Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Lorne Arcade murals

Falling firmly into the category of “OH! I didn’t see that last time I was here”…

Three murals spotted at the back of Ayr’s Lorne Arcade, as seen from Arthur Street.

Sadly, for me at least, there’s not much point in making the detour through the back streets to get here (the shops there are of no interest). So, it’s just as well wandering around the area means the arcade makes a handy shortcut through the buildings in order to get to the High Street.

Years ago, there were some ‘interesting’ shops in the arcade, the main one I recall being a model shop, both plastic kits and radio control, plus accessories needed for them. Unfortunately, none of the others come to mind (but I’m still pretty sure they were better than what’s in there now).

I’ve discovered they date only from the start of the year (2019), and surprisingly, given the different style of each, are down to the same artist, who formerly worked on interiors, but approached the owners of buildings, and found them receptive to his idea for the installation.

The only negatives I see are a crappy advertising banner, and sign for an adjacent car park, which obscure the octopus.

Lorne Arcade Murals

30/09/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Lost, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Almost gone, almost forgotten… The Sauchiehall Street Centre

Anybody remember The Sauchiehall Street Centre?

While the shell of the building it occupied remains, the centre itself has gone.

As I recall, it gradually closed down as its occupants left, even after a major refurbishment of the interior mall, ultimately leading to it being closed completely, when major works were carried out to the interior, converting it to various shops accessed from street level, a car park, and (at the time of writing) a gym. I’m not really that familiar with the place, and those are just what I’ve observed from outside.

I don’t know the place now, as none of the occupants are of any interest to me, not even to cross their thresholds for a look.

I remember the original centre was pretty good (for me), while the refurbished offering seemed to more ‘trendy’ and less ‘useful’.

I was working (and studying) in Glasgow then, only a few streets away, so was always dropping in (while it had useful shops at least).

If I remember correctly, it was the first place I found Argos, when it opened with its unique offer of shopping via catalogue – you picked your purchase from the catalogue, paid at one of the checkouts, then queued at the collection point, where you purchase arrived from the warehouse, and you collected it. Then, a ‘new’ idea.

I didn’t really notice the place changing, or disappearing, as I moved out of Glasgow for full time work, so went from being there every day to occasional trips, and after a while, hardly ever, so missed some major changes.

Still, although the building isn’t exactly as it was, it’s also not that different, so these pics aren’t too far off.

I looked for pics online (of the old place), but there seems to almost nothing, and even a few I did apparently find turned out to have been trashed, thank to scummy Photobucket’s horrendous charging policy resulting in the owners deleting their once free accounts.

Sauchiehall Street Centre

Sauchiehall Street Centre


Sauchiehall Street Centre Bath Street

Sauchiehall Street Centre Bath Street

21/09/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Lost, photography | | Leave a comment

Has the CSO (compulsory sales order) died a natural death?

One of the ideas for dealing with vacant/derelict properties that failed to convince me of its effectiveness was the proposed CSO or Compulsory Sales Order, which would have allowed an order to issued to force the sale of a vacant property, but it wasn’t absolute, so, if there were no buyers, or reasonable offers, then the owner was not obliged to sell at any cost.

At least that was what I read in articles published about it at the time it was being proposed.

I fear some people may have ‘Heard what they wanted to hear’ about this proposed legislation, and interpreted it as a variation on a CPO or Compulsory Purchase Order, or a suggestion that councils had suddenly developed bottomless pockets, and would be buying up such properties.

Note this line I quote from an article reporting that the CSO legislation has apparently been dropped:

The introduction of CSOs – which would allow local authorities to buy homes after other legal avenues were exhausted – is viewed as a key tool in fixing the problem.

SNP MSP questions Scottish Government priorities after manifesto pledge dropped

It’s a moot point, but I don’t think that interpretation is entirely accurate. A council COULD buy a property if it wanted it AND paid a fair price, like any other buyer, but while the owner may be compelled to sell it, that would only happen if those criteria were satisfied.

I DO get the aim this would have of bringing properties to market (if it was well-formed legislation), but I still doubt it qualifies as ‘key tool’, and would better seen as one of a collection of tools.

Tools better thought over a considered period, rather than perhaps being knee-jerk reactions.

Derelict House

Derelict House

10/09/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, Lost | , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Grumpy Cat


Grumpy Cat Best Meme

01/09/2019 Posted by | Lost | | Leave a comment

Vacant and derelict land IS being reclaimed, and historic buildings ARE being saved

What a difference a decade or two can make. Seriously.

It doesn’t seem that long ago I was swept up with the crowd of baying hounds that were the (very) negative critics of what I (as an apolitical type) will refer to merely as NOT the current Glasgow City Council. The attitude of what I’ll refer to simply as ‘My Forum Buddies’ was so derogatory that I had to leave, for fear of being associated with some of the more outrageous claims they made.

I won’t repeat any of the slurs levelled at named councillors back then, suffice to say it was alarming as a concerned outsider to see how many claims of ‘dubious’ business connections and interests appeared to be backed up by records dug up by moles.

There was also endless criticism of what then appeared to be near zero efforts to do anything about derelict land or buildings, or the alarming incidence with which building blocking up developments seems to suffer from the mysterious effect of spontaneous combustion.

Consigning that to history, archives, and documents that may be accessible via FoI inquiries nowadays, while I suspect the people who think there is some sort of ‘Magic Pot’ out there, full of money to pour over such land and buildings and stop the rot, will NEVER be satisfied, there now exist various department who are actively pursuing efforts to restore such land and buildings to service, and, unlike the zero budget situation faced some 15 years ago, there are now funding routes available to them.

Back then, organisation tasked with looking at such things had budgets that allowed them to investigate, record, classify, and recommend (or even issue enforcements), there was no access or organisation of any sort of funds which would allow work or purchases to be made.

Things really do look better today, 10-15 on from the days when there was a lot of looking, but no touching.

Two stories which just appeared together give a better idea of what is happening now, after years of apparent inaction, changes are being made.

Firstly, land:

SIXTY-four hectares of vacant and derelict land was returned to productive use in Glasgow last year — the equivalent of 90 full-sized football pitches.

This amounted to a 6.4 per cent reduction, from 1,069 to 1,005 hectares. These figures compared with reductions between 2016 and 2017 of 3.9 per cent and 42 hectares. It was the eighth year in a row that progress has been made.

There was also a cut in the number of vacant and derelict sites, from 761 to 721. Most of the city’s vacant and derelict land is in the north and east of the city.

Two-thirds of the land brought back into use was developed for residential purposes, with other uses including transport, recreation and leisure.

Nearly half — 349 — of the remaining sites are owned by the council. The council has drawn up a Vacant and Derelict Land Assets Plan as it prepares to make use of the land in the coming years.

Glasgow City Council will spend a £3.5million Scottish Government funding allocation on potential treatment and/or investigation of over 37 hectares in this financial year.

INCREASE In Amount Of Derelict Glasgow Land Brought Back Into Use

It goes on to list a number of proposals together with amounts – the amounts are not huge, but note my observation that the figure used to be ZERO.

Secondly, buildings.

I’ve already mentioned development at Buchanan Wharf, where two historic building (the only two left when development began, I think) remained standing, although decaying and largely unoccupied. It would have been easy for the developer to press for permission to demolish the derelicts, but that didn’t happen, and the developer has taken control of them, and will be remedying their condition, and reusing them.

RUNDOWN Grade A-listed premises in Glasgow City Centre could be set for a new lease of life.

The Campbell building at 71-75 Robertson Street, is mainly disused and appears on Scotland’s Buildings At Risk Register. The five-storey structure, which dates from 1901, was designed by architect J A Campbell.

It is beside the site of a proposed 14-storey office development in Argyle Street, the plans for which have been adjusted to allow sightlines of the Campbell building.

During discussion of the Argyle Street proposal at Glasgow’s planning applications committee senior planning officer Blair Greenock stated: “There is interest in the Campbell building.

“There is a gap side behind it which is likely to take a companion piece so, whilst confidential, we are discussing the reuse of that building.

“One would hope this investment [the Argyle Street office] would be a catalyst for that.”

To address concern that it might be deteriorating beyond repair, he said: “We are in dialogue with the owners. There was a previous listed building repairs notice served on one of the owners.

FUTURE Looking Brighter For Historic Glasgow Building Of National Importance

The eternal Naysayers would have us (you) believe that there is no concern for Glasgow’s older buildings, especially if derelict.

It’s true many are, or have been razed over the years.

But it’s also true (now that we see more detail reported) that many of those were in poor condition, possibly for years, and maybe even since the day they were built (shoddily).

You can’t keep EVERY old building, not can you please EVERY Naysayer, but you can, and should, investigate each case and decide on merit.

See, for example, the Buildings at Risk Register (not available years ago) now online for all to see, and trying to gain attention for those which could be available.

This Really IS NOT the Glasgow of two decades ago, where some claimed there was no problem getting access to a tasty site blocked by a derelcit, provided you had a box of matches.

These are the buildings on the Buchanan Wharf site, and also The Monteith.

Clyde Place Buildings Kingston House

Clyde Place Buildings Kingston House – Beco Building behind


The Monteith

The Monteith – converted from hostel to flats

Both sit in the midst of land which has lain derelict and vacant for years, but which was taken over for redevelopment for a mix of business and housing recently, and would have been easy to clear and raze completely, rather than have the existing building retained, repaired (or had conversions made over the past decades reversed), and then redeveloped as part of the redevelopment of the area.

Another very recent example is 50 Argyle Street, said to be beyond saving due to deterioration after being surveyed years ago, and recommend for demolition as the only option, recent re-inspection (and I suspect revised methods and techniques which are now available as options), have led to this building being part of new development which will retain the structure.

Apparently that scaffolding, added to allow horrible adverts to be hung from the structure, allowed inspectors access they couldn’t get during earlier surveyors, and let them carry out a more detailed inspection of areas they couldn’t get to otherwise.

50 Argyle Street B

50 Argyle Street B

30/08/2019 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, council, Lost, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Go visit the Lighthouse, but look deeper inside

I’ve featured a wander into the Lighthouse before, but that was focussed on the building and some interesting feature noted regarding only that aspect.

The Lighthouse Tower Spiral Stairs

The Lighthouse Tower Spiral Stairs

I’ve dropped in quite a few times since, mainly to get some exercise by climbing up the spiral staircase to the top of the tower, but there are occasional, changing, exhibitions featured there (I don’t think there was a decent one worth mentioning any time I’ve fallen through the door), and more interestingly, a permanent, dedicated exhibition space feature Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his life, and his work.

It seems to be slowly changing and expanding. (Unfortunately, bits of the audio-visual displays seem to be… unreliable).

I’m not sure how many people know about it, or visit, since its located on one of the upper floors, doesn’t have much in the way of signs or publicity, and when I’m there – I’m almost alone, with few others to be seen.

I’ve always meant to make a trip to look at this display more closely, but it seems to alter each time I drop in, with pieces moved around, or not seen.

The most stunning aspect is series of models of projects Mackintosh DIDN’T have the opportunity to complete.

Last time I was there, I thought they’d cleared those models away for some reason, or put them into storage – they weren’t to be seen where they had been before, at the entrance to the Mackintosh exhibition area.

I found them later, as I wander up to the top of the building, where they were found sitting on one of the landing.

I should have grabbed some pics, but the place was closing by the time I came across them.


I see one of local media sources has made that trip, taken some  pics, and added some archive material too…

No one has left their mark on Glasgow quite like Charles Rennie Mackintosh has.

Rightly heralded as one of the most innovative architects of the 20th century, the buildings he designed that stand tall in the city encourage visits from people from far and wide in pilgrimage to appreciate his genius.

And while the likes of The Lighthouse, the House for An Art Lover, Scotland Street School Museum and the Mackintosh church are all well known tributes to his originality, foresight and spirit of creation, they should also be looked at in tandem with the designs that never went past the drawing board.

The unbuilt Mackintosh gems that would no doubt have furthered his legacy and brought about a new level of architectural beauty to a city in Glasgow that already bears witness to his genius.

Competition entry designs that were brought to life in model form and exhibited within The Lighthouse and the House for An Art Lover in recent years.

The incredible Charles Rennie Mackintosh designs that never made it off the page

The article’s worth a look.

And the models are worth a visit.


24/08/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Lost | , , , | Leave a comment

Volunteers… DON’T go into the light!

While I admire those who are able to volunteer their time and effort to support legitimate charities (always check any organisation sailing under the charity banner – and find out if it’s supporting a multimillionaire head first, and beneficiaries second).

I can’t offer the same ‘charitable’ opinion of huge commercial ventures that depend on volunteers to make it work.

Yes, I’m looking at you, usually giant sports ventures that eat millions, pay little or nothing to those who make them successful, and strut their stuff with claims of how much they benefit the local economy – while selectively forgetting about any monies that goes to those behind them.

I suspect a few lucky folk walk off with a nice little pot – while thousands of volunteer get expenses and beer money to keep them happy, and probably lots and lots of mind-bending indoctrinational inspirational talks about how ‘important’ they are to the success of the venture.

I’m impressed, really, I am, at how these events manage to pull the same trick every time they come around, be they the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games or whatever.

There’s currently a whopping THREE such events competing for free labour volunteers to help them along to a healthy bottom line once the books are closed and the accountants go home.

A recruitment drive has been launched for volunteers to join the team running three major sporting events in Glasgow.

Glasgow Life are looking for people to help with the running of the LEN European Short Course Swimming Championships, the LGT World Men’s Curling Championship and UEFA EURO 2020.

Applicants will be able to choose which event, and how many, they’d like to be involved in.

A variety of roles, including supporting spectators and visitors,

Applications open on Monday July 22 and will close on Sunday August 25, for a variety of roles including supporting spectators and visitors to the city during the events.

Thousands of people have volunteered at previous events in the city including the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2018 European Championships.

Across all three events, more than 1,000 volunteers will participate in some of the biggest events in the world.

Glasgow volunteers sought for three major sporting events

It’s funny how unions and suchlike get all up in arms and mouthy about ‘Free labour’, ‘Cheap about’, or even ‘Slave labour’ when business try to run apprenticeships, or work experience schemes, but I can’t think of a union that has lifted a finger over highly profitable sporting events and similar – which would probably be financial ‘Black Holes’ if they were forced to pay EVERYBODY involved in their running.

Maybe the union bosses like football etc, and have corporate boxes at those events, for their rich mates.

Volunteer Zombies

PS – Don’t forget

Don’t forget the other little scheme that let goodies be divvied up between the lucky few.

The ‘Awards’.

I’m not going to waste time on this, but it would be nice to know how much Glasgow will have to throw into a ‘Money Pit’ (regardless of whether it wins this award) just to keep in the running for this.

Glasgow officially noted its intention to bid in January of this year, and submitted a formal candidature bid last month, resulting in the city being shortlisted for the title alongside Genoa, Italy.

If successful, Glasgow would be the first city to win the coveted title twice. It would also mark 20 years since it first gained the accolade back in 2003.

Glasgow shortlisted for European Capital of Sport award

Mentioning ‘sport’ seems to make some people lose touch with reality, and expenses.

22/08/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, Lost | , , , | Leave a comment

Did I find some of George Square’s original Christmas Bells? (Yes I did)

Wandering along one of the routes I’ve not seen for some months, I was surprised to something I thought I was unlikely to see again (and wasn’t lying here until recently).

If I’m right, and these things are pretty rare and recognisable, it’s a pair of animated bells from the string which once hung around George Square as part of its past Christmas Lights.

Unlike the lights seen today, which can probably be assembled from various lighting modules found online, George Squares original Christmas lights were actually made locally, by Glaswegians, and formed the basis for many later display elements seen elsewhere. Prior to that, many of the features were obtained from Blackpool’s illuminations once they had been retired when those were updated. (That wasn’t just true of Glasgow, as I used to visit other illuminations, and slowly began to realise I was recognising items I’d seen before, in larger displays elsewhere).

Many of the elements were based on steel frames with rope lights attached. The rope lights were made of lights strung inside a clear plastic tube. Great fun for those who worked on them since they carry mains voltage and are joined by waterproof connectors. Well, you know what THAT means in Scotland – NOTHING’S waterproof in Scotland 😉

They were substantial, and stored from year to year for reuse, until the budget was steadily reduced, the street displays disappeared, and George Square became the centre of the council’s Christmas display.

Unfortunately, this find was sitting just behind a metal grid fence, so the pics aren’t the best thanks to its presence in front of the bells.

Click for bigger (sharper than the resized version below, and shows more detail).

George Square Bells

George Square Bells

I’ve passed the link to this post and pics on to someone involved in building these things many years ago, and will hopefully find out if they actually are what I think they are.


Remarkably,I was right, and those are a couple of sections from George Square’s original home-brewed Christmas lights.

The story behind them, and their history is both fascinating and surprising.

I had no idea about their background.

If you have an hour or so to spare, and are in the least interested, I thoroughly recommend sitting down with your favourite treat, and enjoying this video from someone who knows better than me.

Incidentally, if you’re not familiar with these videos, I might add that there are more which show some more recent gems and reveals about the squares slightly more recent festive lighting.


18/08/2019 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, council, Lost, photography | , , | Leave a comment

A lost cat story with an ending (and it’s a good one)

I think there’s only one ‘lost cat’ story I raised in here that actually came to a successful conclusion, and the owner followed up the ‘Lost’ posters with another offering thanks and letting folk know their cat had been found, and was safe, back at home.

That’s not to be misinterpreted as criticism, since the cat may never turn up or be found. I’m just saying it’s nice to know when there is a success.

There was news of a find after three years, thanks to the cat in question being microchipped, and checked when a concerned member of the public called in the Scottish SPCA to help a stray.

Microchipped moggy Amber had not been seen since disappearing from her home in Erskine, Renfrewshire, in 2016.

However, she was found around 19 miles away in Stepps and returned to her owner earlier this week.

The Scottish SPCA said the case shows how important it is for pet owners to get their animals chipped, as without it, it is unlikely Amber would ever had made it back home.

Holly Bates from the SSPCA said: “Amber was taken to our centre in Glasgow where she stayed until her owners were able to collect her and take her home.

“Instances such as this act as reminders as to why microchipping your cat is so important.

“If Amber had not been microchipped it is possible she may have never been reunited with her owners.

“It’s also important to keep your cat’s chip contact details up to date, even if they have been missing for an extended period.”

Purrfect surprise: Missing cat reunited with owner three years on

Amber - Reunited with owner after three years Pic credit Scottish SPCA

Amber – Reunited with owner after three years Pic credit Scottish SPCA

17/08/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Lost | , , , | Leave a comment

Mildly interesting view from Yorkhill

During my recent wander through Yorkhill, I climbed the (nor very big) hill to the hospital for a look.

Sadly, there wasn’t much to be seen there either, but I did think the view from the hill was a little more interesting.

At top left is a different view of the old Pontecorvo Building (still no obvious news of its fate seen, but it must surely be slated for demolition), which can be seen to be decaying and falling apart now that it is derelict and abandoned.

From this viewpoint, an intriguing covered balcony can be seen just under the roof level.

I wonder if there was a technical reason for this open area, since most of the services tend to occupy this upper area, or if it was a privileged area few lucky people to wander out onto, and enjoy the view?

Perhaps it was Professor Guido Pontecorvo’s (1907-1999) penthouse suite, a perk of his job and position.

However, what really caught my eye at first was the glazed area that can be seen in the centre of this pic, with the planters making a nice little roof garden for the occupants.

Not obvious from the view, this is actually the roof of the Kelvin Hall, and is an area not visible from the street or ground level.

I had thought it was a secret penthouse at first, but a closer looks shows it to be little more than office space.

Before looking closer, at the interior, I’d even thought it might have been a staff roof restaurant, but all that can be seen are desks and computer screens.

Click for bigger.

View over Kelvin Hall to Pontecorvo

View over Kelvin Hall to Pontecorvo

Unless I’m making VERY bad searches online, I STILL can’t find any newer information regarding demolition of Pontecorvo than the original 2011 story, published by Glasgow University and noting that the building was due to be demolished, and that staff were in the process of being relocated.

That’s now EIGHT years old.

05/08/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Lost, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Can anyone enlighten us on Helensburgh born inventor Charles Johnson?


I never cease to be amazed by some of the gems that come to light as regards Scottish invention, and our friends at Helensburgh Heritage have come up with yet another.

The original piece is short, and in the form of an appeal, so I’ll quote it in full…

MYSTERY surrounds a Helensburgh man who is credited with having invented the electric gramophone pickup.

Burgh-born Charles Johnson sold the patent for the pickup to record giants HMV in 1929.

He moved to London in the 1900s and worked for Kelvin Bottomley and Baird in 1908, joining Dent clockmakers in 1911 the year before they moved to Linwood in Renfrewshire.

As well as producing record players, Dent and Company were engineers and makers of scientific instruments until they closed in 1960.

The building they used was demolished in 1966 as it was considered radioactive from making compasses and luminous dials for military and civilian use.

Charles died in hospital in Paisley in 1945, when a local paper described him as a well-known local inventor.

The Heritage Trust would be delighted to hear from anyone with information about the inventor and the company.

Details of inventor wanted

All I could come up with was confirmation of the factory and business, and that they made a compass which seems to have been used in World War I military boats.

While I wasn’t able to come up with any of their audio products, I did find a number of their compasses have appeared in auctions, and can be found for sale online.

As for Charles Johnson, nothing seen, not even in some of the more obscure industrial history sites I dig around in. The company name of ‘Dent and Co and Johnson’ is referred to, as is its location of Linwood, Paisley, but it is only referred to as a maker of scientific instruments, and”The Linwood” (Johnson’s Patent) Compass.

For what it’s worth, I had a look at some sources claiming to tell the history of the record, or gramophone, pickup.

While they did provide some reasonable technical background on the evolution of this device, and its variations (electromagnetic and crystal), they all failed to give any reference to the inventors behind them, and concentrated mainly on the principles involved, and the mechanical aspects of the needles used (seems they used the same needles as mechanical pickups), and their development from steel towards more wear resistant (and less damaging to the record surface) materials.

Those early devices had a hard life, as records generally went around at 78 rpm then, and could wear out a steel needle in as few as three plays.

So, does anybody know anything?

Please let us know in the Comment area below, or contact the trust.

‘The Linwood’ label courtesy of Helensburgh Heritage.

02/08/2019 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Lost | , , , , | Leave a comment

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