Valentine

“I love you”.

What? WHAT? Had she really just heard those words coming from his lips? Then she saw where he was looking. The wall in front of them was covered in graffitti, with a great big heart in the middle and the words sprayed over it in foot high letters. He nodded towards it and strode on, enigmatic as ever.

She skipped to catch up, turning her head away slightly so that he wouldn’t see the red flush she knew would be spreading over her cheeks. This is ridiculous, she thought.  Why don’t I just tell him how I feel? But somehow she couldn’t; he seemed so self contained, so unmoved by other people. And yet he was always the centre of attention, sought after by all the girls – boys too for that matter. Yet somehow it seemed to her that although he was perfectly polite and pleasant to everyone, he was holding something back.

They spent a lot of time together – thrown together by their work for the student’s representative council. They were on their way there now, delivering leaflets for the forthcoming elections. “You should be standing for president, not me,” he’d said to her. “You’re the one with the people skills!” She’d laughed and told him she was too shy, was happier to be a number 2. He’d given her a long look but had said no more.

She thought about that conversation now, and the look he had given her – she was always fantasizing conversations with him. What did he see when he looked at her? Did she in any way stand out from the crowd? He would always come and sit with her in any meeting, but she couldn’t really tell if that was just habit, or convenience. They’d never been on a proper date… She was such a clutz.

They’d reached the union building now, he was standing outside watching her as she caught up, slightly out of breath and not a little upset at the thoughts that were swimming around her head. She tried to bustle past him, be busy with the task in hand, but he took the box of leaflets from her and placed it on the ground beside his. He put his hands on her shoulders and made her look at him.

“It’s Valentine Day,” he said, “seems to me its about time we told each other how we feel.”

He took her in his arms and kissed her. And, gentle reader, she kissed him right back.

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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 6

If you’re new to this blog, the story will make more sense if you go back and catch up on the first five episides (started 13 October 2018).

darlings

We’ve now reached the early nineteen sixties in our tale. The house has just been bought by William and Fay Darling, ending nearly 90 years of ownership by the Blackie family, which we explored in the last episode. I don’t really know anything about the Darlings, so I always imagine them to be like the couple in Dodie Smith’s 101 Dalmations. And, I don’t know why, but the Darlings only owned 8 Kersland Street for two or three years before they sold it to my Dad in 1963. Thus beginning our family’s 50 year tenure.

I’ve already written in earlier posts about our life at 8 Kersland Street (“Sisters, Sisters” and “More from the Family Album”, etc.). But of course that was from our perspective, not that of the house. As we know, the house was used to seeing families and individuals come and go, From single professional ladies to young and not-so-young families, to older people near the end of their days.  How does the saying go? “All human life is here”.

“Here we go again,” it must have thought, when Mrs and Mrs MacFarlane, John and Nellie to you and me, and their brood (there were five of us by this time, and the full complement of six by the following year) arrived to take possession of their new dwelling. With all the familiar clattering and banging and general mayhem involved in hauling assorted furniture and possessions in through the long narrow hallway.

stairs

I don’t remember moving day, which I think was in the May of 1963, but my sister Mary has a memory of being amazed at how big our new home was. She must have been about 6 then, and she recalls standing at the stairs leading down to the basement and asking one of the removal men “Are we allowed to go down here too?” and him replying something like “Yes, it’s all yours”. I suppose that up till then, to Mary going upstairs or downstairs would have meant we’d have stepped out of our wee flat in Govan, our room and kitchen, into the tenement close outside. But now we had a new territory to inhabit and explore.

Something I do always recall, wherever I am at the end of the year, is standing at the front door at midnight on Hogmanay and listening to the sound of ships’ horns as vessels up and down the Clyde heralded in the New Year. That sound really is a blast from the past, an echo of the days when Glasgow was still a bustling port, with ocean-going ships making their way into the harbour and discharging and loading their cargo in the busy docks at the Broomielaw. Nowadays, vast container ships offload at the container terminal at Greenock and the cargo finishes its journey by road. Hence the Clyde is but a shadow of its former self.

Another enduring memory of Hogmanay is that of our Dad, tall, dark and handsome, acting as our ‘first foot’. He would step outside the house and ring the bell, to be admitted bearing a bottle of whisky, some bread or cake and a piece of coal to ensure good luck in the forthcoming year. I’m quite sure that the previous inhabitants of the house would have performed similar rituals and shouted out ‘Happy New Year’ to other neighbours who had also opened their doors to let in the new year. Not to mention the occasional passing reveler, more or less steady on their feet.

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Prior to this I’d never even thought about the people who must have lived in the house before us. As far as I can remember they left nothing of themselves behind, no intriguing clues to their existence, no forgotten treasures in the attic. Not that we had an attic of course, though more of that anon. I suppose you don’t think like that as a child, but just accept what’s in front of you as the way things are and always have been. Perhaps, now I come to think of it, there were a couple of old cupboards, maybe a chair or two. My parents, coming from their room and kitchen, must have had the expense of suddenly having to furnish a whole house on two floors, and I rather think that auction sales would have played a large part in that task. Or it could be that more furniture had been left behind than I can remember.

girl sitting

One item that was bought new was a large brown leatherette settee. Grace remembers as a little girl being very taken with this item and would hop on and off it declaring, “oh, I think I’ll just have a wee sit down”. I remember this settee being in the kitchen downstairs, where we spent most of our time as a family as it was the warmest room in the house. No central heating in those days, just – if you were lucky – a one or two bar electric fire in your bedroom which really only heated the area in its immediate vicinity – toasty knees, cold shoulders! There were fireplaces in most of the rooms, but I don’t remember us ever lighting a fire in any of them, or maybe just the lounge, though I could be imagining that. Perhaps what I’m remembering was a rather grand electric fire we had with three bars and a coal effect arrangement which seemed to flicker like a real fire.

In fact now I come to think of it, it’s likely that by that time most fireplaces had been boarded up and chimneys capped due to the introduction of the Clean Air Act in 1956. In London many thousands of people had died in the Great Smog of 1952, which served to highlight the real danger posed by air pollution, and the need to introduce ‘smoke control areas’ in cities where only smokeless fuel could be burned. In Glasgow there were still bad fogs in the 60’s though. Many’s the time we’d set off to school on a chilly morning surrounded by a cold damp fog which would wrap its clammy fingers round you and make you want to cover your nose with your scarf so that you wouldn’t breath in the nasty sulphurous air. You couldn’t avoid it of course and you’d end up with a tight chest, coughing up black specks by the end of the day.

fog

It’s funny how that smell of fog can come back to me, sharp as anything, just by thinking about it. And the way you’d shut the front door quickly to try and keep the toxic air out, then make your way downstairs to the warm kitchen to find out what was for tea and thaw out beside the old black range. That old range – I suppose it could have been the original one that had been there for close on 100 years – was eventually replaced by a modern 4-ring gas cooker, though don’t ask me when, I just don’t remember. I assume that meant that at some point we stopped storing (smokeless) coal in the cellar just outside the back door and started using it to store stuff instead.

There was always a certain degree of chaos in the kitchen and you’d invariably be given a task to do – hold the baby, feed the toddler, stir this pot, take that out of the oven, help your sister… If you were looking for a bit of peace and quiet to do your homework you’d sneak off to your bedroom for a while until the welcome sound of  “Tea’s ready” being shouted up the stairs would take you back down to the cosy hurly-burly of the basement. On Sundays we’d have a tussle over the Sunday papers, trying to be the first to get hold of the Sunday Post and read the cartoons – Oor Wullie and the Broons.

Other smells from that time – Johnson’s baby powder liberally sprinkled on a freshly changed bottom; Fray Bentos steak and kidney pie, known to us as ‘skidney’; the smell of a new leather schoolbag. Sounds – crying and laughter in what seems like equal measure; the front door slamming; Dad playing the piano; the big grandfather clock in the hall chiming the hour; the Doctor Who theme, heralding an event not to be missed every Saturday teatime. When the Daleks got too scary, the little ones would retreat to behind the settee and watch from there.

I have an impression of rather dark and dingy decor which, room by room, Dad would set to and re-decorate. I once chose wallpaper in a sort of leafy pattern for my room, a choice which I came to regret later as I started to see little faces in the leaves and would lie in bed for hours on end imagining them all watching me. Dad used to say that decorating the house was like painting the Forth Road Bridge – no sooner had you got to the end than it was time to start again at the beginning. I don’t recall that we were able to help much, in fact I have an idea that I once watched him surreptitiously re-paint a door that one of us had ‘helped’ with. He liked things to be done properly, did my Dad.

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He even provided the house with some much needed extra storage space in the shape of a small floor installed above the stair well. We of course christened this space the attic and would sometimes climb up there to hide, though there was precious little room as it was jam packed full of the sort of ‘treasures’ that people put in attics! This picture was taken after it had been cleared out.

I think the crowning glory of Dad’s home improvement activities was the beautiful work he did on the ceiling and cornicing in the front lounge, where he picked out the flowers in pink, and the leaves in green. And I don’t think I’m imagining the final touch of little gold highlights to finish it all off. It must have taken him weeks to complete the job, standing on the top of his shoogly ladder patiently dabbing away above his head with little brushes. I’m certain no-one had ever bestowed such care and devotion on the house before. I suppose it was because this was the first time it was being lived in by the person who also owned it. I’ve searched and searched through all my old photos but can’t find a single one which includes that lovely ceiling. All that work was eventually – and regretfully – painted over following other reparation work which was done after he died.

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I wish I’d payed more attention now when layers of old wallpaper were being stripped off walls, or linoleum taken up to reveal a lining of old newspapers underneath. It would have given us at least a little glimpse of the people that had gone before. But, as I said, as a child you just take things like that for granted. Original Victorian details just go over your head – the beautiful cornices, the iron railings, the etched glass panel in the front door, the wash-house at the back that you’d pass on your way to play in the back green. If only I’d stopped to wonder, as I do now, how many fingers would have pressed the old electric front door bell, how many feet clumped up and down the stairs to the kitchen below, how many sleepy eyes woke to the sight of ice crystals on the inside of the window on a frosty morning…

ice crystalsI find myself in a reflective mood as I remember all these little details. How strange it is that we can spend years and decades in a place, inhabit it fully, and yet move on and live somewhere else with equal intensity, not even considering what we might have left behind. I think we do leave bits of ourselves behind you know. Each new locale presents new challenges and demands different qualities from us that we sometimes don’t even know we possess.

That’s why it can sometimes be hard to go back and revisit the past. Perhaps we are confronted with painful memories or regrets for the way things used to be, and can never be again. Perhaps it highlights the fact that life hasn’t turned out quite the way we hoped. Or feel frustrated that old feelings and resentments that we thought had been firmly put in the past can suddenly re-emerge and affect us just the same as if it were yesterday.

I don’t mind feeling a little sad as I remember my childhood in our big old house. I figure that it’s only because there are so many fond memories that one feels a touch of melancholy as you realise how very long ago those days are, and how rather old I am now (I’ll be 65 this month). I’d like to think it was also a happy home, or at least a safe haven for all those many tenants that came before us.

But enough of this, there’ll be time enough for reflection later once we get to the end of this story. Next time we’ll trace the house’s history as it approached the end of the 20th century and the years started to take their toll.

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Sitting in front of our railings, as I’m sure many children must have done through the decades, the two little boys from next door, Graeme and his wee brother Cameron.

 

 

 

 

A Walk in the Park

A story for Christmas…

A sharp blast of wind caught Alfie as he turned in the gate of the Botanic Gardens and shrugged his duffle bag more tightly onto his shoulder. At least it’s not raining, he thought as he headed straight up the main driveway towards the glasshouses. It had been nearly a month since Erin has issued her invitation and Alfie had still not given her an answer. He’d spent most of December agonising about it, endlessly going over the pros and cons in his mind. Peter and Robert had been no help and he’d just about stopped even listening to their mumblings and grumblings. “What do you want to go to New Zealand for anyway?” “What about us and OUR families?” “Don’t you care if you never see us again?”

Well of course he cared! Why did they think it was such a difficult decision? But the truth was that, despite these two sons of his being no further away from Glasgow than Aberdeen and London, he never did see anything of them. His sons were fine men with great careers and lovely wives and families, sons to be proud of. But their lives were full and busy and while they were always making promises, they never actually found the time to make the trip to their home town to visit their old Da.

Of course it had been different when Nancy was alive and still herself. Somehow she’d been the magnet that had drawn them all together for Christmas and had orchestrated the complicated arrangements with her daughters in law which meant that they’d bring the grandchildren to visit for a few days on the way to or from some more exotic holiday destination. But these days…

He stepped inside the Kibble Palace and loosened his scarf as the warm blast hit him. It had been quite a while since he’d visited this place, but as he strolled by the goldfish pond, the memories came flooding back. He smiled at the mother of a young child who giggled as she plopped pebbles into the water, just as his own children had done all those years ago when he used to give them a penny and tell them to make a wish as it hit the water. Just as he had done as a youngster.

It had been just the two of them, him and his mum. His dad had been injured in the second world war and had never really recovered from his injuries, though he’d managed to return to work as a train driver for a few years before the bullet fragment that was lodged in his brain had one day shifted slightly and killed him suddenly and silently.  Alfie had been five years old and he still remembered the day when his mother, white as a sheet, had collected him from school at home time. The fierce hug she gave him, and her tears, told him that something terrible had happened before she even managed to spit out the words.

They had moved from Partick to live with his Aunt Maureen in her big flat in Hillhead. “Of course you must come and stay with me, Peggy! Look at me, rattling around all by myself in this big house – you and Alfie are just what this place needs!” And Alfie discovered that the formidable woman he’d always been a little afraid of turned out to have a heart of pure gold. The temporary arrangement became a permanent one, with Peggy keeping house for them all, and Auntie Maureen dropping Alfie at St Peter’s Primary every day on her way to the High School where she was the Headmistress.

Alfie stopped when he reached the statue called ‘Stepping Stones’. It depicted a young girl carrying a younger child with his arms around her neck, their heads close together as she carefully stretched out her bare foot to feel for the next stone. This had been their favourite, his and his mum’s, and they had visited it often on the way home. They’d walk round the circuit, carefully examining each of the marble statues in turn, before deciding that yes, ‘Stepping Stones’ was the best. Satisfied, they’d return home where it would soon be time for Auntie Maureen to come home and they’d all have their tea together.

Alfie quietly wiped away a tear as he returned to the main driveway. He wasn’t really one for feeling sorry for himself, but visiting the statues had only highlighted the fact that here he was on Christmas Day taking a solitary walk in the park. He told himself not to be daft and continued on up the hill, allowing the memories to flood in. That’s what he was here for, wasn’t it? To lay those memories to rest?

So many memories associated with this place.  Of his mother, his wife, his daughter, all gone now. Of his sons, who had always chosen the statue of the naked man with the monkey on his knee. Of Auntie Maureen who, to his surprise and childish embarrassment, had professed a liking for the statue of the naked Eve. This was on one of the rare occasions when she had joined them for their Sunday walk. Not long before her death, he remembered. He’d always regretted that Auntie Maureen hadn’t lived to see him go to University and follow in her footsteps into the teaching profession, first as a lecturer and finally professor.

And of course Erin was still very much alive, albeit gone to the other side of the world.

Erin… So much younger than Peter and Robert, who had already grown up and left home by the time their little sister, the ‘afterthought baby’, had been born. She’d been a happy, mischievous child who had given her middle aged parents so much joy as she grew up, and caused them such anxiety when at 18 she’d announced that instead of going to University like her brothers she was going to take a gap year and see the world.

The gap year had turned into a decade, and a way of life where there was always something new to see, somewhere new to go, all funded by a few month’s work as a nanny or a bartender or a tutor. They learned to stop worrying about what their daughter was going to do with her life and instead stuck a map of the world on the kitchen wall where they could follow her progress with coloured pins and make a border of the postcards she faithfully sent from the four corners of the globe.

Until the day, on one of her rare visits home, she had lost her heart to the tall New Zealander she’d bumped into in, of all places, Sauchiehall Street! Her brothers had had plenty to disapprove of as the whirlwind romance turned into a registry office wedding. “You’ve only known him 5 minutes” “Why can’t you have a proper wedding in a church?” “This will kill your poor mother.” But the ‘poor mother’ had been Erin’s staunchest ally and had reminded her sons that they had previously spent their sister’s flying visits asking “When are you going to get married and settle down?” They could hardly have it both ways now, even if settling down was so alarmingly far away.

Alfie too had surprised himself by being quite sanguine about Erin and Niall. After all, he had learned long ago that Erin was someone who, like her mother, would always follow her own path in life no matter what anyone thought. In any case, who was he to judge? He and Nancy had only known each other a couple of months before they had got married in the student chaplaincy. They saw no point in waiting and knew that if they did it would be too late for Peggy, prematurely old and frail with heart problems. He had never forgotten his mother’s face, shining with happiness, as she sat between Nancy’s parents in the small friendly chapel. The three of them had held hands as they watched their offspring make vows that were heartfelt and – as it turned out – long lasting.

It was as if the wedding had given Peggy permission to slip away and she died peacefully in her sleep the following week. Just like her to leave without a fuss, thought Alfie. He was a little out of breath now as he reached the top of the hill and stood for a moment waiting for his heart to slow down. There was always a choice to be made at this point. On weekdays, he and his mother would turn left and start heading for home. On Sundays, they’d go right and he’d get a chance to explore the overgrown pathways that led down to the river, thrashing at the bushes with a stick and sometimes coming across frogs or a pretty pebble that he’d slip into his pocket to give to his mother when they met up again at the bottom of the hill.

He’d once asked if it wasn’t boring for her just walking quietly by herself down the path while he dashed off into the undergrowth. “Oh no, dear,” she’d said. “I love it here, it reminds me of your father. We used to come here when we were courting. See that big oak tree over there? That’s where he proposed to me” Suddenly he understood the dreamy look she sometimes had on her face as she strolled calmly down the hill and then sat on the bench at the bottom while she waited for her son to come running up, dirty and dishevelled, and eager to tell her about the frog he’d seen, or to put a round pink pebble into her hand.

He’d seen his mother in a different light after that, imagining her and the handsome young man from their wedding photograph strolling hand in hand under the trees and maybe even kissing, as he’d seen people do in the movies. How he’d blushed at the thought – he must have been maybe 9 or 10 when he had that revelation. And somehow he had understood that no-one would ever take his dad’s place in Peggy’s heart. That was why instead of burying her, he’d brought her ashes home and had placed them on the mantlepiece beside the urn that contained his dad’s.

Nancy had understood, but had occasionally asked when he was going to scatter his parents’ ashes. “When the time is right” he would reply. She’s never say any more, but when her time came he’d known what she would want and had taken the boat to Millport one sunny day two summers ago and committed her ashes to the waters of the Firth of Clyde, so that the ocean currents could sweep her away to the far off places she’d never had a chance to visit in life.

He took the path to the left and as he strode down the hill it occurred to him that it wasn’t until he had sons of his own that he had understood what a solitary child he had been, tending to shy away from the rough and tumble of the school yard rather than being in the thick of it as his boys inevitably were. They had been such scamps as children, so close in ages as to be almost like twins, and inseparable as they got into one scrape after another, climbing trees and falling out of them again, laughing their heads off. He was pretty sure he remembered rescuing one of them from that big monkey puzzle tree there at the corner. Probably Robert – he never could turn down a dare.

He listened to the men they had become tell him how impossible this proposal of Erin’s was and how he should just dismiss the idea out of hand. “I mean, do you expect us to come all the way to New Zealand just to visit you?” Well, why not, he thought. What happened to those carefree boys of mine who were always looking for adventure? But you couldn’t really say a thing like that out loud, could you?

Erin could though. “Just ignore them Dad, they never even come to Glasgow, never mind New  Zealand!” She was right, and more than that, she also addressed head-on the question which bothered him more than any other – what would happen to him as he got older and perhaps could no longer look after himself. His sons were vague, “Oh you don’t need to worry about that yet, Dad, you’re fit and healthy aren’t you? Why concern yourself with something that might never happen? We’ll do our duty by you, you know that.” He knew they realised that getting older was inevitable. He also knew that their avoidance of the issue was because of their unwillingness to admit that once their father could no longer fend for himself, their duty would consist of finding a nice care home in which he could live out his final days. The thought made him shudder.

On the other side of the world, Erin was the one who understood, who chatted with him practically every day on Skype and actually listened to his concerns. He’d learned how to open his heart to his daughter during the dark days when Nancy had reached the point where she no longer knew him and couldn’t be left safely alone in the house for fear she would leave the cooker on or would wander out into the street and forget how to get home again.  He’d refused to even countenance putting her in a home – she might have forgotten me, he told his sons, but I remember HER – and he took early retirement to look after her until, finally, his beloved Nancy had passed away in his arms after a massive stroke.

Unlike the boys, Erin was never satisfied with his assurance that he was fine, he was coping okay. She had gently insisted that he tell her how he really felt, that he share his sadness and despair with her. She had been with him every step of the way.

And now she was asking the killer question “What’s to stop you Dad? We want you with us, Niall and me. I can’t bear the thought of you ending your days all alone in some home or other when you can come and live with us on the farm. When you can have a new life: have some fun for goodness sake! You know I’ll look after you when the time comes. How could I ever put you in a home after all you did for Mum? Don’t you think it’s no more than you deserve, it’s no more than I can do? I know Mum would agree…”

Alfie took a deep breath. He knew the answer, he’d known for a while. In the past few weeks he’d been visiting all his old haunts, saying goodbye. He knew that if he did this, he’d probably never see Glasgow again, even though the Glasgow he knew was really only somewhere that existed in his memory. But ‘never’ and ‘forever’ were words that could stop you in your tracks, and he had one more thing to do before he’d be ready.

He had to push aside some overgrown brambles to reach the spot, but sure enough, there it was, surrounded by some sturdy railings. The low level platform of Botanic Gardens Station, deserted for some 70 years and now completely overgrown and covered in graffitti. He hadn’t been the only one to be fascinated by this glimpse of the past. Over the years many people, old and young, had stood right here to gaze down at this tantalising and perhaps haunted relic of the Victorian era. He’d always been glad of the substantial railings, preventing his mischievous boys from surely climbing down and disappearing into the tunnel.

They’d always listened in wide eyed wonder, and Erin had too, when he told them about their own special connection with the railway that used to run under the Botanic Gardens. Because their own grandfather, his dad, had actually driven the train that had taken this route! They knew the story well but never tired of hearing how in the olden days Botanic Gardens Station had stood just there, near the main gates. They’d imagine the Victorian ladies and gentlemen standing on the platform waiting for trains that would chuff into the station in a great cloud of smoke and steam and noise. And no, your grandpa didn’t drive a steam train, it would have been diesel engines by then, this was after the second world war.

He smiled as he remembered his eager children always asking the same questions as he told the tale. They especially liked the part where he told them how the actual station had been closed just before the war, never to open as a station again. But that the trains had continued to run through the ghost station for another decade and more until the line had been closed for good in the 1960’s and the station demolished in 1970 after a fire. Yes, that’s before you were born! But not before YOU were born, Daddy, they would prompt.

And he would tell them what he could recall. How as a little boy he remembered his dad coming home in his railway uniform – yes, he had a cap – and talk about about the train that would run without stopping through the subterranean ghost station all the way under the Gardens until it came out at another station called Kirklee. And no, I don’t know if he ever saw any ghosts, but I suppose he might have. There are lots of ghost stories to do with old railway lines, did I ever tell you about the Gray Lady of Hillhead, she was supposed to be a happy ghost who smiled at people….

In truth Alfie couldn’t really remember whether it had been his father who had talked about the ghost station. Or perhaps it had been his mother who had taken to occasionally taking him for trips on the very line where her dear Jack used to travel. As a train-mad youngster, these trips had been a huge treat.

“Why do you shut your eyes when we go into the tunnel Mummy, are you scared?” “Oh no darling, I know it might seem daft, but it makes me feel closer to your Daddy, this was the same train as he used to drive.” It didn’t seem at all daft to Alfie, it seemed to make perfect sense, and he took to also closing his eyes in the tunnel to feel close to the father he could barely remember. Perhaps his ghost did come and join us in the tunnel he thought. Perhaps it was waiting there still. Why not?

He took his  duffle bag and opened it to retrieve a plastic food container. It had amazed and touched him when he’d emptied the urns to see how small a space the ashes of two human beings took up. He took a quick look around to check there was no-one near, then carefully opened the box and reached over the railing to shake out the contents. At that moment a sudden gust caught the ashes, sending them in a joyful upward spiral. To his eye it was as if the two lonely spirits were entwining in an everlasting dance before disappearing together into the ether.

“The time is right, Nancy,” he whispered.

It was with a lighter heart and a lighter step that Alfie walked out through the gates of the Botanic Gardens that day. He’d be just in time for Christmas Lunch with his neighbours the Dempseys, a kind young couple who had insisted he join them as soon as they discovered that his family had other plans which didn’t involve him. And then he’d go home and listen to the radio while he waited for Erin’s call round about 8.00. By then it would be early on Boxing Day morning in New Zealand and Erin would be having her first coffee of the day while she checked in with her Dad. She’d wake up fast, he thought, when she heard what he had to say.  “Yes Erin, I’d love to come and live with you in New Zealand.”

 

 

 

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
geatwesternroad_1904
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.

IMG_0286

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

at the eleventh hour…

… of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,

at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them

poppies

The sun is hidden, undecided;  /  The clouds torment the trees,  /  Thunder lurks, loose, yet undivided  /  By the faintest breath of breeze.

The coming storm is longed for, hoped for  /  To ease the electric atmosphere,  /  There is no time now to stop the downpour,  /  Let it come, yet still I fear.

Long streaks of light create a chaos,  /  Rivers swell and oceans roar.  /  Death, destruction, killing, fire,  /  The earth is shaken to the core.

Filled with dread, yet never doubting,  /  This terror comes in the murk of night.  /  But after night will come a dawning  /  Of beauty – breathless, fresh and white.

John A MacFarlane