Streets of Glasgow: Parson Street

Streets of Glasgow: Parson Street, from the blog.  Image description: a street sign with Parson Street written on it. The sign is on a lamp post with blue sky behind.
Parson Street: a street sign with Parson Street written on it. The sign is on a lamp post with blue sky behind.
Parson Street: a church and three-storey building to the right, a red three-storey building to the left, a tower block and trees ahead.​
Parson Street: a church and three-storey building to the right, a red three-storey building to the left, a tower block and trees ahead.

Between the two parts of Glebe Street, I turned the corner and walked the equally short Parson Street, home to St. Mungo’s RC Church, the church house and the Martyr’s School, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Aye, him. He got around. He was actually born on Parson Street in 1868, the street looking much different then as much as Townhead would have, not divided by a motorway or with tenements all levelled, as it is today. There is a plinth that notes Mackintosh’s origins in the area, which thoughtfully shows a map of what the area would have looked like at the time. On the day I was there, two books had been left on the plinth, both new, both quite appropriate for these times and for Mackintosh himself. I’m not sure why they were there but I hope someone benefits from them. The Martyr’s School, a tall, imposing Mackintosh school, is a decent looking building and now houses Council offices so it isn’t normally open all that often. The church across the street was to be open for private prayer later, as the regulations then allowed, and I looked at it for a moment, a crucifix tall and high across the front, its elegant golden sandstone glistening in the cold spring sunshine. It is home to a Passionist congregation, their mark also on the neighbouring church house, high up, and it is one of few surviving buildings in Townhead which survived the 1960s. The three on Parson Street are all imposing buildings, pillars of society in a quiet, secluded street right at the heart of the city.

Thanks for reading. This is the eighty third Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Nearby streets featured here previously include Glebe Street, Cathedral Street and Alexandra Parade. The other posts in the series appear on the Streets of Glasgow page.

Saturday Saunter: Birdsong, football and good news

Good Saturday to you,

It’s the weekend again and time for another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Thursday evening with the sun still in the mostly cloudless sky as I start this post. In the background is the quiz show Tenable, normally presented by Warwick Davis, who I like, but at the moment hosted by Sally Lindsay, who has a great dry wit. There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure.

Restrictions are lifting in Scotland at the moment; some have gone already, while others are changing from Monday. Being able to travel a bit further is particularly welcome, not only with the good weather but also for health and wellbeing. We managed a walk at the RSPB reserve at Lochwinnoch the other day, which was great. It was good to hear birdsong, or a greater range of birdsong anyway, and it was a beautiful place to be. Despite it being close to the railway, the trains didn’t detract from the calm. Then again I like trains anyway. As time goes on, it will be possible to go further – indeed, it will be possible to go to other parts of these islands as of Monday – but being able to go more than a few miles and see different wheelie bins cannot be underestimated.

When writing these posts, I try to keep away from what’s dominating the news. Last week I wrote about the Forth Bridge and Holyrood but kept firmly to that without delving into what was in the news related to those particular places. I can’t be bothered writing about the European Super League. What I will write about is women’s football. I’ve been reading a really decent book by Steven Lawther about the history of women’s football in Scotland, Arrival: How Scotland’s Women Took Their Place and Inspired a Generation, mainly concentrating on the national team but also going into how the women’s game has been scandalously underresourced in Scotland. That is changing but slowly, of course. The BBC’s coverage of the SWPL is decent and getting better. Coincidentally there was an excellent post this week on the Origins of Football in Scotland website about the very early history of women’s football, including the very first recorded instance of women playing football in Scotland, in Carstairs in Lanarkshire in 1628. Go read that.

One story that I found fascinating was that NASA’s Perseverance rover has managed to produce oxygen on Mars. This could help make travel to Mars possible in the future and it is an incredible thing.

Persevere quote from the Water of Leith: a stone with ‘So with the darkest days behind / Our ship of hope will steer / And when in doubt just keep in mind / Our motto Persevere’ written on it.​
Persevere quote from the Water of Leith: a stone with ‘So with the darkest days behind / Our ship of hope will steer / And when in doubt just keep in mind / Our motto Persevere’ written on it.

Also in the news this week was that a new map has been produced of the battlefield at Culloden, produced with the aid of airborne laser scans. I’ve only been to Culloden once and the visitor centre is very decent, giving a broader perspective of the build up to Culloden, from the Jacobite and Hanoverian sides. Culloden is one of the better known Scottish battles but this map will bring an even broader perspective to it, which can only be welcomed.

My to-read pile is growing exponentially all the time. I’ve not long finished re-reading The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane so I have decided to flit back to football history before delving back into nature writing. I’ve been trying to work through books I’ve had for a while as well as newer books so next I’m thinking the recent biography of Andrew Watson, the first black football international, then H Is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald. That will probably last me a wee while, mind. My podcasts have been the same as ever but I have been delving more into BBC Sounds recently and the Radcliffe and Maconie shows from BBC 6 Music have been bringing decent banter, albeit not at the time it’s actually being broadcast.

With that, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 24th April 2021. Thanks for reading. There’s been a nice reaction to the first Streets of Glasgow post about Glebe Street and there will be another Streets post on Tuesday for a change for one-week-only. Until then, a very good morning. Mar sin leibh.

Streets of Glasgow: Glebe Street

Glebe Street sign: a street sign saying Glebe St. above a sign pointing right towards St. Mungo’s Church.​
Glebe Street sign: a street sign saying Glebe St. above a sign pointing right towards St. Mungo’s Church.
Glebe Street: looking up a street towards trees with the side of a church to the left. The sky is blue with several white clouds.​
Glebe Street: looking up a street towards trees with the side of a church to the left. The sky is blue with several white clouds.

For many Scots, I suspect their first thought when they hear ‘Glebe Street’ is the Broons. The Broons, stalwarts of The Sunday Post, live on Glebe Street and it is quite a common Scottish street name. A glebe is a park linked to a church – there’s a Glebe in my home town, for example – and it’s only natural that the Glaswegian Glebe Street runs right by a church and is very close to another. Much of Glebe Street runs by the side of St. Mungo’s RC Church, a church dating back to 1841, designed by George Goldie. What I didn’t realise until I walked towards the Necropolis later is that Glebe Street continues at the other side of Stirling Road, a spur of a traffic junction leading to the Royal Infirmary. There is a defunct shop on a traffic island and daffodils on the verges. The church has cool decorative touches on the Glebe Street side and I admired those for the few moments it took to walk by it. On the other side of the road is St. Mungo’s Primary School with coloured-in Easter eggs hung on the railings when I was there. A guy was walking his dug on the other side of the street. Since Townhead has changed very drastically since the 1960s, it is hardly a surprise that the street is dissected by another main road and the noise of the nearby M8 is ever present. Materially, it isn’t much, two bits of street with a path in between them but architecturally there’s a church, a Rennie Mackintosh building across the way (the Martyr’s School, which I’ll cover in Parson Street next week), the Royal Infirmary and Glasgow Cathedral peeking out, so as the Broons might say, it’s fair braw.

Thanks for reading. This is the eighty second Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets covered here include Cathedral Street, Alexandra Parade and Parson Street, which follows here next week. All of the posts in the series can be found on the Streets of Glasgow page.

Saturday Saunter: A bridge, abbey and voices

This post was written prior to the First Minister’s announcement of changes to restrictions on travel within Scotland. Tramping about and train travel across the Forth Bridge are once more allowed. Huzzah.

Good morning to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on a sunny Monday evening with Map Men in the background from YouTube. A song about which country is the most square on the map. Why not? As this is posted, I will no doubt be having a quiet morning before going out for a walk this afternoon, which should be good. The weather has been generally good lately, sunny and a wee bit cool, so hopefully that will hold.

Light Tower, North Queensferry: a lighthouse tower with a red cantilevered bridge behind.​
Light Tower, North Queensferry: a lighthouse tower with a red cantilevered bridge behind.

There was a saying that something that took a long time was like painting the Forth Bridge since that went on continuously until Network Rail found some super duper red paint that doesn’t need to be applied that often. It was always a trick when near that magnificent structure to get a photo without the scaffolding and white covers over whichever part of the bridge was being painted. Pre-pandemic, with the bridge not needing to be painted for years yet, Network Rail planned to open the bridge up to visitors with a viewing platform on one of the towers. As much as I like the Forth Bridge, I wouldn’t since I don’t really like heights. I was watching a TV programme recently which featured folk abseiling off the bridge for charity and even that nearly made me lose my lunch. Going over it on a train is fine, though, and hopefully it won’t be long until I can do that again.

The bridge links Edinburgh and Fife. I was reading an article about Edith Bowman, host of the BAFTAs last weekend, who said she had been told that no one with her Fife accent could get on the radio as no one could understand her. Happily, Edith Bowman has proven that wrong as she’s worked on TV and radio for years and done it well. I know that when I was a kid, I would have loved to hear a voice like mine on the TV or the radio. The closest today is Joel Sked, on A View From The Terrace, who also grew up in East Lothian. That there’s a slew of different media choices makes it far easier to hear voices like our own and even on the national airwaves that is more possible than it’s ever been.

As I started this post, I got to thinking about Holyrood Abbey. People know Holyrood for the palace, park or the Scottish Parliament but not necessarily for its medieval abbey. A ticket for the Palace of Holyroodhouse allows access to the abbey ruins and I’ve been a couple of times. It’s similar in colour to Melrose, a greyish brown, and it has a considerable history as a place of marriage and burial, plus as a parish church which it was into the 18th century. The abbey sticks out above the trees when looking from the park and it’s another dimension to that interesting part of the world. I don’t know why I started to think about it. I think I’m just looking forward to being able to tramp about old ruins again.

This week I’m still re-reading The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane and my audiobook of choice is Too Good To Be True by Ann Cleeves, which is a Shetland novella that I’ve had in print for ages but decided to listen to this week for something different. My to-read shelf features a couple of football books and H Is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald, which I’ve also had for a while and haven’t got round to. I’ve been reading quite a bit about football lately so might need a change of subject. It’s unusual for me to say that!

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 17th April 2021. Thanks for reading. Wednesday sees the welcome return of Streets of Glasgow to the blog so look out for that. However you spend today, I hope it brings joy or comfort should you need it. Life’s hard enough right now. Until next time, then, tìoraidh.

One last waterway…

The waterways series might be coming to an end – Streets of Glasgow returns next week – but I thought of one more I could write about. The Irish Sea is a Sea Area all of its own though the bit nearest here – the North Channel – comes under Malin. Between Great Britain and the island of Ireland is the Isle of Man, a British Crown dependency and a place I would love to go to one day. It can be seen on a clear day from the Mull of Galloway, right at the very bottom of Scotland where it is said seven tides meet and it is possible to see the Isle of Man, Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales, Heaven and Neptune, or so a saying goes. I went there once about ten years ago and it was a bit cloudy but the lighthouse was gorgeous, the cliffs and scenery were dramatic and there was a cool museum. The Rhins of Galloway is an incredible part of the world and it is often forgotten about. I mainly know it for Logan Botanic Garden, a wee bit south of Stranraer, which has palm trees and all sorts.

Ailsa Craig, from Maidens: a grey rock on the horizon underneath a sky grey in various shades. Waves lap onto the beach in the foreground.​
Ailsa Craig, from Maidens: a grey rock on the horizon underneath a sky grey in various shades. Waves lap onto the beach in the foreground.

The coastline between Ayr and the Mull of Galloway is often spectacular, rocky and dominated by high cliffs in parts. It faces the Ailsa Craig, a big basalt plug often known as Paddy’s Milestone and the source for decent curling stones, if you like that sort of thing. The Ailsa Craig looks much like the Bass Rock at the other side of Scotland though it is much, much bigger. One of the things I really want to do soon is have a walk at Culzean, towards Ayr, and a place with a great view over towards Northern Ireland and the Ailsa Craig. I’ve been there a few times, the last time on a perishingly cold February day a few years back.

Giant’s Causeway: a very dark rocky outcrop by the sea with what looks like black stones piled up all around.
Giant’s Causeway: a very dark rocky outcrop by the sea with what looks like black stones piled up all around.

The North Channel links Scotland and Northern Ireland. I use that term deliberately not only because of plans to build a tunnel but because historically the waterways around our islands linked people far more than they divided them. I recently read a book about St. Columba, who came from Antrim and founded the community at Iona. At its narrowest point only 18 miles separate Scotland and Northern Ireland and it is possible from Ballycastle to see cars driving in Kintyre. The geology is similar, not least between the Giant’s Causeway and Staffa, both the same black basalt. Go to both of those places, if you can.

Having grown up in the east, I don’t know our western coast nearly as well but every time I’m there, I just want to look for hours and appreciate just how many places it is possible to see, that distance doesn’t mean so much even if it might be a bit of a drive to get there.

Thanks for reading. There will be a Streets of Glasgow post right here next week. Plus the Saturday Saunter this Saturday, of course.

Saturday Saunter: Glasgow streets, tours and books

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Tuesday night with sun still in the sky, just, and Secrets of the Transport Museum on in the background. I’ve just been writing three brand new Streets of Glasgow walks, the first I’ve produced since the end of last year, and they will start appearing beginning a week on Wednesday. The other day I read a story about Michael Shanks, who has taken it upon himself to run each and every one of Glasgow’s 6000 streets, which is a good way to explore the city and one I will not seek to emulate as I only run when I have to! He has run about 60% of Glasgow’s streets, very good going. The three latest Streets of Glasgow walks bring me to 84, and 6000 would take the rest of my life to manage. I’m just walking after all.

Hopefully soon it will be possible to attend actual events in real life. I’ve listened to a couple of interesting ones in the last week, including a virtual tour of the disused Aldwych Underground station in London delivered by the London Transport Museum, and a discussion about underrepresentation of women and particularly women of colour in football. That one I particularly recommend. Holly Morgan of Leicester City was one of the panellists and her experiences in the women’s game are particularly insightful. That one’s on YouTube.

I’ve had a particularly good reading spell this weather. Over the weekend I read the excellent The Hibs Are Here by Iain Colquhoun, all about Hibs in the 1990s, Alex Miller, Leighton, Jackson, Pat McGinlay and the rest. I could remember some of the games and even if I didn’t, it was just a good read about an interesting time in the history of the club. I also finished Thin Places by Kerri ní Dochartaigh, a very different book, very human and as varied as the human condition can be, about trauma, identity and much else besides. Currently on the go is my continuing re-read of The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane, presently on Rannoch Moor.

Glencoe, which is near Rannoch Moor: a mountain pass with hills at either side and low clouds above.​
Glencoe, which is near Rannoch Moor: a mountain pass with hills at either side and low clouds above.

I try very hard not to be political here and especially during an election campaign at a time when Scottish politics has been particularly toxic. The Proclaimers endorsed the Alba Party the other day. As ever, shouty folk on Twitter piled on people daring to express an opinion they disagreed with and it was a powerful reminder that it is actually honestly possible to disagree with people and not be a moron about it. More folk should try it.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 10th April 2021. Thanks for reading. One last post about a waterway should be here on Wednesday. Until then, tìoraidh an-drasta.

The North Sea

Clifftop Trail, Dunbar: a path along the side of a clifftop with a wall to the right and the sea straight ahead and to the left.​
Clifftop Trail, Dunbar: a path along the side of a clifftop with a wall to the right and the sea straight ahead and to the left.

We’ve got another waterway to talk about, this time the North Sea. The North Sea runs along the eastern coast of Scotland and England and reaches to Europe to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Its coastline has a reputation for being cold and it’s certainly colder than the west which has the added benefit of the Gulf Stream. The last time I was in Dunbar, I stopped along the Prom by a board which pointed to various places and the distance from where I stood. Amongst the more local places like the High Street, Stenton and Spott were Bergen, the Barents Sea, Stavenger, Esbjerg and the Brent Oil Field. Dunbar is at the mouth of the Firth of Forth and there is nothing east until Scandinavia. The board wasn’t there when I was a kid when I used to imagine what was over the horizon. The sea was grey, cold and almost a barrier, whereas the seas for a long time connected people from faroff lands. I could see Fife, a mystical place possibly, even if I now know it as the land of steak bridies, linoleum and Deep Sea World, but looking east it was the sea all the way. (I know Fife for other things, of course, but they were the first three things that came to mind.)

Aberdeen: the sea with groynes separating parts of the beach. Wind turbines are in the distance. To the left of the picture is the sea wall and city buildings.​
Aberdeen: the sea with groynes separating parts of the beach. Wind turbines are in the distance. To the left of the picture is the sea wall and city buildings.

I also think of the North Sea because of Aberdeen. Billy Connolly had a routine about swimming in the North Sea as a kid and being pale blue and wearing a knitted swimming costume. Aberdeen is okay but I’ve only been warm there once, strangely enough on my last visit, a couple of Augusts ago. I also think of one game in December, sat in the away end at Pittodrie, which has no wind guard or anything between it and the sea, which is a few hundred yards away. Hibs got beat as well. I have a picture of that day with frost on the path by the beach. The sunshine fooled absolutely no one. It was properly, properly baltic.

Arbroath’s ground is even closer to the sea but my only visit there came on a balmy July evening. If the football was dull, I’m sure you could look out and see the Bell Rock Lighthouse, eleven miles out to sea. The Signal Tower Museum is near Gayfield Park, formerly used to signal to the lighthouse and now housing a museum about the town and the Bell Rock itself. There are quite a few lighthouses on the North Sea coast, not least Kinnaird Head up at Fraserburgh, but the Bell Rock is the best known and for my money the most impressive, since it was built on a cape out to sea and has saved innumerable lives in the last two centuries.

For a while I used to fall asleep to the Shipping Forecast and it’s always pleased me that it’s broadcast, even now in this technological age. I recently bought a mug which has the British Sea Areas on it. (I live life on the edge.) Some of the areas are also listed as part of the development of the Battery on Lamer Island at the Victoria harbour in Dunbar. I grew up in Forth while I suppose the nearest one to me now is Malin. The one that’s always interested me is Dogger. Dogger Bank did used to be part of a larger landmass until the end of the last Ice Age and now it is known as a good fishing area. It would be immensely interesting archaeologically and geologically due to joining the British Isles and Europe though also for the many naval battles fought in that general area. I might think on that next time I’m by the North Sea instead of just wondering what’s over the horizon.

Thanks for reading. Something else about the Irish Sea will be here next week.

Saturday Saunter: Gateway books

Good Saturday to you,

I’m starting this on a glorious Friday afternoon, sunny but a wee bit cool. This being Glasgow, of course, there are a mixture of folk going about with thick winter coats or a minimum of garments on. Whatever gets them through the shift. As this is posted I might be out for a walk or alternatively catching up with telly. It’s to be colder over the weekend with snow being bandied about as a possibility. Surely not. I was in Dunbar a few years ago over the Easter weekend and it was cold and snowy so you never know.

Hedderwick, part of the John Muir Country Park - a wooden bridge with rails on either side leading onto a beach and towards trees. An estuary stretches out to the right of the picture.
Hedderwick, part of the John Muir Country Park – a wooden bridge with rails on either side leading onto a beach and towards trees. An estuary stretches out to the right of the picture.

Over the last few months it has been hard for many of us to keep a routine. For me, watching football has been particularly good to keep a sense of relative normality but also to know which day it is. My team plays on Monday this week but in recent weeks there has been a run of games on Saturday afternoons at 3, the time when football should be played, and that has been useful as something to look forward to, even when sometimes the games have been mince. I know that I have written more here about football than normal and that is why. It has been a valuable escape from the news, though of course the game has been in the news a fair bit recently too, not least for despicable racist incidents that have taken place. I wanted to mention the Finding Jack Charlton film that was on the BBC this week. That was excellent, delving into his career in management with Ireland, reaching the heights of international football, but also his difficulties with dementia in later life. Also, the SWPL resumes this weekend and to their credit BBC Scotland is showing highlights of games this Sunday.

Reading has been useful for keeping a routine too. At the moment I have two books on the go and last night I finished another that I partly listened to and finished in print, Ask An Astronaut by Tim Peake. I read quite fast so audiobooks slow things down a bit. That’s not a bad thing and I found when reading it in print that I could still hear the words being read by Robin Ince. I found that I could understand the more technical details better in audio, strangely enough. All sorts of questions were answered in the book, from basic training to whether people could eat on a spacewalk, and it was fascinating. My two books are a bit different, still non-fiction, Thin Places by Kerri ní Dochartaigh and The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane. Macfarlane is a re-read – I read it for the first time about ten years ago – while Thin Places is very new, a book about moths, nature, wildness, identity and loss. It is beautiful, intense and very timely. I remembered just now that I am also re-reading a John Grisham novel for a change of pace.

Last year we went to an event at Celtic Connections about bothy ballads and songs from the First World War. It was a cracking night. The songs had been collected by Jock Duncan, a folk singer who died recently aged 95, in a book called Jock’s Jocks. Jock Duncan’s obituary in the Press and Journal is excellent reading and not for the first time I wonder why we don’t celebrate people more when they’re alive.

In the background just now is an Authors Live talk featuring Konnie Huq. She talked about the concept of a ‘gateway book’, a book that brings people into reading. I can’t remember not reading but sometimes my reading ebbs and flows so I suppose I have had many gateway books that have brought me back into reading regularly.

This blog usually features something special for World Autism Awareness Day though this year, as every year, acceptance matters more than just being aware.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 3rd April 2021. Thanks for reading. A post will follow on Wednesday about the North Sea. Until then, for those who celebrate, a very Happy Easter. To those who don’t, happy weekend. To all, a very good morning. Peace.