It might be useful at this point if I explain what a ‘burn’ is. Not an injury or a stinging remark but the Scots word for a stream. A watery stream not one’s online viewing. Unless one’s online viewing is streaming a stream. The Molendinar Burn runs underneath much of the east end of Glasgow, flowing into the Clyde near Glasgow Green. Spoutmouth, which adjoins Molendinar Street, is so-called because it was the site of a spout from which water could be sourced from the Molendinar Burn on a Sunday when the wells were closed. Today Molendinar Street is basically a set of railway arches with a car park between the street and the Gallowgate. Underneath the arches are a mixture of shops and carpet showrooms. Direct Flooring had a prominent sign saying that prospective customers should enter via Untouchables, which seems quite oblique if one hasn’t looked and seen there’s a business called Untouchables just next door. Unusually specific graffiti was on one shutter, McKay 2018, not so much a tag but a statement. The empty beer bottle next to the street sign was like a still life, albeit more urban than a bunch of grapes and a vase.
Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time all about World Heritage Sites in Scotland. They are occasionally in the news as UNESCO threaten to take that august status away from certain places, like Edinburgh or Liverpool. It’s a cool claim to fame though and there are five in Scotland plus one we share with England and Germany. They are:
Frontiers of the Roman Empire
Heart of Neolithic Orkney
Old and New Towns of Edinburgh
I have been to parts of all of these except St Kilda, which is most definitely on my bucket list. Some I know better than others but they are all special and vital to understanding Scotland’s past and present.
Forth Bridge –
There are three bridges that cross the Forth at Queensferry but UNESCO mean the Forth Bridge, the red and girdery railway one, opened in 1890. It is glorious and I can’t help smiling and staring at it whenever I’m nearby. For best effect, it’s worth crossing it on a train and getting the views up and down the Forth, including to Inchgarvie which is under the bridge.
Frontiers of the Roman Empire –
The Scottish bit is the Antonine Wall, which crossed central Scotland and was the edge of the Roman Empire for a fairly short time in the 2nd century AD. The bit of the Antonine Wall I’ve explored most recently is the Bearsden Bathhouse, a bath house on the edge of the Wall with traces left in a housing estate in Bearsden, not far from Glasgow.
Heart of Neolithic Orkney –
Orkney is incredible with internationally significant historical places scattered every few hundred yards or so it feels. I’ve been once before and particularly loved the Ring of Brodgar. For lack of something to do, I hugged one of the stones but desisted from running around them in the scud, as Billy Connolly did. Scara Brae was also very cool and it was worth hanging around for a few minutes while the hordes looked then left.
New Lanark –
New Lanark is a planned village built for mills and their workers. It is in a beautiful part of the Clyde Valley under the Falls of Clyde. I’ve only been once and was blighted by hayfever at the time so I remember the beauty of the place and my head being like a bowling ball.
Old and New Towns of Edinburgh –
This is the one I know best. Of the two, I prefer the New Town with wider streets and the possibility of seeing the Forth. I’ve done psychogeography in both, with three of the Intercity posts in the area, the High Street, St. Vincent Street and Dublin Street. Edinburgh Castle is at the top of the Old Town but it isn’t even the best castle in Edinburgh.
St Kilda –
I’m yet to visit St Kilda so can recommend one of the many good books about the archipelago including The Life and Death of St. Kilda by Tom Steel or the excellent essay ‘Three Ways of Looking at St. Kilda’ in Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has a section about St Kilda in the Cultural Survival gallery.
Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 17th July 2021. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow will be here again on Wednesday and then the blog will be on hiatus until Wednesday 11th August. The next Saturday Saunter will be here on Saturday 14th August. During the hiatus I will probably get round to some Streets of Glasgow adventures and that might include the 100th instalment of that series. Any suggestions for the 100th, as long as they’re in the City of Glasgow area and I’ve not done them before, will be gratefully received. Until next time, mar sin leibh agus madainn mhath.
The real reason I was doing Streets of Glasgow that morning wasn’t Greendyke Street or Ross Street. It was Spoutmouth, a name I came across on Google Maps and thought was fake. They do that sometimes. But it isn’t. It’s a real place, a few hundred yards at one side of a junction leading from the Gallowgate to Bell Street. I’m advised by Past Glasgow on Twitter that a spout was there and on Sundays people would get their water from the Molendinar Burn instead of the wells, which would be closed. It is now dominated by car parks and a Billy Connolly mural. The walk was barely two minutes but it was fine, only massively remarkable because of the street name.
The Streets of Glasgow series is about to see its 100th instalment. Any suggestions for the 100th, as long as they’re in the City of Glasgow area and I’ve not done them before, will be gratefully received. The Streets of Glasgow page has a list of those done to date.
Welcome to another Saturday Saunter. Usually in this space I write an essay based on whatever’s been rattling around my head but this week and next week I will be doing something different. Next week will be about Scotland’s World Heritage Sites. Today will be Desert Island Books. Like the radio programme but with books instead of music. I have thought about this before and every time I come up with a different list. My luxury item would be a photo album featuring pictures of my favourite people. I’m quite happy not to have the Bible or the complete works of Shakespeare, only these. In no particular order, then, here are my Desert Island Books, beginning with:
A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark –
I don’t read much fiction these days but in the last few years I’ve read a few by Muriel Spark, particularly coinciding with the centenary of her birth in 2018. A Far Cry From Kensington is my favourite Muriel Spark novel because of how it is written. It is funny, witty and clever, of course, but it features some cool phrases and it is technically well crafted as all of Spark’s books are.
The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd –
The book which has emerged as my favourite in recent years. I keep a copy by my bedside just in case I’m stuck for something to read. It’s short but perfectly formed, a paean to the Cairngorms in all its dimensions and varieties.
My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir –
I had to pick a John Muir book and my favourite Muir book has always been A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf however some of his best writing is in My First Summer, which is as the title suggests about his first summer in the Sierra Nevada herding sheep and naturalising along the way.
Connemara: Listening to the Wind by Tim Robinson –
I haven’t read this one yet but I picked it because I haven’t read it and also because Connemara is an isolated part of the world and there might be survival tips that could be useful on the type of island I could be isolated on.
Saturday, 3pm by Daniel Gray –
I like how Daniel Gray writes and he absolutely captures the wonder of football and its experiences in broad brushstrokes.
Findings by Kathleen Jamie –
Kathleen Jamie also has a keen eye and Findings goes from Orkney to Edinburgh to Fife talking about the natural world and what can be seen when we look well enough.
Waterlog by Roger Deakin –
Again, this isn’t my favourite book by Roger Deakin – that would be Notes From Walnut Tree Farm – but Waterlog might be useful for survival since I’m not a confident swimmer and it is a beautiful book.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams –
I toyed with a few books for the eighth slot. I went with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy because it is funny and the world of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Trillian, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin the Paranoid Android is immersive and would be distracting. Plus always having a towel with you is good safety sense.
Well, that’s my eight. I quite enjoyed that. Hopefully you did too. If you have any thoughts, please share them. That is the Saturday Saunter for Saturday 10th July 2021. Streets of Glasgow is back on Wednesday. Until then, tioraidh an-drasta. And Forza Azzurri.
Ross Street was a bonus as I was heading towards the Gallowgate anyway and a shop window with Singer sewing machines caught my eye. It was a fabric and clothing shop. Next to it was a poster advertising an exhibition in honour of the Barras to mark its centenary. I’ll need to get to that. The pub across the street had two plaques, the bottom one in honour of Matt McGinn, folk singer-songwriter, and the top to Freddy Anderson, who I hadn’t heard of but the plaque declared him to be a ‘Poet Irish and Scottish Republican Socialist’. Quite a combination. Initially I had forgotten that Ross Street is also home to some cool murals, with a bee, a Tunnocks Teacake kind of strongman declaring himself to be King of the Barras and a person with lots of eyes and a crystal ball. Plus a snake next to that. On another wall was a girl wearing a pirate hat looking into a telescope and holding a teddy bear. These are crackers and well worth looking for if in the area. Across the road was a very generic car park though more interesting was an advert for Engineering Coffee, which is around the corner on the Gallowgate, and part of a ghost clothes shop sign, probably once part of the Barras, which I now know is celebrating its centenary. Always worth paying attention on the way somewhere else.
Well, it’s Saturday Saunter time again, this time being written on a sunny, balmy Wednesday night. From last week when I didn’t have a lot of ideas to tonight when there’s quite a few ideas on the go. Funny that. It would be remiss of me not to start with the breaking football news of the week, which is of course Sir David Gray retiring from playing football and becoming a first-team coach at Hibs. While Sir Dave hasn’t featured much in the team this last season or two, he has still been a vital figure at the club and it is great that he’ll still be around. I was listening to an episode of the Hibs podcast Longbangers the other day featuring Cliff Pike of Hibs TV and he talked about the 2016 Scottish Cup Final and how that game made football and how it meant more for Hibs fans than winning the Cup would for fans of the Old Firm, even Hearts, since it hadn’t happened in 114 years. It’s why David Gray means a lot to many of us and why his retirement has brought out a lot of love and emotion. Even before the news about SDG, I had meant to write about Hibs anyway as this week saw the 130th anniversary of the death of Canon Edward Hannan, who brought our club about as a way to occupy the young boys of the Cowgate. Canon Hannan’s grave is in the Grange Cemetery in Edinburgh and I visited about four years ago as part of my Hibstory walk. As much as the day-to-day matters, it’s good to know about our game’s history too. As for a game that might be taking place in Rome tonight, I don’t quite know the Ukrainian for ‘get intae them!’
Before any football happens, I have my routines on a Saturday morning. I do my usual reading of the news, social media and all that then I delve into the Scotsman, which usually has a good interview in the sport section, then the Herald‘s magazine, which is generally a decent read. I was sad to read that Fidelma Cook, a columnist for The Herald, had died last week. I liked reading her. Her column last week, about the UK’s departure from the European Union and the breathtaking incompetence of the Westminster government, is worth a read.
Last week I wrote about the concept of a map of those places important to us. The idea came from the excellent Threads of life by Clare Hunter and it ignited a bit of interest in the comments section, which is nice. I suspect mine would look like the famous New Yorker cover from 1976, View From The World From 9th Avenue, with Glasgow and the west closest and Edinburgh, Dunbar, East Lothian and Berwickshire also very prominent. My Glasgow map would include the south of the city, where I live and have spent much time in recent years, as well as the West End and ever more parts of the city centre and East End. A lot of readers live in the British Isles and it’s always worth remembering how big our islands are. The midpoint of the UK isn’t Meriden or the English Midlands, no, no, it’s somewhere on Hadrian’s Wall. There are parts of these islands which are closer to Norway than Edinburgh or London. I know at least three people who have been on the Moray Firth coast recently and I particularly treasure the couple of times I’ve visited Pennan, a village at the bottom of a cliff that starred in Local Hero. We will all have our own maps.
Talking of New York, I found this article about the photographer Donavon Smallwood particularly interesting. That last picture with the city and the two people looking over a lake is stunning.
I’ve been a bit stop-and-start with my reading this week. I’m currently reading The Foghorn’s Lament by Jennifer Lucy Allan about foghorns, which has been fine, and I eventually finished Life at Walnut Tree Farm by Rufus Deakin and Titus Rowlandson about the house naturalist Roger Deakin rebuilt in Suffolk and the lands around it. Rufus Deakin is Roger’s son and Titus Rowlandson the new owner of Walnut Tree Farm and it was good to get their perspectives of that house, from the building to its continual renewal. I think I need to re-read Roger.
A bit of housekeeping before I go. The blog will take its normal summer hiatus from Wednesday 21st July until Wednesday 11th August. In the meantime there will be three Streets of Glasgow posts and two more Saturday Saunter posts before then. I might just have to fit in some adventures and reading over that time.
Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 3rd July 2021. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow, that great favourite, returns on Wednesday, in the East End once more. Until then, mar sin leibh.