Good Saturday to you,
Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, the first in a few weeks. This is being written about a week in advance, on a grey, drizzly afternoon here in Glasgow. On in the background is a BBC programme about the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. I was last there in January, during the annual Turner exhibition, and will hopefully be back ere long.
Over the last few months, I’ve tried to devote some of this post to different perspectives about slavery and the role of BAME people in our society. This week by chance I have quite a few things to share. Two Saturdays ago, I visited Greenbank Garden, which is in Clarkston. I had never been there before and it was quite lovely in the autumnal sunshine. We wandered around the manicured gardens and sat and ate our sandwiches in the courtyard. There were also some very cool sculptures of owls and woodland creatures in the woods which surrounded the garden. Walking into the garden took us past an information board which informed that Greenbank House was built by a merchant called Robert Allason who, with his brothers, ‘ran a business trading in tobacco and slaves’. Short and matter-of-fact. Honest. The National Trust for Scotland, who now manage the garden, are going about investigating its properties’ links to slavery and this is undoubtedly commendable work. Indeed the page on the NTS website about the Changing history project features Greenbank House at the top, though its work will also involve Brodie, Brodick and Culzean Castles too. I, for one, will be interested to see what they come up with.
For Black History Month, the Royal Mail has painted various postboxes in honour of eminent people. Byres Road in Glasgow has a box in honour of Walter Tull, footballer and soldier who perished in the First World War. Walter Tull was the first black infantry officer in a British army regiment and also the first black footballer for Rangers. History is often to be encountered on the street as much as in books and documentaries and I hope folk walking in the West End will see this postbox and think a little more as I did.
Since I last wrote here, I’ve had some time off work. I’ve visited a few places, walked and swished through autumn leaves, and read some books. One of my recent highlights is To The Island Of Tides: A Journey to Lindisfarne by Alistair Moffat. Lindisfarne, Holy Island, is an island just off the Northumbrian coast and it is only accessible via a tidal causeway. I have been a few times and my favourite part is the walk from the Priory to the Castle. Lindisfarne Castle is better on the outside than the inside – it looks like a sandcastle, which is a plus, even while I like my castles ruined. Anyway, Alistair Moffat’s book is following in the footsteps of St. Cuthbert, walking from near Melrose to Lindisfarne, dwelling on the history of Cuthbert himself, Northumbria, the Borders and of Moffat too, going into mortality and family grief. It is a very fine, very varied book and it took me to familiar places, not least Melrose, Dryburgh Abbey and the Northumbrian coast.
A book I started earlier this week is also about Northumberland. I felt that it was appropriate to start The Northumbrians: North-East England and Its People A New History by Dan Jackson, given I had just read about Lindisfarne, though after reading Moffat, adjusting to Jackson’s tinier text was particularly tricky. I may need to invest in a magnifying glass, quite a thing for a 31-year-old, even one with short sight.
Now on in the background is another part of the Inside Museums series from the BBC, this one about Artemisia Gentileschi. I remember going to see her Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria at the Glasgow Women’s Library a year or two ago – the documentary even gave the GWL a wee nod, which was good of them.
That’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 24th October 2020. Thanks a lot for reading. Streets of Glasgow will return on Wednesday and it will be North Portland Street. The Saturday Saunter will be back with a defiantly unspooky post next Saturday morning. Until then, keep safe. A very good morning.