Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

An interesting Christmas

I like to collect some of the (illuminated) garden displays that pop up around ‘my’ streets at this time of year.

Pickings have been a little sparse, thanks in no small part to me being grounded, but also due to the extreme cold snap that hit (and presumably scared folk back indoors for a few days).

This one appeared during that period.

Interesting Christmas

Interesting Christmas

One of a pair of nearby (to each other) houses that sold recently, and were extensively modified – the other was a bungalow that had its roof removed and a whole upper story added, an intriguing process to watch.

But this one was probably more interesting.

I knew it had been owned by the owner of a business I/we had done one job for.

A chance remark to a neighbour revealed (if true) that he was ‘Worth a good few million’. No reason to doubt this, knowing his business in our industrial estate, and others he had elsewhere. In a way I was impressed by his ‘normal’ house and car(s). The last genuine millionaire my work took me to had a huge house in a select area, and a Rolls heading the fleet in his private driveway.

Anyway, this one threw us out as ‘incompetent’.

We weren’t, but I reckon it suited him to be able to shift the blame for failure to complete a contract he started for a major manufacturer of electrostatic air conditioners. That job had been to provide monitors for the inline testing of every unit manufactured, and required a jig to measure multiple power supplies in the order of 20 kV.

His unit was fine, apart from a small problem – each of the five LCD digital voltmeters (DVM) used would fail catastrophically after a few minutes operation. Not cheap after a while as they were around £50 (trade) apiece.

We were called in to look at the problem, but found that the DVMs failed so fast we couldn’t test anything. A MKI eyeball on the design seemed to show the proper voltage dividers etc in place, but after we had burnt through a set of DVMs he just took the jig back and told us we were useless. The two businesses fell out at that point, we wanted paid for work to date, and he wasn’t paying ‘For nothing’.

Some years later I came across the same DVM modules being used happily in another job (‘normal’ volts this time, not kV), and when I pulled up the ‘Design and Use’ notes for the modules, guess what?

They had a specific design note advising against use in ANY HIGH VOLTAGE APPLICATION as they had been found to be highly sensitive to electric fields and would break down under such stress.

I guess our advice, had we been allowed to get that far, to “Use different indicators” would have been right.

But, on reflection, I think the speed with which we were thrown off the job means we were just used as mugs, and thrown to the dogs so his company could say ‘Not our fault, the contractor screwed up (so give us our money please)’.

Back at the house…

I’m always amazed at how much work ‘New Buyers’ will do to a house, even one owned by a millionaire.

In this case, the roofing was discarded and new tiles fitted, then all the windows were ripped out and new units fitted, the front porch was torn out too. It had been closed and glazed, it now just has two glass panels and is open. The tiling was smashed off the steps and renewed too. The wall around the property was stripped, re-rendered, and recapped. New block paving was laid to replace the existing. Some new fencing went up, and although it’s mostly hidden from the road, I could see that an extension to the rear was extensively stripped and refurbished as well.

Seriously?

Many thousands spent on a house that was, or should have been, in near ‘walk-in’ condition and I would have thought needed only redecoration, carpeting, and furnishing to taste.

I can understand this extent on a ‘fixer upper’, but in this case I’m left wondering why.

That said, it seems to be the norm nowadays – I’ve watched a number of housed sell nearby, and if they sell again, even if only months later, the first thing that arrives is a series of skips, and most if it is carted away each time.

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December 14, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

Restored Campbeltown Picture House reopens on 22 December 2017

I’m tempted to be naughty and say the picture house will open just in time to close again, for Christmas holidays.

However, I’m sure they want to give the fixtures and fittings, and all the toys, a trial run without any hiccup causing them to close for a day or two for snagging.

Not being negative, just practical.

The Picture House in Campbeltown was first opened in 1913.

The art-nouveau building closed in 2014 and has now been fully restored, with the interior based on its appearance in the 1930s.

The cinema will reopen 22 December with a screening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. A number of other new releases will be shown in the following weeks.

Via Date set for reopening of Campbeltown Picture House

 

Campbeltown Picture House

Campbeltown Picture House

December 14, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Campbeltown Picture House finally reaches restoration goal

One of the (many) things that has irritated me in recent years has been the discovery of Campbeltown Picture House – long after the days I was either able to visit the place at the drop of a hat, or was there on a reasonably regular basis most years.

Still, I was at least able to watch its fight for survival since it was closed, and its supporters were able to work on raising the money to save it, and eventually even restore it to its original glory after a £3.5 million restoration, at least as it was following an earlier refurbishment in 1935.

Described as one of the first purpose-built cinemas in the country (maybe even the first, according to some accounts), it opened in 1913, and was designed by the celebrated cinema designer Albert V Gardner, who studied architecture at The Glasgow School of Art between 1901 and 1905

Gardner embellished Campbeltown Picture House with a blue sky with moving white clouds projected across it, and two plasterwork buildings (known locally as the “wee houses”) on either side of the screen. The effect was to give the auditorium the ambiance of a Mediterranean courtyard.

These special features have been meticulously restored with other elements of the original design such as the art deco lights recreated by contemporary craftspeople.

Few of these atmospheric cinemas now survive with Campbeltown Picture House being the only example left in Scotland and one of only a handful in Europe.

The cinema celebrated its centenary in 2013 but closed a year later while efforts to secure its refurbishment continued.

Via Campbeltown Picture House returned to former glory

Campbeltown Picture House

Campbeltown Picture House

As it’s been so long since I was able to go to Campbeltown, I was also interested to read that:

Two derelict hotels have been reopened, a new golf course built and the town hall and other nearby buildings restored.

A seasonal ferry service to Ardrossan has also been established to provide an alternative to the long road journey to Glasgow.

The hope is that the restored Picture House could help attract more tourists to the area.

The biggest problem I had when I was in the area (to sneak around the then still active RAF Machrihanish) was to stop bursting out laughing if stories about it being Scotland’s Area 51 crossed my mind, with invisible secret aircraft flying around, and an entire underground city hidden below, accessed by giant elevators hidden in the hangars (and Project Aurora was always a favourite of the local conspiracy theorists).

Wonder if it is still down there?

Perhaps now accessed via secret underwater caverns, visited by the UK’s secret nuclear submarine fleet, since the base has been sold off.

November 23, 2017 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Turnbull Building resurfaces

Recently, while walking along George Street, I thought things looked ‘different’.

It took a moment to work out just what had caught my eye, but I eventually realised that the barriers and fences which had been screening the Alexander Turnbull Building for the past few years were coming down – an obstacle in place since around 2015.

From the original story about the building’s redevelopment, it should now be student accommodation with 83 en-suite studio bedrooms, a gym, TV room, and study. Strathclyde University bought the building back in 1975, before which time it had been the offices of a tobacco company, and used as a warehouse.

The architects noted that the internal space was compromised and that the existing roof was in poor condition. In order to maximise the usable space, the existing roof and chimneys were removed and replaced with a modern lightweight roof extension which carried on the existing vertical lines of the building. Modifications were carried out on the ground floor, with a shopfront, hardwood timber screens, and larger doors to increase its usability.

I can’t recall the interior (singularly unmemorable I guess), but I did have to attend a short series of lectures as part of the business section of my course at Strathclyde, and I do have memories of being in a very small room with no windows. Other than that, the place was pretty much an anonymous black hole on George Street, with little more than the sign above the door indicating it was part of the university.

It’s hard to get a decent pic. It’s a tall building with no option to ‘step back a bit’ – shops and others building line across the road.

A decent wide-angle lens would help, but be a tad expensive.

As it was, I ended up taking about a dozen shots across the façade, and stitched these together to get my shot.

It also looks as if my perspective correction tool only offers pincushion correction (it doesn’t actually specify). While the final stitch has maintained the verticals with reasonable accuracy, the horizontal distortion remains strong. Applying my usual perspective correction to seemed to be working… until I noticed the sides were being curved to the same degree as the roof was being straightened, with no options to adjust these separately. Oddly, this is the first time I’ve seen this effect.

I guess I’ll have to hunting for a free correction tool for barrel distortion.

I’ve got other image distortion tools, but they are entirely manual, and just take too long use accurately.

Regardless of the bendy pic, it’s still nice to see that a building can be refurbished and repurposed, rather than being razed.

Turnbull Building

Turnbull Building

Frank Burnet and Boston, architects, 1897. 6-storey and attic, red sandstone ashlar Baronial office building. Irregular 7-bay elevation with squat 2-stage tower rising from eaves to right. Altered ground floor with large vehicle entrances to end bays, central main entrance with polished pink granite surround, consoled pedimented rouch-arched doorway. Sculpted tympanum, depressed arch fanlight.

All windows bipartite with fixed upper part, narrower at end bays. All windows modern pivot plate-glass. Cornice over ground, mutule cornice over 1st, 3rd and 4th floors with windows divided by giant order engaged composite columns. Heavy cornice over 4th. To right, octagonal turret with bracketted (sic) balustraded parapet. Brick flanks, some box dormers, slate roofs.

Information from Historic Scotland, 6 September 2012.

July 29, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , , | Leave a comment

Go-ahead for £1.5 million Barras area refurbishment

Barras Sign

Following quickly on from the news that an area of Sauchiehall Street is to be refreshed, it seems the area of The Barras is to enjoy a similar spot of ‘Spit and Polish’.

While it’s better than the fate which befell Paddy’s Market, I can’t quite work up the same enthusiasm for this announcement.

Don’t take that the wrong way, the area is in serious need of refurbishment. While much tidying has taken place around it, the core which was once the centre of The Barras has been left behind, and leaves much to be desired.

However, if we leave to one side the market area below and behind the Barrowland Ballroom (and that is sadly much deserted when I have taken a walk there in recent months) then the remaining area of The Barras is a virtual desert, with most of the buildings having been demolished in relatively recent years, leaving only a few of the more substantial structures still standing.

As I have noted in posts made a year ago, it can be alarming to arrive there in the afternoon, say 2 or 3 pm, and find the remaining stallholders in the street clearing up and getting ready to go home, while the few indoor pitches (who now label themselves as ‘Antique Dealers’) are pretty much deserted too.

And one of the oldest original “McIver’s Markets” (the founders were McIver, Margaret to be specific) buildings is really sad now (the one with the bikes on sale outdoors at one corner). While one corner still has some decent books and memorabilia on sale (from some real old original marker ‘characters’ too), the rest of the area is just dead and derelict stalls with broken junk piled up on them, gathering dust. The last few times I dropped in, even that ‘interesting’ corner seemed to have been abandoned, and was covered over with dust sheets.

Maybe I just go on quiet days, or at the wrong time of day.

Frankly, a visit to The Barras these days, for me at least, is actually a visit to Bill’s Tools Store (for any bargains on offer) and a check on Pearson’s, to make sure that’s still there too.

Work on a £1.5 million renovation of Glasgow’s Barras market is set to begin next month after the plans were approved by city councillors.

The plans, which form part of the Glasgow City Region Deal, will see the development of underused space aimed at attracting new businesses and creating a “key gateway” to the East End.

• READ MORE: What does the future hold for Glasgow’s Barras markets?

A report that went before the Glasgow City Region City Deal cabinet said: “The revitalisation of this area is both critical in overcoming barriers to wider development of the whole Collegelands Calton Barras (CCB) area.”

It added: “The overall CCB project will deliver sustainable economic growth in Glasgow and the city region. This will enable the regeneration of sites which are not suitable for development in their current state, including attracting investment that supports high value industries.”

Having been given the green light, the project is targeted for completion by March next year.

Via: Glasgow’s Barras market to get £1.5m revamp

I can only hope they have at least partial success in some sort of revival.

Or maybe we should just be honest, and say The Barras is gone, and has been for years.

June 21, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sauchiehall Street set for much needed refresh

Until recently, I wasn’t able to get into Glasgow – something of a penalty for someone who not only worked in the city centre, but was also a frequent visitor.

I don’t know how long I was unable to have anything more than the odd obligatory visit on business, but after more than a decade of not really seeing the place, the changes can come as a bit of a shock, and I don’t mean just the demolition and rebuilding seen in some areas.

While those (as I was) who see the place on a daily basis, incremental changes, decay, and just general wear and tear can go unnoticed.

For that reason, I was pleased to see:

MULTI-MILLION pound plans to re-develop Glasgow’s famous Sauchiehall Street to be debated by city councillors.

Members of the city region cabinet have been recommended to approve proposals brought forward by the City Deal team.

Sauchiehall Street as it looks at the moment. Picture: John Devlin

The plans would result in more cycle paths, additional pedestrian walkways, less traffic and more opportunities for businesses.

Work, if approved, would start on the section of road between Charing Cross to Rose Street.

Via: Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street set for £7.2m revamp

I’m sure there will be negative voices against this, but I also suspect they will come from the usual ‘Naysayers’ (those whose response to any suggestions is an automatic ‘NO!’ regardless of the benefits), and from those who see the area on a daily basis, and have just noticed that while it may not be fair to say it is ‘Run down’, it is tired after years of uncoordinated work.

Sauchiehall Street Transformed

Sauchiehall Street Transformed – Image from Glasgow city Council

June 18, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , | Leave a comment

Burrell Collection building refurbishment gains planning permission

While it would have been a rather odd result, it is nice to see that plans for the £66 million refurbishment of the Burrell Collection building and display areas have gained official planning permission.

Planning permission has been granted for a major refurbishment of the Burrell collection museum in Glasgow.

The £66m project to upgrade the building and provide more display space also received listed building consent.

Glasgow City Council recently approved funding of up to £27.3m towards the cost of the refurbishment.

The Burrell collection has more than 8,000 artefacts, but fewer than a fifth of them have been on show at any one time.

In April 2015, the council provided £5.7m to kick-start the building’s revamp, which houses treasures donated to the city by collector Sir William Burrell in 1944.

Via Planners approve Burrell collection revamp

Burrell building

Burrell Collection, Pollok Park, Glasgow © Iain Thompson via Geograph

While the building will receive a much-needed upgrade to its structure and services, the greatest benefit for the visitor has to be the release and creation of a vast amount of exhibition space – so much of the large collection was formerly locked away in storage, but will be able to brought out and placed on display – the old space only allowed 20% of the collection to be on show at any one time:

When it re-opens to visitors in 2020, the basement of the Category A listed building will become part of the exhibition space, so that 90% of the objects can be viewed by the public.

A dedicated space will also be created for special exhibitions and offices will be converted into galleries.

Now, there only seem to be two problems for me… one, to make it to 2020, and the second, to work out a reasonable means of getting to the Burrell from my hovel in the east end of Glasgow. Banished to public transport, I can’t see a direct route and the various bus and train combination I can find seem to need the patience of a saint to follow, and take forever.

Maybe I should buy a new bike, and make up a flask and sandwiches.

April 20, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , | Leave a comment

Unique Skye ferry lives on after major refurb

While the arrival of the Skye bridge might have been expected to signal the end of ferry services to the island, this has not been the case, at least not for the MV Glenachulish which makes the short crossing between Glenelg and Kylerhea on Skye, across the Kylerhea Straits between the months of April and October.

This ferry is unique, and according the BBC’s article, the last of its kind in the world, as it is a turntable ferry.

And a manual turntable at that – no power assistance for the operator!

I could probably dig up some original B&W pics of this (or maybe one its predecessors), if I had a memory that was sharp enough to remember which collection of pics of old Scottish transport I had it hidden away in. A car ferry has crossed the Kylerhea Straits since 1934, but this one only dates back to 1969, when it was built by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company of Troon. My pic collection is a little older.

The ferry’s owner, Isle of Skye Ferry Community Interest Company, has paid more than £80,000 for the work.

Via World’s last ferry of its kind, Skye’s Glenachulish, upgraded

For the ferry service itself, see the web site here:

The Original Glenelg-Skye Ferry

Since I can hardly pop along for quick pic of the refurbished ferry, I was pleased to find this interesting note from the vessel’s past, with a shared pic, which shows of that unique turntable nicely:

MV Glenachulish North Strone

MV Glenachulish North Strone

Ferry at North Strome, taken in 2012.

With the loch side road to Strathcarron closed by a rock fall Highland Council hired the MV “Glenachulish” in January 2012 to temporarily re-establish the vehicle ferry crossing between Stromeferry and North Strome. This six-vehicle community owned turntable ferry normally runs between Glenelg and Kylerhea on Skye during the summer months.

The 10 minute crossing of Loch Carron to Stromeferry – visible in the background – avoided a 140-mile diversion by road.

April 10, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Pollock House is open for visitors again

Pollock House is one of those places I should have been to, more than once too, but never have.

The occasion never really arose, and its location (as I found when I looked at public transport routes to the Burrell Collection) is not straightforward from where I live on the opposite side of Glasgow. Before I was priced off the road, I even considered driving there was awkward, as you had to know the roads well to avoid getting lost in the maze of local roads. Unlike Glasgow city centre, many are not on a grid layout, and both curve and connect at odd angles, which can defeat the best ‘Sense of direction’.

The house reopened on 1 April 2017 following a period of refurbishment.

I like to know how long these refurbishments take, and although I can remember the closure being notified, I can’t recall when that was.

This sort of info can usually be found online, but in this case this is almost impossible thank to the many online review and attraction listing web sites – which I consider are largely rubbish and a waste of space. I, for one, don’t believe most of the reviewers.

To be clear… I hate them all, and have NEVER (and would/will NEVER) refer to them. All their content is stolen and second-hand hearsay anyway.

The problem arises when trying to search for info on ‘Pollock House Glasgow’ or similar, when the majority of items returned by a search comprised mostly paid, sponsored, or ‘search engine optimised’ drivel from these useless sources (which are ultimately desperate to get ad revenue).

So, much as I would LIKE to state when Pollock House close for refurbishment, I simply can’t.

But maybe I’ll work out a simple combination of public transport options and see the place before I pop my clogs.

I wonder if there’s a decent route by bike, might be less insane and awkward.

Pollock House 2013

Pollock House 2013

April 6, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

How about talking Rothesay UP rather than DOWN?

Over the years, and I mean in decades, not just single years, one would have to be bordering on delusional or blind not to have seen how Rothesay has become neglected, BUT saying that alone would selectively ignore the simple fact that ALL the towns which enjoyed prosperity as Clyde resorts over the years suffered the same downturn in their fortunes once the cheap package holiday took hold around the 1970s, and Brits deserted their local holiday venues.

It was simply cheaper to jet off abroad than holiday at home. And truth be told that wasn’t really the fault of the Clyde (and other) resort towns, but a consequence of a massive new package holiday industry backed by smart operators and the money to invest in it and make it pay for them. Sell cheap, sell lots, collect a small margin, but collect lots of it.

But there’s been a quiet revolution on the Clyde, and even before I had to give up regular visits to many of the former resort towns, they were being slowly turned around at the start of the millennium, and the process has been continuous.

Too slow for some, I still get the sense of a derogatory tone when some writers just chant the same mantra of doom and gloom as has been heard since the 1970s, but that is unfair.

Change really has to be slow to be effective. Think of the stupid fad diets pushed by ‘celebrities’ – their purpose is to make celebrities rich by having stupid people eat their ‘magic food’. Rapid change in a place is the same. Both leave the buyer unsatisfied, are ineffective, and their only effect is to empty pockets.

Rothesay has seen such a long-term initiative: The Rothesay Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI)

This 5 year plan concluded in 2016, with numerous sites and buildings throughout the town benefiting.

I’m lucky enough to access to pics of the changes made in the town, but it was tough to pick just a couple to provide a representative ‘Before and After’ example.

In the end, I went for the facade behind the car park on Guildford Square, NOT because of the infilling of the long standing gap site there (that was easy), but for the view either side, where the existing buildings have been retained and restored:

Guildford Square in 2013

Guildford Square in 2013

 

Guildford Square in 2015

Guildford Square in 2015

Don’t get me wrong on this, I’m not saying it’s perfect – I’m the type that would have dearly loved to see the chequered original of ‘Maison Gina’ restored rather than swept away (I even miss the gap, it was an old friend), but… I’m also a realist.

See this gallery for a look at many of those projects while underway:

Zak’s Gallery: Rothesay Townscape Heritage Initiative

It’s not my place or intent to ‘Name and Shame’, but it can be disappointing/depressing to read some commenters derogatory remarks about how slow this project was (in their opinions) and some even criticised the 5% contribution asked of those who wanted the THI to assist with their property.

Still others may be found who still sneer and call ‘failure’ as they point at the building which may still be referred to as ‘eyesores’, as if the THI was supposed to fix ALL the town’s structural problems.

They won’t be happy…

In fact, they’ll probably be hopping mad, as a new initiative aims to target “prominent buildings on the seafront to ensure as big a visual impact as possible.”

Rothesay is to share in a £6.2 million fund which will help to upgrade the seafront.

The Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) funding which has been announced, will see £500,000 of funding by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) for essential repairs and improvements to buildings on Rothesay’s seafront.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HES, said: “We’ve seen how successful this approach can be in previous schemes across the UK, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results for Rothesay.”

The aim of Rothesay CARS will be to repair prominent buildings on the seafront to ensure as big a visual impact as possible.

 …

CARS specifically targets conservation areas with disadvantages that make it difficult to attract investment in sustainable regeneration.

The scheme assists these areas through channelling funding towards opportunities to enhance sustainable economic growth and help support projects that develop an area’s sense of place.

The scheme is open to Local and National Park Authorities, community groups and other third sector organisations delivering multi-funded projects.

Funding can be utilised for a number of purposes, from priority repairs and small grants to homeowners and retailers, to providing traditional craft training opportunities.

Via ‘The Buteman’: Rothesay seafront to get £500k boost

I really don’t care about the naysayers any more, and just ignore them in passing now, and enjoy the various improvements made to the town and its facilities. They can go wallow in the pit of their own self-imposed misery – the rest of us will move on.

March 12, 2017 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

George Square has become a little greener

It’s nice to think of the insane schemes that were proposed for George Square in recent years, and have become nothing more than memories. A reminder that a delusional city council can be held to account when it oversteps its authority and the people stamp their feet.

I’m not even going to dig up the articles, suffice to say we still don’t have any unwanted ‘water features’, or venues only suitable for warm and dry resorts, as opposed to Scotland’s ‘glorious’ climate!

We’re even seeing the back of the ‘Red Tarmac’ (or whatever it was) and the return of grass to the square.

Surprisingly sensibly restored flush to the ground, so (I’m guessing) it can be boarded over to allow events to be held there.

Last time I was there, I think it was still a building site and the work was in progress with the now grassy areas blocked off by fencing, but now all the works seem to be clear, and the grass is ‘open for business’.

I caught this quiet evening view while passing through recently.

While you can’t tell in this small crop, the original has one spooky feature spotted when I was processing the image – the fellow to the left of the bench is staring STRAIGHT into my camera, with a very piercing grumpy or disapproving look. He’s holding a camera too – I wonder if I somehow unwittingly ruined his shot?

Enjoy.

George Square grassed

George Square regrassed

February 7, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , , | 1 Comment

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