The Story of a House, part 10

This is the lane that runs down the side of our house. It’s called Sandringham Lane and we’re going to take a walk down there today and have a look. See that bricked up doorway? That marks 6½ Sandringham Lane. It was blocked off during the time of the great repairs, but when I was a child there was a door there, a green door leading to something we knew as the paint store. I haven’t mentioned it before because this back corner of the building didn’t belong to the rest of the house, couldn’t be accessed from our basement, or from the adjoining wash-house. Through the years it was owned by – or rented to – various small businesses as a storage space for goods or materials.

The first of these, who I think owned it from 1874, were Fairley and Reid, who were joiners, wrights and builders, and probably heavily involved in all the new building development work that was going on at the time. They were just the first in a succession of tradesmen who found it a convenient spot to use as a base. Here are just a few of them: 1883-93 John P Scott, slater and plasterer / 1896-98 John Logan, gardener / 1900-01 James Wilson, painter and decorator /1904-06 Charles McGrory, cooper / 1914 James McAlpine, plumber and gasfitter. There was even, in 1902-03, a manufacturers of baskets, hampers, cane and wicker furniture, toys and mail carts. I don’t imagine that S Fredericks & Co would have done any manufacturing in that small cellar, but they obviously needed a storage space for a year or so. And so on through the years.

mail cart
Perhaps Fredericks & Co made mail carts like this. This postie is trundling his letters along the front at Greenock, on the Clyde coast. A rather pleasant ‘posting’ I would have thought. Sorry, couldn’t resist that dreadful pun!

By the time the MacFarlanes (us) took possession of the house in 1963, the store must once again have been owned by a painter/decorator – hence our name for it. I can’t actually remember being aware of anyone using the paint store, but I think it might have been broken into a couple of times. Or that might have been after I’d left home… I should have paid more attention! Suffice to say it was just there, an unremarkable feature of the building that we felt had nothing to do with us.

Until the whole edifice started needing major repairs in the 1980’s, as we’ve already seen (parts 7 and 8). As Mum watched her beloved Victorian house stripped bare, I think more than ever she began to see the building as a whole. You can perhaps get an inkling how she was thinking from this sketch she made around that time…

mum's sketch
We called the little (tiny!) room opposite the stairs the paint room because my Dad used it to store all his tools and DIY materials, in essence his shed! It was this room that was later converted into a shower room. The “paint store” is adjacent.

In the mid 80’s, with yet another round of renovation work looming,  it occurred to Mum to inquire about who actually owned the paint store and the wash-house. This resulted in her taking possession of number 6½ Sandringham Lane in September 1989, having purchased it from one James Duffin for the sum of £850. As to the wash-house, it turned out ownership was divided equally between herself and the various owners of the flats at number 10 – eight shares in all. So she set about asking, through her solicitor, whether the owners would sign over their shares to her, if she agreed to pay the legal bills. There was a certain degree of urgency about all this as Mum had a plan, as we can see from a letter written to the Council by the neighbour in the first floor flat, Sheila Morrison.

This is to verify that I approve the plans of Mrs MacFarlane to put a door from her basement into the now derelict wash-house and store space in the common close. This will enable the area to be aired and kept damp free and will benefit the building. Sheila Morrison. 12 December 1990.

Most of the others agreed with these sentiments and it wasn’t long before Mum had secured ownership of most of the space, together with Planning Permission from the Council for use of washhouse/store as extension to maindoor flat and external alterations, just in time to have incorporated the changes in the major works which were due to commence in 1991. The ‘external alterations’ would have meant restoring the windows at the back, which had been bricked up years before.

site of doors

However, the Planning Permission was dependent upon having approval from all the co-owners and by the time the works were under way Mum only owned a five eighth share of the wash-house and didn’t have full permission from the others who for various reasons had not agreed to the proposals in time. So the work went ahead without incorporating her plan and the quest to gain full ownership of the wash-house space became a bit of a saga. It took well over a decade for Mum to finally gain her goal. She never gave up the idea though and renewed the Planning Permission twice in the intervening years.

The above-mentioned Sheila Morrison seems to have been Mum’s primary supporter, or should I say partner in crime, in the matter of the wash-house and indeed it was this Sheila who had originally initiated the moves to have the back green reinstated. I rather think she might also have been active in the campaign to save the Botanic Gardens Garage. You may remember the Garage had been under threat due to the development plans of Arnold Clark Motors. This campaign also turned into another saga which finally succeeded in its goal in 2007 when the Botanic Gardens Garage was designated a Category A Listed Building. 

From the point of view of Mum and Sheila, the main objection to the development plans had been proposals to make use of Sandringham Lane for access to the back of the garage. Indeed there was always some kind of running battle going on regarding the lane and its use or abuse. In 2007, the new owner of the premises across the lane at number 6, a cafe called Naked Soup, also joined battle and, together with the residents, successfully saw off all attempts at development of the lane.

Naked Soup typifies many of the new enterprises when were starting to spring up in and around Byres Road during the 80’s and 90’s, so that by the millennium the area was taking on a much more cosmopolitan outlook. Over the years, most of the old fashioned grocers, butchers and fishmongers had disappeared, to be replaced by supermarkets, cafes and a whole range of stores from charity shops to fashionable niche boutiques. Even that stalwart of the high street, Woolworth’s, where we used to go to spend our “Saturday penny” disappeared in 2008, and the City Bakeries where I had a Saturday job as a teenager was eventually replaced by Gregg’s.

woolworths byres road
Woolworths, Byres Road, 1984. Note the DER Store next door, also a blast from the past – you don’t see any Television Rental shops around any more, do you?

naked soup cafe

Naked Soup opened at 6 Kersland Street in 2007, just about coinciding with the end of the era when the house was earning its keep as a theatrical digs. It’s under new ownership now, but the original young men who ran this popular takeaway and cafe were very kind to my Mum and would pop across the lane to make sure she was okay and sometimes drop in any delicious sandwiches which were left over from lunchtime. Mum was 86 when she waved goodbye to her final guest in June of 2009. She marked the day by writing this rather sweet note on the flyleaf of her Visitor’s Book:

mum's note

david

By that time, my nephew David had become a permanent fixture in the basement… We would eat fish and chips and watch the snooker. She was always wandering about the house singing. In the later years she slept on her chair a lot. I’d sneak in and she’d wake up pretending she’d been awake the whole time. I never called her out on it. Whenever she wanted a cup of tea it became almost a creative challenge to her to describe the smallest receptacle possible so not to be considered an inconvenience in any way. She settled on ‘a thimble full’. I described her as my flatmate to anyone who knew me. I thought it was cool, some people maybe saw me as a 28 year old living in his grans basement. Wouldn’t change a minute of it…

mum at 90
Mum at 90.

In those latter years Mum’s forgetfulness became more and more marked and one day in 2013, she walked out of the house and forgot her way home. She never again returned to the dwelling she’d lived in for 50 long years and from then on when she talked to us about ‘home’ she meant her childhood home of Davros in County Mayo. She passed away peacefully in 2015 at the grand old age of 92.

So we, her six daughters, sold 8 Kersland Street, our childhood home. We had one last ‘saying goodbye to the house’ party, and I like to think that in turn the house said goodbye to us. But a house never really belongs to you, does it? You belong to it, whether it is for a short while or a long one, but in the end you move on to somewhere else, taking your memories with you.

name plate

I suppose in some ways things haven’t changed all that much in the 166 years since the house was built – most of the streets and buildings would have a familiar feel to anyone who’d lived there and came back for a visit. But change happens nonetheless and even a short stroll around the block would serve to illustrate how things have moved on. The West End of today shows a new, more open and creative face to the world than I could ever have imagined when I was a child…

Oran-Mor-Glasgow-by-White-Tree-Photography-005(pp_w768_h512)
Kelvinside Parish Church, at the top of Byres Road, had fallen into disuse and had lain empty and derelict for four years before it was bought in 2002, restored and converted into an arts and entertainment venue called Oran Mor (literally “Big Song”).

From Oran Mor, we can look across the road to the gates of the Botanic Gardens, beloved of children – and grown ups – for generations. Today you can do so much more than take a stroll in the fresh air. For example, in July it becomes an important hub for the West End Festival, an annual celebration of culture and the arts which grew from its humble beginnings in 1996 to become the biggest street festival in Glasgow, with events happening in dozens of venues all over the West End. And it’s not just July. There’s plenty on to catch the eye or tickle the imagination all year round. Here’s just a taste…

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We’re not going in to the Botanic Gardens today though. Let’s continue on past Oran Mor, down Byres Road and round the corner into Vinicombe Street, where we come to the two iconic – now listed – buildings facing each other on either side; the Salon Cinema and the Botanic Gardens Garage. As you can see from this picture from 2015, there’s a much more relaxed feeling in the street than in the days when it was dominated by the constant movement of cars in and out of Arnold Clark’s garage. With the end of the road now closed off, cafe culture is thriving – the sunny side of the street is already busy and once the sun has moved round, the Hillhead Bookstore Restaurant, which took over the old Salon Cinema building, will soon start to fill up. The Botanic Gardens Garage Building, a little further up on the other side will shortly start undergoing renovations.

vinicombe street

8 Kersland Street is home to another family now. Another family who can pop in to Naked Soup for lunch, or take a stroll in the Botanic Gardens, or a bus into town from the stop around the corner; just as we did; just as all those that lived there before us did. Perhaps one day someone might blow the dust off that old planning application and fulfill Mum’s dream of extending the basement. Be that as it may, the house has seen many residents come and go through many decades. It has survived two world wars, rising damp, subsidence, and the ever-shifting political and economic climate. In 2073 it will reach it’s 200th birthday and I’d like to think it’ll still be going strong then.

no 8

 

 

 

 

 

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The Story of a House, part 9

The repairs to 8 Kersland Street had involved stripping everything back to the bare bones, so it took a while before the interior was restored and redecorated so that it felt like a home again instead of somewhere you just camped out while you waited for the storm to pass. Sadly, Dad’s painstaking work on the lounge cornicing didn’t survive and was one of many features needing the attention of a plasterer. But there could be no regrets, no looking back. Central heating was installed, a new shower room downstairs, a new cooker in the kitchen. Some of us (not me I’m afraid) helped out with the decorating, and in particular, my sister Mary’s flair for interior design did much to give the house a fresh new face.

I’m not sure where the idea came from, but after she retired (ridiculous notion!) Mum hit upon the idea of becoming a theatrical landlady. She’d already been quite used to having waifs and strays stay in the house for varying lengths of time (yes, even in the throes of the repair work!). Sometimes it would be one of us needing a place to stay while our lives were in transition in one way or another, or just coming home for a visit, families in tow. Sometimes a friend, or a friend of a friend needed a bed for a night or three. There was plenty of room and Mum just took it for granted that we’d come and stay in the old family home when we were in Glasgow.

visitors book

Anyway, she signed up with the accommodation registers of the BBC, STV and various Glasgow theatres, bought the Visitors Book you can see above, and in 1994 launched herself and the house on a new career. The next 14 years saw a succession of musicians, artists and actors who came from all over the UK, and indeed the world, to perform in Glasgow. They would enter their names and where they came from in the Visitors Book, and often add a comment or two or a note about what had brought them to Glasgow, from cast members of Evita at the King’s Theatre to artists from Slovenia stopping off for the Glasgow stage of their European tour – next stop Berlin!

As you flick through close on 70 pages of visitors, you quickly see that many of Mum’s guests came back time and time again. When you look at the comments you start to understand that it wasn’t just because of the house’s proximity to the BBC studios at Queen Margaret Drive (literally 5 minutes away) or the short trip into town to reach the King’s or the Theatre Royal.

‘Thanks for the fry-ups, I’ll be back! A welcome return, lovely warm room – many long discussions over cups of tea. Such a wonderful refuge and warm welcome. Many thanks as always for tolerating my quirks and seeming inability to use a wardrobe! Thank you so much, I felt so at home. Hope to return, would not dream of staying anywhere else. Fantastic poached eggs and even better conversation. Ellen it’s a pleasure to meet you, I’m so glad you enjoyed the show and that I have got myself a granny…

As you can see, Mum didn’t just give them bed and breakfast and send them on their way; she had the knack of making them feel at home simply by being genuinely interested in them, in their lives. With her great love of culture, she was in her element  interacting with artistic people and would often attend the shows or concerts where they were performing, especially if they could wangle a complementary ticket for her! I’m sure the catering side of things was no bother to her, having been used to running a household of eight, and I know from the many favourable comments that the guests appreciated very much the good, simple home-made fare, poached eggs a speciality! Conveniently, a small laundrette had opened in the premises on the other side of the lane, so the laundry was a breeze as she could just pop a bag of sheet and pillowcases in for a service wash and pick it up later in the day, all ready for the next visitor.

Intrigued by the entries in the book, daughters, grandchildren and partners started writing comments too when they came to stay or even just have tea with her, “Not so much a daughter as a visitor now”; “It’s like coming home!”; “Just wanted to sign the book, love you Granny.” “Thank you for tea and biscuits.” “I only come for the rich tea biscuits.” We all signed the book when we got together for a party to celebrate her 80th birthday in 2003. Grace wrote “Happy Birthday, Mum. Here’s to radiant days.” and Ann: “The Trossachs, a party, all in one day – what stamina! Love and kisses”. I remember we were all most amused when we weren’t allowed to put up any cards or banners with “80” on them as she didn’t want the guests to know how old she was!

Mum’s Hynes relatives from Ireland also signed when they came to stay and we see regular visits from Rita and Bobby Aird who’d gone to live in Inverness years before after being neighbours round the corner in Vinicombe Street. Mum used to go and stay with them sometimes in Inverness. They had a strong bond.

Those were busy years for the house, always someone coming or going, bringing news from the world, updating their story from the last visit, adding colour and vibrancy and companionship; keeping Mum occupied with the bookings, the shopping, the room preparation. She embraced all comers, and one by one they fell under her spell and felt that 8 Kersland Street was a home from home and not just some anonymous digs which had to be endured until the end of their engagement.

But don’t just take my word for it. I’ve been in touch with one of those guests (just googled her and up she popped!) On the 21st of March 1994, Lauren Bullingham, later Scott, a harpist from London, was the first visitor to sign her name in the Visitor’s Book, and was one of the most frequent guests in the years that followed. Further down that first page is one Andrew Scott…

“Andy and I had only just met when I first started working in Glasgow and staying with your mum, so it was just at the start of our relationship. Lauren tells me that she and Andy met when they were both freelancing with the Halle Orchestra in Manchester, “playing – wait for it – Romeo and Juliet!” It was obviously written in the stars! Andy and Lauren settled in Cheshire, where I think they are to this day. Have a look at Lauren’s website or her blog if you want to know more about her career as a harpist, composer and teacher: http://www.lauren-scott-harp.co.uk, http://www.lauren-scott-harp.co.uk/harpyness.

I absolutely loved staying at your Mum’s house. Very happy times. My husband stayed with her too, she was very significant in our lives at the time as I did quite a bit of work at that time with the BBC SSO and always stayed with her, and my husband (although we weren’t married then) did the odd bit of work with the orchestra as well. At that time there weren’t many (pedal) harpists living in Scotland which was why I was always being asked to travel up from Cheshire. I stopped working regularly in Scotland when I had my kids, but I do remember going up at least once to work with my son as a baby (he’s 23 now!) and I think when we were on a family holiday we stopped off at your mums for tea when we had both kids. So she did get to meet our kids. I did work for a while in Glasgow when the kids were babies (and left them at home with family to look after) and just enjoyed being able to sleep! Your mum was so lovely and sweet and always went out of her way to look after me, and my husband when he was up working in Scotland. We did try to keep in touch with Christmas cards for a few years…

That 1996 entry (Lauren, Stanley and Linda) is when my mum came up with me with my son (Stan) and she looked after him whilst I was at work. Stan was born in April 1996 so he must have been only a few months old. My mum passed away nearly 10 years ago now. Andy and I always called your mum “Mrs M” which used to make her chuckle I think. And we had a lot of fun diving to the grill – one of those eye level ones above a gas cooker as your mum was forever forgetting about the toast. She always insisted we sat down in the kitchen whilst she made breakfast for us, but whilst chatting would forget about the toast. Hence there was always this dash to save the toast. It became a running joke. She was a real diamond your mum.

How did you find her? I asked the BBC for a recommendation and they gave me her number. Music world is quite small really. I always recommended music friends to go to her if they were in Glasgow, and likewise I imagine everyone else did too.

Your mum was always very sociable and caring and was like a surrogate Granny. One more thing – your mum was forever pottering about, EXCEPT when the snooker was on the TV!

You know, I had intended to talk in this post about the changes that were going on in Hillhead at this time, but I’ve been totally diverted by delving into that fascinating Visitors book, so let’s leave that for the next time. Today, 4 March, would have been Mum’s 96th birthday, and it seems rather fitting on this day to celebrate that interesting time in the life of the house when she became a surrogate granny to Lauren and many other artistes who came looking for a bed for the night and found so much more. I’ll ask Lauren to play us out with the haunting old Irish melody I Love My Love in the Morning. Mum would have loved this.

 

 

 

 

The Story of a House, part 8

We resume our tale in 1987, right in the middle of the continuing program of remedial work… 

boringWith a bore hole outside her front door and the back green covered in exploratory pits, Ellen MacFarlane, Mum, must have had moments when she felt as if the whole edifice was about to collapse about her ears. After all, she only had to look across the street to see the gap where number 7 had once stood. But if she did, she never let it show. She took each successive wave of bad news with an almost miraculous stoicism, rolled up her sleeves and did what had to be done. Perhaps it’s just as well that Dad was out of the picture by then, I can’t imagine him coping with it all with quite the same equanimity. I can imagine him being very proud of the way his Nellie took on this battle, and in the end prevailed.

It turned out that the various surveys showed that while the external walls were built on a layer of boulder clay overlying the bedrock, the internal ones were founded upon a layer of “mottled brown sandy clay fill which contained gravel, cobbles, shale, ash, etc.” In other words, the rubble left over from various historical quarrying and possibly coal mining activities. The upshot being that the inner walls were suffering from settlement at a different rate from the outer ones. This of course is a gross oversimplification of a complicated situation, but you get the idea.

Reading over the surveyor’s report is almost like lifting the petticoats of number 8 and having a peek underneath. The borehole extended to over 25 metres and it’s like a trip into the far distant past as you follow its progress down past the various geological layers to the bedrock at the bottom – “sideritic micaceous carbonaceous laminae” ; “pyrite knots” ; “ripple laminae”; “deposits of glacial origin”. If I had a degree in geology, I could tell you the significance of all those terms!

But it’s fascinating to start thinking about what lies beneath, and to realise that once upon a time – in fact some 300 million years ago in the Carboniferous period – this whole area would have been part of a vast swampy river plain when various plant and animal deposits were laid down. Deposits which over the eons would turn to stone, including various grades of sandstone and seams of coal, all ready for humans to discover and use for their own purposes all those ages later.

I remember our family visiting the Fossil Grove in Glasgow’s Victoria Park when I was young. We were all fascinated to see this collection of 11 fossilised roots and stumps left over from an ancient forest which had lain underground for millennia until discovered by the Victorians in 1887 when they were laying out the park. Thankfully it was decided to preserve the stone forest and a building was constructed to protect the fossils from the elements. It quickly became a popular visitor attraction – in fact the most ancient in Glasgow –  so one realises that all of the previous tenants of number 8 could have gone along to see it, just as we did.

Let me take you on one more geological diversion before we come back to the surface. The sandstone found and quarried extensively in the Glasgow area is of the blond, or yellow variety. But we also have many buildings constructed of red sandstone, which it turns out comes mainly from the Ayrshire and Dumfries areas, and from a different, slightly later, geological period, the Permian (from 270 million years ago). During this time a vast and expansive desert stretched across Scotland, resulting in massive dunes and arid conditions. Today the evidence of this desert can be found in that red sandstone with its grainy striations and rich red colour, representing an iron-rich coating of the sand grains. This phenomenon can still be seen today in the sands of the Sahara.

Once the surveys had been done, steps were taken to remedy the structural problems and render number 8 stable again. New foundations were installed and the rear basement walls rebuilt – this was mainly in the washhouse area. The ‘lateral drift’ which had caused the gable wall to bulge was solved by strapping the outside wall to the inner timber floors. Various windows were given new lintels. At the front, the access bridge, stone coping and handrail were found to be in poor condition, partly due to settlement and partly to the support steelwork having rusted badly. New concrete copings were constructed and a new bridge made of reinforced concrete. Regretfully, the lovely Victorian railings also had to be replaced.

So, by the early 1990’s, the building had undergone a complete overhaul and, if not exactly as good as new, was at least structurally sound once again, and secure, we were assured, for at least another 100 years!

repaired
All fixed! You can see the steel ties at the side and the new concrete coping and bridge to the front, complete with replacement railings. And that’s a newish drainpipe too, in place since the initial round of repairs.

As you can imagine, the entire 1980’s were characterised by one wave of disruption after another as the seemingly endless series of repairs were carried out. I am mindful of the fact that this was all in the wake of Mum becoming a widow and facing the challenge of remaking her life as a single person, a task which she tackled with her usual single mindedness. Not only was she still working in the Western Infirmary, but she’d signed up for the extra mural classes at Glasgow University which would take her away on her foreign trips to Russia and the Balkans, travels which I’ve written about before.

One can see these travels now as brief periods of respite from what became, in effect, her role as informal master of works for whatever was the latest phase of the building refurbishment. I think she must have learned from the earlier debacle when communal repairs were held up for lack of a signature or two from the owners of properties in the close next door and from then on she maintained close contact with the property managers on the progress of each successive claim for grant funding, and wouldn’t be above popping next door to leave a note, or knock on the door of anyone who was being slow to sign their mandates or pay their share.

And of course she always made sure she was on the spot to liaise with surveyors, council inspectors, building control officers, contractors, loss adjusters. Would it be going too far to say that it was Mum never keeping her eye off the ball that in the end saved the building from deteriorating so far that it couldn’t be saved? I don’t think so!

Once awakened, the sleeping tiger wasn’t going to lie quietly down and go to sleep again! In the aftermath of the remedial work, the back green had been left in a terrible mess, as described in this letter: “Due to extensive remedial works on our building and drilling for the Consolidation Scheme in our back courts, the drainage and surface have been badly damaged and the fencing by the lane for 8/10 Kersland Street has disappeared. This back court in particular is open nightly to intruders from the nearby bus stops and is being used as a toilet area. We do not have any bin shelters and consequently a great deal of rain-soaked litter lies about.”

A sorry state of affairs indeed! The above extract comes from a request for funding for environmental upgrading from the members of the Kervin Residents Association, formed in 1991. Secretary of the Association? One Ellen MacFarlane!

Nothing is ever straightforward and while the merits of the case were unquestionable, there was another factor complicating matters. Arnold Clark’s proposed redevelopment of the Botanic Gardens Garage, round the corner in Vinicombe Street. This would involve access to the rear down our lane to the side of the house. We would have to wait for the outcome of the planning application.

You’ll perhaps remember that we encountered the Botanic Gardens Garage in 1929 when it was celebrating its 25th anniversary. The Art Deco building had been taken over in 1968 by Arnold Clark Automobiles, becoming the company’s first accident repairs centre and causing, truth to tell, a lot of annoyance to its neighbours by the constant comings and goings of the mechanics as they shunted cars in and out of the various workshops and parked wherever they could along the street.

morris ten-four
Arnold obviously bought the car back again once he’d become successful. Here he is with it taking pride of place in his showroom.

Arnold Clark was an interesting chap. It seems he started out in 1954, when he used his demob money to buy a 1933 Morris Ten-Four which he restored and sold on for a profit. Thus began the company which eventually became Europe’s biggest privately owned car retailer with a turnover of billions. I suppose by the late 1980’s the company had outgrown the Vinicombe Street premises and had applied for permission to demolish, then redevelop the site, something that the Council initially looked upon with approval.

But there had been a sea change in attitudes in the intervening years since 1968. No longer were the inhabitants of Hillhead – and Glasgow as a whole – content to just sit back and allow business interests to determine the fate of what was increasingly recognised as a wonderful Victorian heritage that should be preserved for posterity. The development plans encountered stiff resistance and the Campaign to Save the Botanic Gardens Garage was born.

Other conservation groups sprang up around this time – the Glasgow West Conservation Trust and the Friends of Glasgow West are just a couple of examples. Buildings started to be given Listed Building status in order to protect them from inappropriate development. Glasgow West (i.e. Hillhead and adjacent districts) became a Conservation Area, defined as “areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance”. Legislation was enacted or updated to force landlords to comply with building and safety regulations. The Landlord Registration Scheme was introduced.

Mum, in her 70’s, became Secretary of the Community Council and of course kept a finger in every pie. There wasn’t much going on in Hillhead that she didn’t know about! As a private individual, she spoke up for a street trader, Sherbanu Halai, who sold flowers just round the corner at the top of Byres Road, when it looked as if his Street Trader’s Licence was going to be withdrawn. Mum succeeded in persuading the Licencing Section of the Council to change their minds and renew it after all. Sherbanu never forgot what she’d done for him and would often send round a big bunch of flowers left over at the end of the day. Sometime if you stopped to buy Mum flowers on your way to visit her, he’d recognise you and wouldn’t take your money: “No, no, it is for Mrs MacFarlane, no pay for Mrs MacFarlane” and he’d push a whole armful of blooms at you to add to your own modest offering. He even invited her to his daughter’s wedding, an event which she joyfully attended.

But I digress. 8 Kersland Street hadn’t been the only address where extensive rehabilitation was needed. The whole area had been built upon old quarry workings and coal mines, and was generally subject to ground settlement and subsidence. Not every building survived. It’s just fortunate that the growing awareness of the merits of preserving one’s heritage, together with new sources of funding, came along just in time to turn Hillhead from a rather down at heel locale to one with a much brighter future and sense of its own worth.

We’ll explore that idea further, together with what it meant for our house, in the next instalment.

flower stall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of a House, part 7

In the period (1960s and 70s) when we were growing up in Kersland Street, Glasgow was changing. Thanks to the new Welfare State, the post war period saw standards of living improve, infant mortality fall and real incomes start to rise. Massive slum clearance programmes were undertaken and new housing schemes created where families could for the first time enjoy the benefits of their own bathroom, separate bedrooms and even a garden. Arts and leisure facilities were opening up and became more accessible than ever before.

Of course there was a downside, there always is. A shift to the outlying new developments in Easterhouse or Drumchapel, or to one of the newly emerging tower blocks in the city – ‘streets in the sky’ – could mean the break-up of close-knit extended families. The friendly image of women blethering and children playing at the close mouth was replaced by that of the family sitting around the television. And in their hurry to clear away the old and bring in the new, it could be argued that the city fathers too quickly swept away some of Glasgow’s historic legacy along with the notorious slums. The photographer Oscar Marzaroli, with his iconic pictures of the soon-to-be-demolished Gorbals, left a loving and memorable record of that long lost Glasgow.

An area like Hillhead was less affected by the slum clearances of course, having been built for a more middle class section of the population in the first place. But there’s no doubt that West Enders benefited from measures such as the opening of municipal parks to Sunday sport and the relaxation of the licensing laws. Not to mention a veritable explosion in University education, with the new Strathclyde University opening in 1964, and the more traditional University of Glasgow also responding – eventually – to the changes in demographics (post war baby boomers) and growing demands for new and different courses of study.

With Glasgow Uni firmly ensconced within its boundaries, the 1970’s saw ever increasing numbers of students taking up residence in student flats throughout Hillhead, though of course not our flat. Mostly – but not always – my sisters and I didn’t have to leave home to go to University or College.

Glasgow’s development continued apace. In the mid 80’s, a new campaign, under Provost Michael Kelly, encouraged us to sign up to the slogan “Glasgow’s miles better”, inspired, it seems, by New York’s efforts to reinvent itself with the “I Love New York” slogan. And given a huge worldwide boost when the rival City of Edinburgh refused to carry the slogan on its buses, a fact that even made the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Shot yourself in the foot there Edinburgh!

glasgows_miles_better

Somehow the campaign succeeded in making significant changes to the way Glasgow was perceived externally, as well as the way Glaswegians saw themselves. There was a move away from the image of a hard-drinking, gang-ridden, working class city to one which focused on the cultural richness of Glasgow, its environment (more public parks per head of population than any other city in Europe), its suitability for enterprise and its mild climate (the rain is warm, folks!) AND it attracted further much needed investment.

The City eventually began to re-evaluate its Victorian inheritance, resulting in the systematic cleaning and restoring of the impressive sandstone three- and four-storey tenements and the city centre’s grand Victorian edifices, as well as the rediscovery of Glasgow’s greatest artist/architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Slowly and painfully Glasgow had indeed largely changed its dreary post-industrial identity to take on a more open, forward looking character which reached its high point when it was designated European City of Culture in 1990 and UK City of Architecture and Design in 1999.

The widespread programme of cleaning of the Glasgow tenements made a huge difference in Hillhead. A century of industrial soot and grime began to be sandblasted away, revealing, to our wonderment, the real colour of the buildings; not the black we were used to, but beautiful blond and red sandstone. You can see from this picture just how much of a transformation it was.

sandblasted

I remember looking down Kersland Street one day, marvelling at how the sun lit up these golden buildings in total contrast to the few solitary blocks that were still black and waiting to be “done”. Number 8 is at the far end of this view, on the left. And this photo also reminds me of the exponential growth in car ownership in this increasingly prosperous era, and the introduction of residents’ parking spaces and parking meters. This must have been in the 1970’s because I remember my Dad complaining at length about having to pay for parking “outside my own house!” But I suppose it’s kind of obvious that these rows of fine sandstone tenements were build at a time when there was no notion of the revolution in personal transportation that would occur a century later. Parking and traffic in the essentially Victorian West End remain a bit of a nightmare to this day.

kersland_street_1_13

Unfortunately though, the tenement cleaning wasn’t the end of it. These buildings were getting old and were showing their age – in many cases needing extensive repairs and refurbishment to deal with their generally dilapidated condition. This included our house. By 1979, negotiations were under way for the various proprietors of numbers 8 and 10 Kersland Street to apply for one of the grants that were then available to have these repairs done and bring our building up to scratch. I think this was when I first became familiar with the term “absentee landlord” because it proved difficult for the Factor to obtain permission from all the proprietors of number 10 for the work to go ahead. In fact it took a ‘Section 24’ (compulsory repairs) order from the Council for the work to finally commence in 1982/83.

In the meantime, our dear Dad had passed away in 1981. Like John Brown before him, he died peacefully in his own home, in the room where he had devoted so much time and care to that beautifully painted ceiling. The house – and us – would have to carry on without him.

It was around this time that the building across the street, number 7, became the subject of an emergency demolition order as it had become structurally unstable and suddenly, one day, just wasn’t there any more! I can’t find any press report about it so I’m not sure of the date, but no doubt it served as a timely warning as to what could happen if attention was not paid to to the structure of a building. So, whether or not it was prompted by this occurrence, an extensive schedule of repairs was finally undertaken on our building, covering the roof, chimneys, windows, gutters, downpipes, stonework… Most of which probably hadn’t seen much, if any, maintenance since the building first saw the light of day in 1872, despite its continuous ownership by the Blackie family (see part 5).

Thus began over a decade of continuous repair and renovation at number 8, for, once started, each wave of repairs only uncovered yet more defects that would need urgent attention. My newly widowed Mum found herself at the hub of all this activity. She’d never been the sort of wife who had passively sat back while her husband dealt with all the business of the household; she was always aware of the family finances and helped out with them by working at various part time jobs, the first of which, I think, was in the Fairy Dell, a bespoke little bakery literally round the corner from us.

gingerbreadhouse

But it had been Dad who had largely been in charge, making sure, in his meticulous way, that the various insurance premiums, mortgage payments, household bills, council tax and so on, were up to date. So Mum had to step up and take it all on; quite a steep learning curve for her. Which became even steeper when the intricacies of the building renovations entered the mix. For example, once that first wave of repairs had been completed, my Mum put in an insurance claim for some items of ‘collateral damage’ which had happened in the course of the work – some broken window panes, ruined carpets, water damage, that sort of thing. The insurance company refused to pay, saying, among other things, that the windows had already been cracked. If they thought that my Mum was some sort of little old lady that would quietly back down, they were soon to be disabused!

I have to smile when I read one letter that has survived, in which the insurers state “…if the glass had been broken by falling debris or during the course of the major works, there would be evidence of shattering.” To which my Mum has added a note: there was! broken glass!

A further paragraph concerns the claim for water penetration and damage in which the hapless insurers maintain that the water damage wasn’t the fault of the contractor but was due to some polythene sheeting which proved difficult to shift. My Mum makes short work of this also: this is nonsense, the bit of sheeting blew away, in fact people in the next street came round to warn us!

I quote this letter because it typifies Mum’s tenaciousness and attention to detail. She never willingly gave way to anyone and would stubbornly uphold her point of view in endless letters and phone calls which meant that she could never just be dismissed, but had to be dealt with on her own terms. The insurance issue went on for months, with the company eventually backing down and making a payment which they called ex gratia, I suspect because they couldn’t bring themselves to admit they had been in the wrong all along.

Mum was to need all her great reserves of resilience in the decade to come. As I say, once the repairs started, there seemed to be no end to them and no sooner had one issue been dealt with than yet another came to the fore. The first of these was the discovery of extensive areas of wet and dry rot throughout the building, including our basement. As you can see, the remedy involved a great deal of disruption, with the rooms having to be stripped back to the bare bones in order to treat the root of the problem.

At this point Mum abandoned the basement while the work was going on and moved the kitchen upstairs, where it remained from then on. This picture shows an early configuration which was later changed. Mum was working in the Western Infirmary by then and is wearing her Nursing Auxiliary uniform.

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The next blow centred upon a certain worrying bulge in the gable end of the building. Surveys were done and terms such as “differential settlement” and “lateral drift” began to be bandied about. A search of historical records showed that the location – in fact the whole of Hillhead – had been built in an area that had been subject to past mining activity. There had been sandstone quarrying nearby, from which no doubt came much of the building material used to create the district in the first place. It was decided that trial pits and boreholes would need to be dug in order to investigate further.

to be continued…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of a House, part 5

After the war, a family called Campbell made their home at 8 Kersland Street. All I know about them (from the electoral register) are their names – James, Catherine, Hugh, Mary, Jane. So, possibly a mother and father and at least three children old enough to vote? They stayed a good long time, from 1947 all through the 1950’s, until, in 1960, the house was bought by William and Fay Darling. And this, dear reader, is a very significant moment!

If you have been following this story you may have noticed that up until this point all the residents of 8 Kersland Street have been tenants. It turns out (now that I’ve procured a copy of the historic title deeds from the Land Registry) that through all these long years the landlords, the owners of the property, were named Blackie and were in fact members of the famous Glasgow publishing firm, Blackie and Son. The firm ceased business in 1991, but you may be familiar with some of the iconic childrens’ books they published, including Cecily May Barker’s Flower Fairies books.

flower fairies

The Blackie we are interested in is John Blackie Jnr, whose father – John Snr – founded Blackie’s in 1809. He had originally been in business as a weaver, but was persuaded that money could be made by selling sizeable books in monthly or quarterly instalments, by subscription. Money could indeed be made and the enterprise developed and prospered for another 180-odd years.

Blackie_John jnr

John Junior entered the business with his father and from 1831 the firm became known as Blackie and Son . But John’s sphere of influence would grow wider when in 1857 he was elected to the Glasgow City Council and in 1863 became Lord Provost and served a term in that position. He proposed the City Improvement Scheme, a major plan to improve the quality of life in the poorer areas and was also involved in bringing water to the city from Loch Katrine.

The 1861 census shows John and his wife Agnes living at Lilybank House, Hillhead with their three young sons, John, William and Albert. His profession is given as “Publisher employing 20 men and boys”, a proud declaration one feels, and by this time he would have also been involved in city politics. But… Lilybank House…?

Lilybank House was built sometime around 1830 for the merchant Robert Allen. This would have been quite early in the evolution of the suburb of Hillhead, when James Gibson was selling off plots of land for development as villas and terraces. When John Blackie took on the tenancy in 1857, Lilybank House was a small Georgian villa with a large walled garden and greenhouses.  Once he actually purchased it in 1864, he commissioned architect Alexander “Greek” Thomson to add a new wing to the south end and relocate the entrance. During his term as Provost, Blackie had the satisfaction of entertaining both William Gladstone and young Prince Alfred, son of Queen Victoria, at his newly enhanced residence.

Lilybank_House_1
Lilybank House has undergone various additions and alterations over the years. In 1894 it was converted to a Hall of Residence for women attending Queen Margaret College, known as Queen Margaret Hall. It was taken over by Glasgow University in 1924 and after it ceased to be a hall of residence in 1966, it has been used to house various departments of the University. It has been the subject of further refurbishment and conservation work and is now part of the Thompson Heritage Trail.

Lilybank House is of particular interest to us because it is situated in Bute Gardens, which is more or less a continuation of the other end of Kersland Street from number 8. So James Blackie Jnr would have been ideally placed to witness the streets of Hillhead emerge and grow before his very eyes, indeed it’s not unlikely that he and James Gibson would have been well acquainted with each other. Which probably explains why in 1871 Blackie purchased a plot measuring 738 and four ninths square yards of ground on the West Side of Kersland Street and, I think, other plots which I can’t identify.

upstairs

Did John Blackie then take a daily stroll down Kersland Street to monitor the progress of the construction which was growing into the 4-storey tenement building which became numbers 8 and 10 Kersland Street (for he was the owner of both addresses). I’d like to think he did, it’s what I would have done, wouldn’t you?

But John did not survive long to live to appreciate his investment. His health had been undermined due to overstrain during the years of his Provostship and he finally succumbed to a sharp attack of pleurisy on February 12th, 1873, in his 68th year. John Senior outlived his son and he died the following year at the grand old age of 91.

John Jnr’s widow Agnes moved out of Lilybank House and took up residence nearby at 6 Wilson Street, now known as Oakfield Avenue, and only four streets away from Kersland Street. In her household were her coachman and two female servants, so her “private means”, including the rental from numbers 8 and 10 and possibly other properties, seems to have left her comfortably off. It tickles me to think that Agnes Blackie and her tenant Madame Stewart might have actually known each other. But I’m probably being fanciful – presumably a woman of property and a tenant would have moved in different social circles, especially as all the actual renting out and collecting moneys and property management would have been done by an agent. It’s not impossible though, is it?

Inkedhillhead 1860
This 1860 map neatly illustrates the proximity of the site of 8 Kersland Street (#1) to Lilybank House (#2), Hillhead House (#3) and 6 Wilson Street (#4).
hillhead 1894
By 1894 the whole area has been transformed, and Hillhead House is no longer there, having been demolished in 1878.

On the death of Agnes in 1887, the Kersland Street properties were passed on to William Gourlie Blackie, John and Agnes’s middle son. One gets a feeling that after the death of his father in 1873, life hadn’t been particularly easy for William. He had married Katherine Rankin in 1875 and their son William R was born in London the following year. Two daughters, Agnes Mary and Ruby Katherine, came along over the next couple of years, both born in Kirkcudbrightshire, and then it’s back to London where another son, John Herndon was born in 1880. William was only 21 when his first child was born – could it be that he left Glasgow under a cloud? Why didn’t he join the family firm? Of course it could be that he just wanted to strike out on his own…

The 1881 census shows William to be an “unemployed printer” living in Clapham with his wife and four small children. Very sadly, they lost the youngest, John, the following year when he was only 2 years old. We find the family still in London 10 years later and William is now working in the publishing industry. There are clues which put the family in Canada in 1901 – indeed Blackie’s had an office there, so perhaps William did after all come to hold down a position with the family firm. But whatever dreams took William and Katherine to Canada, they didn’t last, for the next we hear is the report of William’s death in 1905 at Ballantrae in Ayrshire, at the age of only 51.

Katherine and her daughters then seem to have lived on their ‘private means’ in various places in the south of England until Katherine passed away in 1911 at Hastings in Sussex. She was then 57.

Agnes and Ruby would have been in their early thirties when they inherited numbers 8 and 10 Kersland Street. The sisters never married and as far as I can tell had set up house together and were living in Tunbridge Wells when their mother died. I don’t know that they always lived together – at one point they seem to have had separate houses in St Leonards on Sea and at another time are recorded as residing in Stirling, where I think they may have had relatives. I’m picking up these tiny tidbits from the title deeds and, to be honest it’s a miracle you can pick up anything from them as they are written in that arcane legal language so beloved of solicitors and their ilk. Here’s a wee snippet to show you what I mean (this is one of the clearer bits!)

deeds snippet

Anyway, the years rolled by and the rentals rolled in, until Agnes Mary passed away in 1929, age 50. Ruby Katherine carried on as sole proprietor and at some point in the mid nineteen thirties came to live at 24 Hamilton Park Avenue in Glasgow, a rather nice looking terraced house not a stone’s throw away from Kersland Street. (Hamilton Park Avenue is indicated by the blue arrow on the map below, and Kersland Street by the yellow one). The tenement properties were being managed by agents, but I can’t believe that Ruby wouldn’t have been familiar with them. She could hardly have avoided them whenever she passed by on her way to the Botanic Gardens, or the shops of Byres Road.

So what brought Ruby to Glasgow? As far as I know she’d never lived there, hadn’t known her grandparents, who had died before she was even born, hadn’t known the imposing house where her father had been brought up. I think that once again geography can come to our aid here. When you place 24 Hamilton Park Avenue (then known as James Street) on our 1860 map (#5) and realise how it fits in to the general scheme of things, I think it’s not unreasonable to conclude that this property must surely have been another acquired by the far sighted John Blackie Junior, and that in taking up residence there, Ruby was doing no more than coming home.

inked ham park ave

I’d like to think that Ruby felt a sense of belonging when she came home to Hillhead and got to know the area her family came from and the various locations which were part of her own history.

Economic conditions became more difficult after the second world war and the title deeds show us that Ruby, through her agents, began selling off the various flats at 10 Kersland Street in 1949, and that this continued throughout the 1950’s, culminating in the sale of number 8 in 1960. This no doubt enabling her to maintain herself as she became older and frailer (she’d have reached her 80th birthday in 1958). Ruby eventually moved into a nearby old folks home (Henderson House) and then possibly one in Edinburgh, where I think she lived out her days and died some time in the mid sixties.

My mum used to say that before us only one family had ever lived in our house, which, as we’ve seen, isn’t right. But she WAS correct in thinking that only one family had ever owned it in the previous 90 years. I wish I could tell her she was right, but she probably knew that anyway; she knew things, did my mum…

 

 

 

The Story of a House, part 4

Let’s continue from where we left off…

The MacCulloch sisters lived at 8 Kersland Street until about 1926 or 27 and then we see the arrival of Mr and Mrs Smith, Ivan and Elizabeth, who only stayed for about three or four years. I think there was also a son, Alexander. I’m afraid I know next to nothing about the Smiths – there aren’t census returns available beyond 1911, so, paradoxically, it can be easier to find out about people from the 1800’s than the 20th century. So we’ll just have to go with these bare facts from the electorial register.

I’m pretty sure that neither the MacCullochs nor the Smiths would have owned a car, but if they had, they could have parked it around the corner in the Botanic Gardens Garage in Vinicombe Street (opposite the Salon Cinema). The Garage celebrated its 25th anniversay in 1929.

bgg 25 years

A_Brouhot_car_in_Paris,_1910

When the Botanic Gardens Parking Garage was built in 1912, parking in the streets was not permitted in the UK, and besides, the paintwork of motor cars of the time was highly sensitive to weather and sun and had to be protected. This garage was one of the first such structures to be built in the UK and to this day remains of great architectural interest as well as being a reminder of the exceptional wealth of Glasgow at a time when cars were generally considered an extravagant luxury.

BGG 02

The architect, David Valentine Wylie, had spent his prolific career building tenements and factories, and was experienced in the design of warehouses and stables. The Garage was his last project and it feels to me as if he poured his heart and soul into his final structure.  It was a new concept, this ‘warehousing’ of cars. Even the word garage, taken from the French garer, to shelter, hadn’t come into use until 1902. Garages have become a mundane feature of our daily lives, but it’s rather nice to look back on a time when everything was fresh and new and an architect could indulge in a flight of fancy and build one in an ornate Beaux Arts style with a glazed cream and soft green faience facade punctuated by large glazed arches.

The Garage highlights the complete revolution in road transportation that had taken place in the 60 or so years since the tenements of Kersland Street first saw the light of day in the early 1870’s.  When Madame Stewart had lived here, horse transport reigned supreme and at the end of the 19th century Glasgow was ringed with a large number of stables to provide horses for literally hundreds of passenger and goods vehicles. Perhaps a rather smellier world than we are used to now…?

horse tram 1890's
Horse tram no. 324, Kelvinside to Dennistoun, 1890’s.

Between 1898 and 1901, the Macgregors would have seen the electrification of the tramways, with central poles and tramlines being laid all along Great Western Road. The old trams used to run down the middle of the road, which meant that alighting passengers had to run the gauntlet of any traffic running on the inside lane. There are many newspaper reports of the time detailing accidents and near-misses due to this rather hazardous arrangement.

tramcar 730
Phase 1 Standard Tramcar
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Tramlines & poles at Kelvinbridge, 1904

I always imagined Mrs Isabella Millar, our resident during the Great War, as being someone who would have travelled in a hansom cab or a tram to her daughter’s house in Great Western Road. But actually, I’m now thinking that daughter Ada and her husband Fred the writer, living comfortably in their big house, might have been just the sort of people who would have been early adopters of the motor car, and that Isabella could have enjoyed a rather more modern mode of conveyance.

Of course the year that the Botanic Gardens Garage celebrated its 25th anniversary, 1929, was also the year of the Wall Street Crash.

280579a New York Wall Street
Hunger marches were held in the UK throughout the 1920’s and 30’s as the economy slumped and more and more men and women were left without the ability to feed their families.

In the latter half of the 19th century, fuelled by the industrial revolution, Glasgow had been a place of exceptional economic buoyancy and urban growth. Indeed we’ve already seen how the well-appointed district of Hillhead itself was a product of this growth. Hillhead was never as exclusive as the adjoining areas of Kelvinside or Dowanhill, though it attracted a sizeable population of middle class professionals such as ministers, academics, merchants and managers. And of course there was also the rather more artistic and bohemian section of the community, no doubt partly due to the presence of Glasgow University in the neighbourhood. 

When the great slump came, Hillhead was less affected than other areas, such as the Gorbals, which started from a lower rung on the ladder anyway and were more dependent on shipbuilding and heavy engineering. But times were hard in the inter-war years and I have no doubt that 8 Kersland Street, being at the more artisan end of Hillhead, saw its share of hardship as the years rolled on and the Smiths were replaced by the Bremners in around 1930. Again, I have only the bare facts from the Electoral Register – Elizabeth and James Bremner, and two daughters, Mary and Mima.

But then we come to 1937. And at last, we can put a face to our new residents, for Mr John Brown and his wife Euphemia come within the living memory of their grandson, Hugh Ritchie, who vaguely recalls visiting his grandmother as a very young child. I came across Hugh on the Ancestry website and he has not only given me permission to use material from his family tree, but has also kindly shared further family memories with me. John and Euphemia’s sojourn in Kersland Street was quite a short one, but thanks to Hugh, we can tell their story.

john brown and euhemia

John Brown and Euphemia Logan were married in January 1908 in Edinburgh, where their first child, Ishbel, was born later that year. John and Euphemia were both teachers, but in those days, women would have been expected to give up their profession on marriage, so no doubt Euphemia turned her energies towards bringing up their fast-growing family. By 1910 the family were living at Windsor Cottage, Shotts, where their son Hugh was born, closely followed by a daughter, Anne, who tragically died in 1914 when she was only 2 years old.

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John taught in Shotts until the First World War saw him signing up, in his late thirties, with the Royal Garrison Artillery, where he served in Mesopotamia, India and elsewhere for about three years. For much of this time he was a quartermaster, probably a quartermaster sergeant or similar. With John away at war, Euphemia and the children went to stay with her brother Donald in the Western Isles. When Donald got married, Euphemia took a cottage in Glen Borrodale, where she taught at the school there for a few years until John came home from the war.

school

I imagine that Euphemia must have been quite an intrepid, enterprising type of person to have taken a post in what is a rather isolated little village on the west coast of Scotland. And one notices that the normal rules about married women working don’t seem to apply in times of war! This is the old schoolhouse which was eventually put up for sale after it had fallen out of use as a school.

Family life resumed and two more daughters arrived in quick succession, Helen (known as Lala) in 1920 and Joan in 1921. When John got the headship of Braidwood School, the family moved there in 1920, followed by a move to Airdrie seven years later when he became head of the newly built (and much bigger) Clarkston Primary School. His final appointment, in 1933, was to the headship of Dalziel Public School in Motherwell, a large secondary school. At this time the family still lived in Airdrie and John would commute to Motherwell every day by bus.

JB obit (1)

Sadly, the First World War had left John Brown greatly diminished in health and in 1936 he fell ill and was off school for an extended period. To reduce his commuting burden, the family moved to Cambuslang. Unfortunately, after only a few days back at work, John took a stroke and had to retire in October 1937. The Browns had lived in Cambuslang for a year. In view of John’s ill health and the position of their house on a steep hill, the family moved to Glasgow, to a ground floor flat, 8 Kersland Street, where John died at home only a few months later on the 15th of July 1938. He was 61 years old. 

hugh brown, sonEuphemia and her daughters stayed on at Kersland Street, and saw the start of World War Two the following year. Son Hugh seems to have spent some time as an evacuee schoolmaster in Northamptonshire, before joining up like his father before him and serving in Italy, where by 1943 he had reached the rank of Lieutenant.  

Back in Hillhead, Euphemia and the girls would also experience WW2 at first hand. In March 1941, the shipbuilding town of Clydebank, a mere five or six miles up the river, was the target of one the most intense Luftwaffe bombing raids of the war. 1,200 people were killed in the Clydebank blitz and the town itself suffered extensive damage with many buildings destroyed. Joan later recalled how, as the bombers flew overhead,  the family would shelter in the basement of their flat along with other residents from the upstairs flats in the next door close. Hillhead escaped relatively unscathed, but the terrifying threat was there.

The Brown family moved out of 8 Kersland Street in 1943 and lived at Park Road, not too far away. One by one the daughters got married and left. Once they had all departed, Euphemia took to staying with them each in turn until in 1951 she eventually got a place of her own, also in the West End of Glasgow. This is probably where the young Hugh Ritchie remembers visiting her. After her health started deteriorating in around 1957, she once again stayed with her daughters while they looked after her. She died on 31st December 1961, in Newport-on-Tay, Ishbel’s home. Here are the sisters, Ishbel, Lala and Joan. 

John and Euphemia are long gone now, as are their children. But the family story carries on in the shape of Hugh and his brother (Ishbel’s sons), and their cousins (Joan’s two sons). Not to mention their children and their children’s children, the 13 surviving descendants of John Brown and Euphemia Logan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of a House, part 3

I think I should be calling this a Saga rather than a Story as we’ve reached part 3 and are still only at 1906! Trouble is, there are just so many interesting facts to be discovered, so many assumptions to shatter, unknown lives to celebrate. Let’s see how far the story takes us today, you’re not in any hurry are you…?

1906-1917. With the Macgregors gone, a new tenant took up residence at number 8. Mrs Isabella Millar was a lady in her sixties, a widow whose husband David had died, age 70, in March of 1900. The pair had been married for 36 years and had lived at St George’s Cross where David Millar worked as a hatter. Isabella now came to live in Kersland Street with her maid Mary Brown, a 20 year old girl from Leadhills.

hats

Mrs Millar had private means, her husband having left behind an estate of about £360, which would be worth around £11,555 in today’s money. So she didn’t need, and wouldn’t have qualified for, the new Old Age Pension which came into being in January 1909 – “Pensions Day” – and paid a weekly pension of 5s (7s 6d for couples) to eligible people aged 70 or more. The Old Age Pensions Act, passed in 1908, was just one of the reforms brought in by the Liberal Government led by Herbert Asquith, then David Lloyd-George. Probably as much because they were afraid of the promises being made by the newly formed Labour Party as an overwhelming desire to improve the lot of the poor working classes. I’m sure they did mean well too, but politics is all about winning votes, right?

I found out something quite remarkable as I was searching for Mrs Millar in the records. We all know that women weren’t given the vote until 1918, don’t we? But did you know that women could actually vote in non-parliamentary elections as early as the 1830’s? No, neither did I! But there are some dusty old ledgers sitting on a shelf in the Mitchell Library listing ‘Female Voters’ and dating back to at least 1831. So when it came to Town Councils, Parish Councils, School Boards, women were there voting with the men. And I don’t think it was only women with property either, as you’re just as likely to see ‘tenant’ and ‘charwoman’ as ‘proprietor’ and ‘private means’

Edwardian-Platter-Hat-1

And Isabella B Millar is right up there, listed with the best of them, so it would be great to think of her jamming her platter hat firmly on her head and marching round to the Burgh Hall to exercise her vote in the latest municipal elections. Oh alright, walking round in a dignified way if you prefer…

I don’t know how many children Isabella and David had, but there was one daughter, Agnes, known as Ada, who lived quite near her mother in a house called Ashcraig, just a little further up Great Western Road at Kirklee. Ada had married a chap called Frederick Lansdown Morrison, MA, LLB. Fred had had a distinguished academic career (he’d gone up to Glasgow University at the age of 16) and the 1901 census lists him as being a writer.

Ashcraig was the Morrison family home and Ada and Fred lived there with their three sons Ronald, James and Leslie, so I guess Isabella would have been able to visit her daughter, grandsons and son-in-law quite often. And they must surely have come to number 8 to visit granny. I wonder if they’d be shown in to the parlour upstairs, or gone down to the cosy kitchen in the basement where Mary Brown might have been baking cakes in the cast iron range.

cooking range

When war broke out in 1914, Fred Morrison was among the first to sign up, even though he was already 50 years old. He served with the Highland Light Infantry, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Fred served in Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine and was much decorated, though he felt he had done nothing to deserve it other than to survive, and paid warm tribute to the bravery of his officers and men who had died in battle. Colonel Morrison’s battalion had suffered very heavy losses at Gallipoli – only 5 out of 29 officers survived the campaign and 321 out of 1033 other ranks.

Two of Ada’s sons, Ronald and Leslie, also joined the Highland Light Infantry and I have an idea that James, the middle son, went to Canada and joined up there.

With all her men away at war, I think that Ada brought her mother to live at Ashcraig, where no doubt the two women could console and support each other, and Ada could look after Isabella, whose health was failing. I’m sure that worry about her grandsons and son-in-law did her heart condition no good at all and on the 7th July 1917 Isabella passed away at age 78 with Ada by her side. The cause of death was myocarditis and dilatation of the heart. Poor Ada’s woes weren’t over, for on the 22nd December that year, Fred died at 54 in Alexandria Egypt, the strains and hardships of war finally taking their toll. He was buried at the Alexandria War Memorial Cemetery.

This one family’s story mirrors what was happening to families up and down the land, indeed throughout the world. Among the many memorials which were raised to commemorate this lost generation, locally a peal of 8 bells were gifted to Kelvinside Parish Church by Mr Nicol Paton Brown, whose only son, Captain Kenneth Ashby Brown lost his life in battle, shortly after the bells were installed.Watch-gravesThe peal forms a memorial to the men of Glasgow Academy, Kelvinside Academy and the church congregation who died in the Great War. The bells were rung for the first time on Christmas Day, 1917. I don’t suppose Ada would have felt much like celebrating Christmas as she listened to them ring out and remembered all she had lost that year, and might yet lose, with her boys so far away. But I believe she was spared further sorrow for by all accounts all three young men survived the war and came home.

In December, 1918, the bells were formally dedicated in a special service at which both West End schools were represented. To this day they can still be heard ringing out at 11 am each year on the 11th of November.

  • curtain blowing1918-1926. With the passing of Mrs Millar, number 8 saw the arrival of new tenants, the MacCulloch sisters, Jessie, Nellie and Rebecca, and their occupation is recorded as ‘Governess’ – all three of them. Now I don’t quite know what to make of this – I would have thought that a governess was someone in Victorian times who lived in the household, not quite a servant, but not part of the family either. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here as the sisters were all living in Kersland Street, so perhaps they were kind of ‘day governesses’, going off each day to teach their charges and coming back home at night, or… could their pupils have come to them? But if that’s the case, why not call yourself a tutor, or a teacher? I’m afraid I can offer no answer to these questions.

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What I do know is that the MacCulloch sisters came from a large family of seven girls and one boy.  We can follow the family’s progress through the years by catching up with the census every decade. It makes interesting reading…

  • In 1861, David and Mary MacCulloch already had two daughters, Jane (7) and Jessie (5 months), and a son, Andrew (6). They lived at 22 St Vincent Street (near George Square in the centre of Glasgow) and David worked as an Emigration and Insurance Agent, probably at one of the nearby firms in the city.
  • By 1871, the family had grown considerably and Jane, Andrew and Jessie were joined by another five sisters: Mary (8), Ellen (7), Rebecca (5), Isabella (2) and Robertina (4 months). The family had moved south of the river to what looks like a large workman’s cottage on Shields Road – St Andrews Cottage. Also in the household were a servant and a nurse – I should think so too! David was now working as an Iron Merchant.

Over the next ten years, all the older children would leave home, I’m not quite sure where to, except that I think that Jane got married to one William Keighley, and went to live in Yorkshire.

  • In 1881, the household comprised David and Mary, with Jessie (20), Rebecca (15), Robertina (10) and a servant girl. The family fortunes seem to have flourished because there has been another move which now sees them at a ‘good’ address in the West End, 27 Hayburn Crescent, Hyndland. David’s occupation is described as ‘Commission Agent, Metal Trade’ – so still an Iron Merchant then!

Young Isabella, who would have been 12, would appear to be missing, but we mustn’t jump to conclusions – David and Mary might have suffered the loss of their child, but she might equally just have been absent on census night, perhaps staying over with a friend or one of her older siblings. At 51 and 46, you would have thought that David and Mary could have been looking forward to seeing their remaining children settled, and for their own lives to become a little less hectic.

  • However!!! 1891 sees the family now living at 3 Elgin Terrace (now Havelock Street) in Partick, which is definitely a move downmarket. David, at 61, is described as an Oil Merchant’s Clerk, and the household now consists of Jessie, Mary, Ellen, Rebecca and Robertina plus Jane Keighley with her two daughters, Lena (7) and Gladys (2), both born in England, plus another grand daughter, Margaret MacCulloch, age 4, born in Giffnock, Glasgow.

There must surely have been a series of catastrophes to have brought the family to this state of affairs, but the census really only leaves us with more questions than answers. Did William Keighley die, leaving Jane alone with two small children? Why did Mary and Ellen come back home? Was one of them Margaret’s mother? Who was the father? How did it come about that all five of those unmarried daughters are described as ‘Governess’, with skills, variously, in English, French, Music and Latin.

I am very intrigued by this singular family, and I feel sad that I haven’t found out any more about them other than these bare facts. If I was a more skilled researcher, with more time, perhaps I would know where to look to see how they fared in the years between this census of 1891 and 1918 when Jessie, Nellie and Becca landed in Kersland Street in the wake of the Great War. By this time, these women were in their 50’s, marriage had passed them by, and employment opportunities for women in those days were sparse.

But I imagine that they stuck together, as their family had always done, and did what they needed in order to survive, getting what teaching work they could to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. There were probably periods when they took in lodgers, as some years the electoral register throws up some additional names – Christina Yuill, Mary Alexander, John Dewar, Stanley Wylie, all perhaps finding a home for a year or two before moving on. I imagine hardworking, enterprising people, and I admire their resilience.

And I’d also like to imagine Jessie, Nellie, Becca and their lodgers occasionally finding time to visit a new phenomenon in the neighbourhood, the Salon Cinema which was quite literally round the corner in Vinicombe Street. The Salon was one of the first suburban cinemas in Glasgow (1913), and was also notable for housing a full orchestra, and for serving tea and biscuits to its patrons during the afternoon! Sounds ideal for the sisters, doesn’t it?

aSalon-1
The stunning building that was the Salon Cinema (now a restaurant)