Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Back to school – Glasgow School of Art (Oh, I mean the Mackintosh Building now)

I’d been a bit irritated/disappointed at not being able to get back for a look at the Glasgow School of Art since I grabbed some pics after the fire back in 2014, I always seem to be nearby, but not quite there.

Although I hadn’t planned being there last week, when I ended up nearby I decided that no matter the hassle, I was going to have a look.

I’m not sure what I expected, but the ‘good news’ was that the place is still so shrouded in scaffolding, and hidden behind Portakabins, that there isn’t really much to see from the outside.

While I don’t think there’s been much mention of the work going on there recently, it has featured in the news whenever any significant developments arise, or work gets underway, such as the creation of development models which have been used to plan restoration, and the awarding of contracts.

For a Glasgow local like me, it’s a little confusing…

The Glasgow School of Art has, for all my life, been what is now referred to as the Mackintosh Building, and at the moment, that matters, since the Mackintosh Building is closed to visitors while restoration work is undertaken, but the Glasgow School of Art now included a modern building complete across the road from this, and completed just about the same time as the fire, so the new building was able to take over many of the duties performed in the old building.

I’ll just have to try to learn to ‘Get it Right’.

This is the Mackintosh Building being restored.

Mackintosh Rebuild

Mackintosh Rebuild

Mackintosh Rebuild

Mackintosh Rebuild


May 29, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Another boost for the Maid of the Loch

Looks as if I will have to start saving for a ticket, as another boost for the final stages of restoring the Maid of the Loch to sailing the loch was reported in the news.

Funding boost for moored paddle steamer Maid of the Loch

All I have to do is keep shuffling along for a few more years, and I can maybe recreate the sailing I managed just before she fell out of service.

John Beveridge, chairman of the charity that owns the Maid, said: “The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society has supported us from the beginning, and to now give us £50,000 shows the faith they have in us to get the Maid sailing once again.

“Their support takes us yet another step closer to our goal, and it is a huge boost to have the country’s leading preservation organisation demonstrating this commitment.

“We are most grateful, and look forward, with confidence, to the Maid’s first sail.”

Paul Semple, PSPS national chairman, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the PSPS is able to offer this level of support to help ensure that the Maid of the Loch returns to service.

Maid of the Loch 2017

Maid of the Loch 2017

April 9, 2018 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, council, Maritime, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Nice little boost for Maid of the Loch fund raising

I was going to make a post about the Maid of the Loch receiving an award of £950,000 from the Scottish government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund towards the goal of £5.5 million needed to complete the paddle steamer’s return to operation.

While I first saw this listed in the total award summary, the BBC was kind enough to prepare an article summarising the project.

After some 22 years of constant fundraising and repairs, investments of around £2 million over that time, the company is almost ready for the final attempt to get the steamer fit to sail the waters again.

The Maid has not sailed since 1981 and has been moored at Balloch Pier for more than two decades.
The funding from the Scottish government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund takes the project closer to its £5.5m target.

It is hoped the ship can be used for cruises and functions.

The Loch Lomond Steamship Company, which owns the paddle steamer and is leading the regeneration project, has described the funding as a “major milestone”.

Chairman John Beveridge said: “It is absolutely wonderful news and a complete game changer for The Maid’s full restoration.

“This takes us significantly closer to reaching our £5.5m target, but we still have a way to go.”

Via Major funding for Balloch-based Maid of the Loch

It’s so long since I’ve been able to go there, but it might be worth the effort of using public transport to get there soon.

My last visit was ages ago, during a ‘Doors Open Day’, when visitors could wander around.

I was also lucky enough, by chance, to sail on the loch not long before the Maid was taken out of service.

Some years later, when I assumed the paddle steamer was lost and gone, I was walking somewhere out of Balloch towards the loch and got a shock/surprise to find the derelict vessel parked somewhere on the shore.

Maid of the Loch 2017

Maid of the Loch 2017

March 20, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Sailing on the Maid of the Loch gets closer and closer

While I’ve been following the gentle progress of restoring the Maid of the Loch to sailing condition, over the years I’ve learned that media stories which suggest such sailing might be seen within any timescale that could be interpreted as ‘Next year’ are best read lightly.

While another of those has just appeared, given the fate of all those that have gone before, and the amount of work yet to be completed – I think any suggestion that the sound of a paddle steamer slapping its merry way up and down Loch Lomond are best given a rating of ‘Hopeful’ rather than practical.

Far from being construed as a negative thought, that the steamer has arrived at the position it has now reached is a credit to all concerned, and I only wish I had been closer to where the work is being carried out.

The Maid of the Loch has not sailed since 1981 and has been moored at Balloch Pier on Loch Lomond for more than two decades.

Campaigners need to raise another £1m by the summer to release £3.8m from the National Lottery.

If the cash is raised, the steamer could take to the loch again next year.

John Beveridge, chairman of the Loch Lomond Steam Ship Company, said the whole project would cost £5.5m but £4.5m had already been raised, including £3.8m from the lottery fund which will be released if they can find the final £1m.

Via Stars sing the praises of the Maid of the Loch

The steamer ended up being moored at Balloch, but sad to say, much of the interior (anything that could be stolen and sold) disappeared, then current owners The Loch Lomond Steam Ship Company took it over in 1996, and began renovating it. ‘Disappeared’ items were even returned over the years.

Maid of the Loch 2017

Maid of the Loch 2017

January 27, 2018 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Maritime | , , | Leave a comment

Our longest running story – will it ever end?

It’s funny when your interest in a story changes from wondering about whether or not it will succeed, to wondering if it will ever come to an end, why it is taking so long, and where the money it has attracted is going.

I’m not particularly taken by the story of Peter Pan, but I can understand how the story and its author has attracted fans.

I was more interested in the story regarding the saving of a derelict and abandoned mansion which was notable, yet being vandalised, and this dates back to at least 2003, with the first post noting it in here back in 2008.

The trust that owns the house bought for the vast sum of £1.

Back in 2009, I noted the project was priced at £4 million.

Now, we’ve hit 2018, it’s still not finished, and the project is aiming to make an £8 million target.

The local council has already thrown £500,000 into this pot, and is now being encouraged to keep supporting the project.

Support for Peter Pan project in Dumfries recommended

I get the feeling I could go find articles about similar being built from scratch and stocked for less.

A North Uist visitor centre (for a St Kilda viewpoint) is expected to cost somewhere in the region of £1.5 million.

The community of the island of Ulva proposes to buy it for £4.2 million.

This project is possibly progressing so slowly that the money raised is effectively being frittered away just to cover the annual recurring cost of ongoing management, maintenance, and service support, rather than restoring the building (or is it a mere facade-retention game) and opening the centre.


All must be well…

Peter Pan house project funding bid backed

January 16, 2018 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Greenoakhill surprise

I often say that all I have to do is stop walking or visiting somewhere, and things will start to happen there as soon as my back is turned.

Proven true yet again…

I used to walk around Daldowie fairly often, which meant walking along the road past Greenoakhill, a long-established quarry and landfill site. According to (some) locals, the smell from this facility blighted the area and made it unlivable.

Oh wait… I am a local (lifetime) and never smelt a thing I’d have blamed on the landfill. BUT I did smell all the nearby farms, and at muck-spreading time… according to the farmers, if I can smell anything, then there’s something wrong with my nose!

It’s some time since I was here, but the last time I passed I did spot some tiny earth moving machines had arrived at this very corner, and had simply burst through the existing fencing to get onto the land (there was new temporary security fencing in place). But there was no indication of what was going to happen, and work had not really started, so no guessing.

This greeted me today, all done and dusted.

Greenoakhill Hamilton Road

Greenoakhill Hamilton Road

For those who know the area, the Mailcoach lies to the left.

At the time, I was grumpy, as you can just about see the latch on the gate has a padlock fitted (but there is a reason).

Getting in a bit closer, we can identify this new creation.

Greenoakhill Sign

Greenoakhill Sign

A quick review of the location reveals this is the first phase to open on the restored site,with newly planted trees, paths and benches.

Visitors are now invited and welcome to wander through the newly planted woodland overlooking the banks of the River Clyde, spot birds and butterflies, and enjoy being in on the start of an exciting project.

This gate is actually the service and maintenance entrance for the site, hence the lock and lack of public access.

I’ll get back for a proper look as soon as I can, unfortunately I live where this gate would make a most convenient access point, and both of the official public access point lie on routes that double the distance as they mean passing the gates while going towards them, and then having to double back to get to them.

Once I’ve seen it properly for myself, I do a proper post with links, pics, and whatever.

I’ve watched various phases of this recovery being completed over the years, and even lost friends in heated exchanges after pointing out the work, which they claimed was bogus, would never happen, and was some sort of conspiracy organised solely for the benefit of the landfill owner, so that he could pocket the money and leave the land derelict and dead.

Well, it’s nice to be right, but… 😦

January 1, 2018 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

Inland boatyard found in Westburn

I find some odd things lying around – this time, dead boats in Westburn.

The last time I saw anything like this was in Shettleston, where somebody with a bit of fenced off spare ground stores assorted ruined cars, but on one occasion picked up half-a-dozen or so various small speedboats. Not fast ones, just small craft with cabins, and better than rowing boats. They disappeared after a year or two.

Those boats were ‘Gin Palaces’ compared to the ones I spotted in the back lot of factory in Westburn.

These have definitely seen better days, and aren’t likely to be snapped up by anyone out for a quick bargain.

I actually thought it was just one boat there, but as I walked further along the road and got a better view, realised that two boats had been dumped there.

I doubt these are going to be restored any day soon, or see water – other than rain – again.

Westburn Derelict Boats

Westburn Derelict Boats

July 21, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, photography | , , | 1 Comment

One for the Spitfire fans as another is saved

For such a small aviation museum run by volunteers, the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum punches above its weight, and is an impressive performer.

It’s a long time since I’ve been there, but I have watched its steady progress online.

Slightly irritatingly, I learned that before I made my visit I had regularly spent days within sight of the museum, but did not realise it was there. This was in the days when I used to (try to) fly RC helicopters, and attended annual fly-ins held on the old airfield runway.

Oh well…

The museum’s most recent success is the restoration of a World War II Spitfire that saw service in the Battle of Britain, but crashed during a training flight from Ayr in 1941, killing the Czech pilot.

The plane was finally salvaged from of Loch Doon in 1982, following a four-year search by divers after the museum’s founders commissioned the salvage project in 1977, not long after the museum opened.

This article covers the recovery operation: The Loch Doon Spitfire is Found

Since then, it has taken 35 years of work to restore the aircraft’s bodywork – although an expert (from Yorkshire) was able to restore the fuselage, it seems ill-health prevented further work, but the museum was able to raise fund to buy wings, and allow this part of the work to be completed.

However, there remains much to be done – while the exterior has been largely completed, the interior remains as the next stage of restoration.

Via: Loch Doon Spitfire goes on display in Dumfries

Longer story appeared later: Spitfire recovered from Loch Doon put on display

Dumfries And Galloway Air Museum Loch Doon Spitfire P7540

Dumfries And Galloway Air Museum Loch Doon Spitfire P7540 – Pic via BBC News

July 17, 2017 Posted by | Aviation, military, World War II | , , , | 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

Could the Maid of the Loch sail again in 2018

Predictions that the paddle steamer Maid of the Loch could sail again in 2018 are probably the most realistic I have seen for the historic steamer since restoration began. Ambitious plans gave a number of earlier dates, but without being critical (just practical) I never expected them to be delivered, mainly due to the cost of the project (funded by donations, grants etc) and the huge amount of work required, which all has to be completed to standards set by outside certification bodies.

Thankfully, the volunteers have never given up, and despite the economic climate being less that favourable over the years, neither did the arrival of funds, even if they were slow.

It’s one I’d love to have had a hand it, but time, and the distance, just ruled it out for me when this restoration began.

Of the 2018 sailing date, this was said:

The summer of 2018 could see the last paddle steamer built in Britain sailing once more.

The Maid of the Loch has been out of use for 35 years.

But enthusiasts working towards a multi-million pound restoration of the vessel believe it could be cruising Loch Lomond again.

They are aiming to raise £1.7m by the autumn which, they believe, could release twice as much again in lottery funding.

If the fundraising drive over the spring and summer is successful, that would release £3.8m of heritage lottery cash.

If all goes to plan, the Maid could be sailing by late summer next year.

Via Old Maid prepares for new lease of life

This promotional video from 2015 is described as having been key in securing backing from Heritage Lottery – it’s also a pretty good summary to, with some nice period footage from the Maid’s first life on the loch (probably from about time  I managed a trip, or maybe two, but I can’t remember).

It’s years (think of the word ‘decade’ and add some) since I last walked on the Maid’s deck and wandered down to the engine room and saw the paddles through the handy observation window provided, during a Doors Open Day opportunity.

Not that I would have forgotten that day, but things got more interesting after I parked in Glasgow, only to find my car battery (which had given no advance warning) suddenly decided to die, totally and completely. Let’s just say I had busy hour or two after that, since I was on my own.

February 18, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Transport | , , | 2 Comments

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