then the South Side started getting quite busy and I was supposed to be shielding, and then the irony was that my shielding letter turned up six weeks late, by which point I’d been out and about all over the place, and the shielding letter is saying, “You can’t get within two metres of an open window,” and I thought, oh, my God, I’m going to be turned into Rapunzel and I don’t want to do that. So, I just carried on walking and in the end I shifted over to the city centre because there was nobody in the city centre. It was completely deserted.

Norry Wilson:
It was strange because even though, 99% of Lost Glasgow is still Facebook based, but I was about the same during lockdown, because even though we had a Twitter account, I hadn’t really used it that much. And during lockdown, it became an absolute lifesaver, and all of a sudden, before you know it, one minute you’ve got 1,000 followers and three days later, and you look and it’s 7,000, where did they come from?

Niall Murphy:
What happened?

Norry Wilson:
And all of a sudden you’ve built almost a secondary community that would never be on Facebook but are on Twitter. And it’s been a learning experience for me as well.

Niall Murphy:
It really is. The point of doing it, and I was just trying to limit myself, and I still do try and limit myself, to a Tweet a day, so I’ve figured out that 7:00 o’clock in the morning is my time to tweet and it means I can either set it up the night before because I’m always getting woken up by my cats at stupid o’clock in the morning and I can’t get back to sleep again. So, I will set the Tweet then and then it goes out at 7:00 o’clock in the morning on the dot, and I just try and find a different thing every day to have a bit of fun about it. But the point of it is to raise civic pride in Glasgow and show that Glasgow is a really beautiful city, because it is. And so I was just having a lot of fun with that.

And I was trying to encourage people to go out for walks during lockdown, and so it initially started in Pollokshields and just random stuff in Pollokshields, if I saw something interesting on a building, and I knew a bit of history to the building, I would just talk about that. And it got picked up by, it was Janice Forsyth firstly who picked it up at the BBC, and then it was, I got it interviewed by, is it John Beattie on BBC Drive Time as well? Which was quite good fun. And it just snowballed from there. Janey Godley started retweeting me and that was really sweet of her, and I’d loved to meet her. And so it just went from there and it’s just been really good fun. But it has this serious purpose that is to get people out and about and make them look at Glasgow’s fantastic architecture and be able to appreciate it.

Norry Wilson:
Well, it is also that thing, Glasgow is such a wonderfully walkable city, and yet so often we jump in our cars or we jump in a bus, or if you jump in a bus, you look up and down the bus and nobody’s looking out the window, if the window is clean enough to look out. They’ve all got their noses buried in their phones. And you think, look what you’ve just passed, or better still, walk it and stop and actually appreciate what you’re in. You go back to that grid system thing again.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely, the grid’s fantastic for walking.

Norry Wilson:
It’s absolutely lovely for walking, and particularly the East West accesses, where one day you’re getting a spectacular sunrise over there and that evening a spectacular sunset at the end of the same road. And it’s also the fact that you can, I know myself from looking at historic photographs of Glasgow, it means the tall buildings work almost like the Nomons, but a sundial, so you can almost work out exactly what time of day. You might not know what year the photograph was taken, but you can work out what time of day by the direction and the length of the shadows. And that’s almost like looking at a clock face.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, absolutely. That’s completely different from living in the tropics because the sun was directly overhead quite a lot. But Glasgow, really long shadows on particular days, which are really quite fabulous, and Glasgow sunsets are phenomenal, absolutely superb. So, the quality of light that you get on the West Coast is wonderful, and I also love down the water and just the Clyde Estuary is so beautiful. And, again, this is another parallel with Hong Kong, because in Hong Kong you’re living in an archipelago effectively off the Pearl River Estuary. And it’s really similar to the Firth of Clyde, and various people as well, Fiona Sinclair, who we’ve just interviewed in this podcast, she thinks I’m completely mad for this, but I’m like, I’m telling you, Fiona, it’s really similar to the landscape around Hong Kong, because you know how you get those windswept trees?

Norry Wilson:
I must admit, I love that. I’ve done enough, not for a long time, but enough walking and hiking on the West Coast of Scotland and all of a sudden you’ll come across a wind blasted Scots Pine, and it’s almost like a Japanese watercolour. It’s almost like one of these Japanese wood block prints, and you just think, hang on, I’ve seen this before and it’s not a Scottish artist, I’m looking at a Hawkerside.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, absolutely. But then that touches on all these fantastic… Because Glasgow was a great trading city that had all these great international connections, which is why you get things like the Glasgow Style, and you look at what Charles Rennie Mackintosh and James Salmon Junior are doing, there is an incredible Japanese influence which is what’s coming back with the Glasgow Boys coming back, with bringing all these Japanese art back from Japan. And you can see all those connections, and that’s what I like about Glasgow, it’s an incredible hybrid. And you don’t get that in terribly many places, but it makes it really fascinating.

Norry Wilson:
It is, it’s that river city thing, the Clyde, I regularly bang on about it in talks. The Clyde was our original information superhighway. And everything, there was goods in Glasgow went out to the world via the Clyde, and everything that was good, bad, and indifferent in the world came back to Glasgow up the Clyde.

Niall Murphy:
Totally. And this is, again, where I’m fascinated with Glasgow’s history, and where you look where the grid came from, because I think you get this cliché that Glasgow gave the grid to America, which I’ve never entirely bought because I think it was the other way around.

Norry Wilson:
It’s one of these strange things. I do know that the city father’s of Chicago, after the Great Fire of Chicago destroyed pretty well the entire centre of Chicago, did visit Glasgow and looked at the grid system.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, they did the same thing.

Norry Wilson:
However, they spent a year and visited every other major city in Europe at the same time. It sounds like a wonderful council jolly, if you know what I mean? So, for Glasgow to claim we’re Chicago, or we invented the grid system…

Niall Murphy:
But I think it’s that, because when you look at how after the Jacobite rebellion, how the city takes off after that, when you look at Glasgow’s connections to the American colonies and the Eastern Seaboard and all the way down to the Indies as well, and you see all the small settlements that were springing up where the tobacco lords, the apprentice tobacco lords, all had to be based in those settlements to know their market, they’re bringing back all those ideas to Glasgow. That’s where it’s all to do with commerce, it’s a mercantile city, it is not a major governmental city or doesn’t have a palace in it.

So, it’s not that kind of thing, it’s a pure mercantile city, so having a grid like that is a completely commercial and pragmatic thing to do. But what makes Glasgow more interesting than the American cities, I think, is because we do get that initial very harsh grid on Blythswood Square, that’s the ultimate evolution of Glasgow’s grid, because obviously you’ve got earlier grids that extend out from Trongate and the High Street. By the time you get to the West End and parts of the South Side, the grid is being adapted for landscape, you’re getting crescents introduced, and it’s all becoming softer and more organic. And so I think that’s really interesting too, because you see it developing in a completely different way from how the very ruthless way it developed in the United States, and it gives Glasgow a richness and a great sense of identity.

Norry Wilson:
I like the way that the grids have almost frays around the edges, if you know what I mean. All of a sudden you’re… Hang on, that one’s going off that way and that’s not a right angle.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, that, and I know people aren’t necessarily fans of the motorway, and I’m not much of a fan of it myself, but I do think that the way that Glasgow as a city is an overlay on a mediaeval, post-mediaeval city, and then you get the Georgian city appearing, and then you get the Victorian city appearing, then you get the Edwardian city, and then the War city, and then again this modernist city all superimposed on top of each other. It’s not like Edinburgh, where you get the Old Town and then they make this decision to add the New Town on the other side of the Nor Loch. So, the two didn’t mix and have these different characters.

Norry Wilson:
Never the twain shall meet.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, Glasgow is different, it’s all superimposed and it makes it such a fantastic, cinematic city. So, I find all that really interesting.

Norry Wilson:
So, moving onto the podcast, and I realise that this is the last episode of two series, how have you found working on it? Obviously you don’t have any trouble speaking to folk, a bit like myself, is there anything in particular that has stuck with you, struck you, or stayed with you from the conversations you’ve had across the two series?

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, absolutely. Two episodes in particular, and the first one was talking to Dr. Jeff Meek about mapping queer Glasgow, which also touched on Scotland as well, because I had this revelation halfway through that… So, it was from a personal side of things, and it was a horrific revelation about my family, which slightly disturbed me, and I was having it in the middle of this podcast and it was like, I better not show my emotions at this point. And that was, we were talking about James Adair, who was a prosecutor in Glasgow who sat on the Wolfenden Committee in the 1950s, which was the thing that ultimately led to the legalisation of homosexuality in England, though it doesn’t happen because of him in Scotland until the early 1980s.

And it was we were having this discussion about him and various people around him, and one of whom was William Merrilees, who was this very famous policeman in Edinburgh, in the City of Edinburgh police. And I had this sudden thought, because my granddad on my mum’s side was a sergeant in the City of Edinburgh police, and I really loved my granddad, I really looked up to him. And I had this sudden though, I bet my granddad knew this guy, because this guy was at his height in the 1950s, and he conducted a war on Edinburgh’s gay community and was arresting people, and it was a real awful time for repression.

And there’s a really good book, Peter Wildblood, he writes this book against the law at the time, and he ends up being one of the people who’s witness to the Wolfenden Committee. And it was all about what was basically a sting operation which arrested him and it was on the basis of these letters that were written between him and this RAF airman that he was having a relationship with, which were found on an RAF base I think and thereby exposed him and he was arrested on that basis and several of his friends were arrested too and he ended up being flung into prison. But he got an awful lot of public sympathy because all he was doing was he was in love with somebody.

What’s the harm in that? But there was this real atmosphere of repression, and I wondered, did my grandfather know this guy? And afterwards, I went and spoke to my mother, and she was like, “Yeah, they were friends,” and my grandfather knew him very well. And it all made sense, because when I did come out in the ’90s to my parents, both of whom have been completely fantastic and I’ve been really lucky from that point of view, what they did say to me was, “Don’t tell your granddad.” And I never quite understood why would I not want to tell him something that’s so key in my life, why would I not want to say anything?

And it wasn’t until years later that I’ve realised that was why, because he would reject you and you don’t want that kind of blow. And that was it, and at the same time, you can say, well, he must have been an awful person, but that was the context at the time, was that there was this whole thing going on and the police were not very liberal, and still have problems obviously. So, he was part of that context, and you can’t just divorce people from that context that they’re in, so it was a horrible realisation. But it happened right in the middle of the podcast, so I’ve never really forgotten that one, so that was interesting from a personal point of view.

And then the other one I really enjoyed was talking to Reverend Dr. John Harvey, and it was Stuart from the…

Norry Wilson:
Stuart Baird from the Motorway Archive.

 

Niall Murphy:

What was the Motorway Archive and is now the Scottish Road Archive, and I really enjoyed that discussion, particularly we weren’t quite sure whether to stop it at the end because there’d been a technical issue, so we just carried on talking between the three of us, and it was really interesting because the Reverend Dr. John Harvey was in his late 80s, sharp as a tack, and he had been one of the Glasgow Group who had done all this fantastic, very religious based, but had done this fantastic work in the Gorbals, and I’d been asking him, he lived in Abbotsford Place, and so I’d been asking him about what it was like to live through the clearances in the Gorbals, what the poverty in the Gorbals had been like.

What it was like to live through the shattering of this community, had they resisted at all? And he said, yes, that they had gone and spoken to and made petitions to the city and asked them to think again, that they were going to destroy this community, and the Gorbals, when you look at it, obviously there was real poverty at that time, and not helped by, first of all, after the First World War, when you get the rent strikes and Mary Barbour, and obviously that’s a good thing because they were being exploited. But when the cap was put on rents then and it stops things like the factoring profession, and investment in tenements and the maintenance of tenements, and it was basically just shift the responsibilities towards the maintenance of tenements, which is why the tenements in Glasgow by the 1950s were in such a bad way, because they hadn’t had maintenance for the best part of four decades, and are not in a good way.

And that’s why so many of the owners then sell them off to the individual people living in the flats and you get this fractured ownership, which is something we’re dealing with now. Because the buildings were never meant to be like that originally, they were built for rent rather than for ownership, so it’s something we’re still trying to deal with. But with areas like the Gorbals, effectively they were the equivalent of what happened in the United States with redlining, and so I was really interested in that point, because I’d come across Dr. Mindy Fullilove, fantastic name, who’s this African American sociologist.

And so it was her, she was doing this whole analysis of this African American community in Pittsburgh that had been destroyed, which had a really vibrant community, which had major links to jazz, and it had been destroyed by the authorities in Pittsburgh, and they rebuilt it as a convention centre with this huge motorway running through it. And I was thinking, oh, my God, the parallels with Glasgow are fascinating, and then discovered that Glasgow had sent a delegation to go and have a look at it. And I’m thinking could you imagine now sending, let’s go and have a delegation to look at the redlining and removal of an African American community.

Norry Wilson:
How we destroy a city.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, absolutely. Just completely horrific. And that was exactly what had happened with the Gorbals, and the authorities had made up their mind that they were getting rid of it, nobody was going to change their mind, and so this whole part of the city was just wiped from the face of the map, and the community shattered. Yeah, absolutely. Which I just think has been such a disaster for the city, and I do think that this is one of the reasons why Glasgow suffers from poor urban health, it’s exactly what coming up, what the Nazis did with Warsaw. It was about destroying the culture of the place to destroy people’s sense of sense, and inadvertently we ended up doing that to ourselves in this idea of urban renewal. And rather than invest in the building and the infrastructure of the neighbourhood, it was just like, we’ll start again.

Norry Wilson:
And going back to your earlier point about enjoying living and working in Berlin, I always found it that very strange thing when I’ve visited German cities that were almost wiped off the map during the Second World War, and yet they managed to restore particularly their old towns, almost as was but with new infrastructure and better facilities and all the rest of it. And yet Glasgow, which stayed pretty well unscathed apart from a few individual stray hits during the Second World War, as soon as the Second World War is over, we set about doing the work that the Luftwaffe didn’t do.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, absolutely. On the other hand, you can appreciate when you look at the statistics that Glasgow had major problems at the time. The overcrowding is really bad compared to any other UK city, we were an order of magnitude worse. But you could have thinned out the population, you didn’t have to destroy the actual fabric of city to do that. And you.

Norry Wilson:
Yeah, it was almost about…

Niall Murphy:
… better homes, and you could have had a much more sense of conservation surgery approach to the whole thing, like what Patrick Geddes was promoting in Edinburgh back in the Victorian times. You could have something that had a much more sensitive approach to it, you didn’t have to throw everything out. But there’s this whole worship of the car. The car is a machine, it doesn’t feel. People need environments that are going to nourish them, not something that’s going to prioritise the car, I’m so sorry. My feelings about that are getting in the way.

Norry Wilson:
It chimes in particularly with a lot of things I think about. Obviously we talk at the moment about 15 minute cities and all the rest of it.

Niall Murphy:
Glasgow was built as a 15 minute city, so you’ve got the city centre, you had roughly 700,000 people living within a mile of the city centre, so it was incredibly dense, twice the density of London at the time. And that’s why you get things like the strength of the theatres, the Empire Theatre, because they could get audiences, people wanted to escape from their lives and be entertained.

Norry Wilson:
Yeah, you’ve got audiences on your doorstep.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, so you’ve got all of those things on the back of that. Now it’s operating a third of the density of London. How did we manage to scatter people so far about?

Norry Wilson:
And also it drives back again to the building of the M8, where Glasgow ends up with the largest inner city motorway system in Europe, and yet Glasgow per capita has perhaps the lowest car ownership of any city in Europe.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, and has the worst health problems.

Norry Wilson:
The worst health problems.

Niall Murphy:
So, active living, things like that, they do help. So, I do think about those kind of things, and it’s one of the reasons why I’m interested in Glasgow’s tenemental neighbourhoods in particular, because they were 15 minute cities, and it’s weird how suddenly 15 minute cities has become a culture war kind of thing, and it’s like, where did this come from? People have been talking about this since the 1990s or 1980s.

Norry Wilson:
Yeah, planned gardens, suburbs and all the rest.

Niall Murphy:
I know, and suddenly it’s become a culture war thing. It was like, where did that come from?

Norry Wilson:
Yeah, who doesn’t want a nice café and a nice park?

Niall Murphy:
I know, yeah, exactly.

Norry Wilson:
Good public transport links, [inaudible 00:55:22].

Niall Murphy:
Why wouldn’t you enjoy that? How is that something evil?

Norry Wilson:
No, I demand to be allowed to drive 15 miles across the city. No.

Niall Murphy:
It’s very odd.

Norry Wilson:
And it’s also the working from home thing during COVID. I know I’ve certainly got to know my own area so much better during that, simply because I have been out walking about. There’s a new café opened, go inside and speak to the folk behind the counter, and before you know it, three weeks later and you’re walking down the road and somebody says hello to you, and you go, that’s the guys from the café. And before you know it you’ve got that nice mesh and it’s not so much a support network, it’s just that lovely… Embedded.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, it’s a feeling of community and being embedded in a community, and I have been very community focused, I joined things like Pollokshields Community Council, got involved in things like Govanhill Baths, which to me is incredibly important health and wellbeing.

Norry Wilson:
Right, it’s one of these things, I know you’re a member of the trust, but in my early, more radical years, I was very much one of the occupiers.

Niall Murphy:
Because it’s all about working… They have such a fantastic archive to do with working class heritage, which I think is incredibly important, so that’s Paula Larkin who’s really been leading on that, but I really admire it, the community trust. So, I’ve ended up being the chair of the building preservation trust part, because I’m a conservation architect, so I’ve ended up being the chair of that. So, we’re actually leading on the physical rebuilding project, but the community trust [inaudible 00:56:53], I was the chair of the community trust at one point, and I did remark to them, are you sure I’m the right person for this? Middle aged, balding, and at the time a little bit rotund.

So, jokingly said that, “No, we want you to be chair,” okay, fine. So, the first thing I did is I ended up going on a diet because I thought it’s not the right perception, if anyone can do it, I’m going to show if I can do it, anyone can do it. So, I did that, which was good.

Norry Wilson:
Get to your fighting weight.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, exactly. But, yeah, it’s been a really interesting project to be involved with doing something like that.

Norry Wilson:
Yeah, I’m still very peripherally involved. But one of the joys of it has been meeting up with Bruce Downey.

Niall Murphy:
Bruce is great.

Norry Wilson:
Who has written two absolutely fabulous books, and is now doing I think walking tours and stuff. Oddly enough, I recently was asked very much last minute, the Australian version of Who Do You Think You Are? You know, the family genealogical thing, and it was a guy who’s very well known in Australia, but he’s got connections to Govanhill. So, Bruce had him out filming one day in Govanhill, showing him the tenements where his grandparents and parents had grown up, and the next day I got to take him to the school that his father and his two uncles went to.

And of course they’ve still got the record books all the way back to the 1920s, showing you what they’d done right that day, six of the belt today. No explanation, just six of the belt today. And it’s lovely because, again, it looked into that idea of knowing where you are in a city and being embedded in your own corner of the city, and Glasgow, God, as you know probably more than most, Glasgow as a city is the small thing North of the river. Everything else that we consider Glasgow is villages that have been sucked up.

Niall Murphy:
Subsumed by the city, yeah.

Norry Wilson:
Subsumed by this monster that is now Glasgow. So, you meet somebody outwith Glasgow and you hear a Glasgow accent and you ask them where are you from? They don’t say Glasgow because they hear your accent. You both know you’re from Glasgow, so you say where you’re from. I’m from Shawlands, I’m from Govanhill, I’m from Partick, I’m from Finnieston, I’m from Easterhouse, I’m from Govan, I’m from the Gorbals. Because you pin each other down, and as soon as somebody says, “I’m from Govan,” you say, “You don’t maybe know so and so and so and so?” And before you know it, there’s this spider’s web of six degrees of separation that runs through the city.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, which I also really enjoy as well. So, yeah, Glasgow’s a great place. It’s good fun. And that’s what I like about it, and that’s what makes it feel like home.

Norry Wilson:
So, we’re coming towards the end, there’s a real theme of change, disruption, and displacement across the conversations in all the podcast series, and this is the proverbial $64,000 question, because we can probably talk about this for the rest of the day, how do you feel the city has changed over the past 200 years?

Niall Murphy:
Well, I suppose it brings me back to that point about… And this is what I really like about Glasgow, and I feel like it’s a really cinematic city from that point of view, is that unlike the preciousness of Edinburgh, people in Edinburgh probably hate me for saying that, bu Edinburgh is terribly precious. Glasgow has never been really precious about it and it’s always been it has to see itself on the edge, and doing what’s going to be the next big thing. So, yeah, it has tended to go in great leaps forward and white heat of technology solutions stuff.

Norry Wilson:
Yeah, three steps forward, two steps back.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, exactly. But it is that layering up of the city I think is really fascinating, but it does mean that you do get mistakes. But I’m fascinated by the idea, because obviously history isn’t a static thing, it’s always ongoing, cities are always about change, and you have to deal with those kind of things, so it’s all about each generation adding something to the city. So, I’m very interested in that and how you do get this layering up of different cities in Glasgow, so one of the things I’m interested in is future conservation areas. I was thinking about this with, is it the Wyndford?

Norry Wilson:
The Wyndford Estate, in Maryhill.

Niall Murphy:
Wyndford Estate. Yeah, because Wyndford Estate, actually when you look at it, it’s a real period piece now. And I was thinking that as well, we were down at the Boathouse yesterday, and there’s the huge RMGM towers directly opposite the Gorbals, that are on that weird angle because they’re North-South East-West facing, whereas obviously Glasgow’s grid is not the same. And you’re looking at them, and I remember seeing them, they were used in the BBC series, The Nest, a couple of years back.

And I remember thinking then and thinking again yesterday, that’s a future conservation area. And it’s the same with New Gorbals as well. New Gorbals has been a fantastic piece of work, and people have put a lot of thought into those areas. And I think those kind of things is where you’re seeing, that’s actually a conservation area of tomorrow, because it’s really good work and it’s really helped heal that part of the city. And, yes, that kinda rum drum scheme is a rupture in the city, but it has its character, and I find that really fascinating.

And that is what I like about Glasgow, you have these shifts in character, so it’s literally that’s what’s cinematic, because you splice different bits of different cities together. And that’s I think why filmmakers enjoy Glasgow as a city, and it was fantastic last summer seeing it kitted it out for Indiana Jones Part Four. The Dial Of Destiny?

Norry Wilson:
I’m not sure.

Niall Murphy:
I’m not sure about that title.

Norry Wilson:
I was coming in and out of the city a little bit and I had just started coming back into the office, I came about one day a week, and I remember one day coming out of Central Station, and cutting along Gordon Street, across the Union Street, round Field Street, and looked up and it was just like, oh, God, it’s the Fourth of July up here.

Niall Murphy:
I know, it was amazing. What a transformation, but Glasgow just has such an American appearance to it. And because of that, the grid, and also because of, particularly after, at the start of, the First World War, you get this whole wave of American classicism appearing, particularly under James Miller. And I love those aspects, that influence of the city. I suppose in terms of where it goes to next, and I’m interested in things like what happens with George Square. I did this whole conservation management plan on George Square hopefully will be getting published shortly, but that was really interesting.
What I decided to do when I was doing that, because I didn’t think anyone had done it before, was actually track the different landscapes of the square and where the statues had been at different points, because…

Norry Wilson:
Well, they were, yeah.

Niall Murphy:
Glasgow’s stodgy statues moving about and…

Norry Wilson:
A great game of chess,.

Niall Murphy:
So, I decided to track all of the things like that. And, yeah, the statues have moved at various points, particularly for the Cenotaph, and also when the square, because it originally started off as no man’s land, without a real, defined idea of what people were going to do with it.

Norry Wilson:
Yeah, it was originally a swamp where folk used to drown dogs and slaughter horses.

Niall Murphy:
Exactly, then it becomes this pleasure garden that’s planned by the guy who does the botanics, whose the head gardener of the botanics.

Norry Wilson:
Which was fenced in, and the locals kept tearing down the fences.

Niall Murphy:
Exactly. And ends up with this very grand, quite like Charlotte Square and St. Andrew’s square, fence around it, which ironically the city fathers paid for and took possession of it at the same time, so they actually had legal title to it, not the owners of the townhouses around the square who thought they did. And then in 1866, it’s that that allows John Carrick to transform it into a public square when he’s trying to find a location for Prince Albert, the equestrian monument to Prince Albert, and that’s when Victoria moves into the square from St. Vincent’s square.

And so it was like mapping all of those, the moves of all the monuments, which was really interesting. And I’m interested to see where the square is going to go now, because it peaks between 1924 and the 1950s and it’s downhill thereafter, particularly in the 1990s when it gets really bad. So, I’m interested to see what’s going to happen with the square, and what the council are doing at the moment with things like the avenues programme, and introducing trees and softer landscapes in the city centre I think is really interesting too.

I remember there was a PhD student that came into talk to me a number of years ago now and wanted to know why there weren’t really any trees in the city centre, and I was like, well, you just have to think about it, Glasgow was a really polluted city, so that was going to go against the trees, and then the second thing was that it’s built for commerce, it’s not like Paris or London, where you would have-

Norry Wilson:
It’s not Boulevard City.

Niall Murphy:
It’s not like that, so it’s built for commerce, the trees would get in the way. So, you see these stray specimens from what were country roads which have been urbanised and then they gradually die off and they never get replaced. So, that’s why it had been like that, so I think if we want to attract people back into the city centre, and this is one of the problems with Glasgow post-COVID is that Glasgow was the busiest city centre in the UK outside of the West End of London prior to COVID. But because Glasgow has a really good transport network and is very commutable, people don’t necessarily have to come back into the city centre because you can work from home now.

And so that’s had a real impact on the city center’s economy, and it’s about how we get that going again, it would be better if we actually encouraged some of those 700,000 people that ended up leaving that area around the city centre to come back into it once more, and the only way you’re going to do that is to get more amenity back into the city centre. So, it’s looking at things like with the Avenues Project, what they’ve done with Sauchiehall Street about getting trees down the streets, and that will really help soften some of the vistas.

Norry Wilson:
It is that strange thing, Glasgow and the Dear Green Place, and actually in most of the city centre, the lack of greenery is noticeable.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, we have the least greenery of any city centre in the UK now. So, it’s about working some of that back in and making it more pedestrianised, friendlier for everybody, and getting a lot more planting back in. And I think that’s going to have a phenomenal effect on the city, and it will make it more attractive. We have something like 3,500,000 square feet of upper floor space in the city centre which is not in use.

Norry Wilson:
Yeah, which is lying empty.

Niall Murphy:
And what do you do with that? And that’s not including the new buildings that are getting built, which I’m still puzzled why we’re building such enormous new buildings when people are working from home. I think we’re going to end up with a hybrid scenario, but it doesn’t seem as though people are crying out.

Norry Wilson:
I’ve got this horrible idea that they’re actually going to make us live and work in our own office in the city centre.

Niall Murphy:
See, that did my head in. After a while, it was like it was okay for the first six months, and then after a while it was like, I need some space between work and home, not just a two minute walk.

Norry Wilson:
And you know yourself, it’s not for the work, it’s for the water cooler moments.

Niall Murphy:
It’s chatting with everybody in the office, and I miss that camaraderie.

Norry Wilson:
The city is a hive, it’s a human hive, and having even just that good morning, how are you, nice weekend, did you watch the football? That human connectivity, that’s what I really miss.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely, it’s absolutely critical, so I’m getting really frustrated with Royal Exchange Square at the moment, which should be a thriving European square and is not. And I realise in part that’s because a whole section of it has been basically left vacant, which I think is a great shame, but that should be full of street cafés and full of life and a real hubbub, and it could be that throughout the year, and yet just isn’t operating to its potential at the moment, and it needs people to look at that and we need to get that character into a lot of…

It’s ridiculous, I remember being out in the West End just about a month ago, and Byres Road, I was walking back across Byers Road about 11:00ish, and Byres Road, absolutely thrumming with people. Couldn’t move for folk, and getting on the subway, back in the city centre in about 12 minutes or so, getting out, George Square being pretty deserted, getting into the Brunswick and there being nobody around. And you’re like, what is going on here? This is ridiculous, it’s totally topsy-turvy. So, we have to get people back in somehow.

Norry Wilson:
It’s that doughnut effect as well, where the city centre is busy during the week, and every night almost come 5:00 o’clock there’s a changing of the guard, all the sensible people go home to the outskirts, and certainly during lockdown it was young people that came in and basically took over the streets.

Niall Murphy:
There was one night, I had to come into the office, and I’d suddenly realised that I needed this document, and it was a legal document which are all in our archive, and so I had to come into the office, it was 9:00 o’clock at night. And I was like, “Don’t worry, I’ll be back as soon as I can,” and there was literally no one around, so I just legged it into the city centre, because no trains were running. And legged it into the city centre as fast as I could, and I walked across the car park at St. Enoch’s East, and was heading up past The 13th Note, and it’s how you’ve got parallel streets, I could see this whole crowd walking down the High Street, and I’m thinking, it’s 9:00 o’clock at night, what are they doing? And all I was thinking of was The Warriors, that film in 1970s New York.

Norry Wilson:
Warriors, come out to play.

Niall Murphy:
I was thinking, oh, my God, it’s The Warriors, and absolutely legged it to the office to get inside, thinking, I’m going to get mugged and help, because there was no one around. Yeah, that was a weird night.

Norry Wilson:
Zombie apocalypse.

Niall Murphy:
It was like Glasgow was the zombie apocalypse. So, yeah, keen to see people back in the city centre, and it is important because Glasgow’s city centre is one of the drivers of Scotland’s economy and should be seen as a national priority. So, getting people back living in here and actually making whatever you create here in terms of residential space attractive and desirable and for everybody, so it’s affordable for everything, I think that’s absolutely key and how we go back to it.

Norry Wilson:
Because Glasgow’s always been about that mix of not just building types but social classes and all the rest of it, living on the street by jowl, which you don’t so much see in Edinburgh, whereas Glasgow, I don’t know if it speaks more to an egalitarian spirit or simply the organic development of Glasgow rather than the great planning development of Edinburgh, things are amorphous. One minute you’re in the most expensive bit of the West End, and you turn two streets and you’re actually in a pretty poor bit of Maryhill. And it’s the same on the South Side as well, all of a sudden you turn the wrong corner and you’re like, how did I get here? Which way is North from here?

Niall Murphy:
I quite like that.

Norry Wilson:
I like it as well.

Niall Murphy:
Because it gives it a completely different character. And it’s much more it’s for everyone. So, yeah, really value that.

Norry Wilson:
It’s the grit that makes for peril.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, I couldn’t live in Edinburgh.

Norry Wilson:
It’s nice for a fence game.

Niall Murphy:
You’re a very beautiful city.

Norry Wilson:
Well, we’re drawing to a close here, and, again, this is one of these killer questions, because I remember when you asked me it when you interviewed me.

Niall Murphy:
I know, I’m like, oh, God, the tables have really turned.

Norry Wilson:
Yeah, I know, I’m thoroughly enjoying watching you squirm here. So, we’ve talked about all sorts of Glasgow buildings, but what is your favourite building in Glasgow and what would it tell us if its walls could talk?

Niall Murphy:
Oh, God, it’s such a loaded question, and honestly, my favourite building in Glasgow changes every five minutes. It’s a new one every week. So, when I first thought about this, there are obvious classics like I absolutely love, and it’s such a shame what’s happened, the West Elevation of Glasgow School of Art, which is Mackintosh at its absolute height. And one of the things about being in the architecture school, the Mac, is you’ve got these huge windows that look onto that. And seeing that and the sunrise, because we used to do all nighters in the studios, you can’t do that now apparently.

Norry Wilson:
Probably it’s a fire risk.

Niall Murphy:
We used to do all nighters in the studios. Yeah, I know, funny that. And so everyone would go out and get pizzas in the middle of the night and then we’d end up having a little dance party in the middle of the night to keep everyone’s energy up, and then you would watch the sun rise over the art school, and it was fabulous. And I wonder whether they do that now. Anyway, so that has been a favourite, but, of course, after everything that’s happened, I just don’t want to think about it. Other things that have been really influential, I’m never quite sure how to pronounce it, is it the Athenaeum Theatre or is the Athenaeum?

Norry Wilson:
The Athenaeum.

Niall Murphy:
It’s the Athenaeum, see, I’m never quite sure how to pronounce that. But the Athenaeum, so Burnet’s Athenaeum extension I absolutely love, and I was lucky enough to see-

Norry Wilson:
And that’s, which is going to be the Hard Rock Café.

Niall Murphy:
which is now the Hard Rock Café, I was lucky enough to be at the last performance in there by complete fluke. And it would have made such a good jazz club, and it’s a shame that it’s got the stuffing knocked out of it, but still, key features are being saved at least, but all the auditorium and the seating and everything has all been stripped out.

Norry Wilson:
It was, it was a beautiful.

Niall Murphy:
It was a lovely wee theatre, really beautiful. But from an architect’s point of view, it’s a really interesting building, because it’s about the first time you can take a Georgian townhouse plot and then go high once you’ve got electricity to get lifts into buildings, so it’s one of the very first lift buildings in Glasgow. But it’s also about how Burnet and his then partner, John Archibald Campbell, handled the programme in the building, because every floor has a different purpose to it, so you’ve got dining rooms, music rooms towards the top. It’s a really fantastic building programmatically, and then you’ve got the lift, which is one of the first examples of a lift in Glasgow.

And at the top of the building, he has this little tower of winds, with wind gods around it, which is like the lift going up and down, it makes wind. And I think that’s quite witty and funny, and the whole narrative, it is an elitist building, because that narrative, this whole classical narrative of Athena, who’s the goddess of the arts and everything, you would only know that if you were educated on that kind of thing, so it is quite elitist. But I like narratives in building, that’s something that appeals to me. So, that’s been a favourite for a very long time.

But my ultimate favourite would have to be Glasgow Central Station. But it’s not so much a building, it’s the space and the experience. So, I just think it’s fantastic, because obviously the station was built over the top of Grahamston, the village that disappeared underneath it and allegedly survives, but it doesn’t actually. Though there are a couple of buildings that are still there in Argyle Street and on Union Street which come from the original village. But it’s the space, because it’s not a single building, it’s a whole multitude of buildings that form the urban block around it, and obviously you’ve got what’s now Grand Central Hotel on the corner, which is supposed to be the landmark that identifies it within the city. But it’s the fact that the Victorians somehow managed to conceal this enormous station within an urban block.

Norry Wilson:
It’s a city within a city.

Niall Murphy:
It is, it’s completely concealed. You would not know until you’ve seen the Hielanman’s Umbrella that there is this enormous station sitting there, completely concealed within the heart of the city, because they handle it so well, and if you look at, say, a relatively modern example, of St. EnochCentre, which I can’t stand, and how that effectively internalises the city because it’s got blank frontages all round. Absolutely not the way to handle it. You have to have active streets around it, which is what the Victorians did so well, and I just love the whole concourse.

It’s the original 1879 to 1880 84/85 concourse, and then you’ve got the later 1900 extension by James Miller and Donald Matheson, which has a subtly different character. But it’s a very amorphous space, but Donald Matheson and James Miller had this idea of making people flow through the station as though it’s a river, and you use these organic curved pods to shift people, make them flow towards the platforms, I think is a really beautiful moment. And it’s like the Cunningham and Blythe trusses from the original concourse are really quite aggressive, big, I think they’re Vierendeel trusses. They’re so matter of fact and blunt, but then Donald Matheson has those bowstring trusses which are much more elegant for the extension.

But it’s just this incredible organic space, and it’s so lovely. You see all of life there, and whether you’re coming into it during the day and it’s a beautiful sunny day and you’re getting this beautiful blue sky over the space, which I assume must be larger than George Square, maybe it’s not. But it’s one of the biggest space, and technically it’s a public space, it’s kind of public private, I’ve taken tour groups in there before and been told off for doing it. You’re very naughty, it’s like there’s a yellow alert at the moment, what are you doing.

Norry Wilson:
Obviously I’m going to agree with you because you asked me that question and I said Central Station.

Niall Murphy:
Did you? There you go, whoa.

Norry Wilson:
But the wonderful thing that’s happened with Central Station just in recent years, the TV programme, Inside Central Station, which I’ve guested on a few times, and fortunately through that I’ve got to know Paul and Jacky, the two tour station guides.

Niall Murphy:
I really need to meet them.

Norry Wilson:
And they are just the most passionate, knowledgeable, they know every brick, they know every story, they know every mote of dust that goes through. And what they have done around Central Station, which I’m quite sure even 10 years ago, if somebody had said, “Do you want to organise tours underneath Central Station?” Folk would have gone, “There’s no interest in that.” And yet, now their tours are booked up months in advance.

Niall Murphy:
I know, it’s fascinating.

Norry Wilson:
Because everyone wants to know what goes on underneath Central Station.

Niall Murphy:
The old platforms are amazing. I went to see them several years ago. It’s the most wonderful space. Even at night, when you’re coming into it, then when you come in from the back of that huge advertising screen and you can see the light from the advertising screen cast over the concourse as you’re coming in on the train, it’s a real Blade Runner-esque moment that I absolutely love, because it’s really cinematic. And then there was one morning a couple of months back when there was something weird going on with the weather, and it was colder inside than it was outside because it had been really cold for a while and then suddenly this warm front came in.

And it was this weird moment where as I was leaving the close, I realised there was condensation on the outside of the door, which was a bit weird. And got into Central, and it was like Central had its own microclimate, and there was mist in Central, which was bizarre to see. And, yeah, completely amazing, and just fascinating, it’s such a fantastic space, and there’s so many people in it. It is like a city in itself, I absolutely love it, it’s my favourite moment in Glasgow.

Norry Wilson:
And it’s that strange thing, you were talking about the quality of light.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, the light is beautiful.

Norry Wilson:
When I was growing up and coming through Central, it was always dark.

Niall Murphy:
Really?

Norry Wilson:
Because during the War years, they had painted black tar across all the glass ceiling panes, so that it didn’t show light to bombers. And it was only in the early 1980s when they added on the extra platforms and so on that they actually scraped it all off.

Niall Murphy:
I didn’t know that.

Norry Wilson:
And all of a sudden, the place, even on the brightest sunny day, you used to go into Central Station and all the lights would be on because there was no light coming from above apart from the end of the platforms. And it was only when they took that off, all of a sudden you’re just like, hang on, this is how it was meant to be.

Niall Murphy:
I know. One thing I’ve never seen a photograph of but which I really would like to see a photograph of was apparently the champagne bar, the dome over the champagne bar was a stained glass dome. And it’s been turned into a plaster dome subsequently, and that would make sense, because James Miller also did all of the liners, the great liners, and he was using Oscar Paterson for his stained glass on the Lusitania, that was Oscar Paterson did the stained glass on the Lusitania. And Oscar Paterson did the stained glass in Central Hotel as well, and there used to be stained glass panels in each of the windows, which all disappeared when it was refurbished, and I have no idea what happened to them, but they were Oscar Paterson stained glass.

Norry Wilson:
Any idea what period that refurbishment would be?

Niall Murphy:
Well, this was the latest refurbishment, but it was when James Miller added the extension to Grand Central, that’s when Oscar Paterson did the work in it.

Norry Wilson:
No, that’s interesting, because my uncle, I say my uncle, technically a cousin of my mum’s, started off age 14 in the Central Hotel pre-World War Two, and he ended up being the chief barman and worked there until he was 70. And his knowledge of the Central Hotel is just mind blowing. He used to make cocktails for Frank Sinatra and all the rest of it, he met everyone.

Niall Murphy:
See, that’s fascinating, it’s all part of the history of that whole place, and John Logie Baird and the television signal. Fascinating stuff.

Norry Wilson:
And I know that Central Station commissioned, now, is it Henry Bedford Lemere?

Niall Murphy:
Mm-hmm, yes, to take photographs of it, yes, [inaudible 01:23:38].

Norry Wilson:
I know there are some fabulous interior, there must be photographs somewhere.

Niall Murphy:
So, there must be. But weirdly it’s English Heritage that have them and not Historic Environment Scotland. But you would be able to get your hands on them, so it would be worth actually having a look to see whether it was actually genuine, I’d really like to know.

Norry Wilson:
I’d imagine it must have been photographed at some point.

Niall Murphy:
It must have been photographed, because James Miller would have been so proud of it.

Norry Wilson:
Yeah, it would have been a tour de force.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely. I’ll end with there’s this great quote from the American architectural historian, Vincent Scully, he was talking about the loss of Penn Street Station in New York, which was one of the great conservation cases, and just when you see it, it’s an astonishing station, and can’t believe they destroyed it.

Norry Wilson:
I’ve seen photographs, that’s where they built… What’s the huge stadium?

Niall Murphy:
Madison Square Garden. And his quote is that you used to come into, because it was modelled on a Roman baths, and you used to come into the city, “Like a Roman god, and now we come in scurrying like a rat.” And he see’s that quote, who’s going, “The West End is much better than the South Side,” and I’d say, “Yeah, but I get to come into Central Station every morning, I come into the city like a god through this fabulous station, whereas you come in at Buchanan Street Underground like a rat.” That’s why the South Side is better.

Norry Wilson:
Well, I don’t know how long we’ve been going, but it’s been great fun, Niall, as ever, chatting with you.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely, Norry, it’s always a pleasure.

Norry Wilson:
And this is the end of the wire, as it were.

Niall Murphy:
It is, yeah.

Norry Wilson:
We’ve hit the buffers and appropriately enough we’ve hit the buffers at Central Station.

Niall Murphy:
Last episode of the second series, so, yeah, it’s been a pleasure doing this with everybody, so, really enjoyed it.

Norry Wilson:
So, thank you for interviewing me, and thank you very much for allowing me to pick your brains.

Niall Murphy:
Turn the tables on me.

Norry Wilson:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
It’s been a pleasure, great fun.

Norry Wilson:
Thank you.

Niall Murphy:
Thank you.

Katharine Neil:
Glasgow City Heritage Trust is an independent charity and grant funder that promotes the understanding, appreciation, and conservation of Glasgow’s historic built environment. Do you want to know more? Have a look at our website at glasgowheritage.org.uk, and follow us on social media at Glasgow Heritage. This podcast was produced by Inner Ear for Glasgow City Heritage Trust. The podcast is kindly sponsored by the National Trust for Scotland, and supported by Tunnock’s.

Series 2 Episode 9: Dear Green Place, with Fiona Sinclair, Conservation Architect

Niall Murphy:
Hello everyone. I’m Niall Murphy, and welcome to If Glasgow Walls Could Talk, a podcast by Glasgow City Heritage Trust, about the stories and relationships between historic buildings and people in Glasgow. Today, we’re getting ready for a walk in the park, but as always in this series, we’ll be travelling through time as well as space and in excellent company. It could be a long walk. Glasgow has a wealth of great public parks and gardens. They are much loved spaces that have gained special significance, especially during the last few years with lockdown and the pandemic. Many of us have found a welcome escape from that in Glasgow’s dear green places.

We can be grateful to the visions of the Victorians who invested in landscapes, laid out and planted for citizens to enjoy more than 150 years ago. It was a generous gift, but it made a lot of practical sense. By the 1880s, Glasgow was one of the fastest growing cities in the world, with a rapidly growing population crammed into tenements and factories and people needed work and housing. But as the city leaders saw, they also needed space to enjoy life and room to breathe. So the public parks were designed to be the lungs of Glasgow. But with Victorian belief in self-improvement, they were also filled with opportunities for entertainment and education, learning while having fun. And creative industries rose to the challenge.

At the turn of the 20th century, you wouldn’t walk far without hearing musical shows from a Saracen Foundry bandstand. You might pause for a drink from one of their equally beautiful water fountains, and if by chance it started to rain, you could take shelter in the wonderful world of glasshouses. More often than not, provided by the enterprise and horticultural builders, Simpson & Farmer, of Partick Bridge. Magnificent glasshouses are a symbol of that optimistic era, domes of curved glass in wrought iron-frames, greenhouses filled with exotic plants. They were the product of new cutting edge technology at a time of dynamic change. We see them now in different states of survival on our walks in the parks.

In another era of rapid change, how do we manage this formidable legacy? The designers, engineers, architects and builders of the Victorian and Edwardian eras could count on low-cost labour and cheap materials. That’s not the way things are in the 2020s. So how can we protect and restore our historic buildings? Do we have the skills, time, materials and money to do them justice? These are daunting questions for conservationists, not least Glasgow City Heritage Trust. And I can’t think of anyone better to discuss them with than today’s guest, conservation architect, Fiona Sinclair, who is passionate about the care and repair of historic buildings. Fiona takes particular interest in traditional building materials and the craft required to work with them. She is quite often to be found up scaffolding, investigating structures at close quarters. Lately, she’s been flying drones over Queen’s Park Glasshouse as she prepares a report on this unique building.
So a very warm welcome to the podcast for you, Fiona, and we are really looking forward to this conversation. Okay, let’s begin with the parks. So Glasgow’s glasshouses are a remarkable story, but they need space so they could be built. So Glasgow has a wealth of public parks which provided the space, scope and inspiration for hothouses, greenhouses and palm houses and the winter gardens of the city. So can we start looking at the city’s great spread of parks and gardens and how did that come about?

Fiona Sinclair:
Well, you more or less mentioned in your introduction, the reasoning behind the creation of so many public parks across the city. And it was this sense on the part of the city fathers, that so much of Glasgow in the mid 19th century was being built over very, very rapidly for housing. You mentioned tenements, of course, that wonderful building type that accommodates people from all walks of life, industry, anything related to ship building or engineering. And what that effectively meant was that very few parts of the city were not either covered with buildings or hard surfaces.

And there was a medical officer for health called William Gardner, who on his retirement in 1900 in his retirement speech used this expression, the lungs of the city. And he had been long concerned with the state of the lungs of the city. Now he might not have been the first person who coined that phrase, but he certainly made his point to those who were assembled to hear his retirement. And he actually said that in his early years as a medical officer, he’d been able to walk from maybe four or five miles across the city and not see a blade of grass or any greenery at all.

Niall Murphy:
That’s right. John Carrick talks about that too. It’s in John Carrick’s obituary, which is by William Gardner.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes. So it was something that the… It’s interesting, because the city was very good at promoting its achievements in respect of the provision of municipal housing, the provision of, say the production of gas, the production of electricity, transport. Of course, we had a wonderful tram system, there were three tunnels below the river, which they seemed to deliver almost effortlessly, but they didn’t promote the kind of public promise to the same extent.

So I think the city did itself a little bit of a disservice by not promoting them, but round about the beginning of the 20th century, they began to realise that actually they had an asset in the green space that had been created and they did begin to promote how important the parks were and the amount of work that had gone into purchasing the land. Because this wasn’t land that came at no cost, they had to physically buy land. So they bought Glasgow Green, which is the oldest of the city’s parks, once the drained it and formalised it. And then of course, they spent a vast amount of money buying Kelvingrove Park, which of course as we know-

Niall Murphy:
With the various estates pieced together there.

Fiona Sinclair:
And they had to attempt to recoup quite a bit of that outlay, by reserving the crest of Woodlands Hill for that fantastic housing by the great Charles Wilson. And of course, there was an outcry when the first master plan, which Wilson worked on with Sir Joseph Paxton, a massive outcry when this was published, because too much of the land was being set aside for housing.

Niall Murphy:
Right not enough for the park.

Fiona Sinclair:
The public were essentially, “I thought we were getting a park out of this. All we’re getting is housing none of us will be able to afford.” So the housing, it was confined to the area we now see and it was effectively completed, albeit Park Warden of course, wasn’t. But on the back of the success of Kelvingrove Park, the city then began to look further south, and they then felt that perhaps there ought to be a park somewhere in the area where Queen’s Park now exists. And interestingly, that met with more opposition, largely, I think because the city fathers, they remained unconvinced that people would want to walk through the industry and the deprivation of Gorbals and Govanhill, to get to a public park. So it was more of an uphill struggle for the parks committee to persuade the city that an investment needed to be made on the south side. Then it came in the form of Neale Thomson, of the Crossmyloof Bakery, who offered the land of Pathhead Farm to the city.

Niall Murphy:
All that really fascinates me, because when you see how the city gradually marches up to the park, and the fact that they had the foresight to build the park first and then set out this master plan for the edges of the park and how it’s all carefully framed with the two churches on either end, which frame the views. And then you’ve got this great avenue all the way down. Well, it’s not an avenue, but it could be an avenue, Victoria Road, and Eglington Road, and straight into the heart of the city. And it’s also carefully thought about and yet the city wasn’t there yet. And it was actually in separate boroughs, because you’ve got the borough of cross hill, which has spring up right next to it as well. So the city is buying land, but it’s beyond its boundary, which really fascinates me.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes. It’s effectively providing a public park for Pollokshaws, Langside, all of these small estates that were owned by visionaries, I suppose, which very, very gradually were absorbed into the city. And of course, when Pollokshaws became part of the city, that kind of brought more land in. But probably most importantly in 1912, when the boroughs of government party were annexed in the city, that effectively brought Victoria Park into the city and Elder Park in, Govan. There’s a tremendous map, I think it’s Bartholemew, which was published to really emphasise how much green space the city fathers had provided. And it’s signed off by AB McDonald, Alexander Beith McDonald, Carrick’s successor. And it’s reprinted in a fantastic book, Glasgow: Mapping the City by John Moore, I think it is.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, John Moore.

Fiona Sinclair:
And it just shows the city in 1900 with these pockets of greenery encircling the city centre. But then of course, what the city also did on top of the production of large public parks, was they created squares and playgrounds. And there are some fabulous little playgrounds, it can’t really be called parks. Warmley Park near Cathcart is one. It’s got some of its original play park equipment.

Niall Murphy:
It does. I would love to see them saved actually, because the swings there are particularly beautiful, but they’re quite vulnerable at the moment.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes. And I mean, these are catalogue items that were commonplace and we see very, very few of them retained.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, sadly.

Fiona Sinclair:
And then you’ve got a very, very small Govanhill recreation ground right at the heart of Govanhill. It’s small, but it’s really important.

Niall Murphy:
I really like that one. It’s better than… This is sacrilege coming from you of course. But Maxwell Square-

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes, yes, yes.

Niall Murphy:
… and it’s smaller. So it’s just too small, so I much prefer the Govanhill one. I think that’s a really nice park.

Fiona Sinclair:
And it’s a gap which wasn’t built over with tenements, which is really, really important. And of course, there are some tremendous examples nowadays. Less so then, but nowadays of back court areas that have been developed as kind of pocket parks, almost. And you are right, they came into their own during 2020, during lockdown.

Niall Murphy:
Very much.

Fiona Sinclair:
Very much.

Niall Murphy:
I’m lucky enough to live on one. So where we are on the south side, the blocks I live in was allegedly taken over as officer’s housing in the Second World War and so they removed all of the walls dividing the tenement gardens. So it’s one huge space, which was allegedly a parade ground. Believe that when I see it. But it makes complete sense, because when you look at how those boundaries worked, it must have been impossible to manage these tiny little gardens that don’t align with the tenements. But it’s a fantastic space now, because everyone just uses it for barbecues and playing games and-

Fiona Sinclair:
I mean, communal back courts are fascinating. I mean, they used to be… Well, they provided a bin storage, quite often the wash houses were in the backhoes. Ash pits, of course and drying greens weren’t really intended for people to sit out in, they were very workman like.

Niall Murphy:
No, but we can work them into that now, as part of the kind of green lung of the city.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yeah, exactly.

Niall Murphy:
At least that’s something we could do now, if we are enlightened about it.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yeah.

Niall Murphy:
Well, let’s move on to the glasshouses and the winter gardens themselves. When is it they start to appear? And there’s also interesting stories behind some of these as well. Some of them having been built in Glasgow, but others transported to the city from elsewhere. So which came first, and how many can we still see around the city?

Fiona Sinclair:
Well very famously, the first to appear was John Kibble’s palace, that we see in Botanic Gardens at the junction of Byres Road and Great Western Road, of course. And John Kibble, he was a photographer. Apparently he owned the largest camera ever made. It had such a massive lens, it had to be towed by a horse on a cart, on which Kibble allegedly developed the photographs as they were kind of travelling along. He was an astronomer, he was an engineer, a fascinating character. And he had built a house for himself on the shores of Loch Long, at cook port. And behind that house, he began to build a glasshouse, a hot house using the architects, Buscher and Cousland. And James Buscher-

Niall Murphy:
They had a villa next door.

Fiona Sinclair:
They did.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
James Buscher built the family villa next door, and I believe it still exists. I believe it is used as a storage depot by the military establishment at Cook Port.

Niall Murphy:
It’s such a shame that it’s all kind of been taken over by the military-

Fiona Sinclair:
It’s such a shame.

Niall Murphy:
… because it’s such a beautiful setting.

Fiona Sinclair:
Of course, Cooper House has long since been demolished. So in any event, for whatever reason, Kibble offered the glasshouse to the city. He either decided there was too much in the way of maintenance, or he didn’t have time to actually properly use it. He collected statuary as well.

Niall Murphy:
Really?

Fiona Sinclair:
So he offered the glasshouse and the statuary to the city. And he offered it in the first instance to Queen’s Park, and he got a bit fed up with them prevaricating. And apparently it was because he had initially offered it as a lease and then he imposed the condition that he wanted to be able to hold performances in it and charge and to sell refreshments. And there was this notion that those refreshments would be alcohol, which didn’t go at all well-

Niall Murphy:
Didn’t fit with the corporation’s kind of philosophy at all.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes. I read last night, it’s a very wonderful book about the Kibble Palace by Eric Curtis, which is a fabulous little book.

Niall Murphy:
Got a copy of it, yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
Eric, of course, was based at Botanic Gardens for many years. And I read just last night that that year that kibble offered it, the city was really short of money and the Lord Provost had to resign because his own company had gone bankrupt or something of that order. So there really was no money. So kibble eventually offered it to the Botanic Gardens, which at the time wasn’t owned by the city, or at least I don’t think it was. It was owned by the Royal Botanic Institution of Glasgow.

Niall Murphy:
Right. Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
It had moved there from Sandyford.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
And I think they had moved to Sandyford from High Street, from Glasgow University.

Niall Murphy:
Right, okay.

Fiona Sinclair:
I think they moved across the city. Yes.

Niall Murphy:
Right. Okay.

Fiona Sinclair:
So he offered it to them. It was dismantled. It was loaded onto a steamer at the pier and cohort, and then it was taken to Port Dundas in a storm apparently, and Kibble wrote about how his statue of Apollo arrived looking like a proper ruffian. It was very badly doted as part of this journey. And then Kibble paid to have the dome enlarged. So what we see today is not the original. It’s much, much larger.

Niall Murphy:
Yes. Yeah. No, I’ve seen photographs [inaudible 00:15:34].

Fiona Sinclair:
And that of course became the first of Glasgow’s glasshouse, these great glasshouses. And it remains the best. And of course it’s in the best condition, because it was huge investment in it. It was effectively dismantled. I believe it developed a bit of a twist.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, it had developed a twist.

Fiona Sinclair:
The dome developed a twist.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah.

Fiona Sinclair:
So it was used for performances, and I think Disraeli and Gladstone both spoke there.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
Both gave speeches there.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely, yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
So it was used for all manner of entertainment, less so for the propagation of plants. And that’s why Botanic Gardens has got what they call the main range, which is a much, much bigger and more utilitarian looking glasshouse alongside.

Niall Murphy:
Right, okay.

Fiona Sinclair:
That’s where they actually grew the big palm trees, the big plants.

Niall Murphy:
Right. Because the Kibble was more of a display and performance. Okay.

Fiona Sinclair:
So that and Tollcross… The Tollcross Glasshouses were donated by a counsellor on his retirement, and they came from Adrossan. He had built them for his own use in Adrossan, he donated them to the city and they were re-erected into Tollcross park. And then probably the one that people know best is the Winter Gardens behind the People’s Palace. And they were designed by the Office of Public Works by AB McDonald, this Chap I mentioned. I think they were opened about something like 1898, and by 1900 people were raving about what great asset for the city it was. The interesting thing is, it do kind of look as if where the Winter Gardens added after the people’s palaces were built. But no, it was all… It’s a single holistic design.

Niall Murphy:
It’s interesting because obviously that is the East End equivalent of the Kelvingrove. And yet the Kelvingrove didn’t end up with a glasshouse.

Fiona Sinclair:
Well, interestingly, the Kelvingrove should have had a glasshouse because when Charles Wilson and Joseph Paxton worked on the Master Plan, Paxton proposed a Winter Gardens for the banks of the Kelvin, and it was never built. And there are illustrations of what it would’ve looked like. Had a great dome, of course. There’s a lovely watercolour of what it would’ve looked like. So there was supposed to be a winter garden in Kelvingrove Park, but that wasn’t delivered. And then of course, probably the one that came closest to… The city fathers, referred often to what was called the Great Snow over the Great Conservatory, which was built at Chatsworth by Joseph Paxton for the Duke of Devonshire. And certainly on record, the ease of the Lord Provost or the Superintendent of the Parks Committee referred to as the gorgeous Conservatory at Chatsworth. And that was an ambition, they would have something similar. Of course, they we’re never going to get anything half as big as that, because you could drive a carriage from one end to the other at Chatsworth. But the Springburn Winter Garden is probably the closest thinking to that.

Niall Murphy:
It’s enormous.

Fiona Sinclair:
It’s huge.

Niall Murphy:
Really, really impressive piece of structure. Quite something.

Fiona Sinclair:
And has a mezzanine that none of the others have.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, absolutely. Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yeah. Two story.

Niall Murphy:
Yep. That concrete mezzanine that wraps around it. Yeah.

Fiona Sinclair:
But there were little glasshouse in places like Elder Park. There were probably a whole series of smaller glasshouse, which have gone. So we’re left really with the Queen’s Park glasshouse, Botanic Gardens, and all its range of wonderful glasshouses. And in Botanic Gardens, interestingly behind the main range, it’s a whole series of really interesting miniature greenhouses where they do lots of very interesting propagation. A lot of very, very interesting kind of educational activities take place there. You’ve got Tollcross, the Winter Gardens behind the People’s Palace.

Niall Murphy:
Which has just been restored.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yep. The Winter Gardens, which were in the papers just yesterday. How do we raise enough money to properly restore-

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely.

Fiona Sinclair:
… the winter gardens?

Niall Murphy:
Which would be good to see.

Fiona Sinclair:
And then Springburn, which is borderline ruins.

Niall Murphy:
Yes. No, I mean there are various proposals also Springburn to get it back into some form of kind of enclosed space, but it’s how you go back doing that. So I think collective architects are looking [inaudible 00:19:36]-

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
… animals for it instead, which would obviously give a very different appearance. But it is kind of the ritual. It’s getting tough.

Fiona Sinclair:
It’s very difficult.

Niall Murphy:
No worries.

Fiona Sinclair:
It really is. Yeah. I mean, you mentioned in your introduction, how do you look after something like that? How do you restore something like that? I think I read somewhere that over seven million was spent restoring Kibble Palace.

Niall Murphy:
Correct. It was.

Fiona Sinclair:
And where do you find that kind of money in this day and age?

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely. It’s a big ask.

Fiona Sinclair:
How can you justify it?

Niall Murphy:
It is a big ask.

Fiona Sinclair:
You can only really justify it on the basis of something is utterly unique, which of course, the Kibble Palace is.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
And that’s a bit of a harder sell for some of the other Glass houses across the city. But the People’s Palace, I think you could make an argument that that is a huge asset built for the city, built for the people of the city and that really… It’s Glasgow’s story, that building.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, very much.

Fiona Sinclair:
And that’s one that really does need our investment.

Niall Murphy:
And in our oldest park. Yes. Quite.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes, exactly.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, indeed. It is a bit of a worry what’s happening with it. Okay, moving on to the present then. Queen’s Park Glasshouse closed due to safety concerns in 2020, particularly with the dismantling of the dome of the centre of it. So can you tell us a bit about its history and what happened that, because that wasn’t the original intended location for the Glasshouse?

Fiona Sinclair:
Well, Queen’s Park Glasshouse, it began life as propagating sheds. No fancier than that. Essentially by that point, the city had a requirement for so many bulbs, flowers, plants, to actually introduce colour into the parks, which is a very, very important part of them, that they needed somewhere to actually to grow these. Now they didn’t own… Or they might have owned Botanic Gardens by then, but there wasn’t sufficient room for them to use any of the sheds there for just bringing on bedding plants and the sort of thing we see in hanging baskets and the kind of movable kind of planters that suddenly appear in George Square-

Niall Murphy:
Creepers.

Fiona Sinclair:
Whenever the Commonwealth Games come to the city. So the Queen’s Park Glasshouses were simple propagating sheds, and there was no expectation the public would’ve access. So they were designed by the Office of Public Works in 1895. It went out to tender Simpson and Farmer, who were horticultural builders. They won the tender. They were built for £3,000. It cost £3,000 to build the Queen’s Park Glasshouse. What could you get now? A couple of bricks?

Niall Murphy:
I know. I know.

Fiona Sinclair:
A couple of bricks and a pane of glass. But interestingly, within a few years it became a park and members of the public had an expectation of entry because of course, a number of them would’ve been aware that… So Joseph Paxton had been consulted on Queen’s Park the layout of Queen’s Park as well and he had proposed this huge winter garden, which John Carrick as city architect had thrown out as being far, far too expensive.

Niall Murphy:
Mr rational and pragmatic.

Fiona Sinclair:
Exactly.

Niall Murphy:
You’re not having that.

Fiona Sinclair:
You’re not having that music hall with promenades and a lot of glass. Paxton believed passionately, of course, that people really needed to remain dry and warm. He interestingly also saw the benefit of Glasshouses is from a health point of view. If you’re walking around a park and you’re cold and there’s nowhere to shelter, then you’re going to become ill. So that was how he promoted glasshouses really, as shelters. But within a couple of years of Queen’s Park propagating sheds being opened, members of the public were clearly turning up and they wanted to see what was inside. So they were extended and the entrance was redesigned so that members of the public could, and then of course plants and public cohabited very successful until closure in 2020 and that was… Well, it was two part, of course. It was closed during lockdown, but the dome had, I think, developed again a tiny bit of a twist. So it was dismantled, but it’s in storage.

Niall Murphy:
Right. Okay. So it can be re-erected at some point.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yep. The curved glass is in storage, albeit it’s outside last time I saw it.the weather vane’s in storage and the framework.

Niall Murphy:
Sure. Yeah, I’m hopeful. I don’t know whether you’ve seen them yet, but they’ve been recently announced plans by Livable Neighbourhoods for dealing with the junction at the monument that’s just in front of it.

Fiona Sinclair:
I haven’t seen that. Yes.

Niall Murphy:
So it’s all about kind of rationalising the street layout there. And there’s a suggestion of doing something with the slope that would take you off the area in front of the glasses.

Fiona Sinclair:
That would be good.

Niall Murphy:
So transforming that and getting the glasshouses fixed would actually be… I think that would be extremely popular move. It’ll have much more access to it. It’s funny, right? I lived next door to Queen’s Park for quite a long time. It took me two years to discover the assets.

Fiona Sinclair:
They’re hidden.

Niall Murphy:
They’re so beautiful.

Fiona Sinclair:
They really are. They’re hidden. And I think it’s the way in which Queen’s Park was laid out because it was purchased in two parts, of course. Neil Thompson sold off Pathhead Farm. Carrick laid it out. The principal entrance, as you mentioned, was at the top of Victoria Road, that tremendous kind of vista. And I mean, it really is a vista. But then when Neil Thompson died, the trustees of the other half of the park called Camp Hill Mansions, it’s Camphill House. They eventually were persuaded to sell that to the city. But of course that happened about the same time, I think as the propagating sheds were built. So I think had they owned the whole park, they might have been in a more prominent position and there might have been a notion that could be used for members of the public as well as plants. And of course, the purpose of the dome, I guess was twofold. One, although these were very utilitarian propagating shades, the intention was that they looked attractive, of course. So the dome would’ve given them a bit of a presence, bit grandeur.

Niall Murphy:
A bit more of presence.

Fiona Sinclair:
But also, allowed them to grow bigger, taller plants by the dome, because there’s huge passion for growing palm trees and bananas and pineapples. And that of course is what drove the glasshouse craze amongst the landed gentry, was this…

Niall Murphy:
We were talking earlier about the chimney.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
Which is also really wonderful feature and also the Pearson Springburn as well.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes. Yeah.

Niall Murphy:
So can you talk about that as well? Because to me, it’s really exotic.

Fiona Sinclair:
Well, obviously if you’re going to grow plants undercover in Glasgow, you need heat and ventilation. So the design of Queen’s Park Glasgow is very, very simple. There is a huge boiler system which required a boiler chimney. There was a little kind of office block built out of lovely red engineering brick and just a massive network of heating pipes that ran either underground in trenches or above ground below little kind of propagating kind of planters in all these little sheds. So with such a large coal fired boiler at the time, there was the need for a chimney and there was also a need to feed the boiler water. So this beautiful red brick chimney was designed, which has got a header tank wrapped around it, kind of about two thirds of the way up. And that was where rainwater was collected as well. It was topped up. And it is a very, very fine feature. And yes, it’s repeated Springburn park because of course, they were both designed by the Office of Public Works. So why waste a good detail?

Niall Murphy:
A really talent talented team of-

Fiona Sinclair:
Very talented team. Yes.

Niall Murphy:
designers there.

Fiona Sinclair:
And of course there’s a tradition histo city architects department.

Niall Murphy:
Yes. Indeed.

Fiona Sinclair:
So this is a tradition that’s been passed down.

Niall Murphy:
Turning to who pays for all of this and how do we go about conserving and restoring our historic glasshouses. These are kind of big questions. I’m acutely conscious of this having been involved in Govanhill baths which is by the same office.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
And it’s one of these kind of great legacy artefacts. So how do our communities in Glasgow and charities and the local authority, how do we go about paying for this kind of great Victorian legacy, which comes with all these responsibilities and obviously significant bills to match?

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
So what do we do about that?

Fiona Sinclair:
Yeah. Well, I mean, I don’t really have the answer for that. I think that when you have a very unique building such as Kibble Palace, a very strong case can be made that the city, the building owner ought not to have to build those costs because you’ve got something that’s nationally, maybe even internationally significant.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
It’s a much, much harder argument to make and for instance the case of Tollcross, where I think there was a very pragmatic approach taken to the restoration. It wasn’t a full restoration. I think that it’s much more difficult to make that case at Queen’s Park. So the kind of use of the building supported by a kind of community support and a good robust business plan, that’s what typically is needed now to deliver the repairs. But first and foremost, if something’s properly maintained from the outset, and that requires, in the case of glasshouse, these sort of frequent redecorating, because such a lot of it is made of wood that needs frequently decoration. If you can properly look after something from the outset, then your restoration bills or your conservation bills at the end of the day are going to be less.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
But in the case of… Yeah I mean, in case of Queen’s Park Glasshouses, it’s about bringing back… So bringing it back into the public eye now. It’s not that it’s vanished from the public eye, but for instance, there used to be a kitchen, there used to be a cafe. And now of course, that cafe would be in competition with so many other cafes around Queen’s Park. And it’s about delivering something. And ultimately what happens is you have to actually ask the public what they think it could deliver in the first instance and what they would bring to it? And it’s kind of odd one. I was thinking that looking after public parks, you could do that very, very effectively using volunteers because people could be very, very easily trained to look after soft landscaping and to actually work in a park, even doing something as simple as raking gravel or weeding. But looking after a building like a glasshouse-

Niall Murphy:
It’s complex.

Fiona Sinclair:
… is quite specialist.

Niall Murphy:
Yes. Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
And there are not many companies out there like Simpson and Farmer, who did nothing but built hothouses and who did it very, very effectively. So it’s demonstrating a need and demonstrating a need that’s compatible. It’s still used for propagation. It’s got little reptile house as well. But the cafe I think, had been closed long before the pandemic.

Niall Murphy:
Right. Okay.

Fiona Sinclair:
So it’s just actually… It’s this whole story. They’ve got it at Pollok Park for instance, with the Burrell being reopened and providing great lunches and fantastic coffee in a lovely setting. Pollok House, which used to provide fantastic lunches in a great setting, is now struggling-

Niall Murphy:
Really? I didn’t know that. They do wonderful scones.

Fiona Sinclair:
They do have fantastic scones. But there is this whole thing of over provision and how do you hit something that actually allows you to attract funding from… And of course that’s the thing that Glasgow City Heritage Trust have traditionally been able to assist with. But you don’t have the sort of funds that can tackle-

Niall Murphy:
Not to tackle something on that scale.

Fiona Sinclair:
You have to part funds something that’s supported by all manor of other funders, including the community. And there’s a very, very good example of community interaction and raising of funds not far from the Glasshouse. And of course, that featured in one of your podcasts last year or the year before. And that’s Camphill Gate.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
Where wonderful tournament, and the owners really got together and drove the refurbishment of that building with of course help from Glasgow City Heritage Trust and Glasgow City Council, both of whom have been fantastic. They’ve been a great, great help to the owners. But it was driven by the owners.

Niall Murphy:
Yes. It’s getting that kind of-

Fiona Sinclair:
And you need somebody to take ownership of an idea or a building.

Niall Murphy:
Getting that grassroots and encouraging that, it’s difficult to do.

Fiona Sinclair:
It’s very hard.

Niall Murphy:
Because you need people who are going to actually be the leaders in all of that and have the tenacity to be able to bring it off and deliver it.

Fiona Sinclair:
Like Govanhill Baths.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, absolutely. And the same with Camphill Gate.

Fiona Sinclair:
And sometimes these take years. I mean that’s 10 years, that it took to get Camphill Gate near completion.

Niall Murphy:
Very much.

Fiona Sinclair:
And most projects of that nature have got a very, very long lead in time and it requires people to support it, and it requires a lot of voluntary effort.

Niall Murphy:
Very much. Okay, Shifting away from that, but touching on the urban aspects of this. Obviously the Victorians were really inspired by glass and the size of glass’s technology improved. But particularly in Glasgow with it being such a rainy city, Glasgow had numerous arcades and shopping centres, stations with enormous glass roof’s. And of course Greek Thompson even had his plan for Arcaded streets so that children could play outside without having to worry about the rain. So is there hope for such kind of inspiration now?

Fiona Sinclair:
No, I’m not sure we’re quite as ambitious as the Victorians were. I don’t think we are. They were architects, engineers, and I guess you could call them funders. The city, so much more bold during the period when we saw the great glazed train sheds and all of these fantastic shopping passages covered in glass. I think we are probably less… Well in fairness, we are required to comply with much, much more in the way of legislation. And of course with glass comes energy loss. And you get this very complex task that has to be tackled because of course, as you see, the city recognised the benefits of glazing shelter and natural light and made wonderful use of it. And really we’ve come… Interestingly, I think we came close with Princess Square.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
Which was a very bold intervention for its time.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, very much.

Fiona Sinclair:
Very successful. Wherever you think about the size of the structural members, which are much bigger than the Victorians of course-

Niall Murphy:
Much hefty.

Fiona Sinclair:
… would’ve used. Wherever you think about that, that was inspired.

Niall Murphy:
It’s still a wonderful structure. Yeah, absolutely.

Fiona Sinclair:
It’s very, very successful.

Niall Murphy:
Much more successful in the St. Enoch Centre, which is an ambitious piece of engineering, but it’s how it fits into its surroundings. And particularly that kind of south flank to it where it’s just blank, facade which is such a shame.

Fiona Sinclair:
It is.

Niall Murphy:
And in some ways, it is a shame if the St. Enoch Centre is to be completely rethought and turned into a much more urban area-

Fiona Sinclair:
I think the original design for the St. Enoch Centre was far, far better than what was actually delivered.

Niall Murphy:
Really? I have not seen that.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yeah. There were some very, very early drawings that suggested that inspiration was being drawn from the old engine shed.

Niall Murphy:
Right.

Fiona Sinclair:
But yes, the glazing didn’t really deliver. And of course, yes, it’s not one that you would cite as being particularly good example.

Niall Murphy:
No.

Fiona Sinclair:
We come back to the Burrell. It of course, is a wonderful example-

Niall Murphy:
Very much.

Fiona Sinclair:
… of the use of glass.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, it does. It works really successfully. And how it integrates with the landscape. And particularly when you come through that whole sequence of rooms and that kind of the architectural promenade through the space and to that back gallery over overlooking the woodland. And there’s this connection between all of these manmade artefacts inside and then nature directly on the other side glass-

Fiona Sinclair:
Yeah. It makes wonderful-

Niall Murphy:
Really beautiful moment.

Fiona Sinclair:
Very, very wonderful use of glazing. And so there are some really very good examples, but of course the Burrell itself required fairly some major works to-

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, significantly. Somewhat by £70 Million for the cost for refurbishing that. So it’s not cheap and-

Fiona Sinclair:
Ten times the Kibble Palace.

Niall Murphy:
… part that was how do you handle the energy issues of glass and make that more efficient? So effectively had to be re-skinned.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
So that’s considerable expense to that.

Fiona Sinclair:
It’s interesting. I noticed just the other day a tiny project in which I’m involved where permission was given to double glaze windows in a Georgian townhouse. But the windows, because they’re required to be energy efficient, I’ve got coating on them and that coating is quite visible. There’s a colour to it which is unexpected and-

Niall Murphy:
You really notice it.

Fiona Sinclair:
… you notice it.

Niall Murphy:
I don’t know whether that’s just people like us.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
I think we’re too picky, but it’s-

Fiona Sinclair:
Because I was saying to the owner, you’ll be able to use this for filming. It’s a perfect little Georgian townhouse, now it’s been restored. And then I thought, but they’re going to have to tone down the colour of the window glass. But yeah, you mentioned Alexander Greek Thompson. He worked for a period for the architect John Baird, and he was the very first, in my view, to properly use glass in the city.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
Because he is the architect of the Gallowgate.

Niall Murphy:
That whole period as well is really fascinating to me, is that when you look at the Charles Goad insurance maps of the city-

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
… which are fascinating.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes. Yeah.

Niall Murphy:
And you see within them the number of glazed courtyards versus touch on Princess Square, the number of glazed courtyards which have been lost from the city centre. I just do demolition or just obviously it was too much to maintain them and they’ve disappeared. And that you realise that once upon in a time, there must have been that you could look across the roof. There must have been hundreds of these kind of glazed in arcades.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
That they would need for part of handling fabric or the goods, but do it in the dry sense rather, but still light them for the building somehow. And yet all that’s disappeared over time.

Fiona Sinclair:
It has. Yes.

Niall Murphy:
Which is a great shame.

Fiona Sinclair:
Royal Arcade had a fountain in it, I believe. There was one called Wellington Arcade. There are one or two very, very good articles on Glasgow’s shopping arcades. There have been many studies done. It is fascinating, as you see. It’s lovely looking at an ordinance survey map, because glass is typically delineated as a lozenge type of hatching.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
So you can immediately spot who’s got a conservatory because of course there are some very large ones in Pollokshields.

Niall Murphy:
Oh, absolutely, [inaudible 00:39:15].

Fiona Sinclair:
And some very important ones out the West End.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
I think Redlands house on Great Western Road, which this is designed by James Buscher, of course.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely.

Fiona Sinclair:
It had the most-

Niall Murphy:
There’s a very nice one in Newlands.

Fiona Sinclair:
There is.

Niall Murphy:
Which is not in a happy way at the moment. Shame is being propped up at the moment.

Fiona Sinclair:
Oh, is that the one by Thomas Baird?

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
Thomas Baird Jr.

Niall Murphy:
That’s Thomas Baird. Yeah, exactly.

Fiona Sinclair:
That there is an application to rebuild it.

Niall Murphy:
Oh, that’s good.

Fiona Sinclair:
To restore it.

Niall Murphy:
And then there’s a fabulous one that’s on Eaton Road in Pollockshields.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
I’m sure it’s happened with that one at the moment. So I’ve been quite concerned about that, and I did try and get onto the buildings of risk register, but it’s not a good fit because there’s nothing wrong with the villa.

Fiona Sinclair:
No.

Niall Murphy:
The problem is the glasshouse.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes. Glasshouse.

Niall Murphy:
So you need somebody with deep pockets to be able to handle something like that.

Fiona Sinclair:
You do. Yes. there’s a fabulous one in Helensburgh, which was painstakingly restored by the owner.

Niall Murphy:
That’s one you can see from Sinclair’s road.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes. You come down Sinclair Street to the and it’s on the right hand side, and it is just… But it was restored over a very long period of time by the owner.

Niall Murphy:
I remember it being covered in tarapaulin for years.

Fiona Sinclair:
Fabulous. Absolutely fantastic. And that’s really what it needs.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely. Okay, going back to green spaces and Glasgow’s special relationship with its parks and glasshouses. They offer beautiful views to buildings overlooking them, but what happens when you are on the inside looking out? Have the views from the park been managed at all?

Fiona Sinclair:
Well, in the case of Queen’s Park… They’re all, they’re subtly different, of course. I mean, Kelvingrove Park is very heavily contoured, of course. You’ve got that great granite staircase taking you up to the housing from which you get the most remarkable views. So you can’t really manage the views from Kelvingrove Park because they’re so distant. You’re effectively looking to the Erskine Bridge. You can’t really manage that sort of view. And similarly, Queen’s Park of course, has got the viewing mound with the flag pool.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, which is wonderful.

Fiona Sinclair:
And I mean, you can see the Kilpatrick Hills.

Niall Murphy:
At the same time, you can see how… And there’s a fantastic Tom Sandon photograph taken from Glasgow University’s spire and the early 1900s.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
And you can see how camera in particular, controlled the heights of buildings.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes, yes.

Niall Murphy:
And how rigorous that was, this kind of four-story, tenemental city with the sparks of the church is kind of poking out above and you’re not really getting any big structures other than the chimneys.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes, of course.

Niall Murphy:
Industrial journeys. And that I think is really fascinating. And yet Carrick does that with Queen’s Park, with the churches, how it frames the views to the north with the two churches, and then you’ve got this whole kind of very level cityscape opening up.

Fiona Sinclair:
Carrick famously made requirements of the tenements that were built at the end of Victoria Road at the north entrance into the park. They also required that all churches had spires, so he was clearly looking for something that was quite scenic. And of course, famously Alexander Thompson completely ignored that requirement because he had this legendary dislike of the Gothic style. And of course he created a Thompsonian equivalent at Queen’s Park Church, which was an elongated dome.

Niall Murphy:
Oh I know. Wonderful, and such a loss.

Fiona Sinclair:
And such a loss.

Niall Murphy:
Yep.

Fiona Sinclair:
But yes, view views out in the case of interesting Glasgow green, of course is very, very flat. And so it ought to be possible. But the interesting thing about the views out from Glasgow green is, they’ve changed so much because you’re looking towards the Gorbals.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely. And so much has been demolished. But then you’ve still kind of this really kind of idea of how grand it could have been with Templeton’s Carpet Factory, but the loss of its equivalent, the-

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes, on the other side of the road.

Niall Murphy:
On the other side of-

Fiona Sinclair:
The river.

Niall Murphy:
River Clyde.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yeah. Yeah.

Niall Murphy:
That major loss, because you can appreciate how that was this Renaissance’s kind of cross facade looking into Glasgow Green. And the two would’ve kind of worked with each other. And look, again, Matif Rowe-

Fiona Sinclair:
Oh, wonderful.

Niall Murphy:
The kind of complete demolition fat.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes, absolutely.

Niall Murphy:
And when you see that as a whole sequence and how it’s this very kind of level classical facade that kind of wrapped around the facade-

Fiona Sinclair:
Well, that’s right.

Niall Murphy:
At the end of Victorian era. That’s all been removed.

Fiona Sinclair:
Well, I mean green head street has some wonderful tenements.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, it still does.

Fiona Sinclair:
There are still some left.

Niall Murphy:
Wonderful little school.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
[inaudible 00:43:50].

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes, that’s right.

Niall Murphy:
Which is really beautiful.

Fiona Sinclair:
Charcles Wilson.

Niall Murphy:
Exactly. Perfect for a park setting.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes. Yep.

Niall Murphy:
Okay. So then what next? What can we learn from that kind of Victorian can-do spirit? And as a kind of society, we face these kind of huge challenges on every front, but lockdown did reveal that communities, institutions can achieve what they can achieve when they work together. So we’re living through this age of incredible change and new technology. Are there any reasons to be cheerful?

Fiona Sinclair:
Oh yes, I think so. I think what needs to be done is if there is a building for instance, or a space that is in need of work but there aren’t the funds to do that work, it’s just important not to allow the deterioration to continue and to prevent the loss of any sort of authenticity. And that’s my main worry at Queen’s Park. There have been some very major alterations that were carried out simply to allow to function better for use as a kind of propagating centre. But now of course the plants are imported. They’re brought in, they’re not grown at Queen’s Park. They get delivered.

Niall Murphy:
I appreciated that.

Fiona Sinclair:
They do grow some, but most of them… When I was there carrying out the drone photography, there’s this huge delivery of bedding plants, which had come from probably Poland. I’m pretty sure it was out with Glasgow. It certainly was. So I think there’s been the loss of a number of the sheds that have been brought down. There used to be five on either side of a great corridor. Quite a few of those have gone. There’s a couple been replaced by poly tunnels. A lot of the beautiful bridging cast iron bridging along the tops has gone. It’s important to just stop that so that if there is a building that has no practical use at this point in time, that’s not to say it won’t have in the future. It’s a bit like the buildings at risk register. Which when it was set up and Mary Myers was in charge, it was a dating agency for buildings. These are buildings in need of an owner. Is there an owner out there? And it’s kind of the same with buildings like Queen’s Park Glasshouse.
There will be a use and that use will come, and the funding for that particular use will probably come because it changes year on year, what funding is made available for. And of course, levelling up funding has been an opportunity that has allowed public stables, for instance, to be properly restored. But of course that funding wasn’t made available for the Winter Gardens, the People’s Palace, which is a huge disappointment to the city.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, absolutely.

Fiona Sinclair:
So it’s about what are the other funding opportunities? And it will be driven by things like energy wellness, kind of wellbeing. And you just have to seize those opportunities.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely. Well I hope that the levelling up front, that it’s possibility for getting into a further end of that. And if the bids already been prepared then you know, can recycle it for that. And fingers crossed that most of those should be able to qualify for something like that. But when you look at what’s happened with Govan graving docks the other day-

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes, great news.

Niall Murphy:
And the idea of using green space and parks.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
That’s a good step forward. And that’s good to see something like that happening with that space.

Fiona Sinclair:
And actually, you mentioned something quite interesting, which is if you’ve got a piece of land that’s been vacated because a whole series of industrial buildings where we’re demolished, why do we need to build on that piece of land if it could provide more green space for the city?

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
I mean there’s a site opposite Govanhill church where the new bridge is being built on the other side, the North Bank of the Clyde. And I imagine there are plans for housing, but it would make a fantastic foil to the church across the water, and that could be developed. Because in Partick where my office is, there are little tiny spots of greenery with trees and they’re being cleared for housing. There are trees with-

Niall Murphy:
That’s the two blocks [inaudible 00:48:01]

Fiona Sinclair:
There are trees with ribbons around them just off the express way, because-

Niall Murphy:
I’m not surprised if people feel so strongly about it.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yeah, they do. They do.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah. People really feel emotional boundaries.

Fiona Sinclair:
You really need these. We’re still in danger of overdeveloping.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
And we’ve lost a lot of small public parks. Phoenix Park has gone completely in the Cowcaddens.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely.

Fiona Sinclair:
It’s probably lost under the M8.

Niall Murphy:
A park somewhere under the M8 now.

Fiona Sinclair:
It does.

Niall Murphy:
Which is a great shame.

Fiona Sinclair:
I’m sure it does.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah. I recall seeing interesting proposals kind of around the time of the city of culture for this kind of homestead like series of parks across Glasgow, and basically covering a lot of the space, which had been where buildings had been obliterated and removed as a consequence of de-industrialization of comprehensive development area policies. And the accepting that the city had shrunk in size and that you instead gave that space back to green space. And with everything we know about climate change now, maybe those aren’t bad ideas.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yep. Yes. Yeah. And I think it’s also… Interestingly, it’s quite important to recognise that trees have a shelf life. The west end of course, as we know it’s got all these wonderful communal gardens, Athol gardens, Huntly gardens, all these fabulous shared spaces that came into their own during lockdown. And there are a lot of trees planted on streets Sauchihall street for instance. But they’re getting too big. So there needs to be a sort of cycle of anticipation of what will it look like when that actually goes? What will it get replaced with? There has to be an ongoing kind of-

Niall Murphy:
Yeah. We used to talk about this in Pollokshields a lot because of all the street trees in Pollokshields, and then what would happen if there’d been an accident or a tree became diseased and it got removed? How do you go about replacing that and how do you think in the longer term about our parks and particularly sequences of views or avenues, trees which have gotten really old or were never meant to be that height?

Fiona Sinclair:
Yeah, yeah.

Niall Murphy:
And it’s funny because when you actually look at the original photographs of a place like Pollokshields, a lot of the trees hollowed it. They’re quite small scale and the gardens are very ornamental. And now it’s completely different.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yeah.

Niall Murphy:
It’s a scene.

Fiona Sinclair:
I mean, Maxwell Park, you could see pretty much from one end to the other because the trees were not yet mature.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes. I mean, I love trees, but I think we are slightly over precious about some trees in some places and sort of…

Niall Murphy:
What we could do with trees and others.

Fiona Sinclair:
People need to, but I mean, gosh, we could be growing our own trees and a patch landing Glasgow for transplantation.

Niall Murphy:
That’s what Olmstead did with Central Park-

Fiona Sinclair:
Exactly.

Niall Murphy:
New York. He encouraged people to do that. But it made sense to set their own nurseries and it’s cheaper.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes. And allotments.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
The waiting list for allotments in Glasgow-

Niall Murphy:
Is ridiculous.

Fiona Sinclair:
… are ridiculous.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah.

Fiona Sinclair:
There should be far, far more allotments.

Niall Murphy:
Yes. We could do that.

Niall Murphy:
Within walking distance.

Niall Murphy:
… decontaminated. Actually could do that.

Fiona Sinclair:
Definitely. Yeah.

Niall Murphy:
So that would definitely be worthwhile thing to do as well. The other thing I really would to see accelerated, but again, it’s all down to funding, is the Avenues Project.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes. Yes.

Niall Murphy:
Getting trees and gardens through the city centre and really improving the immunity of the city centre, I think that’s absolutely crucial. It’s funny, I had a student who came in here about four years ago and asked me, why is there no trees from Glasgow City Centre? And I’m like, possibly, because it was like a market industrial city and there was no space for that because there were 700,000 people living within a couple mile of the city centres and there was just no space for them. But possibly that’s split. But that is a project for the future. And kind of see greenery at the city centre is actually something really worthwhile.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yeah, it’s interesting. There’s a chap Duncan McClellan, who is the superintendent of Parks and produced this wonderful book called Glasgow’s Public Parks. And of course it was more about his legacy rather than it was about promotion for the city. But he in the late 19th century went to Europe to look at how the urban parks in other cities across Europe were actually being developed. So we need to look at how other great cities-

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely, and apply those lessons here.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes. Yeah.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, I think that’s absolutely critical.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yep.

Niall Murphy:
Okay. Turning to our final question then, which is completely loaded. What is, and be true to know this one, your favourite building in Glasgow. And it doesn’t have big glasshouses obviously. And what could it tell you or us, if its walls could talk?

Fiona Sinclair:
Well, my favourite building isn’t in Glasgow and that’s Saint Conor’s kirk which I’m sure you love. No, that wasn’t the question, but I do like to get a little plugin for that wonderful-

Niall Murphy:
Oh, it’s beautiful.

Fiona Sinclair:
… wonderful church. It’s wonderful.

Niall Murphy:
It’s such a lovely setting.

Fiona Sinclair:
It’s fabulous.

Niall Murphy:
And kind of all the carving on it is so intriguing.

Fiona Sinclair:
It’s wonderful. Yeah, that’s a very, very special building. And I’m not sure if I’ve got a favourite building. I’ve got a favourite building type, if that counts.

Niall Murphy:
Oh, go on.

Fiona Sinclair:
The tenement. You cannot beat the Glasgow tenement.

Niall Murphy:
I love the tenement. Yep.

Fiona Sinclair:
All shapes and sizes, all colours.

Niall Murphy:
Yep. Massive fan.

Fiona Sinclair:
I loved the photograph you tweeted the other day. It was beautiful tiles, I didn’t know existed. Yes. I love the classical Tenement.

Niall Murphy:
Yes. Yeah. Probably bad at me, but it’s Kirkcaldy Road, the tenement is [ion Kirkcaldy Road. So yeah, kind of is nobody ever goes down there because it’s kind of tucked away slightly.

Fiona Sinclair:
Tremendous building type.

Niall Murphy:
Really good houses.

Fiona Sinclair:
Yeah. What’s my favourite building? I was torn between anything by Charles Wilson, I’m a big fan. The Queen’s rooms on La Belle Place. Absolutely remarkable design.

Niall Murphy:
I’ve never been inside.

Fiona Sinclair:
No, it’s been burnt out. I don’t think there’s anything to see inside.

Niall Murphy:
Such a shame.

Fiona Sinclair:
But what a monumental sculpture scheme on that. How brave-

Niall Murphy:
Fabulous.

Fiona Sinclair:
… to say, “Okay, this is going to be a big box with hardly any windows. Let’s just put a sculpture scheme on it.” But interestingly, and of course the Burrell, I’m a massive, massive fan of that. I came down to the Old School of Architecture on Rotten Row from the 60s designed by Frank Fielden and Professor Frank Walker. And it was the most wonderful building. What it said on the tin, it was designed for young architects, the training of young architects and it’s still… Of course is no longer architecture faculty for Strathclyde , which is tragic.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
But fantastic building and made great use of light, of course. Whole series of north lights.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely.

Fiona Sinclair:
Bays with side lights.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Fiona Sinclair:
Great building. Lots of lovely timber inside.

Niall Murphy:
Yes. It’s listed now, isn’t it?

Fiona Sinclair:
It’s listed.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah. Quite right.

Fiona Sinclair:
He listed.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, I know.

Fiona Sinclair:
And a fantastic concrete mural. I can’t remember the name of the sculptor, but he’s exceptional. As you come into the building, there’s tremendous concrete mural of course, next to the lecture theatre. Brilliant. Great design. And great building to train an architect.

Niall Murphy:
Yes. Sacrilege from me, I went to the Mac.

Fiona Sinclair:
He will, sorry.

Niall Murphy:
But I much prefer Strathclyde’s building.

Fiona Sinclair:
Strathclyde got the better building.

Niall Murphy:
He definitely did.

Fiona Sinclair:
He got the better building.

Niall Murphy:
I always like going to a show him there because it’s just quality of light. It was really good.

Fiona Sinclair:
Quality of finishes.

Niall Murphy:
Really lovely spaces.

Fiona Sinclair:
Very, very typical of that period, of course.

Niall Murphy:
Yes. Yeah.

Fiona Sinclair:
Of which I’m a big fan.

Niall Murphy:
It’s funny because when you see them on plan, they are very similar building types.

Fiona Sinclair:
They are.

Niall Murphy:
But-

Fiona Sinclair:
Yes, it was delivered-

Niall Murphy:
was just so much better.

Fiona Sinclair:
Delivered much better at at StrathClyde.

Niall Murphy:
Yes. Sorry.

Fiona Sinclair:
Sorry, Bourdon Building.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, absolutely.

Fiona Sinclair:
Which the advantage of scalping over a road, it could’ve been so much more exciting.

Niall Murphy:
I know. I know.

Fiona Sinclair:
In fairness, it probably looked pretty smart. The Bourdon Building, when it was completed.

Niall Murphy:
I suspect so. But it was obviously a difficult period because it was going at the end of the oil crisis, and they really had to slash the budget when they were building it.

Fiona Sinclair:
But yeah, and also used a beautiful blue engineering brick instead of kind of shattered concrete. But no, thinking it through, I think that’s probably my-

Niall Murphy:
Very interesting choice.

Fiona Sinclair:
… favourite building. Yes. Not an obvious choice.

Niall Murphy:
Well thank you very much, Fiona. That was an absolute pleasure talking to you you as always.

Fiona Sinclair:
Thank you.

Niall Murphy:
Much appreciated.

Katharine Neil:
Glasgow City Heritage Trust is an independent charity and grant funder that promotes the understanding, appreciation, and conservation of Glasgow’s historic built environment. Do you want to know more? Have a look at our website at glasgowheritage.org.uk and follow us on social media at Glasgow Heritage. This podcast was produced by Inner Ear, for Glasgow City Heritage Trust. The podcast is kindly sponsored by the National Trust for Scotland and supported by Tunnock’s.

Series 2 Episode 8: Women Make History, with Gabrielle Macbeth & Anabel Marsh from Glasgow Women’s Library

Niall Murphy:
Hello, everyone. I’m Niall Murphy, and welcome to If Glasgow’s Walls Could Talk, a podcast by Glasgow City Heritage Trust about the stories and relationships between historic buildings and people in Glasgow. Now, if you follow me on Twitter, you will know how much I enjoy walking around Glasgow. When you know where to look, there’s probably no better way to connect with the history of the city and the hidden stories of the great unsung heroes and heroine’s who have made it. But there’s a catch, unless you know how and where to look, those hidden characters are likely to remain well hidden and not least the heroines. So in this episode, I’m delighted to be following the evidence uncovered by the wonderful Women Make History detectives of Glasgow Women’s Library. So Women Make History, those three words might challenge a more mainstream view of the world and the way that we see the built environment.

For instance, and this is very much a perception issue, that cities like Glasgow appear to have a distinctly muscular and masculine look, and grand historic buildings and others that are less grand and every day were invariably designed, constructed, and almost always owned by a man, or at least that’s the perception. The issue is, well, is that actually the case? So it’s that whole idea that we live in this masculine environment that gave rise to Glasgow Women’s Library more than 30 years ago. As their website explains, Glasgow Women’s Library came into being partly as a response to the overarching masculine narratives in Glasgow’s approach to being the European city of culture in 1990. A pioneering project then known as Women in Profile, set out to show that women were very much part of Glasgow’s social and cultural history, and it has been a remarkable success story. So Glasgow Women’s Library has grown from a small community venture in Garnethill, run by volunteers with no funding to become a nationally-respected institute. So it is the UK’s only accredited museum devoted to women’s lives, histories, and achievements.

The library is now housed in their splendid East End premises in Bridgeton, which is a former library which Glasgow City Heritage Trust help grant fund repairs to. It is a treasure trove of artefacts and archives with a team of expert paid staff, but there are also volunteers who work there. So volunteers are fundamental to the work of the library with its aim of empowering women in every walk of life. It’s the volunteers, Glasgow Women’s Library’s very own Woman Make History detectives who research and lead the walks revealing and celebrating the lives and achievements of the many women who have made history in Glasgow. So to tell us how it’s done, let’s meet today’s special guests, Gabrielle Macbeth, who is the volunteer coordinator working with the library’s dedicated volunteers, and Anabel Marsh, a former librarian who after 10 years is now one of the libraries longest serving volunteers. So very warm welcome to the podcast for you both.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Thank you. Thanks for that great introduction.

Niall Murphy:
It’s good to have you both on board. So first off, let’s dive in with our first question for you. There’s a lot of ground to cover here, and there’s many years of history to look at too, but perhaps we should begin in Glasgow’s West End. So in 2007, Glasgow Women’s Library made history by creating the first Women’s Heritage Walk, a groundbreaking walking tour, which set out to focus on women who had helped shape Glasgow’s history.

So can you tell us how that came about?

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Yeah, sure. So there’s always lots of interest in women’s history in the Women’s Library. At the time, I think we were becoming really aware of people saying, “Oh, we need to do something. We need to do something that’s reaching out to people outside of the Glasgow Women’s Library that engages people with women’s history.” So 2006, 2007 was the team at that time decided, “Right, well, we’re going to do something. We’re not too sure what that could be,” but we convened a group of women who were interested together and started to think, “What kind of activity could we offer that would highlight women’s diverse and multiple contributions to the city?”

I think there were some pamphlets from the council’s Heritage Walks lying around and they were picked up and it was a case of going, “Oh, well, women are really absent in these.” So it was a quite logical jump to then think, “Oh, well, how about we create our own alternative version of this that forefronts women’s contributions?” That’s where it began, and we got together a group of women who were interested in doing some research who hadn’t necessarily done much of that before but were keen to uncover it.

Niall Murphy:
Right.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
So after some research and that process, the West End Women’s Heritage Walk was born and it was launched in 2007 and we ran it as part of the West End Festival for quite a few years.

Niall Murphy:
Brilliant.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Then over the years, other walks were researched and developed.

Niall Murphy:
Okay. Can you tell me something about any of the characters that emerged from all of this research that you were doing?

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Anabel, do you want to jump in?

Anabel Marsh:
Yes. Yes, I can. Well, we’ve definitely got six walks that are all available in the library as leaflets, or you can download them from our website, womenslibrary.org.uk, and you can have them as audio files as well. Then in the summer, we guide the walks maybe six or so every season.

Niall Murphy:
Right.

Anabel Marsh:
We’ve got some longer trails that we don’t offer as guided walks, but can also be downloaded. So we’ve got two for suffragettes and one for LGBTQ history.

Niall Murphy:
Okay.

Anabel Marsh:
So there’s all sorts of characters. Gabby was talking about the West End Walk, which was our first one. So you get people like Big Rachel who was part of the Partick riots, well, part of controlling the Partick riots. We start at Kelvingrove on the West End one, and we talk about how there is art by women in there, but most of the art is through a male gaze. If you look up at the top of Kelvingrove on the roof line, there are lots of images of women, sculptures of women, but they’re muses, they’re not real women. There are only four actual women in Glasgow named women to have statues, so we try and bring out who they are.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely, because all of them is fascinating history.

Anabel Marsh:
Yeah, one of those is Isabella Elder, for example, who is the … Well, if she hadn’t given the money for Queen Margaret College, that would’ve been really difficult. She was one of the people who made higher education for women a priority. So we talk about her on the West End Walk. We talk about some of the first women graduates like Marion Gilchrist. She was the first doctor to graduate in 1894. The university had been there since 1451, but it wasn’t till 1894 that they actually gave women some degrees. A very touching thing to me is that Marion Gilchrist was then the doctor who signed Isabella’s death certificate when she died in 1905.

Niall Murphy:
Tell me something, I’m interested to know. Isabella Elder, ’cause it’s something that really annoys me that her monument in Elder Park has Mrs. John Elder on it, which-

Anabel Marsh:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
… to me, it really grates.

Anabel Marsh:
I think that’s what Isabella wanted, really.

Niall Murphy:
Oh, really?

Anabel Marsh:
Yes.

Niall Murphy:
She did want that, okay. That’s fantastic.

Anabel Marsh:
As people did in those days, she saw herself as Mrs. John Elder, and there’s the Elder Park Library, there’s Elder Park itself. There’s Elder House.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Anabel Marsh:
All these things she was really doing in memory of her husband, who was, of course, John Elder who owned the Fairfield Shipyard. So when he died quite young, she was left with a lot of money and that’s how she chose to use it as a philanthropist in her own city.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, absolutely. She does enormous good works in the city, which is very interesting. There is another, it’s not a statue, though, there is a rundle on a building on Govan Road, which is to Jane White Brown, which I try and point out. I’ve pointed it out on Twitter before, and that was Jane White Brown was really interesting because, again, she’s a major Govan figure that she ran the Govan Newspaper notionally with her husband, but he again, died quite young. She had to manage that newspaper for 36 years after his death, which is why she’s commemorated on that building. But you’re it’s absolutely right. To me, I’ve done a lot of work on George Square, and it comes up every time I do a walking tour of George Square, it’s complete imbalance between men. There’s a whole 50% of the population that’s completely missing from Glasgow’s story in that square, which I just think is outrageous.

Anabel Marsh:
Unless you’re Queen Victoria.

Niall Murphy:
Well, absolutely, but Queen Victoria is only there because she is the monarch. That’s it. Otherwise, she would not be there either. That, to me, is disgraceful. I think we have to tell that story better, and it’s a whole missing aspect to our story, but the city, I think needs to address.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
It’s worth checking out, Sarah Sheridan’s book, which gives this fictionalised account of what Scotland would look like if streets and places were named after Women. She introduces so many incredible women who we should know more about.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely. Yeah. Teasing out those stories is absolutely critical to me.

Anabel Marsh:
Of course, statues aren’t the only thing, and we are getting a bit better at other kinds of memorials. One of the things that we pass in the East End, for instance, as the memorial to the girls that were killed and they were girls. They were as young as 14, some of them, in the Templeton Disaster. When the factory was built, the wall blew down onto the weaving sheds, and outside Carlton Community Centre, every single girl or young woman has her name and age recorded on there. So people might walk past that and not even know it’s there.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Anabel Marsh:
It is a memorial. It’s not a statue, but that is the sort of thing that we want to bring out and draw to people’s attention.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, very much. Do you think that the walks have had a good impact in that regard, that you’ve been able to use the walks to uncover stories and get that message out to people?

Anabel Marsh:
Well, I think so. As we’ve done them over the years, people tend to be less surprised by some of the stories, so you get the feeling that they have heard them before. For instance, we always used to get gasps when we revealed that St. Enoch as a woman, because a lot of people didn’t know that. But-

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Anabel Marsh:
… Now I think that is less the case. For those that don’t know, St. Enoch is another name for St. Thenew who-

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Anabel Marsh:
… is possibly the earliest woman we talk about. She was a fifth or sixth century princess who was the mother of St. Mungo, so effectively the mother of Glasgow. There is a wall plaque at the back of the St. Enoch Centre that lists all the different variations of her name from Thenew to Enoch. But still, it is a surprise to some people that they’ve been walking through this memorial to a woman-

Niall Murphy:
And have no idea.

Anabel Marsh:
They’re doing their shopping for years-

Niall Murphy:
Yes. Yeah.

Anabel Marsh:
… and they have no idea.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, I didn’t know about that, that back art. I’ll have to go and have a look at that.

Anabel Marsh:
Yes, it’s back of the food court.

Niall Murphy:
Right, okay. Oh, very interesting. Right, okay. I’ll need to look at that. Yeah, it’s fascinating because to me it’s this whole hidden history that needs to be teased out. I find it really objectionable that this has been concealed. Things like, I don’t don’t know whether you knew her at all, but Cordelia Oliver, her archive is now up in the Glasgow School of Art Archive in the Whisky Bond. She was the arts correspondent for The Herald. This was in the 1950s, she could not use her own name. She had to be referred to as the arts correspondent because they couldn’t have a woman writing for the paper, and yet she’s talking about all this great art in Glasgow, and she’s not allowed to use her own name.

It’s just bizarre. So I find those kind of things really frustrating, and I’d really like to see those stories emerging and being told that somebody who had … She was instrumental in helping set up things like The Fringe in Edinburgh, which she always joked about because she was a Glasgow girl and the Fringe really should have been at Glasgow, but well, nevermind, it’s over in Edinburgh. She was also instrumental in Citizens Theatre, and stories like that need to be teased out somehow and made clearer to people.

Anabel Marsh:
No, I didn’t know about that one. But yes, there are still lots of stories that we don’t know about that. The walks are always developing and growing and we add things in as people tell them about us or we change the route slightly as we find out about other people.

Niall Murphy:
Okay. Well, can you take us on a walk then or round say one of your tours and say for instance, your groundbreaking tour at the West End, where does it lead?

Anabel Marsh:
The West End? One is possibly the one that most relates to the built environment because we basically go around the perimeter of the university. When you get to the Gorbal’s walk for instance, it’s been flattened twice since the things that we’re talking about. So you have to use a lot of imagination, whereas the West End, everything is there. As I said, we start at Kelvingrove, we go down to what was Anderston College where we talk about the higher education of women. Then we can also talk about the education of women when they were children, because there’s still Church Street Primary School there. So we can compare and contrast what a working class girl would’ve learned there with what the middle class girls in the private school up the road would’ve been learning. They would’ve been getting achievements and refinements and piano playing and French and the other girls would be learning how to be wives and mothers, that sort of thing.

Niall Murphy:
Sure. Absolutely.

Anabel Marsh:
We talk about the suffragettes because, well, we talk about the suffragettes in two places on this walk because, oh, over 20 years ago now on International Women’s Day some of the students got up early and they renamed all the buildings at Glasgow University after women, because they’re all currently after men. So-

Niall Murphy:
Yes,

Anabel Marsh:
… they chose a lot of suffragettes, and we talk about that. And then we also then go past the Isabella Elder Building at Glasgow University, which was the first one to be called after a woman. It’s not a very pretty building, but it is called after Isabella.

Niall Murphy:
Good.

Anabel Marsh:
We talk a lot about her. We go past the Macintosh house, so we can point out that Charles Rennie McIntosh was very famous, but Margaret McDonald, his wife was a very well-renowned artist in her own right.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely, they’re a complete artistic pairing and that should really be respected. It’s not just him, and he totally acknowledges that in all of his letters to her that this was a full relationship and a full partnership.

Anabel Marsh:
“I have talent, Margaret has genius,” was basically what he said. Then we finish off at the Suffragette Walk at the top of University Avenue, well, Kelvin Way, University Avenue, that junction-

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Anabel Marsh:
… which was planted in 1918 by suffragettes after the first women got the vote. Despite the best work of Storm Ophelia a few years ago, it’s still standing because it did lose a lot of its branches and had to have a lot of attention. It wasn’t entirely clear that it was going to survive, but it has.

Niall Murphy:
Great.

Anabel Marsh:
In 2015, the library nominated it as Tree of the Year, which duly won.

Niall Murphy:
Fantastic.

Anabel Marsh:
We’re very proud of our Oak.

Niall Murphy:
Very good. Okay, so your walks are full of fascinating stories and there are 12 stops on each guided walk. So obviously that’s a lot of background research that you have to do. So what does it take to become a Women Make History detective? How do you plot the routes and seek out the woman on each trail?

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Well, so our history detectives come from all walks of life, I think. As I said earlier, we’re not necessarily looking for people who have tonnes of research experience. Each time we’ve developed a walk, we’ve put a call-out, so anyone interested, anyone from this area maybe who lives there want to come and join our team. We’ve always had someone who’s facilitated the research and been able to guide people, so where you go and find this information. So yes, it’s drawn lots of people, local women who are just like, “Oh, I’ve lived here all my life. I want to learn more,” or, “I know lots already,” people who are maybe new to those areas or new to the city who are using this as a way of finding out about Glasgow.

But the process usually yields a lot more information than we can actually include in a two-hour walk, which goes to show it’s not difficult to find this information if you go looking for it. So the process always then involves a lot of pairing it down and deciding what works as a trail, as a walkable route within two hours and what are the stories that we think are going to engage audiences the most. I think there’s probably some wrangling that goes on as well ’cause some people are like, “But I really want this woman’s story in.” It’s like, “Well, we can’t include everyone,” so a bit of diplomatic work goes on, but that research doesn’t get lost. We hold on to it.So it can be used in other ways.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, I’ve had similar experiences doing walking trails on the south side and there’s some really interesting stories, but they are just off what would be a potential route, they’re just too far away to make it feasible within a certain timeframe, and that it can be hugely frustrating that when you’ve got a really juicy nugget sitting there, but there’s nothing you can do about it.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Yeah, it’s a shame. It’s an iterative process because each time the walks are delivered, the guides say, “If anyone’s got any additional information, please contribute that.” So we’re always updating the scripts and adding new information as it comes to life, and I think audiences really value that that we’re recognising their local knowledge as well and are able to incorporate that.

Niall Murphy:
So it sounds like a real labour of love. Do the volunteers make strong connections with women on the trail? Is it difficult therefore to choose whose story to tell?

Anabel Marsh:
We certainly do. As you’ve probably gathered from what I’ve talked about so far, one of my favourite women is Isabella Elder. She was the first one that I fell in love with if you like, mainly because of what she did for higher education for women, and also because she built a library, and I’m a librarian. She gave money to the engineering department at Glasgow and what became Strathclyde, and my husband’s an academic engineer, so she just seemed to really speak to me. So I’m very happy that we’ve got her in the West End walk. We also talk about her in the Necropolis walk because she’s buried up there in the Elder family tomb.

Niall Murphy:
Right.

Anabel Marsh:
But she’s been superseded in my heart. My favourite woman is now one called Jessie Stephen. Well, she’s probably the only working class Scottish suffragette that really know anything much about. She was born in 1893, so she was quite a young suffragette.

Niall Murphy:
Okay.

Anabel Marsh:
What she did was she worked as a domestic servant, and she took part in the pillar box outrage as the Glasgow Herald put it, where the suffragettes would put ink or acid into the pillar boxes. She was able to use her working class identity as a shield for that because as she said, she was in her uniform, black dress, lace, captain cuffs. Nobody was going to look at her, much less think that she was a subversive about to attack a pillar box. I don’t know, she was just an amazingly feisty woman. When she was 16, she was vice chair of the Independent Labour Party in Maryhill.

Niall Murphy:
Wow.

Anabel Marsh:
She was very concerned about the conditions that she and other servants worked with, so she set up the Scottish Domestic Workers Federation in 1913. So remember she was born in 1893, so this was when by the time she was 20, she’d done all this.

Niall Murphy:
Wow.

Anabel Marsh:
Then she was headhunted by Sylvia Pankhurst during the First World War, went off to work for her in London and never really lived in Glasgow again, but she grew up here. She’s one of ours. She’s just amazing. I think she gives an interesting contrast to Isabella in terms of the built environment because with a rich woman like Isabella, she’s pretty much in control of her legacy. She’s left buildings, her house is still there.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Anabel Marsh:
She’s on the gates, the commemorative gates at Glasgow University. She has a statue. There’s a portrait over her in Kelvingrove. She’s obvious.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Anabel Marsh:
But Jessie, you have to more tease out her relationship with the city, but she’s still there because you can identify, I know two of the houses that she worked in as a servant. From that, I’ve become a bit obsessed with post boxes, so I’ve been looking around what post box could it be that she used?

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Anabel Marsh:
It’s an amazing amount of Victorian and Edwardian post boxes still about the place, and there’s one-

Niall Murphy:
Indeed.

Anabel Marsh:
… just opposite one of the houses that she worked. So I post my letters in there and think, This is where Jesse stood.”

Niall Murphy:
That’s amazing. Which houses did she work in?

Anabel Marsh:
Well, she worked in the West End. I don’t want to give addresses particularly, but this one is one of the terraces off Great Western Road, and there’s a post box just on the other side of Great Western Road.

Niall Murphy:
Right. Okay. So what happened to Jessie? Obviously she went off down to London. What happened to her? How did you manage to find her history?

Anabel Marsh:
Well, as I say, she’s one of the few, if not only Scottish suffragette that we know anything about, but she has actually been quite easy to find out about because she left record. She wrote her own autobiography. It was never published, but it is now available online through the Working Class Movement Library in Manchester. She was interviewed in the 1970s by Spare Rib and also by a man called Brian Harrison, who interviewed as many surviving suffragettes as he could find. There are several hundred of them actually, which is quite surprising, but she’s one of them. So there’s about two hours of Jessie talking right online through the Women’s Library in London.

Niall Murphy:
Oh, that’s fantastic. You can hear her.

Anabel Marsh:
Yeah.

Niall Murphy:
That’s amazing.

Anabel Marsh:
So she wasn’t difficult to find out about and also because she never married, so she didn’t have the responsibility of her husband and children. So she wasn’t as reticent about getting caught or being very opinionated.

Niall Murphy:
Yes. Yes. She had less to lose.

Anabel Marsh:
She was a counsellor in several different places. She toured North America lecturing about socialism and the labour movement and-

Niall Murphy:
Oh, that’s fantastic.

Anabel Marsh:
She never became an MP, but she mixed with people like Barbara Castle and Tony Benn who were at funeral.

Niall Murphy:
Hugely respected then.

Anabel Marsh:
An amazing person, but not that much known about.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah, no, that’s fascinating to hear. Handily enough, it brings me on to my next question, and it’s something of a theme for this podcast that we look at housing issues in Glasgow. So one of the things we’re really interested in is the rent strikes in 1915 and how Glaswegian Women helped to change the history because that was a national event that started in Govan and then spread right across the UK and resulted in as government at the time stepping in. So is that something that you explore in the Heritage Walks?

Anabel Marsh:
We do. We don’t go to Govan. We don’t have a walk there, but we do have a section on this in our East End walk, and we go to Glasgow Green ’cause of course, Glasgow Green has been the site of hundreds, thousands of protests over the years. So we talk there about the suffragettes rallied there, the Glasgow Women’s Housing people that you’re talking about, people like Mary Barbour, Helen Crawford.

Anabel Marsh:
But they also were part of the Women’s Peace Crusade as well in 1917, so we link all that together. So we talk a lot about activist women and not just the very historic ones. There are other women in the later part of the 20th century that we talk about. We’ve got people like Betty McAllister in the Carlton who was an activist there and who famously told Margaret Thatcher when she came to visit that she could stick the poll tax where the sun don’t shine. Betty Brown, who was the leader of the community council in Garnethill in the ’80s and ’90s, and so took the place by the scruff of the neck, and both of those women working class women, Betty McAllister worked in a fish shop. Betty Brown was a cleaner at STV, but they created such a lot for their own communities, and both of them were actually named Scot’s Women of the Year in different years. So they were acknowledged and we tried to acknowledge them in our walks as well.

Niall Murphy:
That’s fantastic. Okay, next question then. Glasgow and the city, it’s obviously always changing all the time. So after more than a decade of doing Women’s Heritage Walks, are you seeing any signs that Glasgow is becoming a less masculine city?

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Like Anabel said, I think some of the things that our tour guides reveal get slightly less of a gasp than I think the women’s libraries played a role in highlighting women’s roles. But I don’t think we can take all the credit. I think there’s generally a better understanding of how much women’s history has been overlooked and sidelined. But there are clearly so many more stories to be uncovered. It’s been said that only I think, now 0.5% of recorded history is about women, right?

Niall Murphy:
Yeah.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
There’s still plenty to uncover and record. I sometimes think our tour guides and our history detectives sometimes rescue information from literally dropping off into the abyss and then it’s lost forever. There are things that are fragile. So-

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
… there’s definitely a need to be continuing to do this work and to do it with a sense of urgency. So it’s great to see other groups doing really great work as well. The protests and suffragettes group have done a huge amount of work, obviously focusing on the suffrage movement. We’ve also worked with a group called Thistles & Dandelions, which is a Heritage project.

Niall Murphy:
Yes. Yes, I know them. Yes.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
They look specifically at unearthing and making visible the stories relating to ethnic minority women in the city. So there’s still definitely a lot to be done, but I like to think that well, less masculine sides of Glasgow are becoming more visible and we’re getting a more rounded view of-

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
… who’s made the city and contributed to it.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, absolutely. I did three walking trail leaflets of Pollokshields, and one of my big regrets as part of that, ’cause it covered both the east and the west sides of Pollokshields on the south side of Glasgow and also who had developed the whole area. But my big regret was I always intended there to be a fourth walking trail leaflet, which was about Asian experience of Pollokshields, because obviously it’s one of the most multicultural areas in Scotland and neighbouring Gover Hill and a voice hoped that somebody at some point would begin to tell those stories because they’re a core part of Glasgow’s story as well. So that diversity is so important-

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Absolutely.

Niall Murphy:
… in capturing that too.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Yeah, absolutely.

Niall Murphy:
Yeah. Everyone has a right history.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Yes. That’s it, and there’s so much missing from the mainstream.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
… narrative.

Niall Murphy:
But it’s about empowering people to be able to tell that story. You can’t go out and tell it for them because somebody asked me, “Why didn’t you do it if you felt so strongly about it?” It was like, “Because it shouldn’t be coming from me.” That wouldn’t be appropriate.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
I think that’s true. I think that’s what we loved working with the Thistles & Dandelions group. They actually came on three or four of our walks to get a sense of how we do it and had chats with various tour guides. But it’s just so great to see them thinking, “Well, we have our story to tell as well,” and having pride in that and sharing it with more people.

Niall Murphy:
Very much.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
I think it’s very heartening when we see men come on the Women’s Heritage Walks, because I feel really strongly that this isn’t just women’s history that’s aimed at women. I’ve had to learn about men’s history my entire life, so-

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
… and that’s never been questioned. I think the same as our responsibility as a white person to learn about the history of Black and minority ethnic people in our city.

Niall Murphy:
Absolutely. This is a wee bit funny, though. It was back in 2017, I helped out with as a leaflet woman war in the West End, and it was sponsored by various funders. A part of it was there had to be a walking tour for it and they couldn’t find anyone to do the walking tours and eventually, asked me. I was like, “Okay, well this is slightly awkward, but if you’re really struggling I’ll do it for you.” It was really fascinating learning the history about that. Again, I just think it’s obviously my mother brought me up the right way, but I think it’s really important to know that because it gives you a proper rounded view of the history of the place, not just the one-sided one or whoever was on top at a particular time. Okay then. What is next view on the horizon for the Women’s History Detectives, and is there anything you would like to develop and what gives you the most pride so far?

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Wow, multi-part question. Well, on the horizon, so we’re continuously reviewing our trails, so that’s ongoing work. We recruited seven new volunteer guides last summer-

Niall Murphy:
Wow.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
… which, yeah, it was great to see that so many people were keen to get involved and lots of young women as well.

Niall Murphy:
Good.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
So yeah, they’re learning the scripts and learning the ropes, and we’ll be delivering those walks from April onwards. We’ve got a few walks planned for the next few months. We’re working in Denniston and we’re not necessarily going to develop a Women’s Heritage Walk in that area because it depends what the group wants to do. But we’ve just started a series of workshops there to uncover the hidden histories of women in that area and that’s a year-long project. So looking forward to seeing who we uncover and what becomes of that information. I heard murmurs of a Women’s Heritage Walk, it’s very early days, so I don’t want to commit any of my colleagues to doing that. Anabel, I don’t know, do you want to answer the question about that?

Anabel Marsh:
Well, I was going to say, I think the pandemic made us look at everything in a different way. Again, we had to find a different way of still engaging with this material and people that wanted to know about it. So we did a series of Twitter walks. We did all our walks on Twitter.

Niall Murphy:
Right. Okay.

Anabel Marsh:
Not literally. This is one I prepared earlier because it’s quite tricky to get meaningful information into a tweet, but two of us, myself and another volunteer, Louise, we divided them between us and they were really popular.

Niall Murphy:
Good.

Anabel Marsh:
They went down very well. Another volunteer, Melody, made some trailers for the walks. So we used the time that we couldn’t take people out actually into the environment by doing it virtually.

Niall Murphy:
Sure. Yes. I did one or two of those myself. Yeah, it’s quite good fun.

Anabel Marsh:
As Gabby says, we’re always revising and changing the routes. Again, it’s pandemic related, but the Friends of Glasgow and Necropolis have renovated three historic stones to nurses and as a tribute to the NHS, we did that after the pandemic. So now we are looking at our route to how we can redesign that to take maybe one or two of those in. So that’s another project to just make sure we don’t get bored.

Niall Murphy:
Who comes on your walks in terms of, is it people from outside of Glasgow with people within Glasgow? How does that work?

Anabel Marsh:
Both. It’s a mix. Yeah. I think the furthest I can remember having somebody is from Australia. Quite often we get people who are just here on holiday or visiting family or something and they come on the walks, but we’d say it’s mostly fairly local people. But we do get quite a lot of people from other countries, which is nice that they’re going to go home with this view of Glasgow.

Niall Murphy:
You get good feedback at the end?

Anabel Marsh:
Always. Yes. Yes. The negative ones are things like, “Well, we could have had a cup of tea,” but we just don’t have time to get a cup of tea. No. Yeah, I think it’s fair to say that most people enjoy it and they’re very complimentary about the guides, which is nice. That makes you feel quite good about it.

Niall Murphy:
When I did the Women, War & The West End once, we always ended in the pub, so it was in Webster’s Theatre. There’s a pub at the back of Webster’s Theatre on Great Western Road. So that was really nice ’cause it was round about the time and so they’ve got fantastic roaring fire in there and you could end up with having a really good chin wag with folks you wouldn’t otherwise ordinarily meet, so really, really enjoyable experience. So I find doing walking tours really rewarding ’cause it’s not just you telling people the stories, you’re getting their opinions and their stories too out of it. So really, to me, it’s a brilliant educational tool in both directions.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
We’ve done tours for closed groups as well, and we sometimes get asked to offer a tour as part of someone’s conference. So they might have a gathering of feminist academics visiting, coming to a conference and we are offering them a tour. I love the idea that those people are leaving the city having had a real women’s focus on the city, and that’s what they’re coming away with.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
People really engage with it. Our guides are brilliant at presenting the information in ways that are accessible to people who might have quite a lot of background in Glasgow and Scottish history and then adapting that for people who don’t ’cause sometimes, I suppose we do assume that people know who St. Mungo is if we’re talking about St. Enoch. We’ve also started offering shorter walks because our walks are typically two hours long, but we recognise that that can feel like a long time for some, so we trialled a one-hour walk the East End last summer and we’re planning on doing that again and offering it in two shorter sessions.

Niall Murphy:
Yes, I did that one year for Doors Open Day rather than doing long walking tours, which I had been used to doing. I did half-hour lunchtime tours instead throughout the week, so in just around little parts of the city centre. The idea was to give somebody who was stuck in the office a chance to get out and go for a break and see a bit of the city while we’re at it and explain the city while we’re at it. So those were quite popular, which was quite interesting. Okay, so this is the final question then, and this is a completely loaded question because we ask, everybody who comes on our podcast this, which is, what is your favourite building in Glasgow on or off Women’s Heritage Walk, and what would it tell you if its walls could talk?

Anabel Marsh:
Who goes first? I’ll go first. I’m going to go off the Women’s Library walks because I also have a Women’s Heritage Walk in Maryhill-

Anabel Marsh:
… that I do out at Maryhill Burgh Hall, so I’m going to choose it as my favourite building.

Niall Murphy:
Nice choice.

Anabel Marsh:
I think what it tells is also the developing role of women because its unique selling point is the set of 20 stained glass windows that were made for the opening in the 1870s, Stephen Adam.

Niall Murphy:
Yes.

Anabel Marsh:
Unlike when you normally get stained glass windows, it’s religious scenes or classical scenes or whatever, it’s of ordinary working people going about their lives, doing their jobs, and of those 22 show women.

Niall Murphy:
Right

Anabel Marsh:
Now, okay, Stephen Adam just showed what he saw. That’s fair enough. Then you look, they have display a picture of the original opening of the halls and it’s just this sea of men everywhere-

Niall Murphy:
Right.

Anabel Marsh:
… rows and rows of men. Then next to it they’ve got the picture of the opening after the halls had been renovated in 2012, and it’s just such a lovely mix. There’s lots of women involved there. So I think that you can see that that is showing the progression of women and our increasing role in society. I have to say, I thought when I was asked to do a Women’s Heritage Walk there, I thought it might be quite difficult to turn up stories, but it wasn’t. They’re there if you look, and you’ve just got to think a little bit laterally and tease them out.

Niall Murphy:
What about you then, Gabrielle?

Gabrielle Macbeth:
I’ve chosen to talk about the building the houses Glasgow Women’s Library. I spend a lot of time there and I do love it, and I love turning up to work. Some mornings it’s even more beautiful than others. For those who you haven’t visited, it’s in Bridgeton and it’s a Carnegie Library, so-

Niall Murphy:
Yes, it’s beautiful.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
It is beautiful. We’ve been there almost 10 years and have done a lot of work to make it fit for our purposes and to look after it as well and done quite a lot of repairs to the roof and the stonework. We’re now working towards making it-

Niall Murphy:
We helped out with the stonework and the roof, so.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Yes. Yes.

Niall Murphy:
Being up the a scaffold is fantastic except the carvings are really beautiful, aren’t they?

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Yeah.

Niall Murphy:
But you also appreciate how much the pollution in Glasgow must have damaged the building because obviously it’s all been stone cleaned now and it looks lovely, blonde sandstone now, but some of it is really badly weathered because of all that pollution.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
There was damage, but to me, I think it’s if the walls could speak, they would talk of the importance and the power of public libraries and of free, accessible public spaces. It’s been at the heart of Bridgeton for 120 years almost, and it’s now home to the Women’s Library. It’s a really wonderful dynamic and loved and cared for space that offers opportunities for women and others to come and learn. We have a beautiful new sign by an artist called Rabiya Choudhry.

Niall Murphy:
Oh, I’ll have to go and see that.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Yes, please do. It’s brand new and it’s part of a wider project by the Common Guild, and the sign it’s borrowed the flame motif, which was Carnegie’s emblem and it has the words of an African American civil rights activist called Ella Baker, and it says, “Give light and people will find the way.” I think that’s-

Niall Murphy:
That’s beautiful.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
… a really beautiful phrase, but the project is, it’s got, there’s four other artists who have been commissioned as well to reflect on public libraries and the importance of public libraries past and present and future.

Niall Murphy:
Right. I loved your previous sign as well, by the way. I was a real fan of that too, but that is very nice, and I must go make the visit to see it. Completely agree with you, Anabel, about that, Maryhill Burgh Halls and Stephen Adam’s stained glass, which is really superb. He was a really good artist and how he manages to capture the woman’s role there as well is incredibly important. That reminded me of a story Dr. Nina Baker tells about the City Chambers. She does a really good talk about the City Chambers, one of which was how badly designed it was from a woman’s point of view, which was when they held the opening, a banquet and dance. All of these men obviously brought their wives along too.

The toilet provision for women was next to non-existent. There was one toilet in the basement and everything else was for men and they’re like, “Uh.” It sums up Victorian because nobody planned for that kind of thing at the time. You’re thinking, “How did you not know to anticipate this that you wouldn’t design for 50% of the population?” Really shocking. But it’s all of these spaces end up getting adapted over time for everybody. That’s the key thing, and it’s teasing out that history so everybody’s history is recorded. What’s so important about this. But thank you very much. That was a really enjoyable talk.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Thank you.

Anabel Marsh:
Thank you.

Niall Murphy:
Yes. I’m so glad to meet people who really enjoy doing walks as well, as much as I do, so it’s fantastic. It’s a really rewarding thing to do. It’s a thing I enjoy the most.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
Well, so do we.

Niall Murphy:
Well, thank you very much for your time. It’s much appreciated.

Gabrielle Macbeth:
No problem. Thank you very much.

Niall Murphy:
Our pleasure.

Katharine Neil:
Glasgow City Heritage Trust is an independent charity and grant funder that promotes the understanding, appreciation, and conservation of Glasgow’s Historic Built Environment. Do you want to know more? Have a look at our website at glasgowheritage.org.uk and follow us on social media at Glasgow Heritage. This podcast was produced by Inner Ear for Glasgow City Heritage Trust. The podcast is kindly sponsored by the National Trust for Scotland and supported by Tunnock’s.