Ghost Signs of Glasgow Blog: Ghost Signs of a different kind, by Karen Rennie

I happened to be scrolling through Twitter one day and saw a post about Ghost Signs of Glasgow. Intrigued, I started to follow it and enjoyed the idea of all the past lives they would bring to light. They put out a request for volunteers to help start the Ghost Signs journey. I was just starting my degree in history and social science and this just seemed like fate and so I applied for the roles of photographer and researcher.

Almost three years later I’m still doing, and loving both. Researching historical signs not only gives a glimpse of the history of said signs, but of the area at the time. Both of which really link in with my area of study. This felt like more than just a volunteering hobby, it felt like a great bridge between Uni life and my ‘outside’ life. And taking pictures of signs that we found was a great way to retain their legacy. Learning new research skills, and just getting to be plain nosey, finding out random facts about signs I walked by was great. How often do I walk by things and
take them for granted because I’m rushing, running for the bus, to Uni, to work, to the pub (ah, the days when you could go to the pub…or indeed to Uni!). It was a great spark to reignite my  passion for this city.

Regalia Whisky Ghost Sign, Peel Street.

Not only that, but we got the chance to make our own hand painted signs at a workshop at Glasgow City Heritage Trust. What a laugh it was trying our hand at doing this the original way.
Hats off to the people still doing things by hand, it is impressive work! We also ran talks and it was great knowing people were so interested in the project that they’d signed up to attend – and it was a sell out and it definitely pushed a few of us out our comfort zone, talking to a packed room!
We weren’t forced obviously, but it was good to push our boundaries! Listening to
everyone speak about their roles, from mapping to tour guide, or photographer to graphic designer, it was great for both the audience and for us. It was lovely to hear the comments about our signs and their stories and hearing other people’s stories from the past too really made our night, as did the well-earned beer afterwards.

Ghost Signs volunteers, sign writing workshop

The stories of the past really do engage us all and it is such a fabulous privilege to play a small part in rediscovering hidden gems that allow us to retain the magic of Glasgow past.
Obviously, the chance to go out and get pictures of ghost signs has slowed in this pandemic world, but everyone can join in and send a snap of any they see tagging us @ghostsignsgla.

We can all keep the ghost sign hunting going in our own local areas. We’ll continue to discover the treasure trove of history that lies behind the signs of the past. The ghosts of Glasgow.
This role has really reminded me to always take a minute, to stop, to look up and appreciate the beauty that is our city. It is magic.

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