Albion Street is in the Merchant City, leading from George Street to the Trongate. Albion is, I gather, a literary term to describe Britain or England, a reminder that Glasgow sprung up at the height of the British Empire and indeed was regarded as the Second City of that same Empire. All I knew was that I fancied writing about it because of its significance to journalism. At the northern end of Albion Street was where the Scottish Daily Express and then the Herald were produced. The building is still there, now offices and houses, a glass-fronted affair with smokey glass at various points. It felt ironic to be there when a newspaper founded there, the Sunday Herald, is no more, replaced by a Sunday version of its larger daily stablemate and the National. I always think a weekend paper is better than a daily one and in Scotland the Sunday Herald and the Scotland on Sunday give a much better perspective on the week and current issues than their daily equivalents. Anyway, at least the Press Bar was still going, a gaggle of guys sitting out on a pleasant August afternoon.
Albion Street is quite sleek and modern at this point, all university offices and flats, though there is a gap across from the old Herald building that gives a great view to an older building that wouldn’t be out of place on the side of the Mersey in Liverpool. white and quietly grand. As I walked down to Ingram Street, I made sure I looked up to another grand bit of cornicing on one of the corner buildings.
I had just been to one of Snug’s new Glasgow murals, up on George Street, and I stopped by another, the one by the Ingram Street car park, with someone walking in nature. Albion Street became decidedly cosmopolitan at this point with Italian food smells and folk in nice clothes around the nice eateries and pubs of the Merchant City. On the pavement outside the City Halls were two suitably apposite quotes from Robert Burns. As fine as those words were, I couldn’t help thinking after how it would have been good to have a female poet’s words there, like Liz Lochhead, Jackie Kay or Violet Jacob. Anyway, some graffiti penned by someone calling themselves ‘Seeker’ with suitably worked-out lettering brought me back to my psychogeographic purpose. Across the way the Cafe Gandolfi featured a bit of the Gaelic in the window, ‘Deagh Bhiadh, Deagh Bheannachd’, which translates roughly to ‘well fed, well blessed’. The stained glass in the window was nice too. Another eaterie had the names of various Tobacco Lords and eminent Victorian personages in the window, including quite a few with streets named after them in the hereabouts.
Across the next road I found an example of a ghost sign but a relatively new one since the faded letters included a web address. I soon passed Commonwealth House, home of the city’s various sporting competitions over the last few years, most recently the European Championships, and there were a few workers finishing for the day and filing out bound for their weekend. Opposite was the side of a building that strikes me as being in the wrong city, mock-Baronial like the court in Aberdeen. Fine though it is, it’s very grey and not really right for Glasgow.
Another walk done and definitely one in two parts, all modern but lighter at the top, more in shadow towards the Trongate as the buildings grow taller. As representations of our islands go, people can do worse than go to Albion Street.
Another Streets of Glasgow walk follows next week.