Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Where does the time go? Kelvingrove galleries already up for revamp

It’s funny how time can pass you by and you hardly notice it.

I went to the 2006 opening (or re-opening of Kelvingrove) after its massive refurbishment – and due to various changes in circumstances around since then, never made it back.

Probably the main factor is that I’d have to use public transport, and that a pig of trip from where I live, and would take ages and involve a lot of walking. Walking’s not a problem, but having to spend the time wasted doing it in streets, and maybe getting soaked through… just puts me off the idea.

So it was a bit of shock to see how long I’d put this adventure off, when I saw that the Life Gallery, which displays Sir Roger the elephant, and the museum’s Spitfire, will close to allow the Spitfire to be lowered and checked over, while the opportunity is taken to remodel the gallery.

I’ll have to try to plan a route there that makes better use of the day.

In the ‘old’ days I used to be able to pop into the transport museum and Kelvingrove with no effort, so I think I need to do something the same, only based around the nearest train station.

Until then, I’ll make do with the People’s Palace, at least I can walk there in a couple of hours, and there’s interesting stuff to see and photograph on the way.

I’ve got the same pic as seen below, showing the Spitfire and gallery back them – but can’t lay hands on mine (quickly, at least) so thank goodness for this one being available for re-use. I would say I might even be in this one, but can’t be – when I was there, the people were packed in like sardines!


August 10, 2015 Posted by | Civilian | , | Leave a comment

Final phase of New Lanark restoration set to begin

I find it almost amazing to read that work described a restoration of the FINAL building to be restored at New Lanark has been funded, and is about to begin.

I was still at school when I learned of New Lanark, which was one the places the school took my class during a week away when we were treated to a break, a sort of ‘retreat’, where we stayed at various places of interest, and we spent a day there.

I was so impressed, my project documenting the village and the mill history even won a prize.

Then, the entire village was a derelict ruin, bar the few houses that were still occupied. We could not even visit the factory buildings or school, such was their truly dangerous condition – not that there would have been anybody to show us around.

I did not return until I was an adult, and over the years was able to watch the place grow as money was found to fund the work, and bring people back to live in the restored homes.

The only I dislike intensely about the progress made down there is the appearance of an expensive luxury hotel, fitted onto one of the old factory building – but, on the other hand, I do acknowledge that its presence is probably one of the factors that maintains the village and keeps it view, so I have to tolerate it. And it’s buried away at the far end of the site, so I don’t have to see it – much.

The only thing I really miss is the little car museum that once lived there (and moved to the Argyll Car Factory in Alexandria, but closed not long after). I never made it through the door before it moved, as I saw most of the exhibits out of doors, as I usually visited on special days where they were brought out for an airing. I didn’t make the same mistake while it was in Alexandria I’m out of touch now, but it closed around 2009, and may not have re-opened.)

Work on £1.5m New Lanark restoration set to begin – The Scotsman

I got lucky (since I had no camera back in those days), and tripped over a pic of New Lanark as seen in 1980, which shows the condition of the buildings then:

July 14, 2015 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Approval of outline designs for Rothesay Pavilion

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was worried about the future of Rothesay’s iconic Art Deco pavilion, that doesn’t mean I don’t still harbour some concerns.

Although I don’t see the building as being at any particular risk, in the sense that we will see it become abandoned, derelict, and lose its roof, I do worry slightly about the time everything takes to progress from stage to stage, and how the funding is slow to be secured (that’s not to misread as any criticism of those securing it).

However, things do keep moving forward, and the latest news of approval for designs for the building which will go forward to form the basis of a business plan, and planning and funding applications, is good to hear.

And comes with a projected date of mid 2017 for the renovated building to open its doors.

I’ll be watching that date, and hoping it doesn’t slip.

The plans include upgrading of the main hall and facilities, with a goods lift to the lower floor.

Creation of new space for performances, and extensions on the roof for office space and other use.

A new café with improved facilities., including a lift to all floors.

The building to be refurbished inside and out.

More details:

Rothesay Pavilion design scheme approved – The Buteman.

June 18, 2014 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Glum Helensburgh esplanade lighting story

Sad to say, I misunderstood the meaning of the headline on the following story on first sighting:

Lighting to be installed on Helensburgh seafront | Helensburgh & Lomond | News | Helensburgh Advertiser

Recalling the old days of the Clyde coastal resorts, I erroneously interpreted this as a reference to decorative illuminations of some sort, and not merely street lighting.

And it got worse as I read on, with:

one Helensburgh resident and business owner is concerned the seafront is ‘unsafe’ due to the lack of handrails, permanent barriers, and adequate lighting.

He said with summer on the way, tourists who don’t know the area may be in danger of taking a wrong step and tumbling into the sea at night.

He told the Advertiser: “If someone’s walking along near the edge and trips they might just drop into the sea and that could be the end of them – especially is there is a storm or if it’s high tide.”

I don’t know the statistics, but I have been a regular visitor, and can’t recall stories of visitors spontaneously falling into the sea, and if it’s stormy, then wandering along the edge is acting irresponsibly. Describing the seafront as ‘unsafe’ seems rather extreme and possibly politically motivated, as there are many Scottish seafronts with considerably less lighting or barriers etc than Helensburgh, and we don’t appear to have any significant problems as a result.

It will be interesting to see the result of the work mentioned in this story, as one of the nice things about spending a late evening on the esplanade at Helensburgh is the relative darkness and quiet, both things we miss if we live in or near the city. I hope that sitting on the pier (in the car park) enjoying a locally procured fish supper and watching the light on the opposite shore come on as dusk falls will not become little more than a memory.

I’m also somewhat amazed that no-one attempted to blame this resident’s outburst on some mythical and non-existent Health and Safety requirement. Maybe the Advertiser has been fingered for promoting such nonsense in the past, and doesn’t want to be held up as an example of that particular type of headline-making nonsense.

On the other hand, the article does go on to describe works which are being carried out to improve the appearance of the area, and remove potential tripping hazards, repair road/footpath surfaces, and install various items of street furniture – and that’s all good to hear.

The pic below is from April 2014, so the work mentioned in the report is not just a promise, but actually taking place:

Pity they’re not installing some good old-fashioned illuminations (as well).

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Local loses the plot while Bute’s MSP pleads for sanity in Rothesay’s crazy window saga

Cat window break

I seem to have found another apparently simple tale that is going to become a long-running saga should it fail to be resolved soon.

I mentioned the already extended tale of woe developing around a simple window upgrade to a Rothesay hotel, which had become complicated due to the inflexibility of those involved due to the listed nature of the building, meaning the owner was being refused permission to replace the old and rotten wooden single glazed windows with more efficient modern double glazing.

This week’s Buteman reports a letter written by one of the island’s residents who is against the hotel owner’s attempt to use the modern windows (which is fair enough) but who has also clearly lost at least some of her marbles, and describes the owner as a ‘thug’:

In a letter published in the new edition of The Buteman, Margaret Booth Homewood also questions the support given to Harry and Hazel Greene, owners of the Bute House Hotel, by the island’s politicians.

Mrs Booth Homewood states in her letter: “I stand resolutely on the conservation side of this argument and am delighted to learn that the people involved are being brought to task for what amounts to blatant architectural vandalism.

“I do have all sympathy and encouragement for anyone wishing to mend an ailing building, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

“I am therefore left to ponder an obvious point that seems to have been overlooked: why our elected representatives are openly supporting illegal, thuggish, and frankly arrogant behaviour by a member of the public!”

Via Rothesay hotel owners accused of ‘architectural vandalism’ – The Buteman

Meanwhile, as if to attempt to inject a note of sanity and calm into the matter, Bute’s MSP has pointed out that many building surrounding the hotel have been refurbished with the windows at the root of this issue, without the problems being suffered by the hotel’s owners:

Bute’s MSP has hit out at the “exceptionally heavy handed treatment” of the owners of a Rothesay hotel over the replacement of windows in their property.

Michael Russell contacted Argyll and Bute Council’s chief executive Sally Loudon after Harry and Hazel Greene were served with a court order stopping the installation of UPVC windows in the Bute House Hotel.

Via MSP backs Rothesay hoteliers in windows row – The Buteman

Mrs Margaret Booth Homewood clearly needs to get out more, and have a look at Rothesay if she considers the replacement of rotten wooden single glazed windows to be ” blatant architectural vandalism“.

Maybe have a walk around the front and look at the near derelict and empty hotels that are literally falling apart – and have been dropping their bits on the footpath and almost killing pedestrians.

Or look at the modernisation carried out on the shops across the road from the slip road to the ferry. I still get sore eyes looking at them even though it is many years since they were refurbished and made look very ‘architecturally vandalised’ compared to their surroundings.

And I remember wandering along Montague Street many years ago, trying to find the ‘old style’ shops with arcade style entrances, where you could walk between two sets of windows filled with goods before you reached the door into the shop. All gone and replaced with modern shop fronts where all you have is a window and door facing onto the street.

And let’s not forget the derelict and abandoned shops and houses that have been gouged out of the streets and lay as wrecks for years, with windows boarded up and roofs falling into the buildings.

Much more “architectural vandalism” has been done all along the streets of Rothesay in the past few decades, much more noticeable and much more damaging than the replacement of windows that look little different from the original, and use different materials.

Time for a reality check, to remember why the windows are being fitted, and consider this is a working building, not a museum.

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Bute’s window insanity appears set to escalate to the courts

Cat window break

I recently decided it was time to highlight the crazy case of the hotelier who was at odds with Argyle & Bute Council over the requirement that the listed status of the hotel building meant that modern double glazed window units could not legitimately be used to replace the decayed and rotten single glazed wooden original, and that these could effectively only be renewed on a like-for-like basis: Window madness on the Isle of Bute.

In the past few days, it seems that the hoteliers started to replace the rotten windows with modern units, in defiance of regulation – and the result was a letter,  warning that jail could be the result for defying the planning rules that apply to the property:

The owners of a Rothesay hotel have been told by planning officers that they could be sent to prison if they continue to defy planning rules on the replacement of windows in their property.

Harry and Hazel Greene, owners of the Bute House Hotel, decided to press ahead with the installation of double-glazed uPVC windows with turn-and-tilt frames in the property – despite having two planning applications refused by Argyll and Bute Council, and an appeal against refusal dismissed by the Scottish Government.

Work began on replacing the windows on the morning of Wednesday, March 19 – and within an hour the Greenes had received a visit from two of the authority’s planning officers.

The letter stated that:

* if the Greenes or their contractors proceed with the unauthorised operations, the council expects the matter to be reported to the procurator fiscal recommending prosecution, and that if prosecuted and found guilty of an offence the Greenes would receive a criminal record and may be imprisoned or fined;

Via: Jail threat for Rothesay hoteliers in windows row – The Buteman

The hotel owners have

The owners of a Rothesay hotel are pressing ahead with the installation of UPVC windows in their property – despite being warned that they could face prison if they continue to defy planning rules.

Harry and Hazel Greene employed local contractors to install the windows at the Bute House Hotel on Thursday, following their delivery the previous day by a company which then pulled out of the job after being warned the police could be called in.

Via: Rothesay windows row hotelier: I’ve come too far to stop now – The Buteman

The work was caught as it started, by Zak (our brilliant eyes on Bute) – spot the arm in the middle of the window:

We can only wait and see what happens next, and how this matter escalates now that we seem to have a potential offence against which action can be taken.

A day later, The Buteman noted that a court order had been served on the hotel owners, effectively halting all work, and giving them 21 days to lodge an intention to defend the order.

The work to replace the windows – in defiance of the rejection of two planning applications by the council, and the dismissal of an appeal to the Scottish Government against refusal – began on Wednesday, and continued on Thursday despite the issuing of a letter by the council asking the Greenes to cease the unauthorised operations and the serving of a Temporary Stop Notice by an enforcement officer from the authority on Thursday.

Mr Greene told The Buteman on Saturday: “This will stop the work. Serving the order at nearly half past six on a Friday night shows they seriously mean business, because I could have completed the work over the weekend.”

Court order stops work on Rothesay windows row hotel – The Buteman

March 25, 2014 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , | Leave a comment

30 years of the Burrell

It’s rather hard for me to grasp the concept of the Burrell Collection having been in place for 30 years. I won’t even try and guesstimate how long I think it’s been around, but if I had been asked, I would have been well short of the real answer (until I had looked up the relevant date.)

It’s on the ‘wrong’ side’ of Glasgow for me. Although I’ve looked at the public transport option, it seems to involve so many changes that I never considered it realistic as I’d have been knackered (all hot and bothered and thoroughly fed by the time I got there – and still had the return trip to look forward to) by the time I got there.

While I could not even try to count the number of times I’ve fallen through the doors of Kelvingrove, I’m afraid my visits to the Burrell would probably need the fingers of only one hand, and not all of them.

I confess that the charge for the car park put me off, as the collection itself has not admission charge. And the problem was not the amount charged, but that there seemed to be nothing in return. On the few occasions I did visit, the car park was unstaffed (ticket machines took my money), and the high point of each visit was seeing the police attend as the locals seemed to see the cars as their own ‘Smash & Carry’ takeaways, which must have ruined the day for those who were targeted to have their windows smashed. At least I knew well enough to empty mine, and leave nothing on show, not even the car radio (removable).

I haven’t been there for some years now, so don’t know if the car park is still the same.

But the car park is not the collection, and that is still something to celebrate.

The Burrell is said to attract in excess of 200,000 visitors per annum. A good number, but I can’t think a more accessible location would see more feet through the door – but on the other hand, the building and its location were given specific conditions as part of Burrell’s bequest of his collection to the Glasgow, so I can only make that a personal observation and thought.

The building (which was A listed not too long ago) is due to close for some 4 years come 2016, in order to allow refurbishment to take place. The new works will ultimately allow an increase in the number of items which can be displayed.

it is hoped that items from the collection will be allowed to go on a World Tour while the building is closed, however there is some controversy associated with this proposal. Understandably, at the time of the original bequest, one of the conditions laid down by Burrell was that items would not be loaned, as he feared they would be damaged in transit. Clearly, transport has come a long way since then, and such items are now routinely moved without harm, so permission is being sought at Parliamentary level in order to modify the terms. The hope being that by circulating items from the collection, it will become better known throughout the World, leading to even more visitors to the collection proper.

They certainly have the space (and more after the refurb) as the building had appeared almost deserted on the occasions I did visit.

Burrell building

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

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , | Leave a comment

Foyers Power Station gets a mention

I always feel a bit sorry for Foyer Power Station. Despite being ‘interesting’ because it is one of the UK’s four pumped storage schemes (two in Scotland and two in Wales), it just… dull.

Unlike many other stations,  built in surprisingly elegant and impressive halls of brick and stone, Foyers just looks like a shed on the side of the loch, and might just as well be a fish-processing plant when seen from outside.

And that’s a bit of a shame.

It’s interesting because it has it roots in 1896, when lots of electricity was needed locally to supply an aluminium smelter. The North British Aluminium Company built an aluminium smelting plant on the shore of Loch Ness which, supplied by power from the station which drew on the River Foyer. But the plant closed in 1971. Notably, the Falls of Foyer (165 ft or 65 m) never ran quite so freely after 1896, when most of the flow was diverted to the power station.

However, although the smelter is long gone, the power station it spawned seems to have a long life ahead of it. Following the plant’s closure, the station became part of a pumped-storage hydroelectric system. The other is Cruachan.

Beginning back in 2011, an £8 milliion major refurbishment is taking place at Foyers, with completion due in 2018:

  • Replacement of existing 3m Main Inlet Valves ­ Project. Commenced 2011, due for completion in Oct 2014
  • Overhaul and upgrade of the 85T Overhead Crane ­ due for completion in Sept 2013
  • Overhaul and refurbishment of the standby diesel ­ on-going
  • Overhaul of existing Pump Turbines/Generators ­ In scoping phase
  • Overhaul of existing electrical systems ­ In scoping phase
  • Overhaul of the existing Mechanical Balance of Plant ­ In scoping phase

SSE said the revamp will extend the life of the site by several decades.

Via Revamp of SSE’s Foyers power station on Loch Ness

September 3, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Glasgow’s Egyptian Halls could finally be rescued from dereliction

It’s odd how everybody seems to have their own collection of buildings/features that they become familiar with, while others, which may be equally interesting and not much different, go unnoticed.

Despite having passed the 4-storey building for may years, Glasgow’s Egyptian Halls – one of the few remaining buildings credited to Alexander “Greek” Thomson – on Union Street, have never caught my eye. Perhaps lying abandoned and being ruined by neglect for the past 33 years played a part. Built in 1873, it escaped possible demolition in 2011 after such an application was refused.

Looking at the record for the building, it seems that various development plans have been floated since the late 1990s, but in most cases these have failed as various parties involved have been unable to come up with the cash or grants to fund them. Some even started, but then ran into problems and were halted.

All the time, the building continued to decay due to lack of care and maintenance.

Around the end of 2010, scaffolding was erected and the building was wrapped in tarpaulins carrying an image of the building as it would look if restored.

Since then, it seems that serious negotiations have been going on regarding development of the building, and the financing of that work.

The Glaswegian reported:

An ambitious plan to restore the building and turn it into a luxury hotel stalled because of a funding gap of around £5million.

But the building’s owners have confirmed they are applying to the Heritage Lottery fund to plug the shortfall that is holding up work to save the A-listed building.

If successful, ­Historic Scotland could make a further £1.65million available for repair work to the site.


The plan emerged as one of the building’s owners, Derek Souter, issued another plea for collaboration from the public sector.

The firms behind the Egyptian Halls Project, USP and USI, have warned
that ­unless their original £20million ­development goes ahead, the building will become too derelict to save.

It has stood since 1873 but came under threat of demolition in 2011, when ­co-owners USP could not fund their share of the statutory repairs.

The co-owners have said they can raise an additional £12million on top of the ­£5million they have already invested.

But owners say the future of the Egyptian Halls cannot be guaranteed beyond the next 12 to 18 months without more money.

Mr Souter said: “Given the evidence of the accelerating decay is now in the public ­domain, this needs to become an urgent priority at Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government.”

He says there is a “very real” threat of demolition because bodies including the council and Historic Scotland haven’t ­collaborated with his development plan.

Via Glasgow’s iconic Egyptian Halls in line for repair as owners draw-up rescue plan – the Glaswegian

This article goes into more detail:

Hotel site plea for council aid, by Colin Donald

This web site dedicated to the Halls provides further detail and an archive of the building’s past:

The Egyptian Halls Project

On reflection, I might add that it not only this building that is a sad case.

When I was (very little), my grandfather used to take me along Argyle Street as a treat, while he visited what appeared to be many auction rooms based in the floors above the more well-known shops.

I’d like to visit those places now, but a walk along Argyle Street in recent years is just depressing, as a glance above the shops shows the same places are empty and abandoned now. And given the state of the windows, I’d guess they are derelict, and the structure of most of those buildings is now just rotting away behind them.

August 7, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Private Bill to relax Burrell bequest terms begins Holyrood journey

While I couldn’t resist the inevitable poke at Glasgow City Council’s traditional habits last time round, I’ll keep my ‘funny bone’ in check this time round.

It’s true that when shipping magnate Sir William Burrell (1861-1958) made his original bequest to his city of Glasgow, and gifted his massive collection to city, transport of anything fragile was a risky business, and if anyone should know just how risky it was, Sir William should have, given his description as a shipping magnate.

One condition of the bequest was that his prized artworks and historical artefacts would not be loaned overseas, for fear of damage during transport.

In all fairness, transportation of such items has come a long way since Sir William’s day, and the chances of such damage occurring are slight when carried out properly – as might be expected in the case of Burrell artefacts.

It seems that some 30 or so requests for loan items are being turned down annually, in line with the terms of the bequest. A figure that could grow if the terms can be varied.

However, it also seems that items in the collection are parts of larger sets that were broken up many years ago, as they were acquired by Burrell, and by being able to share such items, it will be possible for such parted items to be brought together and displayed as a whole, which would be a bonus for all concerned. Think of it as a two-way exchange, as we could not only loan our items, but ask for others to be loaned to us. Something that is hard to do when you are unable to return the favour.

It’s hard to see how the Bill could fail reasonably, unless someone can make a case of the “Bequest being the bequest” and written in stone, never to be altered.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that what is on show at any given time is only a fraction of the total collection, with much of the content being held in storage, and out of sight.

Via Private Bill bid to let Burrell Collection ‘go on loan’

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , | Leave a comment

Appeal for memories of Rothesay Pavilion

Rothesay Pavilion, overlooking the bay and located at the west end of the town on the Isle of Bute, dates back to 1935, when the local council announced a competition to find a design for a new attraction in the form of a pavilion to occupy the site it had purchased in the town’s Argyle Street. 24 entries were received, and the winner was JA Carrick of J & JA Carrick of Ayr. The building was recognised for its heritage value in 2005, when Historic Scotland upgraded its listing to that of a Category A Listed Building.

Argyll and Bute Council has since worked with The Prince’s Regeneration Trust on the Rothesay Pavilion restoration project, and in 2012, the pavilion benefited from a grant of £500,000 from Historic Scotland’s Building Repair Grants fund, as one of 16 buildings across Scotland which received a share of the available £4,061,535 fund.

Opened on July 1, 1938, the Pavilion sees its 75th anniversary in 2013, and the island’s newspaper, The Buteman,  is planning to publish an article on the building’s history in the next issue of its sister title, Back In The Day. Due to be published just before the anniversary date, the paper has launched an appeal for any readers with memories of working, playing, or dancing in the landmark building:

If you have especially vivid memories of a particular concert or event at the Pavilion, if you have fond (or even not-so-fond!) recollections of working there, or if the building played a big part in any unusual or memorable events in your life, please let us know. You can call our news room on (01700) 502503, or you can get in touch by email by clicking on Craig Borland’s name…

Via Appeal for Rothesay Pavilion memories – Community News – The Buteman


We noted its 70th anniversary in 2008, but nobody was celebrating then, and various problems were causing a decline its use as a venue.

But, in the following years the building’s significance has led to better things, with both grants and plans are appearing to refurbish the building and save it from decay.

Last November, it was announced that this had resulted in the first stage of securing some £2.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and this month saw an announcement  that the project had been given ‘stage one’ development funding of £103,000, to be used to work up a bid for the larger ‘stage two’ award.

See the full gallery of Zak’s pics Pavilion pics over the years at:

Rothesay Pavilion Photo Gallery by Rothesay at

May 25, 2013 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, council | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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