Streets of Glasgow: Duke Street

I don’t always do research for these walks. I prefer to see what I find out along the way. Duke Street was an exception. I looked up Wikipedia and one of my architecture books and that sealed the deal for actually going ahead with it. I started from the High Street end, walking by the side of 220 High Street and looking across to the elegant red sandstone building that sits on the corner of High Street and Duke Street. The sign was written in cursive so I wasn’t sure but I thought a Thai massage and beauty place across the way was called Supaporn. (It actually is, I’ve checked.) This part of the walk featured tower blocks on the left, modern flats to the right. I soon came to the Ladywell Business Centre, once a school, now offices, which looked great in the cold February sunshine with an elegant tower, complete with finial, as well as carved heads on the frontage of the building. Atop one of the ends of the building were a whole load of pigeons, revelling in a structure without spikes.

Not far away was the Tennents Caledonian Brewery. I don’t like beer and I’m told that Tennants in particular is vile so I wasn’t going to bother with the tour. Tennents have an excellent PR department and the walls up and down the street were bedecked in old adverts for Tennents Lager, including the cans with the Lager Lovelies and another in Japanese. My favourite, though, was the one that boasted ‘Now in cans’ plus the pipes of the brewery which were painted to look like a pint. Brewing has taken place on the site since 1556, making it the oldest continually operating business in the city. Duke Street is also the longest continuous street in the UK, again according to Wikipedia, so that’s particularly appropriate. Across the way was a pub no longer in existence, though looking like something out of Still Game in its rough and readyness, and the old Sydney Place United Presbyterian Church, now defunct, which is stunning, designed in 1857 by Peddie and Kinnear in a Greek style.

I soon reached Dennistoun and was tickled by a shop at the junction with Bellgrove Street called African Embassy, which billed itself as the ‘Visa to Good Food’. They went al the way with it, which I liked it. Dennistoun isn’t an area I know well. I went last summer to find the Buffalo Bill statue in the area and I had an urge to go back anyway. As I crossed the road, two women crossed in the other direction saying ‘It’s freezing’. They were possibly scoffing at the fact I was wearing shorts at the time, on a cold day (4 degrees) in February, though in my defence it was part of my 30 Before 30 list. Like on Govan Road, there were a fair few businesses around with Duke in their name, two including Duke Sweet and Dukes Barber. Also on that row was a pound shop with lots of emojis on the front, which gave a conflicted sense of the business’s priorities. I liked a sign outside a pub nearby, though, which featured Betty Boop on a motorbike with the legend ‘Adventure Before Dementia’.

As I walked on, I was reminded of how split our city is in a footballing sense. Though I could see the cantilever of the Celtic Park stands, I was soon by two pubs, the Louden Tavern and the Bristol Bar, liberally festooned with Union flags, though some Saltires, leaving a casual passer-by in no doubt of their footballing loyalties. The 21st century resumed a little way away with a trendy chicken shop called Black Rooster Peri Peri. I also walked past a suitably no-nonsense pest control business, which declared ‘all types of pests dealt with’ and that they had ‘unmarked vehicles’, for those jobs requiring discretion. There was also a derelict nightclub building up the road nearer the Forge, which looked like it had seen its share of bother over the years. Being an architecture buff, though, I liked the angles of the railway bridges over my head as I came to the Forge.

The Govan Road walk ended at Paisley Road Toll, one of the most architecturally interesting corners of the city. Duke Street ends at Parkhead Cross, another stunning bit, with fine red sandstone buildings on each corner as Duke Street, Gallowgate, Tollcross Road and Westmuir Street joined. The one on the corner of Duke Street and Gallowgate looked rather like the one at the start, at Duke Street and High Street, a neat bookend for a rich and varied walk with some gorgeous buildings, bits I would rather have missed and many more I’m glad I saw, rewarded as ever by looking up and around when otherwise I would have passed by.

Sources and further reading –

‘Duke Street, Glasgow’, Wikipedia, available at,_Glasgow (accessed 9th February 2018)

Williamson, Elizabeth, Riches, Anne and Higgs, Malcolm, The Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, 2005, New Haven, CT/London, Yale University Press

This is the twenty fifth Streets of Glasgow post on Walking Talking. There are plenty of others to read, including High Street, which meets Duke Street at its western end. Near Duke Street in Dennistoun is Alexandra Parade, which I wrote about last summer. Posts on Gallowgate and Trongate will follow in the coming weeks.


Streets of Glasgow: Mitchell Street

I slept in. A big day trip and I fall back asleep. A new ticket and a new plan swiftly arranged, I found myself with time to kill in the centre of Glasgow at 7 on a Saturday morning when the sun wasn’t even up. Naturally my thought was to do a Streets of Glasgow walk. The problem I had as I walked out of Central onto Gordon Street was thinking of which street in the vicinity I hadn’t done before. I thought about Royal Bank Place, which leads from Buchanan Street to Queen Street. Then I remembered Mitchell Street, not just a street I hadn’t written about but I had never actually been down. Obviously the time was then, 7 o’clock on a Saturday morning. As I headed along Gordon Street, the city was getting geared up, including the workers in the nearby Pret A Manger. Above a bright video advert for Adidas beamed away, not failing to catch my attention. I turned right and as well as the Lighthouse, my first sight was a set of black iron railings above the Co-op Bank, an affectation rather than a necessity in all likelihood.

The Lighthouse is a Rennie Mackintosh building, once where the Herald was printed. I have never actually been, though I will very soon, so I can only comment on the outside, which is red sandstone, typically Glaswegian with the usual Rennie Mac stylings and flourishes suitably rendered. Across the way is a multi-storey car park. It was designed by Frank Gehry, though, looking like a dancing couple–no, of course it wasn’t. What it did have was a mural on the side depicting a girl blowing dandelion seeds which were in the shape of wind turbines, a neat environmental message plus a reminder of why it’s good to embrace our inner child. My inner child was tickled by Mitchell Street’s street art, including a big mural on a gable end showing a girl with a magnifying glass and another smaller one shrouded in scaffolding which depicted someone taking a picture of a flying taxi. Another unexpected pleasure was a ghost sign, this one for Wylie and Lochhead, good Scottish names both, cabinet makers and upholsterers.

My abiding impression as I walked down Mitchell Street was that it was like an alley Superman would duck down to get changed in. Every city needs a back street or six though even early on a Saturday, this one had people in it, folks huddling over their fags in doorways outside hotels and their work before they start. The street narrowed until it eventually came out and I suddenly knew where I was. I was now on Argyle Street, between an arcade and the Celtic shop. I looked back and saw the aforementioned mural of the girl with the magnifying glass. I had long admired it but had never ventured up close. Even in the half-light, it was worth it.

Even on the sunniest day, I don’t suppose Mitchell Street gets a whole lot of light, the narrowest of narrow streets even by Glasgow standards. Glasgow standards, though, are high and even back streets here are worth a look, preferably when the sun has come up a bit more.

This is the twenty fourth Streets of Glasgow post to appear on Walking Talking. There are quite a few others available, twenty three of them, funnily enough. Mitchell Street joins onto West Nile Street, which I wrote about last autumn, and Gordon Street, which I wrote about last summer. Last week’s was West Regent Street, elsewhere in the city centre.

The big day trip I was heading for was London, which I wrote about here.

Since I wrote this post, I visited the Lighthouse, which is excellent. A very fine building it certainly is, especially the view from the top. Here’s Mitchell Street from the Lighthouse.

Maps and memorials

I don’t normally post on Thursdays but decided to make an exception for today since it’s International Women’s Day. Rather than write an earnest diatribe about how women are great (which they are), I would like to share something I saw earlier on Twitter. It also fits in with something I wrote about in the Streets Govan Road post recently about the lack of statues of women in Glasgow, though today there is one more with the unveiling of the Mary Barbour statue in Govan, which seems to have been well-attended. Sadly I couldn’t make it though will get down to see it ASAP. The Glasgow Women’s Library, Women’s History Scotland and Girlguiding Scotland have joined forces and produced a website called Mapping Memorials to Women in Scotland featuring a map of memorials to women all across this land. It combines at least three of my favourite things: history, maps and facts.

Elder Park

I had a quick scout around it earlier and there are loads of different spots around. Nearest to my house is Elder Park, which I wrote about recently here, donated by Isabella Elder to the folk of Govan. Around where I grew up is the Witches’ Stone in the village of Spott near Dunbar which I have read about but not yet seen. Witches seem to recur a lot around the country, including the marker on Maxwellton Street in Paisley where witches were once burned. There is also a statue in Civic Square, Tranent, by where the Library used to be, which commemorates the Tranent Massacre in 1797, a protest against conscription.

Marjory Bruce cairn, Gallowhill, Paisley

I only had a few minutes so kept to those places I have a connection with, mostly East Lothian, the east of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Near where I went to primary school in Edinburgh is St. Triduana’s Chapel, part of St. Margaret’s Parish Church, Restalrig. I’ve still not been, though at some point I’ll manage it when in the capital. I used to work in Haddington and across the road from its library is the house where Jane Welsh Carlyle was born, the wife of Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle and a fine letter writer in her own right. In Renfrew, there is the monument to the air ambulance, which is by Tesco in Broadloan, and not far away in Gallowhill is the cairn with a plaque marking where Marjory Bruce died after falling from her horse. The plaque to Jane Rae, who was involved in the Singer rent strikes, which sits in the garden at Clydebank Town Hall, is also on the map.

I could easily spend hours looking at this. Now I’ve reached home, I’ve looked a bit more. I just wanted to share it. It was created in 2011 but I only saw it today. I’m glad I did. Go have a look.

Streets of Glasgow: West Regent Street

Having done a few of these walks, it has reached the point when I can sum them up in a couple of words. West Regent Street’s are ‘food smells’. Walking up to Blythswood Square, I got the distinct whiff of fish, maybe salmon, maybe a fishcake, but something fishy nevertheless and not altogether unpleasant, as it happens. At the end, near West Nile Street, it was charred meat, from the BBQ place on the corner, plus I could also smell curry from the street food place up the road.

I started this walk at the junction with Holland Street. To the right was the back of the Strathclyde Police Headquarters, which occupies a whole block. Some of the old police posters were still up outside, despite the various Scottish police forces having merged nearly five years ago. As I walked past, I imagined the cast of Taggart cutting about, DCI Burke, Jackie and Robbie solving the inevitable murderrr. Randomly, I had just walked past an office block called Madeline Smith House, which I recognised as being named after an alleged murderer of the 19th century. No Mean City, indeed. Even the street signs joined in the dramatic theme, in the manner of a soap opera saying that West Regent Street continued after Blythswood Square. Not much happened in between, I can assure you, except the fish smell.

At that end there are also a few hotels, including one of the Dakota chain. Whoever designs them is quite firmly of the ‘middle finger’ school of architecture, particularly those near the Forth Bridges and on the M8 at Eurocentral, though the West Regent Street branch is slightly less shite, though still black all over. Thankfully, the architecture got better including a building on the corner at Blythswood Square which looked like it would fit snugly into Edinburgh’s New Town. I don’t know Blythswood that well but it felt very much like the New Town, complete with the concentric grid pattern. The buildings were like that for much of the walk, eventually getting more typically Glaswegian in red sandstone by Hope Street and Renfield Street then just tall and glass-fronted towards West Nile Street. A notable exception was Sovereign House, belonging to the Keppie design partnership, which I gather was once the home to the Institute for the Adult Deaf and Dumb and the John Ross Memorial Church to the Deaf, with a lot of Gothic touches designed by Robert Duncan. I’m not always a fan of Gothic stylings though it managed to sort-of blend in with the rest of the street.

It was late on a Friday afternoon and so the street grew busier with commuters the closer I got into town, even while the end nearest Holland Street was rather quiet. I hadn’t quite realised before I moved here just how Glasgow city centre is built on a hill, particularly to the west, though thankfully West Regent Street is quite gradual, at least the way I did it, an incline then a decline, much like life, I suppose.

Source and further reading –

Williamson, Elizabeth, Riches, Anne and Higgs, Malcolm, The Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, 2005, New Haven, CT/London, Yale University Press

Since this post was written, plans have been announced to demolish a particularly dilapidated building at 141/143 West Regent Street to replace it with flats. I remember walking past the building in question thinking nothing more than it was a bit run down. There’s more about it in this report from the Evening Times.

This is the twenty third post in this Streets of Glasgow series on Walking Talking. There are plenty of others to check out, including three streets which cut across West Regent Street at some point, namely Streets of Glasgow: West Nile StreetStreets of Glasgow: Renfield Street and Streets of Glasgow: Hope Street. Last week’s post, undertaken about an hour before this walk, was Queen Margaret Drive.


Digest: February 2018

So, that’s February then. We are nearly into the spring, the nights are drawing out all the time and that’s always a good thing. I wrote most of this post, including the first couple of sentences, as the month went on rather than in a burst, as I normally do. Today, Wednesday 28th February 2018, sees a red weather warning across the Central Belt for snow and ice, which extends into tomorrow too. Presently it is extremely cold outside, well below freezing, and not much adventuring is happening at the moment. Or much of anything else really. Heed the warnings, keep warm, keep safe. So, it’s a good time to run through where I got to in February.

Saturday 3rd February saw me visit London. It nearly didn’t happen because I slept in but a new ticket later and I was on the way to Euston. I walked across to the British Museum and had a very decent couple of hours working my way around the crowds to see that place’s many fine artefacts. The rest of my day was spent walking, from Kensington to Marble Arch through Hyde Park and then along the Thames from St. Paul’s to Westminster. The journey home was complicated by trains not running out of Euston, necessitating a train from King’s Cross to Edinburgh then changing, which worked out well in the end when I eventually got home about midnight. I left London at 5.30. Despite that it was a very good day, free-form and nice just to rove. I wrote about it here.

The following Friday I headed into town to do a bit of shopping. I then undertook three Streets of Glasgow walks in the cold February sunshine, on Duke Street, Gallowgate and Trongate. I wore shorts for the whole affair too, which was part of the 30 Before 30 list. It wasn’t as cold as it is today, around four degrees, which was greatly beneficial for my legs and other nearby parts of my anatomy. I am relatively self-conscious about how I look though in the end I came to not care at all as I marched up Argyle Street in my shorts, the only one in sight. I liked these Streets walks particularly because they were in largely unfamiliar terrain, though my favourite was Duke Street due to the considerable variety in architecture, modern, Victorian and Greek classical.

Saturday 17th February Hibs played Aberdeen. I got to Edinburgh a bit early and took the scenic route to Easter Road, via Leith Walk and Easter Road. Hibs won comfortably.

The next day I spent around Glasgow with my dad. Being out before anywhere was open, we headed first for a walk by the Clyde through Glasgow Green. The Green was playing host to a running race organised by an LGBT charity. When it opened, we went to the People’s Palace, which had a good display about Mary Barbour and the rent strikes. Thereafter we headed to the Lighthouse, which I had never been to before and enjoyed immensely, except the shoogly staircase up to the tower. There was also an exhibition about timber buildings, which I liked. We also went to Kelvingrove and the Botanic Gardens.

Beyond that, the rest of the month I spent living quietly, working mostly, reading, writing and keeping warm. Wednesday 28th February I was due to go watch Hibs play Hamilton at Easter Road but the bad weather happened and the game got postponed. That’s why I had time to tidy up this post and get it out tonight rather than the planned post of views from the top of the Lighthouse. That appears on Friday.

This month I also launched a new blog, Easter Road West, which is about Hibs, going to the game and the general experience. I like having the variety. The ERW posts this month were Welcome!Eastern CemeteryAway daysThe tellyGetting beatWhen the game is mince and Thoughts on the weather and the national team. The one I particularly recommend to the Walking Talking readership is the one about the Eastern Cemetery, which sits behind Easter Road.

One of the posts here this month, 30 Before 30, was about a list I’ve come up with of 30 things I would like to do prior to my thirtieth birthday, in about 18 months time. In each digest, I will update on how many I’ve achieved. In February, I achieved 4, three of them on the same day.

I also have an article coming out next month in the next issue of Nutmeg, about being an autistic football fan. It’s out in the middle of next month.

That’s the February digest. In March, I will be on some more adventures, definitely for Hibs games. Thanks to all readers, commenters, followers, particularly for everyone who responded to the 400th post, the one in Scots. Have a nice month.

February posts –

Digest: January 2018

Streets of Glasgow: George Square

400: How Ah talk, written doon

30 Before 30

The London caper

Streets of Glasgow: Govan Road

Hamilton Mausoleum

Going underground

A day trip experience


Streets of Glasgow: Miller Street

Gazing across a map

Coming soon…

Robert Louis Stevenson

Streets of Glasgow: Queen Margaret Drive

Streets of Glasgow: Queen Margaret Drive

One of the few things I knew about Glasgow when I was a kid was that the BBC was based in Queen Margaret Drive. It isn’t any more, they moved about ten years ago to Pacific Quay by the Clyde, but I used to wonder, in my ignorance of the city’s topography, why the Beeb would be based so far out of the city centre. I now know that the West End is a vibrant, thriving sort of place with trendy restaurants and other nice places to be so the BBC folk wouldn’t have been hard done by. North Park House is now posh flats though on the side of the building, there are parts where the stonework is slightly lighter reflecting where the BBC lettering used to be. The Kibble Palace in the Botanics and North Park House made a nice photo, taken by the roundabout before I crossed the river.

I had been thinking of this walk for a while and it only became more pressing when I walked up Queen Margaret Drive towards Firhill when Hibs played there in December. This time I stopped on the bridge looking down the river slightly shimmery in the bright January sunshine. I wanted to have a look at some of the trendy shops on the next stretch of the street, tickled variously by the Londis boasting that it stocked Irish Craft Beers, a couple of the shops declaring themselves part of the Dear Green Coffee Roasters initiative, the barbers called Kelvin Hair and the undoubted quirkiness scale winner, Opal Moon, which looked like it was absolutely rammed full of stuff. There were also the inevitable witty signs advertising some of these businesses.

Further up, I looked over to see a barren stretch of ground, fenced in by railings which had a Christian cross on them, perhaps a hint as to what once stood there, possibly a candidate for the Stalled Spaces scheme. I was also intrigued by the Belhaven Nursery School up the road, a reminder for this Dunbar exile that you can never escape where you come from. Queen Margaret Drive until Maryhill Road and Bilsland Drive gets quite urban and residential at this point, with playing fields and mounds with trees to the right, also getting steadily higher as I walked. It was also busy with cars and people going from school and work, the families eagerly chattering about their day as they headed homewards.

I like these kinds of walks because they take in different sides of Glasgow, in Queen Margaret Drive’s case from the classic, trendy West End to the redder sandstone, rougher and readier Maryhill, very varied but no less interesting as I go along, another street down as I continue to seek to understand and explore this great city I call home.

This is the twenty second post from the Streets of Glasgow series here on Walking Talking. If you’ve enjoyed reading this one, there’s plenty more, including last week’s instalment, Miller Street. Near Queen Margaret Drive is Byres Road, which I wrote about last year.

I also write a blog called Easter Road West, which is about football and Hibs in particular. Yesterday’s post was about how I occupy myself if the football is mince.

Coming soon…

Sometimes this blogging lark can be a bit of a blur. I am a fairly prolific writer though at the moment my writing is divided between two blogs, other projects and stories. I have been writing more for Easter Road West lately, my blog about Hibs, though Walking Talking has become a wee bit more disciplined with posts scheduled in advance and a Streets of Glasgow post ready to go each Sunday until Easter. The post I planned to put here tonight was about Ordnance Survey maps but I was reading it over and I decided to ditch it. Sorry. Instead I’m just going to blether a bit about what’s coming next.

At the moment, I’ve undertaken 27 Streets of Glasgow walks, of which 22 have been posted here so far. In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting the rest, one each Sunday. In order, they will be Queen Margaret Drive, Mitchell Street, Duke Street, Gallowgate and Trongate. I don’t have any others planned in the near future though I have some notions percolating around my brain.

Streets was conceived to try and understand my adopted home better. I have thought about branching out and writing about Edinburgh, a city I know well, or even doing one street in each of Scotland’s seven cities, seven of course being the most magical number. Dundee’s was going to be Commercial Street, incidentally, Edinburgh possibly Constitution Street, down in Leith. The problem is that while that would be fun, Streets is about Glasgow and figuring it out. I can do a derive in Edinburgh any old time and I did just that the other day.

Having undertaken 27 Streets walks, I don’t have any great insights about Glasgow. Peter McDougall said that Glasgow is not a geographic site, it’s a state of mind and I broadly agree with that. There are many different Glasgows, just as there are several different Edinburghs. There is the PR version, the one of the city skyline, a cone on top of a statue and the pure dead brilliant-ness. There is the Glasgow which is rough with immense poverty and considerable differences in life expectancy from one end of a street to another. The city’s slogan is ‘People Make Glasgow’ and it’s true, the side that makes the tourist brochures and that which really doesn’t.

What has worked with Streets has been spending more time exploring the city, looking up, looking down and writing about it. I like writing the pieces and I have a well-honed routine. Not long after I finish the walk, I scribble some notes about it. Sometimes I’ve thought about the piece along the way, particularly on the longer walks, but normally not. I usually come home and that night I write up the piece, which usually comes through reading back my notes and looking at my many photographs taken along the way.

Anyway, enough of me. Here are some photos of the walks that will appear here soon, beginning with Queen Margaret Drive.

The Kelvin, from Queen Margaret Drive
The Kelvin, from Queen Margaret Drive
West Regent Street
Mitchell Street
Duke Street

Streets of Glasgow: Miller Street

This was an utterly spur-of-the-moment walk, a true derive in the psychogeographical tradition as I was walking up Argyle Street and decided to turn left. It was busy with folk using it as a shortcut to cross the city centre or to go to the various shops, offices and restaurants along its short length. The sole reason I knew Miller Street existed was because I knew it used to house Stirling’s Library, one of Glasgow’s other libraries, which is now known as the Library at GOMA, in the basement of the Gallery of Modern Art. The library had been founded in 1791 after a bequest from Walter Stirling, merchant, and was housed in his own home before eventually joining the city library system in 1912 and moving nearby to premises which used to be the Mitchell Library, now of course in North Street in Anderston. It’s a library thing, basically.

Miller Street was a blend of elegant mercantile buildings and street art for me. Of the former, my favourite was the Tobacco Merchant’s House, which was originally designed by the architect John Craig for himself in 1775 and much like many of the houses the Tobacco Lords built for themselves in the Merchant City. Pleasingly it is now the headquarters of the Scottish Civic Trust and the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust. We have the Scottish Civic Trust to thank for Doors Open Days here in Scotland. The street art couldn’t have been more different, a Banksy-type mural of a guy in a shellsuit with a Scottie dug on a lead. Nearer Argyle Street was a barbers called Safe Hands. On the side was the rather cheering tableau of a skull with a pair of scissors lodged in it. Might give them a bye myself.

Before I reached the end of the street, I had to stop and look at a sandwich shop called ‘Piece’, which is what many Scots call a sandwich, though they don’t necessarily refer to shops that sell them as ‘Gourmet Sandwichmongers’. At this point, I thought, as I often do on these walks, of an Edwin Morgan poem, this time ‘The Second Life’, with the noises of planes flying overhead. I came to the junction with Ingram Street and the walk came to an end, a splendid diversion with good architecture, art and reminders of the dangers of getting your hair cut.

Sources and further reading –

The Glasgow Story, ‘Stirling’s Library’, available at

Architecture Glasgow, ‘The Tobacco Merchant’s House’, available at

Before I go, I have a recommendation to make. Manchester is one of my favourite English cities, a place I hope to get back to ere long. The Wednesday’s Child blog features a very nice post about walking along Oxford Road in Manchester. Go read it, it’s excellent.

Streets of Glasgow: Govan Road

In my bit of the city, the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital dominates the landscape. A perk of living nearby is that it is possible to get a bus to just about anywhere in Glasgow or parts west from outside the main entrance of the hospital. Less nice is the constant reek from the treatment works next door. If the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, it can be absolutely rank. Govan Road starts right outside the hospital. To the left of Hospital Boulevard (seriously) is Renfrew Road, to the right Govan Road. The council has put a sign to that effect at the junction, making it easier for me to start this particular walk. I had been thinking about this one for ages – indeed it partly inspired this project as every time I got a bus from the QEUH into town, I spent the whole journey looking out the window at the buildings and the city skyline. As I started, I passed a guy in a hi-vis jacket minding a microphone, perhaps from the telly or radio. The houses to the right were interesting, grey, drab cottages though with interesting lintels above the doors of each with carvings, perhaps classically inspired.

I was struck walking on by a petrol station which had been plonked right in the middle of a row of tenements. Glasgow is a city of gaps, a place where five or six architectural styles can exist on a single block, let alone a street. Govan Road has modern flats, archetypal Glaswegian tenements, outlandish, grand civic buildings and traces of past and present industries. I was disappointed, though, walking near the Clyde Tunnel that one of my favourite elaborate shop signs, which used to be a seashell effect, has been covered over by a generic supermarket sign. Nearby was an old sign carved into the building which said that this was Old Renfrew Road. Not any more it ain’t. I soon came to Elder Park, which I wrote about here recently, and paid particular attention to the gate posts which faced onto Govan Road, which were very fine. I also spent a couple of minutes admiring the Fairfields offices, now a heritage centre, with its fine statues and carvings, as well as an interesting sculpture called the Govan Milestone with two birds sat on what looked like cow horns but were probably meant to be arms, to signify strength and collective will.

When I first moved to Glasgow, just shy of five years ago, I volunteered the odd Sunday afternoon at the Govan Stones, a collection of hogbank gravestones held in Govan Old Church. It was one way to get to know the city a bit better, plus to do something interesting and historical, meeting folk along the way. Govan Old is set back a little from the road but it was nice to see the place again. I hadn’t before appreciated just how fine the Pearce Institute is, with a magnificent doorway on the side of the building with a coat of arms above and two jugs to the side. The motto below said: ‘Quit You Like Me’. The Pearce Institute is a very handsome building, designed by Robert Rowand Anderson and opened in 1906, donated by Lady Dinah Pearce, wife of Sir William Pearce, shipbuilder and MP for the area. Lady Pearce donated the funds to build the PI, which still exists as an important centre of the Govan community. There is a statue of Sir William across the street and in true Victorian style it goes into some detail about his achievements in suitably florid prose. Some nice soul has put a small card on the statue about Lady Pearce, which is a small tribute, far less than she probably deserves. There are three statues of women in Glasgow, of which only one depicts a Glaswegian, Isabella Elder, which is in Elder Park. There will be one at Govan Cross later this year of Mary Barbour, involved in the rent strikes in Govan in 1915. We need more statues of the women who helped to make this city great, Dinah Pearce and Mary Barbour being but two of them. For more on this, read Anabel Marsh’s post on this very topic. Edinburgh is worse with more statues of dogs than women. Rant over. The Pearce Institute is an amazing looking building. It is also the very first place on these walks where I got quizzical looks as I buzzed around taking photos on my phone.

Govan Cross was busy as I walked through that Friday lunchtime. Even though there were quite a few folk dotting around, I got the distinct sense that it would have been much busier when all the yards and factories were open. I walked past a slightly dilapidated bingo hall, which had mesh over the front showing what it looked like before, with a sign beside it declaring it to be the Lyceum, the Palace of Varieties. That was a particular joy, being able to imagine the scenes there of an evening. The remains of the shipbuilding were particularly interesting, being able to see the dry docks nearer the Science Centre and also the boarded up offices nearer Fairfields.

Beyond Govan Cross, I was glad to stop and look at some of the fine civic buildings along the way. Not far from the Subway was the TSB, which had a queue of folk waiting for the cash machine, and I looked up at the Royal coat of arms above the doors and the smart tower at the top. I think I’ve written here before about the Stalled Spaces programme, using barren ground for gardens and art installations. There was another one not far from the TSB, including a very cool set of planters made to look like a ship, complete with two painted chimneys. Just up the road were the Press Buildings, now a convenience store, which had images of Guttenberg, Walter Scott, Burns and Caxton, one of the early printers, as well as its owners, the Cossars. These housed the offices of the Govan Press including the print works. Across the way there was a very fine view towards Pacific Quay and the Glasgow Tower in particular. I soon came to Govan Town Hall, now housing film studios, which is a stunning building, with lots of cupolas, towers and carvings in red sandstone.

To a lot of Scots who live outside Glasgow, our city is a blur of stereotypes, football, crime and accents. One positive memory that some have is of the Garden Festival, which took place in 1988 in Festival Park, which I soon passed. I of course don’t remember the Garden Festival, not being born yet. The Festival Park looks nice, with the Tower again poking above the trees. This bit of the walk blurred into industrial premises and modern office blocks, soon passing the offices of STV. Disappointingly, I didn’t run into John MacKay or Raman to remind them that there are more than two football teams in Glasgow, let alone the rest of the country.

I soon came to Paisley Road Toll, the point where Govan Road joins Paisley Road at the Grand Ole Opry. There is what is popularly known as the Kinning Park Angel or more properly Commerce and Industry, which sits atop the building on the corner, now home to an Italian restaurant but used to be a department store. It was a fitting end to a great walk, a great array of contrasts between the old and the new of the city, bustling city streets and empty residential ones. Much of the walk was in Govan itself, a place which only became part of Glasgow in 1913 and the distinct character of Govan was really obvious on this one, even from the names of some of the businesses I passed along the way, not to mention the incredible architecture, a walk to savour and maybe repeat one day along the line.

Sources and further reading –

‘Eye Spy Glasgow: The angel in the sky at Kinning Park’, from Evening Times, 26th September 2014, available at

‘The Glasgow Garden Festival: A true legacy or a glorious failure?’ from The Scotsman, 3rd December 2016, available at

‘The Govan Press’, from Acumfaegovan, available at

‘Govan Town Hall’, Clyde Waterfront, available at’s-dock/govan-town-hall

Pearce Institute Conservation Plan 2009, available at

‘Sunday Guest Post Series: Hidden Histories’, Retirement Reflections, available at

Incidentally, my other blog, Easter Road West, features a new post about football away days. Completely different from this but hopefully still interesting.

Streets of Glasgow: George Square

When I used to visit Glasgow on day trips from Dunbar, I invariably came through Queen Street Station. My first sight of the city was invariably George Square and the City Chambers and it never stopped being exciting. Even now, walking around George Square this time, I still felt something, the pride of an adopted Weegie, I suppose. I was there as the sun went down one cold January afternoon and the place was busy with people, tourists, commuters, City Council staff done for the day, delivery people sitting on the statues waiting for their next call. I ignored the statues and just looked around at the buildings, particularly at the City Chambers. It is a fine building from a distance but stunning up close, stood at its base looking up. I looked at the measures bolted to the wall and noticed another etched onto the pavement nearby marking out 100 links. These were useful once when tradespeople might have been tempted to be inconsistent in their measures and officialdom had to intervene.

Not for the first time, I walked around George Square thinking of Edwin Morgan’s poem ‘The Starlings of George Square’, slightly nonsensical with the cables to Cairo getting fankled, asking of the boats to Milngavie and the Lord Provost licking an audible stamp. Now, the nearest Post Office is on West Nile Street and the Tourist Information Centre is in the basement of the Gallery of Modern Art, though the Lord Provost, Eva Bolander, still works from the City Chambers. All the rest are offices and restaurants. Even Queen Street Station is changing, currently under scaffolding as it gets enlarged and all snazzy and modern. At least the tarmac isn’t red any more.

I don’t get to George Square as much as I used to. Coming into Queen Street Station isn’t as exciting as it used to be. I’m usually heading home from somewhere. If I’m in George Square, I usually like to stop, one of many in a crowd, strangely not so claustrophobic in one of the most open places in the city centre. I think of Edwin Morgan, normally, I marvel at the City Chambers and I watch the people go by. It sums up Glasgow to me, art, crowds and architecture, and it’s a good place to enjoy all three, ideally served with something from Greggs for lunch.