Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Mackintosh Building S43

It’s the first anniversary of the big fire, and it seems it’s not been forgotten.

Although there’s little external evidence of ongoing activity at the remains of the Mackintosh Building (I know, I’ve been past it a few times, with little new to see), it seems that work is still being undertaken on a daily basis to make the structure safe, and parts are still being deconstructed.

Glasgow School of Art has re-affirmed its commitment to restoring the Mackintosh building, one year after it was ravaged by a tragic fire.

On the evening of Friday June 18, 2018, firefighters raced to the city centre blaze which had engulfed the Mack. When the fire was finally extinguished, a scene of devastation was left behind.

Ever since, Glaswegians have been left wondering whether we will ever see the Mack in its full glory again – the building was just months away from completion after being gutted during another major fire in 2014.

Yet Glasgow School of Art has this week confirmed to Glasgow Live the school’s intention to restore the building in honour of Charles Rennie Mackinstosh.

They said: “The Glasgow School of Art is committed to rebuilding the Mack as Mackintosh envisaged it. We will be bringing it back for our students, for the people of Glasgow and the wider world.

“This Friday will see 2019 Graduation which will be a day of celebration for our amazing students following a hugely successful Degree Show. Many will them will then be exhibiting work in London at the annual graduate showcases.

“We are focusing on this.”

However investigations into the fire continue, with Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service both involved – it is still unclear what sparked the blaze, with the building then under the day-to-day control of Kier Construction.

When asked by Glasgow Live what stage their inquiries are at, an SFRS spokesperson commented: “The investigation is still ongoing”.

Glasgow School of Art committed to restoring Mackintosh building one year after fire

Investigators are entering the final phases of their probe into the fire which devastated Glasgow School of Art.

The world-renowned Mackintosh building was extensively damaged when a blaze broke out on 15 June last year.

A year on, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said several hundred tonnes of debris still had to be removed from the remains of the building.

Neighbours of the art school told BBC Scotland they were eager to find out the results of the investigation.

Investigators have examined two sectors of the building following the removal of 400 tonnes of charred wreckage, according to the Scottish fire service.

They have also scoured hundreds of hours of CCTV footage and taken witness statements.

But before the final stages of the investigation can take place, more debris needs to be taken away from the “complex site”.

SFRS Assistant Chief Officer Ross Haggart said the fire service was working alongside on-site contractors to have the “significant volume” of remaining fire debris removed.

He added: “The fire investigation remains focused on likely origin and cause – but against the backdrop of an unprecedented large scale fire scene within a complex and challenging site.

“Our fire investigation team is working hard based on what remains within the building once the debris is removed, alongside all other evidence available to them.”

The probe is being led by fire service group manager David Dourley, who said the final phases of the investigation would be “challenging” due to the volume of debris.

“It is also a challenging site and we will require, at times, to work within confined spaces,” he said.

“But safety is paramount and each time we move to begin an excavation or go onto the site we will consult with Glasgow School of Art and also the on-site contractor.”

Earlier this year, the school of art was criticised by Holyrood’s culture committee, which found bosses did not give sufficient priority to safeguarding the building.

It has also faced criticism from some local residents and businesses who were unable to return to their properties for several months.

Ms Simpson said: “I want to know who is responsible for the fire because it is somebody’s fault. There is somebody, or a variety of bodies, that were to blame but you need to see the facts first before you start shouting ‘it was your fault’.

‘Final phases’ of Glasgow art school fire investigation

Probe into Glasgow Art School fire moves into final phases

And the ‘forgotten’…

To many Glaswegians, the major fire at the School of Art may seem like it was just yesterday, but for the residents of Garnethill this has been the longest year.

12 months ago, on Friday June 15, the area was devastated by a huge blaze which engulfed the heart of the community – the world renowned Mackintosh building.

Not only did the residents have to suffer the sight of ‘a fireball falling from the heavens’ on their very own doorsteps, some were unable to access their homes for three months in the fall-out from the fire.

Yet there is finally hope for those living in Garnethill and optimism for the future. During a deeply traumatic time, community spirit has never been stronger.

In the week in which Glasgow Live reported the School of Art’s unequivocal commitment to have the Mack reconstructed “as Mackintosh envisaged it”, we had the opportunity to speak to chair of Garnethill Community Council, Jane Sutherland, about the experiences of the area’s residents over the last year.

Recalling the night of June 18, Jane said: “It was very frightening – it was a very scary night.

“We were all out on the streets, watching a fireball fall from the heavens. It really was terrifying.

“The firefighters looked like they had water pistols on it. It was an absolute inferno. I think they expressed on the night that some of them had never seen anything like it. I believe it was visible as far afield as Motherwell. It really was like a volcano.”

While the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Police Scotland’s investigations into the blaze continue, the scars of that evening are still understandably apparent, yet there’s a sense from Jane things are starting to move in the right direction.

She explained: “I think there is a traumatised community.

“As you can imagine, it’s been an exceptionally challenging time, for all of the residents in Garnethill and for all the people who work here as well, because access to Garnethill is very restricted and that’s the ongoing day-to-day problems.

“It’s also been difficult with access because of the Sauchiehall Street Avenues project – slowly that’s all opening up and that will see a boost and an improvement to the fabric of the neighbourhood – bring a bit of cheer to faces.

“It’s been really hard-going with all of that building work and all of the building work going on at the Mack and the Reid Building. Renfrew Street is still closed, and looks like it might be for sometime yet, which restricts access.

“The thing is not just to dwell on the challenges of it, how hard it’s been – it has been shockingly hard – it’s the efforts the community and the Art School, all kinds of groups, have been working very, very hard since the fire to improve the community relations and see what good we can bring out of this.”

And in spite of initial difficulties, the relationship between the School of Art and local residents has now strengthened, while the city has given its backing to local community projects helping to renew Garnethill’s sense of purpose.

Jane added: “Since November, I think the Art School have recognised their communications with the community wasn’t as good as it should have been. I think they’ve made sterling efforts to really integrate into the community here, and offer opportunities for practical help and assistance.

Glasgow Art School fire – traumatised Garnethill residents reflect on ‘shockingly hard’ year

I’ll just leave these here…

Remembering the Glasgow Art School fire – one year on from devastating blaze

02 ABC one year on from Glasgow Art School blaze – here’s what’s happening


Mackintosh Building Renfrew Street

Mackintosh Building Renfrew Street



16/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There goes Helenvale Sports Complex

While it may have been closed and abandoned years ago, Helenvale Sports Complex lay as a derelict until recently.

Recent news of approval to demolish the place and develop the ground as flats has quickly turned into reality, and what had been left is now nothing more than a pile of rubble.

Parkhead Library still stands on the corner, to the left of the site.

Glasgow Parkhead Helenvale Sports Complex gone

Glasgow Parkhead Helenvale Sports Complex gone

They split the buildings about a week ago.

Helenvale Sports Complex Library Split

Helenvale Sports Complex Library Split

Last look at the remains and entrance before they go.

Helenvale Sports Complex Last Look

Helenvale Sports Complex Last Look

14/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Lost, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

St Ambrose and other Coatbridge schools

There’s an interesting story developing in Coatbridge, which almost means something to me, and seems to be a fair example of the good old ‘Lynch Mob’ mentality, or jumping to conclusions while ignoring, or not bothering, to consider evidence.

While I can read documents such as toxicity reports, I’m sadly lacking when it comes to the actual chemistry of the subject.

You see, when I attended (the original) St Ambrose… they weren’t able to find a chemistry teacher, so it was a subject I never studied, or was even taught, until I reached university (and the lecturer turned out to be the worst one employed there – so bad, the students had to complain about him to the board).

There seems to be lots of emotive responses and claims so far, but no objective evidence to back any of them, and as far as I can see, none if the toxicity or similar reports relating to copper mention the claims being made regarding the apparent cluster.

I mention and make this clear not because I’m suggesting there is no problem on this site. As I noted, I lack some of the education needed.

My point is that the effect of the ‘LOUD AND NOISY’ assumptions without evidence is to divert time and attention from research into the real causes, should they exist.

These are the media stories that have appeared (in my feeds at least) so far:

Children pulled out schools over ‘blue water cancer fear’

Angry backlash at meeting over Coatbridge ‘blue water’ schools

Angry parents demand answers over school cancer fears

Teachers vote to strike over Coatbridge schools ‘blue water’ fears

Teachers vote to strike over school water cancer fears

Blue water from copper pipes is far from rare, or unknown, and not related to cancer.

A ‘Kill the witch’ response may be good for emotions, and pleasing crowds, but jumping to conclusions can cause more harm, especially if it delays proper investigation by diverting attention and resources.

If this is down to the site, rather than just a statistical anomaly, any delay in finding the actual cause could be harmful to potential victims.

I’m sure this is set to run and run, so may post links to any further articles in an ‘Update’ section after this initial post.

At least the publicity surrounding these developments spurred me into getting up and making the effort to get over to Coatbridge for a look at the place, apparently now around seven years old.

Click for bigger.

St Ambrose and Buchanan Schools

St Ambrose and Buchanan Schools


St Ambrose and Buchanan Schools

St Ambrose and Buchanan Schools

Spot the difference – St Ambrose or Buchanan?

St Ambrose High School

St Ambrose High School


Buchanan High School

Buchanan High School

Maybe they should have left the original St Ambrose alone, instead of razing it in order to make a car park.

Although they’re locked away in my archives, at least I managed to collect some pics of the original some years ago, and might get around to digitising them on day.

Meantime, here’s how the place looked a few years ago, when I decided to take a trip and collect some digital pics, to save me the effort of digitising those originals.

I was just too late – they were still tidying up.

Blair Road Car Park

Blair Road Car Park


Blair Road Car Park Sign

Blair Road Car Park Sign

A view of ‘old’ St Ambrose, the ground it once sat on.

Old St Ambrose School grounds

Old St Ambrose School grounds

And I thought they’d made a mess of it the time I passed and saw that they had extended it by building over the playground, and adding a top storey to the roof of the multi-storey block, and enclosed the open area at its base.

I have pics of that too, but again, locked away in my film archive, so maybe to be seen one day.

I should probably add that they pulled the same trick with St Patrick’s, where I ended up as St Ambrose only catered for four years of further education, and I went on to further studies.

I didn’t find out that they had flattened St Patrick’s as well until I had a look at the area from above, using Google Earth.

I couldn’t find it!

I thought I was the problem, and couldn’t interpret the aerial images properly – but then found I couldn’t locate anything online for St Patrick’s.

Eventually I took a trip through there, for a look, and discovered they had flattened the old place and built another school on top of it.

Meet the ‘new’ Coatbridge High School, built on top of St Patrick’s.

Coatbridge High School

Coatbridge High School


Still going.

Standard ‘union’ response?

Pressure grows over Coatbridge school health fears


Buchanan and St Ambrose High Schools – Scottish Government orders independent review into health and safety concerns

More union goodies in this story.

Cancer scare schools: Independent inquiry ordered

Review ordered into ‘blue water’ school concerns


Review not even done, and…

Parents want new tests at Coatbridge ‘sick’ school

Their own idea? Or are they being ‘worked from behind’?

Back in time – this story dated 27/05/2019

Teachers at school built on ‘toxic site’ have the same rare cancer


It’s going to be interesting to see what is called for if there is ever an evidence based finding.

School closure calls after arsenic found in second pupil

Calls to close Coatbridge health fear schools early for summer

(18/06/2019. Unrelated, but interesting too.)

State-of-the-art £23m school given the green light for Maryhill site

Concerns over new £23m school for Maryhill being ‘built in wrong place’


11/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mackintosh Building S42

Not related to the building, but still of interest.

Glasgow School of Art chairwoman Muriel Gray has temporarily stepped down from her role almost a year after fire engulfed the Mackintosh building.

The renowned art school was extensively damaged last June while it was undergoing a £35m restoration following a previous fire in May 2014.

Ms Gray, whose husband has cancer, said she was stepping down from her role “for personal family reasons”.

Vice-chairwoman Professor Nora Kearney will take over as interim chairwoman.

Ms Gray said: “I have advised the board of governors of the Glasgow School of Art that I will be taking a temporary period of absence both as chair of the board and as a lay governor for personal family reasons.

“Given the challenges the school has faced over the past 12 months this was an incredibly difficult decision to take.”

Muriel Gray steps down from Glasgow School of Art post

Near identical coverage from STV:

Muriel Gray temporarily steps down from art school role

While the BRAVE MORONS COMMMENTERS who skulk after articles in The Scotsman never disappoint with their predictable responses:

Muriel Gray temporarily steps down as Glasgow School of Art chief

I’m almost surprised none suggested the board of the GSA was responsible for this most recent Glasgow blaze.

Firefighters tackle huge blaze at university building

Glasgow School of Art post fire

09/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dumbarton Road concrete still has serious rebar

Passed my favourite lump of concrete today, and could see it a bit better since there’s no work going on a Saturday.

While the view is only over the top of the site gate, it just adds to the mystery for me.

Archive pics show the building was only four storeys, similar to an ordinary Glasgow tenement, yet the windowless building which stood here seems to have been hugely over-engineered, with concrete that appeared to be metres thick, with a layer of decorative blocks laid around it, and the concrete being a mass of rebar – steel reinforcement bars.

I spotted the tangled rebar twisted from earlier demolition weeks ago.

This view shows the same, even after much of what was there has been broken down and removed.

There’s STILL a tangled mass of rebar sticking out of what appears to be a massive concrete base for such a relatively small building.

I really do wonder what was going on in this building.

What was its purpose?

Why did it need all that concrete and rebar?

Dumbarton Road concrete rebar

Dumbarton Road concrete rebar

The windowless building, as spotted by Street View.

Dumbarton Road Western Infirmary Building 2018

Dumbarton Road Western Infirmary Building 2018

19/05/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , , | Leave a comment

They’re STILL demolishing that lump of concrete in Dumbarton Road

Was this Western Infirmary building a secret nuclear bunker?

The rest of the site has been razed, but contractors are STILL beating on the concrete lump I spotted and have already mentioned a couple of times.

I look across at it most days, and wonder when it will eventually be gone.

Just out of curiosity I had a look at archived imagery for this part of Argyle Street,  and noted that the building in this corner was solid, and had no windows, so I wonder what it’s purpose was. Unfortunately I don’t appear to have access to any records for such a recent, or unlisted, building, so have no idea.

While I can’t take a pic something that isn’t there, it will be a special day the day I can take a pic of this corner when it’s empty, and there’s nothing there.

But it won’t be happening tomorrow.

This was ‘concrete corner’ yesterday, still with the demolition team hard at work.

Argyle Street concrete demolition

Argyle Street concrete demolition

17/05/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

Mackintosh Building S41

Other than the straight reporting occasionally seen in the media, this must be one of the few sensible articles I’ve seen arising from the fires in Glasgow.

There’s no point in dwelling on my point, as I consider the concept to be too well drilled into too many Scottish minds, but the near obsessive to find someone to BLAME before doing anything else is simply not helpful or productive – but I’m sure must bring a nice warm glow to the hearts of those who always want someone’s head to roll. Especially if they get one, or more.

Meanwhile, the grown-up try to do something useful.

Professor Guillermo Rein believes emergency services across the globe should be sending officials to Scotland to learn from the experience of the two Glasgow School of Art fires.

Fire crews who battled two major fires at Glasgow School of Art have the knowledge to prevent blazes such as the Notre-Dame disaster happening again, an expert has claimed.

Imperial College London Professor Guillermo Rein believes emergency services across the globe should be sending officials to Scotland to learn from the experience of the two Glasgow School of Art fires.

The fire science expert told the Sunday Mail blazes in heritage buildings are rare, occurring perhaps once or twice in a firefighter’s career.

But he insisted full “knowledge sharing” should take place when they do happen – and said the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is a world leader in this area of expertise.

Rein said: “There’s a lot to be learned from the School of Art fires. I hold the Scottish firefighters in very high esteem.

“For any city in the world that has a cathedral or significant heritage building, I would be sending a delegation to Glasgow.

“What they saw and experienced is very valuable. We cannot afford to have many more of these types of fires.

“We know now that those involved in the work which was being carried out at Notre-Dame were surprised that the fire burned so fast.

“But they designed the fire protection in isolation from the rest of the world – they did the opposite of learning from others.

“It turns out their fire protection design was flawed. It shows why it is important to learn from experiences of others and to share knowledge.

“It highlights that the rest of the world needs to know and learn from what the Scottish fire services experienced.”

Rein said that it’s a “concern” how the Glasgow School of Art burned not once, but twice – though it was not the fire service that failed.

Rein added: “They did the best they could – but it means the rest of the world can now learn from them. They will have become world leaders in dealing with fires like this.

“If I was the mayor of Paris, I would be sending officials to Scotland to learn from what they experienced fighting the School of Art fires.”

Rein said firefighters “need to be aggressive with the fire but gentle with the building when fighting such fires”.

He added: “This is when I really admire the firefighters – they manage to protect
the structure while attacking the fire.”

Glasgow Art School firefighters ‘have knowledge to prevent future blazes’ after Notre Dame

Mackintosh Scott Street from Pitt Street

Mackintosh Scott Street from Pitt Street

12/05/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mackintosh Building S40

Back in Mackintosh Building S37 I tried to catch the remaining features of the o2abc, a place I’d never even noticed, and was amazed to find was popular. So, I obviously have no life (in the eyes of some).

At the time, street access was still limited and I couldn’t get near enough for a façade pic taken looking west.

The street is gradually clearing, and I was able to add the missing view to the collection.

Click for bigger.

Sauchiehall Street O2 Looking West

Sauchiehall Street O2 Looking West

Notre Dame

I still find it interesting to compare the miserable reaction of some Scots and Glaswegians immediately after the Mackintosh fire, and the open hostility to the building, its potential restoration, and the raising of funds, with the haters not wanting to see a penny of any public money spent on it, and others calling for the remains to be razed to make space for something ‘useful’ instead.

Rather different from the response on the Continent after the fire damage to Notre Dame, where they seem to have been showered with so much money for rebuilding that they might have TOO MUCH!

Of course, the people who are happiest when they are miserable are pitching in as well, arguing the money should go elsewhere (maybe they are Glaswegians, spreading their ‘joy’ around the world)

Since the fire that tore through Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris last week, donations have been pouring in from across the world to restore the structure to its former glory.

Ordinary people and billionaires have pledged at least €750m (£650m; $835m) in the 10 days after the main spire and roof of the building collapsed in a huge fire on 15 April.

One early estimate by French construction economists suggests that the donations may far surpass the cost of repairs.

Amid the wave of goodwill and generosity, critics have argued that the money could have been better spent elsewhere.

But those collecting money for the repairs are urging people to keep donating, saying a price cannot yet be put on the work.

“We should not tell people to stop donating as we still don’t know how much it is going to cost,” said Laurence Lévy of French heritage group Fondation du Patrimoine.

Notre-Dame fire: Has too much money been given to rebuild it?

Man with big money bag

28/04/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concrete lump is shrinking – slowly

I mentioned a concrete lump resisting demolition in Dumbarton Road, near the Pontecorvo Building.

A bit of the Western Infirmary, which is slowly being erased from its former site (other than some listed buildings, I think).

The pic there was taking during mid-March, although not posted until April.

The lump of concrete and rebar is finally showing evidence of shrinking, and a few days I noticed it had gone to about half the height it had when first noticed.

Dumbarton Road concrete demolition

Dumbarton Road concrete demolition

28/04/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

Last look at Pitt Street Police HQ

Pitt Street was a fairly well-known address for some, being the former location of Glasgow’s Police Headquarters.

If I recall correctly it also had a small museum, dedicated to the more unusual items confiscated over the years.

One item that stuck in my memory is of some really old £5 notes (from the days when £5 was a LOT of money), however they were not normal £5 notes, nor were they forgeries, but they were still part of a con or scam.

Although they don’t say how it was achieved, con men of the day could split the old notes through their thickness, producing TWO notes from ONE original.

Obviously, they had a genuine print on one side, but were blank on the other, so had to be presented carefully to fool the person the split note was handed to in payment for something.

The closest answer to ‘How did they split the notes?’ I ever got was simply that they used a razor.

I consider myself reasonably handy with small items, but I don’t think I’d even try that, let alone have any success.

If true, I’m impressed.

I don’t move in the right circles to know anyone connected to it, but I did know someone who got sent there one day, to act in his official capacity as an officer for the RIS (Radio Investigatory Service). This was back in the days of ‘illegal’ CB operation, and when he got there was told he had to sign off on the destruction/deactivation of a lorry load of illegal CB radios which has been seized. This involved the radios being laid out in the car park, then being driven over by Land Rovers until they were just a layer of useless scrap, to be scraped up and dumped.

With all the changes, that went some time ago, and the site went up for sale, but it seems that nobody wanted to buy it.

I knew it was being demolished, but never noticed it happening, as I generally only got to Pitt Street itself, where the entrance was, and that’s generally unaltered (for now at least, but not for long).

They started the demolition at the other end of the building, which meant I didn’t see this until I happened to approach from the opposite direction recently.

Pretty sure this is what they refer to as ‘demolition’, and it’s well underway.

Click for bigger.

Pitt Street Demolition

Pitt Street Demolition

22/04/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

Mackintosh Building S39

Not really a Mackintosh Building item as such, but more of a spin-off, or just some observations

While the fire at the Mackintosh Building seems to have generated little more than a witch-hunt for someone to blame (and either burn at the stake, or maybe just fire) and given some really really hostile Glaswegians the opportunity to demand the site be razed and reused for something ‘useful’ which, does not need any public money, the Notre Dame fire of last week seems to have brought a more sympathetic response.

There was an almost immediate response which had promises of rebuild and restoration, with no calls for blame apparent, nor any demands that no money e wasted on restoring an old ‘pile of junk.

Also, unlike Glasgow’s fire, there was consideration of arson, which I don’t recall seeing anyone suggest may have been the reason for the blaze.


I found that unusual in a place once known historically as ‘Tinderbox City’ – but to this day, I can’t recall seeing even consideration that arson or deliberate fire-raising was behind the fire.

However, it seems that Notre Dame is not the only such building to have gone up in flames recently, and due consideration to arson HAS been raised in that respect.

Vandals and arsonists have targeted French churches in a wave of attacks that has lasted nearly two months.

More than 10 churches have been hit since the beginning of February, with some set on fire while others were severely desecrated or damaged.

St. Sulpice, the second-largest church in Paris, after Notre Dame Cathedral, had the large wooden door on its southern transept set ablaze March 17.

Investigators confirmed March 18 that the fire was started deliberately, according to the website of the Vienna-based Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe, an independent organization founded with the help of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences.

Vandals, arsonists target French Catholic churches

Then again, Notre Dame was also being renovated.

Nervous Renovation Ticking

21/04/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: