Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Art Deco needs help in Glasgow (and Scotland)

I haven’t spent much time in Paisley, but even when I was there decades ago I realised there was a difference in the architecture of the town compared to Glasgow.

I didn’t have the knowledge to comprehend that difference, but I was there for the first time (yes, in decades) recently, and while experts and more learned students than me may say I’m wrong, I saw the difference almost immediately, and recognised what that difference was.

I stand to be corrected (and this is hardly a thesis), but after walking around much of the town centre, and looking for date stones on its buildings, it seems clear that much of the architecture dates from (approximately) the 1930s.

Play the same game in Glasgow, and you’ll find that most of the date stones were place (approximately) 30 years earlier, and cluster around 1900.

That difference means Glasgow was styled by architects who lived through the Art Nouveaux period, while those who build Paisley were influenced by the days of Art Deco.

I’m sure someone with letters after their name will say I’m a moron or cretin, and wrong, but I’m only describing what I see.

There are some obvious ‘big ticket’ items such as The Beresford Hotel and the Luma Lamp Factory, a stretch out as far as the India of Inchinnan tyre factory, and even the recently saved Vinicombe Street Garage.

But I’d suggest you’ll need to be alert to spot much more. A book about such things in Glasgow would probably not be very thick (unless it also included ‘lost’ items, such as the Tait Tower and the Empire Exhibition of 1938), and take a LOT of research.

Why did I start waffling about this?

At the moment, I travel along St Vincent Street on a near daily basis, and wrongly thought of the item below as being ‘new’ or ‘recent’, such is its quality and freshness.

In fact, it dates from 1931/2, when the office block at 145 was built, and a pair of griffins was carved into the plinths on either side of the entrance, to guard the entrance to the building.

St Vincent Street Griffin

St Vincent Street Griffin

While I continue to wander around the city, looking up (and down!), and discovering gems that are seldom, if ever, seen or mentioned, most of the items are clearly Victorian, or based in that era, and I wonder how much ‘alternative’ work I’m missing.

I’ve found there’s a HUGE collection of work carved or added into the detail of some buildings. While quite a lot of the more distinct items can be found described in documentation and records, some (such as the griffin) get barely a mention, and are passed over as merely a reference to ‘decorative carving’, even if they contain significant details.

You have to get a close view to see the detail, AND you have to be aware of the historic significance of items they may be carrying or holding, or have carved next to them, otherwise their meaning can be lost.

You have to be careful too, context matters.

I recently spotted one carrying a staff with serpents twisted around it, usually a medical reference, but when I did find something, the record stated it signified commerce. So. I learned something.

08/09/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Butt… is it politically correct?

I think I’m going to avoid getting into trouble for this, and just state the circumstance.

Arriving at my local charity shop, which had recently had a sort of ‘Art and Collector’s Day (I missed it, probably just as well since the goodies on offer may have been bargains, but weren’t cheap), and was clearing items that hadn’t moved on the day.

In the middle of the main window was…

Wooden Carving window view

Window view

You might not believe it, but the pic is actually clearer than the view from street was, at first, and I innocently wandered inside to see if the apparently ‘abstract’ carving was based on anything identifiable.

I’d been there earlier in the week, just after the sale, and saw a round lump sitting in the same place, and when I took a closer look inside, turned out to be a stylised sleeping cat. No, it’s not sleeping on my table – nice as it was, £15 was too rich for me.

This time, looking closer from a different angle…

Wooden Carving

Wooden Carving

I’m sure some PC nutjob(s) will be going ballistic by now, and having a fit over this.

25/08/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

Tympanum relief on Anderson College Of Medicine in Dumbarton Road

I noticed this a while ago, but was a little disappointed to find that the usual reference I look to for details of buildings around Glasgow referred to this detail as little more than “Notable sculpted panel by James Pittendreigh MacGillivray to Dumbarton Road”.

It looks far more interesting than that.

I had dig a little, but found it to be “Tympanum relief group depicting the 16th Century physician Peter Lowe and his Students”.

That’s better.

Anderson College of Medicine tympanum

Anderson College of Medicine tympanum

It took me so long to dig that crumb up I almost missed the rest of the features, but the delay gave me a chance to go back and collect them before finalising this post.

High above the main door is a date stone which also identified the building.

Andersons College Medical School Date Stone 1889

Andersons College Medical School Date Stone 1889

Due to the demolition works surrounding much of this building at the moment, the next subject was almost hidden as it’s not visible from Dumbarton Road, and I only discovered it while looking at a more detailed survey of the building’s decorations.

It’s only visible from the east, and only from below, unless you have a handy cherry picker in your back pocket.

It may be revealed once the demolition work is completed, but will be semi-hidden if a new building is constructed next door.

If I can remember, I might watch for a chance for a direct line of sight, and a better pic.

This view was taken with my back against the perimeter fencing of the adjacent site, and is as far as you can get from the carving. You would need the aforementioned cherry picker, or a scaffold platform to get up to, and level with, this sculpture to get a decent view or shot.

Click for bigger.

Andersons College Medical School Window Surround Carving

Andersons College Medical School Window Surround Carving

29/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Helensburgh handcuffs

With the disappointing, but not unexpected, changes to the front of Helensburgh, I seem to find the side and back streets have become more interesting.

Most of the shops I used to like to look at have gone since I was last there, and had lasted so long I almost expected them to stay. But, I’m not that silly, and saw this first on Bute (which I visited more regularly), when I realised my usual walk around the town began to miss the ‘old format’ shops, which had very different arrangements of entrance ways and window compared to later shop. Today, they maximise floor space. In the past, they concentrated more on window displays, and even quite small shops would have long entrance corridors leading from the pavement, flanked by long windows along their sides where shops would display their goods. That’s gone, probably everywhere, unless you trip over a shop that has not been ‘modernised’.

This, however, is not about a shop, it’s about a Police Office, or as we’d say nowadays, a Police Station.

Helensburgh’s original Police Office is now just a historic remain, abandoned and up for redevelopment.

But, there still a fairly impressive stone carving in place above the main entrance. There are other entrances to the side, since the office housed a number of related facilities.

It wasn’t really the large carving that caught my eye at first, but the two cute pairs of handcuffs carved into the detail.

I’m afraid this pic is a little incomplete – I’m doing a lot of switching between dSLR and compact at the moment, and while a dSLR viewfinder actually shows about 90% of the image to be recorded (so there’s a slim border around the edge, with more image than seen), the compact viewfinder shows 100% of the final image – so there’s no ‘safety net’ of extra image around the edge. Fine if your brain remembers, not so fine if you’re not fully alert to which camera you have in your hand.

Excuse the ‘missing’ bits.

Helensburgh Police Office

Helensburgh Police Office

I think this building is dated to 1906, but the record I found was not specific.

The carving has survived well, given its location in a seafront (or side) building, with much detail still to be seen.

The composition of the stone used was well suited to the site, which would be exposed to damp salt air from the sea.

I’ve come across many examples of stonework in Glasgow which have only had (industrial) air/rain to contend with, where some blocks of stone have dissolved and lost all their structure, yet may be located beside other pieces of stone which have survived with almost no evidence of weathering.

This can be seen easily in some of the carvings on Alexander ‘Greek’ Thompson’s well-known Free Church in Glasgow’s St Vincent Street, where some have been reduced to featureless blobs, while adjacent examples of the same work, but on different blocks, remain almost complete.

04/05/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

What is this Rutherglen marker post for?

Rutherglen has thrown some interesting features, such as some fairly odd old benchmarks embedded in the pavement/footpath that don’t seem to match any listed on sites dedicated to such things, and even defied an enquiry to the museum service.

This one seems to be the opposite, and is so new (in relative terms) that it doesn’t seem to have been listed or recorded anywhere (at least not that I’ve been able to find online).

I’ve passed it for a few years now, and think it appeared while the ‘new’ motorway works were being carried out nearby, and the roads were being altered to suit.

It is an unidentified stone (or concrete – to my shame I have never looked closely) marker with unexplained writing carved on its face.

As some of the carving is already a little indistinct, I’ll describe what is shown in the pic.

I’m not even sure what is written on it, having first interpreted a ‘/’ character as a slash, then began to wonder if it was a stylised number ‘1’.

The top line is easy, that’s an ‘R’

But the next could be taken to be ‘/85/’ or ‘1851’, so is ambiguous.

There is then a horizontal separator line.

The next could be taken to be ’20/8′ or ‘2018’ – but it’s worth remembering this was placed BEFORE 2018!

Next line is a stylised ‘RHS’.

At the bottom is what I interpret as a stylised thistle.

Rutherglen Marker Glasgow Road

Rutherglen Marker Glasgow Road and Quay Road

Given the thistle, I had thought this might have identified ‘Royal Horticultural Society Scotland’, but a look around their web site does not appear to mention the placing of any markers.

The ‘H’ could also be Historical, but that proved too vague to come up with anything.

And the /85/ over 20/8 doesn’t correspond to anything such as any co-ordinate system that I’m aware of.

I tried the date pair of 1851 and 2018, but again, too vague to find anything with no other clues.

Thank to Google, I can say there was nothing but industrial units on the ground before the motorway changes, and that the spot for this marker was not there back in 2010, was prepared in 2012, and the marker itself was in place by 2014, so the idea of ’20/8′ being 2018 seems unlikely, being at least four years after the thing was put in place, and six years before the spot was set aside.


Does anybody know what this is?

I find it odd that something so obvious should be placed so carefully yet have nothing nearby to explain it.

This is how it looks on Street View, showing its location.

Use ‘View on Google Maps’ to see what this spot looked like all the way back to 2007.

25/06/2018 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, photography | , , , , | Leave a comment

Stone faces in Baillieston Road

Don’t really know why I’ve never pointed a camera at these three characters before, I’ve both seen and passed them often enough.

Collecting something else, I decided today was their day, and grabbed a couple of shots as I walked past.



I’d never even really looked at them, but they obviously all of different faces, each quite different, and if modelled on actual faces, probably would also be recognisable.

There’s no lettering, and I’m guessing there’s a fourth face hidden away on the side that can’t be seen.

That ‘flaw’ alone is enough to make it clear the carving is not an original part of the house where it lies now.

I wonder what its story is, and where was originally located?

11/03/2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

On chainsaws and sculpture

You never quite know what you will find hidden away in Scotland, and I’ve been watching the fortunes of one venture, as the owner has been having some hassles with the local authorities while trying to expand and maintain the viability of the business he has succeeded in in setting up in what some would describe as ‘The Middle of Nowhere”. But, that’s another story, hopefully with a happy outcome.

Andy MacLachlan of Chainsaw Craft has shot a video or three at his premises at his premises at Rashfield, by Dunoon. These have found their way on to YouTube, and have managed to make the top of the pile. His owl video has attracted close on 360,000 views as I write, over 1,200 comments, and 40,000 views in one day.

You can see more vids on his own site listed above, or on his YouTube site.

18/12/2006 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | 1 Comment


%d bloggers like this: