I’ve written here before about Edwin Morgan, a poet who wrote about many things, most notably about Glasgow, the city which he called home. As I started onto Cathedral Street, I thought about Morgan’s poem ‘The Second Life’, which is a meditation of a man in his forties about the city changing about him, regenerating and growing anew.
‘Many things are unspoken
in the life of a man, and with a place
there is an unspoken love also
in undercurrents, drifting, waiting its time.
A great place and its people are not renewed lightly.’
Glasgow is awash with development right now. It cannot be denied, however, that there are still problems and places and people in this city which are not being renewed. Cathedral Street changes every time I see it, seeing new buildings springing up regularly as part of the City of Glasgow College and Strathclyde University. It is a part of the city which has waited its time, though, with old 60s concrete replaced by swish glass and colourful designs. At the moment it is a work in progress with cranes, boards and construction happening all around.
I started from the Cathedral Precinct, stopping to scribble notes from the previous Alexandra Parade walk and get my breath back. I paused by the statue of David Livingstone, a much far-flung sort of adventurer, which I hadn’t really paid much attention to before. I also noticed for the first time a plaque dedicated to those who perished in the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988. I remembered the beautiful Piper Alpha memorial which sits in the Kirk of St. Nicholas in Aberdeen and I was glad that my city had a small but thought-provoking memorial to those 167 people who died in the middle of the North Sea.
As I neared the junction with Stirling Road, where the Strathclyde University Library is, I distinctly heard skirling pipes. Not a single piper but a full band. As I looked to my left, into the student accommodation, I could see there was indeed a full pipe band, not all in Highland dress but in T-shirts and kilts, playing in the quadrangle. Whatever gets them through the shift. The World Pipe Band Championships take place in the city in the coming weeks so they may have been here for that.
There were also pipes in the street, with much of the section between Montrose Street and North Hanover Street being dug up. This was genuinely interesting, seeing the layers of the street and what lies underneath. Archaeologists getting in there would have a rare old time.
At that point, new buildings came thick and fast, the new City of Glasgow College building sandwiched between two in progress, one for the College and the other for Strathclyde University. The City of Glasgow College building is massive, with a huge frontage with stairs leading up the side of the building and lots of glass facing onto Cathedral Street.
Cathedral Street ends at the junction of Buchanan Street and Bath Street. Bath Street, which continues heading west, will be for another time. This time I stopped to look at the vast glass arch of Queen Street Station. Where at the start I heard pipes, now all I could hear was the booming PA of the railway station announcing the latest service to Edinburgh. I was heading for a train, not for the capital this time, but first to finish the walk, under Buchanan Galleries, another modern development in a street full of them, a couple of generations worth anyway and changing with every day that passes.
Sources and further reading –
Morgan, Edwin – ‘The Second Life’, published in New Selected Poems, 2000, Manchester: Carcanet