Loose Ends: Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue

I had been meaning to have a look at the new Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue for months since it was unveiled in December. One Sunday I got up and decided to make a day of it, heading first to Anderston to see the statue then going on a ramble to see what I could find. It linked just fine with the last instalment of Loose Ends, featuring the statue of Desperate Dan in Dundee, since it was also a statue plus there is a gallery dedicated to Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the brand new V and A Dundee museum. The statue was put up by property developers Sanctuary Group, sculpted by Andy Scott and unveiled by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on the ninetieth anniversary of Mackintosh’s death. I liked it immediately, far more than I thought I would, to be honest. I took photos then sat down and looked at the statue. I liked the little details, including the ring on Mackintosh’s finger and the distinctive chair he was sitting on. It fit in well with the sharp angles of the new flats behind too. I couldn’t help thinking that there should be a statue of one of the Glasgow Girls group of artists or even that Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh should have been cast up alongside her husband. Maybe one day. In the meantime, it was a cracking statue, well-worked and in an apposite setting, in a community rather than a great civic space.

To the connections and there could be a visit to one of the many structures linked to Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow and beyond, like House for an Art Lover or the Hill House. This could also include Kelvingrove just along the road or pretty much anywhere in Glasgow, really. Loose Ends tends to involve a bit of forethought, very often a hunch or an impulse, and the next connection, which occurred about half an hour later, was certainly one of those.

Thank you for reading. The next Loose Ends post follows next week.

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Loose Ends: Desperate Dan

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Statues of Desperate Dan, Dawg and Minnie the Minx

The last Loose Ends featured the beautiful and crammed Leakey’s Bookshop in Inverness and there were a right few contenders for the next connection. My intention that bright February morning was to link Leakey’s to the Tay Rail Bridge through one William Topaz McGonagall since he wrote wonderfully dire poetry including about the Tay Bridge Disaster. As I walked down Reform Street, my gaze fell on the statue of Desperate Dan and realised that Dan, Dawg and Minnie the Minx connect to Leakey’s just fine, since the DC Thomson oeuvre counts as literature and indeed some of the finest examples of it.

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Desperate Dan and Dawg
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That’s a copy of the Dandy in his hand
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Minnie the Minx

Desperate Dan was the main character of the Dandy comic, printed only in the annual each year, sadly. A cowboy with a penchant for cow pies, he was a deserved recipient of a statue in Dundee city centre in 2001, along with Dawg, his faithful companion, and Minnie the Minx from the Beano. As a reader of the Dandy when I was a kid, I love the statue of Dan in Dundee and like to get a photo whenever I pass. I like to say that Dan’s my style icon as I very often sport stubble and haven’t been known to say no to a steak pie or as they would call it in Dundee a peh.

To the connections, then, and the statues in Dundee would link to those of other fictional characters such as the Bud Neill characters in Woodlands Road and Partick railway station in Glasgow. Dan being a cowboy would link back to the Wild West in Morningside or to the Buffalo Bill statue in Dennistoun. That Minnie the Minx featured prominently in last year’s libraries Summer Reading Challenge could of course take me to any library, even if the SRC might not have happened there. I was using a Bananaman bookmark for weeks.

Whatever the next connection, I was glad to make this one, unplanned but fitting in just fine as Loose Ends moved onwards and away.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

Loose Ends: Leakey’s Bookshop

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I hadn’t planned to do anything for Loose Ends while in Inverness but it occurred to me while browsing in Leakey’s Bookshop that it would be just dandy to link from the potteries in Portobello, a book on Leeds pottery catching my eye. I had seen pictures of Leakey’s on Facebook, of all things, and I decided that when I was in Inverness I would pay a visit. Not that I need more books but the fact I had finished my book on the bus up confirmed this particular notion.

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Leakey’s is housed in an old church, a Gaelic church, to be exact, built in 1649 and rebuilt in 1792-1793. Inside it featured a main floor with multiple mezzanine levels. I passed a fire burning and crackling away though it was cold the further I got from it. There was a sense of organised chaos with just a semblance of order, labels segregating sections. It wasn’t too cluttered. A fair few people were milling around, mostly younger folk. The Scottish, fiction, history and travel sections were biggest and I had to exercise severe self-restraint not to come out with more than I could carry. I ended up with four books – Cameroon with Egbert by Dervla Murphy, A Traveller’s Life by Eric Newby, Night Falls On Ardnamurchan by Alasdair Maclean and Seeds of Blood and Beauty: Scottish Plant Explorers by Ann Lindsay – and they came away with me back to Glasgow clad in a paper bag. It was a joyous place to while away an hour, realising not for the first time just how much I want to read and how little time I have to do it in.

To the connections and a bookshop, like a library, yields links to practically anything and everything. Some books could take me to familiar places, those in East Lothian linked with witches or just Haddington though not for any occult reasons; I just saw a book about it. One of my book choices was about Ardnamurchan on the west coast though there is absolutely nae chance that I’ll be going there, unfortunately. Dervla Murphy could lead me back to the Glasgow Women’s Library or to Maryhill, a place Anabel Marsh writes about from time to time. Anabel catalogued the GWL’s Dervla Murphy collection. The book about plant explorers could lead to the botanic gardens at Dawyck or Benmore. 1649, the year the Gaelic church opened, could lead back to Dunfermline, the birthplace of Charles I who met his end in that year. I could also go to a church which is now something else, the Mackintosh Centre in Maryhill or the Mansfield Traquair Centre over in Edinburgh. An interesting bookshop, like Category Is Books in Glasgow, might also be an option. This one was amazing and I’m glad I got to be there.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

Loose Ends: Portobello Potteries

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Loose Ends continues about half a mile from the last destination, in a housing estate in Portobello, Edinburgh’s seaside village. Porty was a Victorian seaside resort and it retains a certain elan today. It is also known for its pottery production and the power station that once stood by King’s Road. Two pottery kilns remain, though they are no longer used for that purpose, still standing and the last two bottle kilns in Scotland, used until 1972. The kilns, one from 1906 and the other 1909, were used for firing ceramics, piled high in the kiln and heated until properly glazed. They stand high on the landscape in red or golden brick, some on the 1909 kiln originating from a brickworks in Armadale, judging by the stamp on the top of a few of them. Ceramic production in Porty began in the 1770s, lasting over two centuries and involving all sorts of ceramic ware, the most recent more decorative. The 1909 kiln had been restored and it showed with the black iron rings around its base and middle to keep the thing up. The brickwork was more modern with the doorway bearing a mural showing what the inside would have looked like in use. I wandered around a couple of times, read the board and moved on, appreciating the reminder of this place’s history in a modern housing scheme.

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To the connections, then, and I was thinking about Summerlee, an industrial museum in Coatbridge I am overdue a trip back to, or possibly a wander around the site at Prestongrange, which also had kilns. Maybe a trip to one of the Museums of Edinburgh on the High Street, which have a decent pottery collection. We’ll see what transpires.

Loose Ends: Portobello Community Garden

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The last instalment of Loose Ends involved a look at Meadowbank Stadium in the process of demolition. This time began a mere 40 minutes later, along in Portobello, a seaside enclave of Edinburgh. I had just had a bite of lunch (small steak pies from the baker’s, since you ask) and thus refuelled I walked along the Esplanade until I came to some chimneys which I had seen before and felt might be a good addition to this series. I couldn’t remember anything about them except they had interesting carvings. The three pillars, I soon learned, came from a garden nearby, press-moulded blocks of Coade Stone. The chimneys at Dalmeny House at the other side of the city had a similar design to the smaller pillars. They always have a tinge of exoticism to them, maybe more likely to be found somewhere warm rather than by the beach in Porty. I got a few photos then turned round, getting a great view across the Forth towards North Berwick Law, Hopetoun Monument, the Pans and Musselburgh.

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Again, I had decided the next destination, but I could have gone to Dalmeny House, which I had been to a few years back, or to any one of the places I could see. Even though it was baltic, I was glad to have had a good look at these pillars. They connected well with Meadowbank Stadium, a place now getting demolished though with a distinct, though very different architectural style, and the thought occurred to me that while a couple of connections recently have been about death, this one was about renewal. Life, death and the resurrection, to go all Biblical. Those deep thoughts done with, I walked on, ready for the next.

Thanks for reading. The next Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

Loose Ends: Meadowbank Stadium

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I was in Edinburgh a bit early and decided to have a wander in the very cold sunshine. My intended destination was the Craigentinny Mausoleum, linking it with death and the Greyfriars Burial Ground in Perth, forgetting I had been to the John Witherspoon statue in Paisley since. Witherspoon went to the University of Edinburgh, though, so anything in the capital would do. Then I came past Meadowbank Stadium, which is in the process of being demolished in order to build a brand new sports centre in its place. There has been a local campaign appealing to Edinburgh City Council not to cut down the trees that line the street outside the stadium. Some of the trees bear banners and knitted decorations in support of the campaign. The words ‘Don’t Kill Our Trees’ summed it up well. The stadium was built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games and the stand was Brutalist in style. When I looked up from the trees, I realised that there was a big hole where most of the stand used to be, only two small sections left at either side. Since I love old football grounds and particularly their architecture, it was a particularly beguiling sight to see the stand in the process of demolition. In front of the stand, aside from those trees, were boards bearing graffiti as part of a wider art installation, including a drawing by local school children. It was good to get a look at all that street art but I was so glad to have caught the stand in mid-demolition.

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The next connection came about 40 minutes after this unexpected joy though it could have connected with any semi-derelict structure, maybe even St. Peter’s Seminary in the woods outside Cardross, or Cathkin Park, featured in this series previously. Meadowbank is also a place I went on a school trip, being near where I went to primary school, so any place I went to with the school could have worked. This was a good few minutes just looking at imagining what will come next and enjoying Meadowbank in its current state of change.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

 

Loose Ends: John Witherspoon statue

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Presbyterianism led me to the next place in the Loose Ends cavalcade, the statue of John Witherspoon outside the University of the West of Scotland in Paisley. Witherspoon was a Presbyterian minister who worked in Paisley before going off to America to found Princeton University and sign the Declaration of Independence, one of six Scots to do so. Like the best people, though, Witherspoon came from East Lothian originally, even if it was Gifford and he went to high school in Haddington.

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The statue is the work of Alexander Stoddart, sculptor of many prominent statues including those of David Hume, Adam Smith and James Clerk Maxwell in Edinburgh. Stoddart is the Queen’s Sculptor in Ordinary in Scotland and works from a studio in Paisley. I always like the thoughtful details in his work; the volumes of Cicero, Principe, Locke and Hume at his feet in this case.

Many connections can arise from Witherspoon’s statue, not least the May Donoghue ‘snail in a bottle’ statue along the road or indeed any of Stoddart’s other works around the country. Witherspoon comes from Gifford so I could go there or anywhere in East Lothian, maybe the Giffordgate in Haddington where John Knox was born but that might be one religious connection too many for now. He was also educated at the University of Edinburgh, which might be another destination or through its alumni lead elsewhere. I was passing the Witherspoon statue on the way to watch the football so another connection would have to wait until another day.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

Loose Ends: Greyfriars Burial Ground

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After crossing Perth Bridge, I didn’t feel quite ready to nip into a gallery just yet so I had a wee derive around Perth city centre. I was heading back towards the river and the Fergusson Gallery when I noticed a graveyard and a suitably fortified structure at the gate. Naturally I had to go in. I found myself in Greyfriars Burial Ground, apparently once the site of a friary demolished in a riot after a sermon in St. John’s Kirk by John Knox on 11th May 1559. This probably connected better with the Martyrs’ Monument over in St. Andrews but it came after Perth Bridge, purely because of geography. I’m glad I stopped by. The graveyard was a place of the dead but also one of wildlife, a biodiversity area, no less, with plenty of trees, including a particularly fine willow. I wandered for a while, looking idly at the stones, focusing on the occupations represented, tobacconists, printers, soldiers and many others. There was traffic noise but it felt completely removed from the city. Indeed I almost got a fright as I was roused from my note writing by the council caretakers, wanting to lock the gate for the night.

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Greyfriars could connect to quite a lot, through John Knox to John Witherspoon, another Presbyterian luminary, or to Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh. That was all secondary, though. As I wandered, I was just glad to have stumbled over the place. I doubt I could find it again without recourse to a map. That’s not always a bad thing. I imagine Murdo, of From Hill To Sea, could do it better justice than me, even if it is outside Fife, capturing its essence with a few, well chosen words rather than my many, gallumphing ones.

Thanks for reading.

Digest: January 2019

January Digest time and it’s been a busy month. I’m not a fan of New Year and I was impatient, after not feeling right over the festives, to get out and about as early as I could relying on public transport. On Wednesday 2nd January, I got a train into town and then a bus to St. Andrews, the day cold but bright, enjoying a walk around by the Castle and Cathedral before going home as the sun came down.

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The following day I went to Edinburgh. I only have two photos, featuring the Portrait Gallery, which has the BP Portrait Award on just now. As ever, the ones I liked the most didn’t win.

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Saturday 5th January saw me in Dundee, with a wee interlude in Cellardyke. It was cool and cloudy but I had a good day, managing a whole host of adventures which have featured on the blog by now. The walk by the Forth in Cellardyke was just ideal, the grey light pensive but open to the East Lothian coast beyond. It was good to explore Dundee a bit more, with Dundee Law a particular highlight.

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After work on Friday 18th January, I went into town to do a wee bit of shopping. Before doing that, I managed a Streets of Glasgow walk for the first time in ages, along West George Street. I also took a turn along the Clyde in the half-light, which was incredibly worth it.

That Saturday the Hibs were playing Elgin City. It was baltic. The trains weren’t right so I didn’t get as much of an Edinburgh wander as I hoped.

The following Wednesday Hibs played Motherwell at Fir Park. The game was awful, the pies weren’t. I hadn’t realised how high up Fir Park was with many distant streetlights twinkling in the distance.

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On Friday 25th January I went to Perth, really to do Intercity but I ended up having a great wander, particularly loving Greyfriars Burial Ground, which I stumbled over on a bit of a derive.

That Sunday the still-mighty Hibees went to Paisley and won. After the game I took my auntie on a tour of the street art and architecture of Paisley. It was absolutely baltic but nice in the pale, wintry sunshine.

Well, that’s the January digest. Loose Ends features here again on Wednesday, staying in Perth. There will be a wee bit of a shuffle after that, with Streets of Glasgow returning too. Saturday Saunter continues, purely because I like writing them. Thanks as ever to all readers and followers. There’s been a few new ones in January, which is nice. Anyway, have a good February.

Posts this month –

Digest: December 2018

Saturday Saunter: 5th January 2019

Intercity: Glasgow

Loose Ends: Calton Hill, again

Saturday Saunter: 12th January 2019

Intercity: Stirling

Loose Ends: Dundee Law

Saturday Saunter: 19th January 2019

Intercity: Edinburgh

Loose Ends: Martyrs’ Monument

Saturday Saunter: 26th January 2019

Intercity: Dundee

Loose Ends: Perth Bridge

Loose Ends: Perth Bridge

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Loose Ends left off at the Martyrs’ Memorial in St. Andrews with thoughts of the Reformation. Perth connected through the Bible. St. John’s town is Perth, its bridge built by another John, the engineer John Smeaton, from 1766 to 1771. The bridge is handsome  in red and it caught my eye as I walked along the side of the Tay for Intercity, appearing here in the next few weeks. Instead of turning into the city, I took a right across the bridge, instantly celebrating that decision as I got a particularly fine view down river towards the Fergusson Gallery, railway and the city skyline. This being the main road out of town, it was particularly busy with traffic that afternoon. I reached the eastern side of the river and came to a boarded up building which once housed a greengrocers, of all things, judging by the signage. Across the road I went and upriver the view was towards distant hills and a winding river, suburban houses in the foreground, an almost pretty scene, really.

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Since this is Loose Ends, I had to think of connections and I did that on the way back. Perth Bridge could connect to any bridge anywhere across the country. John Smeaton worked with John Rennie, who has no shortage of structures to his name in Scotland either. I could go to Rennie’s birthplace, Phantassie, near East Linton, or indeed the place nearby called Smeaton, not because of that engineer. As it was, I stayed in Perth for the next part of the series, found by accident on a psychogeographical derive.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next Wednesday.