Renfrew Street comes with a back story. I had planned to do this street about two years ago. I walked its length on the way home from an exam and decided that I would go back and tick it off the list for Streets of Glasgow. One week later there was a big fire which decimated the Glasgow School of Art and spread to the ABC on Sauchiehall Street. The stretch between Scott Street and Hill Street, which houses the GSA, is still closed off with scaffolding and construction workers everywhere. On a sunny summer’s day I decided to see how it was going. I came across the M8 and saw a cool bit of street art all about love. It is all we need, after all. There were some ghost signs including one for FW Woolworth and Co. Ltd. Some other art stated ‘Lest We Forget’ with a silhouette of a soldier. Renfrew Street was closed off near the GSA, as I mentioned, so I diverted and soon returned as it left Garnethill and became much more of a city centre back street. The Pavilion Theatre had posters about how laughter and pantomime will return soon and it may have done by the time this is posted as restrictions change. The big Cineworld was open, a Test and Protect poster at the door in a sign of the times, and I looked back up the familiar, long, straight street, in the midst of the busy city centre but shaded by the high buildings. Long city streets are my favourite kind.
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.
It was hot and sunny in the big city and I was there for lunch and to see a brand new mural. I had already seen it from the train but wanted to see it up close so off I went through the business district, quiet a lot of the time right now but particularly on a public holiday, to Washington Street. I recognised the hotel but hadn’t noticed the old school house nor the business units next door. The latter had the look of the main stand at Ibrox, all imposing in red brick, and I could hear folk talking and generic bass-heavy noise from somewhere. I could see the river and I knew walking along that what I was looking for was on the right. Once I noticed it, I walked to the end of the street anyway before turning back to see what I had come to see, a mural put there by Adidas in honour of the Scotland men’s team qualifying for the Euros. It’s coming hame, all right. Since I don’t do well with the heat, hame felt like a great place to be heading rather than further into the city. I settled for the Broomielaw, making the most of high buildings and the shade they offered.
Thanks for reading. This is the eighty ninth Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets featured here include Argyle Street and Waterloo Street. The Broomielaw featured in Intercity as well. All parts of the Streets series can be found on its very own page.
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.
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.
For about three years I’ve been doing a series called Streets of Glasgow, which involves a psychogeographic walk along a street in the city I call home. 81 streets have featured so far and they tend to be popular posts, which is cool. My process is generally to walk along the street, paying close attention to what interests me, what I hear, see, smell, taking pictures along the way. Sometimes I do research, sometimes not. I have done many of the walks on the spur of the moment, which I prefer, really, with the longer walks invariably involving planning. Some of the streets have changed since I wrote the post about it – Cathedral Street, for example, which has seen extensive redevelopment with new college and university buildings having sprung up. Businesses have closed and opened, plus of course there’s been a global pandemic with all that has entailed. I’m hoping to do more Streets walks when the current restrictions change, hopefully in the spring. I have done walks in all seasons though spring is the best season to walk in, as there is more light and trees and flowers coming into bloom.
The longest walks have generally been my favourites, though I particularly liked Govan Road and Miller Street, which I did on the same day, if memory serves. Cumberland Street was another highlight, due to the statues. Any street with statues or art tends to be a winner, like Mitchell Street early one morning to kill time before a train. Alexandra Parade was an interesting one too. Some of the walks have taken me into unfamiliar territory, particularly in the East End like Alexandra Parade, London Road and Duke Street, which are varied in all sorts of ways.
Every so often I make a list of streets I’ve still to do and they are spread right across the city, usually the longer roads that lead out, like Edinburgh Road, Dumbarton Road and Maryhill Road. A lot of us have become more aware of our local authority boundaries lately though in planning a long walk I usually have to find where some of those roads cross a boundary into another council area, since this is a Glasgow series after all. Great Western Road continues into West Dunbartonshire and then up the A82 right up to Inverness. I started the Paisley Road West walk right by the boundary with Renfrewshire, which cuts across the road diagonally. Google Street View is useful, as is figuring out how to get to or from wherever the boundary is.
In doing some of the walks this past summer, I often thought about how Covid and the Black Lives Matter movement have changed how our streets are, the perception of their past and the reality of the present. Glasgow is a city with a complicated past and exploring it in the present necessitates dealing with that past in some way. I often bring an outsider’s perspective, having grown up in the east of Scotland, which means usually I learn something new, either on the walk or after when I do some more reading.
I never stop learning about Glasgow. I still go to new places, most recently the Aldi car park which sits above the shop and Paisley Road West, and that’s pretty decent. I’ve lived in Glasgow for nearly eight years and walking its streets helps me figure it out, though I reckon I’m a long way from completing that particular process.
Incidentally, a full list of the Street of Glasgow walks, all 81 of them, can be found on the Streets of Glasgow page. Please also feel free to share any suggestions for when it is possible to do some more.
Langside Avenue was the second Streets of Glasgow walk of the afternoon, soon after a wee sojourn to see the Andrew Watson and Pele murals in Shawlands. It leads from Shawlands to Battlefield, hugging the edge of Queen’s Park. As a result it is particularly leafy, and popular as I seemed to spend much of this walk keeping right by the road to let other folk pass. Despite knowing the area quite well, I hadn’t really looked up close at Langside Halls before and it’s a handsome building with pillars, ornate sculptures and a coat of arms over the central part. The junction has been smartened up with new steps and seats as well as the perennial taxi rank. The Shed and the Corona were shut though the Corona, run by the Butterfly and the Pig people last time I was there, may open as part of Tier 3 as one of those pubs not actually selling drink. The park was looking particularly autumnal with leaves covering the grass. Runners regularly passed me, enjoying the pleasant October afternoon. A particularly fine tenement building curved on a corner and its bottom rose as the road rose towards the Church on the Hill, also shut though adorned with an Oor Wullie sculpture from last year’s trail, and the Battlefield Monument, where Langside Avenue concluded. I came back that way a little way later just to make sure I got the customary street sign picture, though this time it was quieter, helped no doubt by the rain shower in between. The forecast said it would be nice all day but of course that’s Glasgow.
Thank you for reading. This is the eighty first Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets featured here include Battlefield Road, Sinclair Drive and Minard Road, which was here last week.
This walk was undertaken in October 2020 before Glasgow entered Level 4 restrictions.
I wrote in the notes for this one that Candleriggs was ‘interesting but not much to write about’. Candleriggs is one of my favourite Glasgow street names – uniquely Glasgow – possibly linked to a local trade like Shuttle Street. It has a few bars and restaurants and it was busy not not mobbed, folk out for meals or to the pub that Friday teatime. The Ramshorn Theatre dominated the skyline as I started from Ingram Street, looking around to the City Halls and the Scottish Music Centre – still closed – with the word ‘Everyone’ written on an office window opposite without further comment. A plaque to the memory of John Maclean stood outside the City Halls and on the pavement were reminders, like on nearby Hutcheson Street, of the trades of the city over time. The buildings were a mix of old and relatively new, a white building between two tall red ones at one point. Beyond the junction were lots of posters, versions of classic paintings with face masks, posters of upcoming events hopefully still upcoming, lyrics from Oasis songs, Billy Connolly in the 1970 and photographs of people hugging trees with the caption ‘Missing hugs’. I wrote about physical intimacy in the Saturday Saunter recently – there will be a lot of people feeling like that right now. When I reached Argyle Street, I looked back and Candleriggs is handsome, a hotchpotch of old and new, certainly, but strangely enough it works.
Shuttle Street was picked because of its name. It’s between the Merchant City and Strathclyde University; indeed Strathclyde has buildings along most of its length. I wondered if it was like Shuttle Street in Paisley, which is named like Silk Street and Gauze Street there for the textile mills that once dominated. People could be forgiven for thinking the Glaswegian version was named after the space shuttle, with the space and science murals nearby on George Street. I passed the Greyfriars Garden, a stalled space with poetic words on a fence, and faced a grand university building that looked like it would be at home by the Albert Dock in Liverpool. A carpet hung out of the window as I turned my head to a gap to Albion Street and the old Herald building. Soon I came to Ingram Street, a neon-fronted Italian restaurant on the corner, and it was the end of another street, one I had seen but didn’t know the name of until a chance glance at a map.
In recent weeks, I’ve covered two of the streets in the Strathclyde University campus, Rottenrow and Montrose Street, and what they have in common is that construction work continues apace. Most of North Portland Street is closed off for that reason, colourful hoardings declaring Strathclyde to be ‘the place of useful learning’. What I learned pretty swiftly was to stand back to get a photo down the street towards the hills without getting a fence in the road. A new university building was nearly done, one of the sharp-angled, pointy, glass school of architecture. I passed students as I descended, one saying they had only walked in the adjacent Rottenrow Gardens the previous day. Thankfully North Portland Street is less steep than Montrose Street. A poster extolling the virtues of electric vehicles had been graffitied over though I could still clearly see the murals across the street, a skateboarder, a girl walking towards George Street, some weird acrobats and students in a lecture hall with a staring guy in blue that I couldn’t unsee. I also couldn’t unsmell the distinct scent of urine nearer George Street, all part of life’s rich tapestry as North Portland Street undoubtedly is, just with new pointy buildings and the street art which adorns their neighbours.