Episode 1: Are you dancing? Yes, we are asking, with Norry Wilson, Lost Glasgow

Hello, and welcome to Glasgow City Heritage Trust podcast, “If Glasgow’s Walls Could Talk” a new series about the relationships, stories and shared memories that exist between Glasgow historic buildings and people.

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. 

In this episode we’ll be talking about historic music venues and ballrooms as spaces of interactions and connection. So how many of your favourite memories are linked to a music venue? And how important are these spaces for our collective memory and who knows about lost memories better than Norry Wilson from Lost Glasgow, Norry  is a journalist and social historian with a lifelong fascination with his home city, Glasgow. 

Norry  claims he first fell down to vintage photography rabbit hole while working on the Evening Times since then, following the launch of the Lost Glasgow Facebook site, he has gone on to stage a variety of exhibitions and talks on the subject. Even hosting a very popular photographic exhibition at Glasgow City Heritage Trust’s headquarters in 2017. Now with almost a quarter of a million online followers, the Lost Glasgow Facebook page continues to tickle the city’s collective memory, teasing out old stories, forgotten facts and lost legends, which are embedded in the photographic record of all Glasgow. Lost Glasgow’s Facebook page is an exceptionally good example of the use of social media as a crowdsourcing means to collect memories and stories from people and ultimately add to the rich fabric of Glasgow’s historic built environment. Because buildings are not just made of stone and brick, but also by people’s experiences and lives. 

So this is particularly true for buildings and spaces focused on social interactions like ballrooms and music venues. So the period between the start of the First World War in 1914, and up to the mid 1950s, is known as the golden age of social dancing in Glasgow. The city’s dancing boom peaked during the Second World War when Glasgow had at least 80 dance halls. But by the mid 1950s, as the ballroom dancing declined in popularity, to adapt to the ever changing times, a lot of the most popular ballrooms had to turn into music venues to survive. Nevertheless, they remained faithful to their identity as places of fun and social gathering. To name just a few of these places. We have the former Locarno on Sauchiehall Street, later known as Tiffany’s, and now the Genting Casino. The ballroom opened on the site of a former cinema, the Charing Cross Electric Theatre in 1926, and for many years was considered one of Glasgow’s top dancing venues. In the 1960s, the name was changed to Tiffany’s as discotheques became more fashionable. Sadly, the last dance ended when the building was converted into a casino in the 1970s. 

Then there is the hugely famous Barrowland Ballroom, opened on Christmas Eve 1934 by Maggie McIver, the Barras queen. As legend has it, the businesswoman decided to open the Barrowland Ballroom, after the usual venue for her Christmas party for the workers of the Barras  and their families was fully booked. Sadly, the ballroom was destroyed by fire in 1956, but was rebuilt in 1960. And it is now one of the most iconic music venues in Europe, where the likes of Bowie, Oasis, U2, Simple Mind, Mogwai, Bob Dylan and Metallica have played gigs. And what about the buildings that did not survive like the Dennistoun Palais, or the ones that still work as a space of interaction and fun where you can dance away your worries like the Grand Ole Opry. So have you ever wondered how much of the buildings we inhabit, how much, they shape our lives and our memories. So that is what we’re going to discuss with this and other topics with Norry today. So welcome, Norry.

Norry Wilson  

Hello, nice to be here.

Niall Murphy  

It’s good to have you Norry. So first up in your questions that we have for you today. Do you think that the progressive loss of these spaces of interactions has changed the way we interact, date and flirt? And if so, is this for the better or the worse?

Norry Wilson  

Eh, it’s one of these strange things because obviously with the rise of the Internet and social media and online dating and all the rest of it, the historic meeting dating game has probably changed beyond all recognition. It certainly has, from my teenage years there’s something I think, to me at least fairly sterile about that, because there’s, there’s nothing beats that sort of magic moment on a Friday or Saturday night when you, you catch somebody’s eye and there’s that awkward sort of dancing around each other. Trying out your best moves and your best part and hoping that you’ll land a lumber.

Niall Murphy  

Yes, very much it is. Yeah, it’s a human connection!

Norry Wilson  

Yeah and it’s it’s as old as time itself,  the way that you, yeah as I see you, you see a pretty girl or a pretty girl sees a pretty boy sees a pretty boy sees a pretty boy sees a girl, that sort of human connection, as I say I mean that that goes right way back further down the years,  if you were in Glasgow in the 1600s listening to a piper and a drummer, or  on the 1700s in all your finery in the old assembly rooms in Ingram Street. It’s all part of the mating and dating and the dance, the dance to the music of time. 

Niall Murphy  

Indeed Yeah, absolutely. I’m thinking of two, two kind of quotes that kind of make me think about all of this says that the great American urbanist and to Andrew Dunay is one of the few urbanists who was over in Scotland in the 2000s. He’s a he’s a really interesting character. And he used to say, he used to totally scandalise, his kind of audience at lectures about the saying, you know, ultimately what a great city is about. They’re about people meeting each other, obviously, but they’re also about sex. You know, it’s people looking for a mate, and that’s what this is all about. And that’s what you know, dancing is all about it was and this is the other great architect. Is he, Metzstein of, you know, Gillespie Kid and Coia, Yes. Oh, he always used to joke about this about you know, plans and sections whoever in architecture school and he would say guys basically it’s like dancing. It’s the vertical expression of a horizontal intention. Which is. It was a great gag but it’s absolutely spot on because that’s exactly what all of these spaces were all about. You know, you were selling your wares basically. 

Exactly. Okay, right. In your experience with Lost Glasgow. Are people keen to share their memories about ballrooms? And can can you give us a good example.

Norry Wilson  

People love talking about their dancing days, mainly because they were the most vital days of their life, they were they were young, they were carefree, fresh of face, fleet of foot, with no aches and pains, few responsibilities. And it’s strange enough, it’s it’s not only older followers, who do remember the Locarno and do remember the Albert Ballroom and do remember the Plaza over in the South Side? Yeah, as times have changed, I have couples on Lost Glasgow, who met and fell in love at the Arches or at  the Sub Club,  and are both parents in their late 40s. And are now dropping off their own teenage children at venues around Glasgow. So what we think of, what I certainly think of as very recent history is actually already history, I mean, I remember staggering down to the the opening night of the Sub Club, thinking let’s let’s check out this new venue. But of course, it’s not a new venue. I’m trying to remember what it was called. just before the Sub Club, but the venue itself. Yeah, in the basement of the classic, classic grand cinema. You know, it was operating as a jazz club back in the 1950s right,  and in the 1970s, It was the Jamaica Inn and it was one of the first proper discotheques in Glasgow, and all the sort of early radio Scotland DJs and Radio Clyde DJs used to do the Friday and Saturday night sessions in there, at 11 o’clock, or whatever it was, they would have to send out plates of spam and chips to get by the licensing laws. So you can see until one or two in the morning.

Niall Murphy  

Absolutely. It makes me think of Denise Mina “The long drop”, and how she kind of describes this 1950s version of Glasgow in her book which is just incredibly fascinating because it’s, it’s, it’s like, it’s like any great city you kind of get a layering up of history. And in these different you know, spaces which now are very different, were previously occupied by other aspects of a society. And it’s that kind of fascinating kind of layering of history that you get in places like the Sub Club there was, it had a previous incarnation in that same space, which was you know, occupied by a different generation who experienced it completely differently.

Norry Wilson  

And it’s, it’s also worth remembering though,  most Glasgow dancehalls,  pretty well all Glasgow dancehalls, right through until the mid to late 60s, were unlicensed, you couldn’t, you couldn’t get a drink in them. You went to the pub, and then you went to the dancing, if you were lucky, you try to, if you had  a girlfriend, you try to have to smuggle in a half bottle and a quarter bottle in her  handbag because it was it was only soft drinks.

Niall Murphy  

Right? I had no idea. That’s fascinating. Yeah. So how was that?

Norry Wilson  

The usual Glasgow Presbyterian licensing laws. Okay? You can either have drink or you can have dancing but never the twain shall meet. Right? Bizarre!  Glasgow has got this, even though we love to dance, the  city fathers have always been slightly suspicious of people enjoying themselves. Yeah, as I say it goes back to that sort of Presbyterian,  if you go right back to the 1700s, and I’m trying to remember the chaps, but the guy who set up the first proper dancing school in Glasgow, where you actually had to go and learn how to do a gavotte, or whatever the dances were of the day, right? 

The only way he managed to get a licence for his dancing school was under this condition: the council laid down the condition that there to be no mixed classes with women. Women learn to dance with each other in the morning. And men would dance with each other in the afternoon. And at no point were they ever ever allowed to dance together. It is it is dancing school!

Niall Murphy  

Oh my goodness. How paranoid is that? That’s an absolutely, that’s that’s hilarious. Okay, well, good. Turning back to what we were talking about with the Sub Club. And this is you know about the evolution of spaces. And how things shifted from, you know, as fashion changed from, from ballrooms to music venues or something else, you know, does that ultimately reflect these kind of important changes in society? And if that is the case of this has always been happening in the past, what what does the future hold, particularly after you know, the pandemic?

Norry Wilson  

Spaces and  places  where you  dance and listen to music are always changing, they’re always adapting to meet the needs of new audiences. And that that’s part of the excitement, it is a young person’s game, they always want to bring new ideas to the table. They don’t want to do the same things the way that the parents did. And that’s always refreshing. 

I remember being slightly horrified in my early clubbing days, my favourite destination of a Friday night was Maestro  in Scott Street upside the Art School. I had my mom who was at the Art School in the 1940s. She said she said, where are you going? I found this really good new trendy night club  full of my tribe. And mum said where is it? Scott Street on the side of the Art School, and she said, Oh, we used to go dancing in there in the  1940s. I was absolutely horrified that this exciting underground venue that I discovered, had been my mom’s hangout 40 years previously. 

But I mean, particularly at the moment, obviously, I mean, COVID had a devastating effect and Glasgow is nighttime economy, pubs, clubs, venues, promoters, musicians DJs. And the whole army of technical crews, who we never usually see but who make it all happen. Yeah, I mean they’ve, they’ve had a hell of a couple of years. Yeah, they really have, I was out having pints yesterday on my first visit to the pub in over a year with Bobby Bluebell from the Bluebells. Oh, wow. Now with the Fat Cops, and they, I mean, they are desperate. They haven’t played a gig properly in two years. And when when you live by live music, I mean, I mean, so many folk have managed to take things online. I mean, over lockdown I’ve been listening to DJ Andrew Divine’s monthly, a sort of Divine’s at a distance nights, where each month is there a different theme. But it’s a three hours live set all old, old seven inch vinyl played over the Internet. And I find that is brilliant, it is me dancing, dancing alone in my stockings, in my living room. It doesn’t replace the excitement of being, you that five minutes that you walk up the stairs into a dark hall and you hear music from a distance and then the doors open and there’s the lights and there’s the thump of the base.

Niall Murphy  

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s one thing, I hope post post COVID that, you know, these kind of spaces, which have by necessity, sadly, because of the pandemic and the nature of the virus. You know, we haven’t been able to utilise these spaces. I hope that you know what’s happened and what you’re describing there with a DJ taking to the internet instead, that they do come back and have a have more of a role to play. And do you think, do you think that’s likely, do you think places will recover?

Norry Wilson  

I hope they do. I mean, I think the bigger venues will recover and but also seeing more of that sort of mixed indoor outdoor spaces. I’m thinking of SWG3 down the Clydeside Expressway, they’ve gotten out outdoor space but partially covered because outdoor events in Glasgow, weather dependent and quite often, the Glasgow weather doesn’t play ball with us. But things like the Queen’s Park arena staging outdoor events, you got the bandstand in Kelvingrove Park, but obviously,  people are talking about you need vent, ventilation, you’ve what’s better ventilated than an outdoor venue.

Niall Murphy  

Absolutely. Yeah, I’m particularly worried about that at the moment because I’ve been carrying lots of bits and pieces about how vandalised it’s getting worse. It’s interesting. The Queen’s Park bandstand has had things going on, during this time, just very small scale things. And it’s been used for exercise classes and things like that. Whereas the one in Kelvingrove seems to have been really quiet and this tide of of graffiti is gradually enveloping, which is a real shame.

Norry Wilson  

Yeah, I mean, there was an exciting announcement just last week. But another new venue very, very similar to the SWG3 idea, which is planned for what’s, what’s know called Morris Park, Polmadie, they, and it’s part of the former site of the Morris furniture (factory). Oh, yeah, yeah. They’re already selling tickets for a Flaming Lips gig in 2022, which should be its opening event. But again, it’s one of these partially indoor partially outdoor spaces, like planning sort of be like an East End equivalent to SWG3.

Niall Murphy  

That would be fantastic.

Norry Wilson  

But what I really worry about and the venues that I absolutely love, are the smaller venues. I mean, rather than spend 50 pounds going to see someone at the Hydro I’d rather, 10 times spend five pounds and go and see 10 different new bands or new djs, in a Glasgow  lovely wee  sweaty basement venues.

Niall Murphy  

Absolutely. Yeah. Reminds me of the story about Prince and his after concert, you know, even just keep the concert going. But in a small venue somewhere. I can’t remember where he did that in Glasgow, but he did do it in Glasgow.

Norry Wilson  

He did it at the Mayfair, right? Okay. which obviously is no the Garage. I’m trying to think if it was the Garage at that point as well. I can’t remember, it was the Garage or the Mayfair. I mean, the Garage is a spectacular case in point. What, what most folk, the young team, get into the Garage and don’t realise is that when they get to the top of that grand staircase and step into the venue, but actually stepping into one of the last remaining Georgian villas in Sauchiehall Street.

Niall Murphy  

Absolutely. Yeah.

Norry Wilson  

And that there is been dancing going on in those rooms since back in the 1700s.

Niall Murphy  

Yeah, there you go. Three, three centuries worth of dancing. Yeah. amazing to think of, isn’t it?

Norry Wilson  

Yeah, yeah. Imagine what the original owner of the villa would say if  ghosts do exist. If he appeared and thought -There are two thousands people in my house going absolutely mental!

Niall Murphy  

What’s that all about then? Exactly? Indeed. Okay. Do you think the success of Lost Glasgow and the kind of characteristic Glaswegian fondness for times gone by, have something to do with all the changes and demolition that Glasgow went through during the 1960s? And 70s? Do you it is something to do with that?

Norry Wilson  

There’s some of that with the older followers on Lost Glasgow, who obviously, remember the pre-motoway city, the city of trams, and all the rest of it that we all of course, imagine, there was some kind of golden time, some sort of perfect good old days and pining for it. But of course, there never was the perfect time in Glasgow. I suspect that most folk would probably think of that, like that 1950s post war baby boom generation. Yeah, as being the perfect time in Glasgow. But Glasgow was going through tough times then as well. Absolutely. 

We sort of look at history through rose tinted spectacles. And we forget, which is the way memory works. The way the brain works. Yeah, I know. I knew myself from various health scares years ago. And being in hospital. I knew that I was in pain. But the brain doesn’t let you remember pain. Yes. Yeah, it is it does like you remember pleasure. So it’s the same with these old memories. People forget that. Yeah, yeah. The city was, the air was thick with soot.

Niall Murphy  

Yeah. Absolutely. 

Norry Wilson  

Yes. To an extent you look back at what they’re actually missing is not the city. They’re missing their own youth. They’re missing their own childhoods, and the people that were around them.

Niall Murphy  

Yet you have to you have to accept the change is going to happen. I mean, it is fascinating that that aspect of Glasgow does, does fascinate me because Glasgow strikes me as being tremendously unsentimental with itself. You know, that whole sections of the of the city  were bulldozed. And there were some protests about it, but, but not as much as in other places. Because people actually were looking forward to a future. So there’s, there’s that kind of unscented mentality and hardness about it. But then after the event, everybody gets dead sentimental about it. And actually, you’re actually quite sentimental after all, because they’re remembering what what it was that that they lost.

Norry Wilson  

It is also that fact that quite often that sentimentality comes from people who never had to live there. Yeah, it’s very, it’s very easy to look at, look at a picture of the urban density of the Gorbals in the 1940s. And say, dreadful. Why did we lose this, but quite often the people that are saying that, are living in a nice semi detached in the suburbs. And even if the old Gorbals still exist in the world, no one would want to live there.

Niall Murphy  

Yeah, absolutely. I’m acutely conscious, I mean, you know, particularly when I look at myself, you know, because I do that. And I see I see the spaces like to Gorbals, and I’m horrified by what got demolished. But I am conscious that, you know, the conditions there were really bad. 

And I recall, there was a fantastic archaeological dig when the M74 extension or completion, depending on your point of view, was going through exactly, when it was going through Eglinton Tall. And they dug up the site where pre Thompson’s, you know, Queens, Park Queen Terrace, and everything they discovered there, and I remember going down and seeing that, that dig and being a woman there who had lived on that site beforehand, and she was talking about, she just turned up for the day, it was all like, and the stuff that they were discovering, and she was talking about her memories of the place. And it was really fascinating, because it gave you a whole different perspective on it, about what kind of mixed community was what a strong community it was, in terms of how everybody supported each other, and that they had the dancing at the Plaza ballroom, literally right next door, and how fantastic that was. But at the same time, they were acutely conscious that there were people living under the railway arches and raising families under the railway arches in absolutely appalling, you know, substandard conditions that nobody should have had to live in. But they didn’t have any choice because there was nowhere else to live in Glasgow.

Norry Wilson  

Glasgow  always had that housing problem I mean, those various photographs from really just post war, of returning soldiers, basically, living with, living with their families in condemned buildings in the Gorbals, with, with, with the water and the gas, and all that and the electricity had all been cut off. Yeah, this is late 40s, early 50s. And they’re living by candlelight, and oil lamps and cooking it up, basically an open fire. And we forget that that’s gets scrubbed from the collective memory.

Niall Murphy  

Yeah, absolutely. So do you think that kind of tendency to look at the past? Do you think it can be a double edged sword? Or is it a point of strength in Glasgow?

Norry Wilson  

It’s it’s a bit of both a, there’s a danger of living in the past and not seeing the good in the present, and the hope for a better future. I mean, we have to, obviously learn from our past mistakes, which is something Glasgow actually hasn’t been very good at. We seem to repeat the same mistakes every 20 to 30 years. Yeah. But I mean, the city as a city has actually a very short memory, myself and generations older than me, all loved  the Apollo, and think of it as this sort of dream gig venue. Most folk under 40. Although they’ve heard of the Apollo, they probably couldn’t even tell you where it was in the city, because it’s it’s been erased. It’s been erased completely. Yes. And in truth The Apollo itself was actually a bit of a dump, but you once once you were in, you didn’t notice that because once you, once you get in this darkened space, that’s it, you’re focused on the band. The band had been, there is stories about the dressing rooms at the back of the Apollo and its latter tdays but it was basically a series of plastic buckets to catch the rain. And you could actually stand in the main dressing room and see out through the roof. Because it had so little money had been spent on it.

Niall Murphy  

Right? Shocking. So what what do you do with all the memories that people share with you  on Lost Glasgow, do you catalogue them in any way or do you just enjoy them and do you find any of that emotionally draining?

Norry Wilson  

I don’t I don’t find it emotionally draining, what it can be, I mean, Lost Glasgow came about by by pure happenstance, I was just getting ready to spit spit the dummy at the Glasgow Herald the Evening Times. But for 14 years I’d written the daily memories page in the Evening Times, so I was well used to dealing with the picture archive and then I discovered a site that’s been going for a couple of years called Lost Edinburgh, which I thought was really really good and doing social media and memory and history in a really interesting new way. And then all of a sudden, I found Lost Glasgow, that I didn’t think it was quite as good as Lost Edinburgh, so one night after perhaps two bottles of wine, I emailed the Lost Glasgow page and said look, this is a really good idea but I think you should be doing more than that Lost Edinburgh have a look at the site and woke up in the morning and of course here’s an email back saying actually we are Lost Edinburgh but we don’t know Glasgow that well

Niall Murphy  

That’s, that’s too good. 

Norry Wilson  

Do you want to come on board and be one of the admins and  of course within about six, within about six months I was I was doing everything on Lost Glasgow. I and I originally thought I tell you maybe 1000s architecture history books themselves on the site but it’s just grew arms and legs, you’re asking it is it emotionally draining, no but I mean, it can be exhausting, right? 

Simply because the fact that you’re most of the time I’m doing a nine to five job, a real job. But at the same time, every day I’m looking for something that I think I can hang up, hang a Lost Glasgow post on Yeah, so you, you’ve constantly got your your focus doing that. Hoping to pick something up and today was easy. Today’s the Sighthill with the Sighthill standing stones. Yep. Yeah. And today’s also Ray Davis from the Kinks 77th birthday, the Kinks recorded a live album, at the Kelvinhall in 67. There’s a picture. There’s a cover of the album and  strangely enough, I saw the Kinks in 1980 at the Apollo. There you go, playing, playing to a half empty Apollo, and it’s still one of the best gigs I’ve ever been out my life.

Niall Murphy  

Brilliant. So what’s the best way to save these memories and past experiences that are linked to specific areas and buildings in Glasgow?

Norry Wilson  

I mean, obviously Lost Glasgow sort of takes a scattergun approach to the whole city. But there’s so many other good really local sites. I come through Govan, does a good one,  Dennistoun site, it’s that sort of usual thing in Glasgow. 

Glasgow itself is a nebulous concept. Glasgow is made up of small villages, and communities. Absolutely, yeah. And it’s only when they all come together, that we are Glasgow, but for the most part, people, if, if you meet a Glasgow person on holiday, and you ask them where they come from, they don’t say they come from Glasgow. They say, I come from Maryhill, or I come from Partick. Yes, yeah, yeah. I come from Cardonalds and I come from Springburn. Yeah, because as soon as you open your mouth, you already know that they come from Glasgow, but you want to know, and they don’t identify you. If an Englishman asked them where they came from, they’d say I come from Glasgow, but a fellow Glaswegian asked him that question and they immediately drill down and see where from Glasgow they come from, because it’s that concept of locality. So important.

Niall Murphy  

Yeah, very, very much. Okay. First loaded question for you. What was your best concert and your best dancing Glasgow, when and why?

Norry Wilson  

It have to be those early, early experiences, that the first experiences. I remember age 14 being spectacularly thrilled to secure a ticket to the second drove on  the stalls to see the Jam playing at the Apollo. Oh wow, at that point, the Jam were just the world to me. But of course because I’d never previously been to the Apollo I didn’t realise that the second drove the stalls, all I’d be able to see was the 14 foot stage and very very luckily  perhaps  twice in a song Paul Weller would come right to the lip of the stage and I’d see the very top of his haircut, I couldn’t see the band at all. 

And eventually about halfway through I realised the bouncers weren’t paying much attention. So basically legged to the back of the stalls, right? Like I could actually see the band on stage. Yeah, because down in the front stalls you’re basically just staring at 14 foot wall which came as a bit of a disappointment. 

And again, I I’m trying to think other great gig, I think it would be the Simple Minds, and again, that would be about 1980 or 81  and they have been out in America recording “Sons and fascination” and “Sister, feelings, call”  their double albums. And they came back to Glasgow and played one night at Tiffany’s, the old Locarno in the week between Christmas and New Year. And it was like stepping into another world because the Simple Minds changed musically since we’ve last seen them maybe 10 months previously. Yeah. And it was the touchdown from another planet. And as soon as they started playing, I travel that sprung Canadian Maple dance floor at Tiffany’s. Remember, you simply couldn’t, if you tried to stand still on it. You were physically bounced because the floor is moving up and down by 2 or 3 inches. Right? and the crow just went absolutely berserk but at the same time, I mean, I think it was I think it must have been possibly their second tour to Scotland.

Niall Murphy  

Again, Simple Minds and U2 were quite close at one point.

Norry Wilson  

We went and saw them, this was before they really any big hit sorry, nothing It was before October had come out, between the “Boy” album and the “October” album.  And we went to see them at Tiffany’s. And the venue was half empty. Right? You mean it was it was genuinely half empty. A Sunday night, a freezing, I remember it was a freezing cold Sunday night in October. And I mainly remember that because Bono, the crowd that were there were absolutely daft for the band. And Bono was coming out on stage throwing buckets of water over us at the front of the stage, which which is fine when we were all hot and sweaty and being lunatics. But then you step out onto Sauchiehall Street in October, and everyone was soaked to the skin and freezing to death, we were all shivering up the road to jump in buses to get home. 

So that that would be the sort of gig memories. And again, the early days of clubbing memories, being sort of 16 and managing to get into again, in Maestro’s on Scott Street, right? Or the very, very early days of the Arches in the Sub Club. When it was it was just it was something completely new, something you hadn’t experienced before. Yes. Particularly the Arches. I think the closure of the Arches, not so much some music venues, I never really thought it particularly worked well as a music venue. But the closure of the Arches as a club venue, I think is been one of the biggest losses to Glasgow in the last 10-15 years. It was an absolute unique space, very much and I had some of the best nights in my life in there. I would say fighting some, some of the best nights but..

Niall Murphy  

Too much information!

Norry Wilson  

But it was, it was that feeling of collectivity of Glasgow, being there, being in the moment, and I very much sweaty, bug eyed, wild exuberance of putting your arms around strangers and just really going for it?

Niall Murphy  

Okay, final question for you and it’s another loaded one. What is your favourite building in Glasgow? And why? And what would it tell you if its walls good talk?

Norry Wilson  

It’s a strange one because when I originally had to look at that question I was I was thinking of club venues, music venues, I did it. It struck me I think my favourite building in Glasgow is actually Central Station.

Niall Murphy  

Right okay.

Norry Wilson  

I mean, it’s it’s Glasgow  great glazed living room. I mean, this this, they used to famously say that if you sat in the front tables, and I’m trying to remember the name of the, the famous cafe in Venice, right in St. Mark’s Square, they said, If you sat there for a year, you would meet everyone who would ever be in your life walking past, but that that’s Central Station, you stand in Central Station for more than 15 minutes, and you invariably bump into somebody, whether it’s somebody you saw last week, last year, or 20 years ago. It’s this wonderful passing place of humanity. And as I say, it’s a great glazed living room. And the fact that that’s been going on since the 1870s. 

Everyone who came to Glasgow passes through that space, or meets in that space. You’re whether you historically it was the shell that everyone used to be meet at, now it is under the clock. But all those stories through love, first meetings, goodbyes and hellos through wartime, everything is embedded in that concourse space. In Central I, I was in it just the other week, it was one of the first trips back into the city centre. It used to be that I’ve been through Central twice a day.

Niall Murphy  

Same here. I really miss it.

Norry Wilson  

Yeah, I was, I was standing, standing in this space, we’re waiting for my train to come up on the board. And  I was looking around. And I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful, even if just once, one night after all the trains have been put to bed to turn that central concourse space into a club space, a gig space and have 1000s of people dancing in the concourse, on the main concourse of  Central Station. I  realise that there are safety implications and all the rest of it. But it’s just such a wonderful space to be in.  Cavernous and beautiful.

Niall Murphy  

Yeah, I’d say Yeah. Like likewise, it’s probably my favourite interior in Glasgow. Yes, it’s like big trusses, all that glass, the kind of the feel of it, and all the people passing through, the busyness of it. I absolutely love it. Because you know, you’re in a big city when you’re in that space.

Norry Wilson  

Yeah. Yeah. It never cease to throw you, I mean, I even when I, when I didn’t used to get the train into Glasgow, I used to get the bus in, but I would always get off the bus a couple of stops early in Oswald Street, and then cut in at the level entrance to Central, literally just to come up the escalator into that space into the central space, because every day it throws me.

Niall Murphy  

Absolutely, it really does. That was I’m trying to I’m struggling to remember his name now. But it was an American architectural historian who was talking about when Penn Street Station was demolished in Manhattan and replaced by kind of Madison Square gardens with a station tucked underneath. And it was how you, you know, used to come into the city like a god. But now you’re scary in like a rat. It was a great quote. And it was somebody was debating with me the difference between living in the West End and living in the South Side. And it was this, well, with the South Side, I come into Central Station every day. And you know, I come into the city like a God, you have an only you come another subway, it’s like you are skirting in like a rat. So you know this, this is the joy of the South Side, you get to pass through Central Station twice a day!

Norry Wilson  

If those walls could talk and tell the story of the last 150 years plus of Glasgow, from the arrival of steam trains into the centre of the city, to departing soldiers to returning wounded and dead soldiers. But it’s also, it’s also a happy space is where people met on first dates. Yeah, it’s, I mean, one of the most moving things I experienced that was a couple of years ago for Remembrance Day, and I’m trying to remember the name of the artist to put the idea together, and I came up the escalator into Central Station, as it is every morning. And here were soldiers dressed in First World War costume,  all right, simply standing about on the platforms, not speaking to anyone, right if you, if you approach them and tried to speak to them, they would simply hand you a piece of paper with the name and the date of birth the date of death of the soldier that they represented. And it was the was moving absolutely, it was wonderfully ghostly and they popped up in various points around the city during the day, sat on the steps of the the Gallery of Modern Art and sang Tipperary and all lose first world war songs together right right and it was just heart stopping absolutely yeah, i’m not i’m not a man it’s easily give them to tears, not many Glasgow men and I don’t think, I was just a bit in buckets. It just took me took me to pieces. And then I thought of my own family tree, both, both grandfather’s First World War veterans that both fortunately made it safe home. But all the boys who didn’t all the Glasgow lads who didn’t, but who ended up back at the Central Station.

Niall Murphy  

17,000of them, you know, yeah. 17,000 plus. So absolute horrific. I mean, when you think about that as a population of Hellensburgh,  Yeah, you know, just just gone over the space of four years. Shocking.

Norry Wilson  

And it’s not just they are gone, but that’s 17,000 Glasgow women, bereft of boyfriends, husbands and families, dancing partners.

Niall Murphy  

All those futures lost, you know, all those possibilities lost as well. Yeah. Which just, it just makes you realise just how absolutely poignant that space is. And yeah, yeah, one of the reasons why I love it so much, too.

Norry Wilson  

I mean, I think it’s up in platform one, there’s a plaque that talks of all the all the arrivals and departures during the two world wars, but it is it the very space just breathes history to me. Yeah. I just love it. It lifts my spirit every time I go through.

Niall Murphy  

Indeed, likewise. Ok Norry, thank you very much. That was a complete pleasure as always with you. So if you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share. And don’t forget to follow the hashtag #IfGlasgowsWallsCouldTalk. Thank you very much.

Norry Wilson  

Thank you.

Niall Murphy  

Thank you. That was great. Norry. Thank you very much.

Norry Wilson  

No, that was fun.

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 @GlasgowHeritage. This podcast was produced by Inner Ear for Glasgow City Heritage Trust. This podcast is kindly sponsored by the National Trust for Scotland and supported by Tunnock’s.

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