Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Who was George Millar, the Maryhill Martyr?

I've said before on here that to avoid boredom whilst jogging I like to devise wee themed runs to distract myself with (eg a, b, c). After waxing nostalgically last week about my youthful days in Maryhill where I grew attached to Partick Thistle I decided to run around some of my schooldays' haunts. One of my favourite songs being sung at Firhill at present is the old "Oh Maryhill, Is Wonderful" ditty.

I had a quick search on the internet to see what wonders I was unaware of up that way and was delighted to see that the Maryhill Burgh Halls people are adding to their list of guided walks, which I can heartily recommend if you haven't checked them out already. I was aiming a bit further up Maryhill Road, where their walk isn't yet online and searching google was intrigued to find talk of a listed monument I'd never heard of before, a "Martyr's Memorial Pillar". As you can see from the link this is described as a memorial to a "Trade Union martyr", a cast iron pillar at the entrance to the former Maryhill Old Parish Church with a bronze plaque reading:

"TO THE MEMORY OF GEORGE MILLAR, who was mortally wounded at the age on Nineteen on the 24th February 1834, by one of those put to the Calico Printing Trade for the purpose of destroying a Union of the regular workmen, formed to protect their wages. THIS MONUMENT WAS ERECTED BY HIS FELLOW OPERATIVES."
Online I found a plan of the Old Parish Church graveyard which had the Martyr's Pillar clearly marked on it in 1985 (I've made it red for clarity sake) in a piece of land on Maryhill Road at the corner with Duart Street. The church was demolished in 1985 but I hoped that as the monument was listed it was still in place. The old church here was apparently built here in 1826 on land gifted by Lillias Graham of the Garbraid Estate. She was the daughter of Mary Hill who gave her name to the area (her grave is apparently in the necropolis). In 1843 "the disruption" lead to most of the congregation leaving to set up the Maryhill Free Church in Sandbank Street. In the 1970's I was often to be found outside here waiting for a "scramble" at weddings or playing football in the wee pitch behind it after my friends had come out of the Boys Brigade which took place in the church hall in the evenings here, as I lived about 50 yards away. In the 1920s the churches re-united with the Sandbank Street one becoming "Maryhill High" and the old one on Maryhill Road becoming "Maryhill Old". In 1986 the two churches were merged together into a new non-descript building further up Maryhill Road. The one on Sandbank Street was sold off and is now a nursery and a private house (when I passed today they seemed to be working on the fine old steeple).

Sandbank Street church building
The Old Building returned to the Garbraid Estate heritors, was apparently vandalised, declared unsafe and demolished after over 160 years of use. On 13th March 1941 during the Clydebank Blitz a landmine fell behind the church in Kilmun Street and damaged it (have a look at this painting in the National Galleries of Scotland), but the building survived until the usual mysterious Glasgow building ailment occurred of neglect, vandalism, declared unsafe/ mysterious fire, then demolition. Is there a city anywhere in the world more negligent of its heritage?

On my run this afternoon I went up past my old school, Maryhill Primary on Viewmount Drive, officially the highest street in Glasgow. It turns out it closed down in 2006 and after several years of the usual neglect or "anti-social behaviour, water damage and pigeons" it was "at serious risk of being lost".  I was surprised to see that the school and its enormous playgrounds have now been re-developed as flats.

Maryhill Primary School building
After the church was demolished the graveyard transferred to the "care" of Glasgow City Council who are apparently awaiting resolution of legal issues before tidying it up. From what I saw there today, they'd better hurry up or there won't be much left to tidy up.


The first picture shows a wee corner of the graveyard where some people seem to have made themselves comfortable, the second picture is looking straight at where the door of the church used to be. So there is no memorial here to George Millar. This is the description of it from the church records. "An unusual iron monument, with cubic base and tapering pillar surmounted by an urn. On the base a bronze plaque, heavily painted over."

So who was the "Maryhill Martyr" and where is his plaque? Has it been turned into scrap at the time of the demolition? I found the answer to the first question in an old book from 1895, charmingly titled "Random Notes And Rambling Recollections Of Drydock, The Dock Or Kelvindock, All Now Known By The More Modern Name Of Maryhill" by Alexander Thomson. Dawsholm Printworks started linen printing in 1750. A row of houses to accommodate the workers on "Bridge Street" was one of Maryhill's earliest parts "known as the Botany since the beginning of the 19th century". As the book goes on to say "the rules and customs in printworks at that time were of the most oppressive and tyrannical kind, and had a most demoralizing tendency."

In 1833 when employers refused to meet the demands of the Workmen's Trade Committee on pay and ratios of journeymen to apprentices a strike was called. The employers responded by dismissing their unbound apprentices and journeymen, and employed young men ("nobs"), women and girls to take their place. Due to "molestation of these nobs" some offenders were sent to prison and using plans akin to those later taken up by the late Margaret Thatcher, soldiers were brought from the Barracks to guard the "nobs" at Dawsholm Printworks. One 19 year old block-printer, George Millar, was stabbed one evening on the Botany, allegedly by a nob called Clay Davie (no, not the knob from The Wire called Clay Davis). After allegations of "golden ointment being placed on the hands of witnesses to blunt their memory" the accused was discharged.

So where is the plaque? I contacted local historian Ian Mitchell who tells me that at the time of the demolition it was apparently taken into the care of Glasgow City Council. The hope is that it can be installed in the newly restored Burgh Halls. I hope that this is the case and we don't forget young George Millar, the Maryhill Martyr.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Partick Thistle. We Got This


Excuse me for enjoying a wee bit of gloating (when you follow Partick Thistle you have got to take the chance when it comes along) but was that past football season not just a thing of beauty? After almost a decade out of the SPL, Partick Thistle return next season after clinching the First Division crown with a couple of games to spare.

It has been well covered elsewhere that the young squad of players clearly bonded as a unit, feeling that the media had already awarded the title to Morton. The Greenock team were in pole position for a long time. Although Thistle had games in hand, Morton's 8 point lead and their self-professed "experience", combined with Dundee United pinching our managerial team mid-season had sealed our fate in the eyes of many. This was turned into a positive motivating factor within the team as the players' "Kids vs Experience #WeGotThis" T-shirts demonstrated last Saturday at Falkirk. The young players have always been pretty active on twitter and Aaron Sinclair and others calmed my nerves with their obvious self-belief, starting to use the hashtag #WeGotThis as the season ground on. Just as important was the B-side of the T-shirts that they wore, the oft repeated cry from the crowd of "Archie's Army". Already involved in coaching at Firhill, the defender and club captain stepped up temporarily as manager. The players and fans made clear their belief that the post should be made permanent. His winning record and transformation of our away form made this inevitable. Alan "Archie" Archibald gets Thistle, the fans and players back him and we are happy to declare ourselves members of Archie's Army.

My relatives as Archie's Army at his testimonial match
He made his professional debut as a Thistle player in 1997 and played a season in the Premier League for us before moving to Dundee United for four seasons. He returned to Thistle as a player in 2006/7 and had a testimonial season a couple of years back (but is still only 35). One of my favourite Thistle memories is sitting behind the goal at Starks Park watching him frustrate Raith Rovers' Nacho Novo so much that when he lost the plot with him, Novo's red card was inevitable. A smart move was bringing in Scott Paterson as his assistant, whose famous goal against Inverness took Thistle to the Scottish Cup semi in 2002. He is another Thistle man, like Craig Hinchcliffe the goalkeeping coach, Gerry Britton in charge of the youth squads and behind the scenes as general manager, Ian Maxwell too. It feels like the people running the team are part of its history and dedicated to its future.
Archie signed my ball, I'll never wash it!

My Partick Thistle

Everyone talks about their football team as if they are an integral part of it, it's always "We was robbed", never "they". In Glasgow the majority blindly follow the Old Firm. Partick Thistle used to sell themselves as the "great Glasgow alternative", hinting that we were above the sectarian bile that used to be a lot nearer the surface in Scottish football. I was not yet a year old when Partick Thistle won the League Cup in 1971, so can't claim to have been there. We lived in Maryhill until I was 11 years old so my earliest visits were with my parents in the late 1970s when Bertie Auld was in charge. Although nobody in my immediate family had any great football allegiances we'd go along to support our local team. We would also go to Maryhill Juniors or to Firhill for reserve games, I can remember on one occasion my mum laying out a picnic in the north terrace behind the goal - don't let anyone tell you that the terraces were packed week in, week out. When we moved away to Knightswood I'd still go to Firhill with my brother and a couple of friends. Most people followed Rangers or Celtic at school but there were also more Dundee Utd and Aberdeen fans in my class than Jags fans - teenagers like to follow winners. In those days we used to stand behind the goal at the south terracing. This let you harangue the players or ref as they left the pitch to head into the tunnel or spend 45 minutes shouting "scab" when John Martin was playing for Airdrie. Occasionally we'd venture into the Shed, where the fence down the middle separated you from the opposition, but wasn't impermeable to globs of spit or the odd pie heaved over. Running battles down Maryhill Road weren't uncommon after those games, with a few hurled half-bricks dodged by those heading home. There were other brighter moments which just seemed to sum up what felt good and slightly daft about Partick Thistle such as the match against Aberdeen when one man with a broom wasn't able to clear the pitch of snow with us 2-0 down, particularly as his broom snapped in the attempt (we lost the replay 7-0). The club was in financial decline and in 1998 only the fan based "Save The Jags" campaign prevented bankruptcy. I was going to more games than ever then, although I can't remember the football being pretty. As we slumped to 8th place in the second division I kept going regularly despite, for a period of about 2 years, not once catching a Thistle victory home or away. That changed with consecutive promotions under John Lambie in 2000-01 and 2001-02. It was fun to be a Thistle supporter again and I loved the away days to Arbroath and East Fife and the like. A 2002 League Cup quarter-final at Parkhead sticks in the memory as a typically frustrating game from those days. After Paul Lambert's goal put Celtic ahead, Alex Burns equalised and took us to extra time and penalties only for BMMMH (now of Morton of course) to miss the one that let Celtic through. A few more relegations and promotions lay ahead. Under Ian McCall we achieved a level of stability and got to watch the likes of Gary Harkins play, but ground out results and were stuck in First Division limbo. Some young players who joined at that time have progressed to become excellent first team regulars. We may make a virtue out of a financial necessity, but surely this is the only way forward for Scottish football, finding young players with potential and allowing them a football framework that lets them play and progress. Stuart Bannigan joined Thistle as a boy about 6 years ago and this season has become a first team regular and appeared in the Scotland U-21 team. Although Jackie McNamara and Simon Donnelly only took us to 6th place last year in the First Division, the way we were playing appealed to my inner football hipster. We were better on good pitches, struggled with a Firhill pitch churned up by the Warriors rugby team, but were passing and moving and on their day, good to watch.


This season looked promising even by the time the pre-season friendlies had kicked off. I always enjoy these, you know the results don't really matter and you can sit back and watch, try to see the season's likely set up take shape. This year's games with a Celtic and an Everton XI promised passing football was planned, and provided victories too. Newly relegated Dunfermline and Pressley's Falkirk were most pundits' tips for promotion, but by the end of August we'd already beaten them both. The early season Challenge Cup game against Queens Park at Hampden brought a good crowd and a battling 5-4 victory which showed that this group of players had a bit of determination too. Were we in with a chance at last?

Goals were going in left, right and centre. A 3-1 defeat by Morton in October was soon forgotten with a 7-0 gubbing of old rivals Airdrie and beating Dunfermline again, 5-1. More than this was the feeling that when we got our noses in front and the confidence was up, we looked like "we score when we want" as the cry went. We were patient, playing good passing football, with beautiful, fast counter-attacking goals. The away form was shakey and discipline and red cards were at times costly, so when Dundee Utd took Jackie MacNamara heads could have gone down. But the opposite happened. "Right, we'll bloody show you" was the feeling you got from the squad. Archie was happy to drop to the touchline and a solid back line was taking shape in front of the ever reliable Scott Fox. There were options throughout the rest of the squad with competition for places. Christie Elliot and James Craigen appeared to have come on noticeably during their earlier, lower league loan spells. But the endless succession of mid-week and weekend games seemed to be taking its toll. Losing away to Cowdenbeath, Thistle were saved by the Fife fog as the match had to be abandoned. In the re-arranged match, unlike the game with Aberdeen I mentioned above, we did decisively reverse the earlier showing, winning 3-0.

The Challenge Cup final in Livingston in April was a great day out spoiled by the football. Whether it was nerves, fatigue, whatever - Thistle never clicked that day. There was drama aplenty with last minute penalties, red cards and equalisers but it was Queen of the South who won on penalties. 1-1 and losing on a missed Thistle penalty - we'd seen this before at Parkhead 11 years ago (see above).

So I was fearful that three days later we had to face Morton. The extra time, the hole punched in our defence by Aaron Muirhead's red card, the mental exhaustion from defeat and the recent busy schedule of games - would it start to catch up with Thistle facing the old, experienced hands of Morton next? #WeGotThis was the message that the players were calmly sending out. Suddenly Archie's decision to pick up two experienced defenders discarded by the sinking Dunfermline made a lot more sense than I thought it did initially. Andy Dowie stepped into the middle of the back line and almost 9000 people turned up to see Thistle beat Morton 1-0 in the unofficial title decider. The most surprising thing for me was that at no point did they look like losing. The final point to mathematically clinch it came against Falkirk last week, so this Saturday we can relax, have a wee party and pick up a trophy when Dunfermline visit.

As you would expect other teams have noticed and we've already lost Chris Erskine and Paul Paton for next season to Dundee United. It's no fair, but it happens. The management now need to sit down and re-build a squad for the SPL, but as plenty of cup games have demonstrated this season, the gap in quality between the top two leagues ain't what it used to be. Also we've still got Paul Paton's Promotion Pool Party he promised us  before the season is officially wound up and we worry about that.

Many of the players thanked the behind the scenes people that keep the club ticking over. It is not a big operation and everyone involved knows there are other people keeping it going, from physios to stewards, First Aiders, volunteers selling programmes, organising events and raising money. Local MSP Sandra White's parliamentary motion to congratulate Partick Thistle on their victory is a bit of cheesy politicking, playing to the audience, but it sums it up nicely.

"That the Parliament congratulates Partick Thistle FC on being crowned Irn-Bru Scottish Football League First Division Champions for season 2012-13; applauds first team manager Alan Archibald for steering the team to the championship, which it considers to be a feat of some magnitude considering the financial restrictions on the club and reliance on young players and home-grown talent; notes what it sees as the excellent community work that the club participates in throughout Maryhill and across Glasgow via the club and supporters' collaborative efforts through One Thistle, and wishes all those at the club continuing success in the future."

Anyway, we are going to enjoy the moment. It has been a pleasure this year to have gone along for the ride. For a lot of this season I've been disinterestedly oblivious to the goings on of Rangers and Celtic (if only the media were). Definitely in the past few weeks I've felt like there's only one team in Glasgow. That is priceless.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

East End Entertainments In Glasgow.

Review of Outskirts Festival, Platform. Easterhouse and BFI Mediatheque, Bridgeton Olympia Library, Glasgow.

Last year's inaugural Outskirts Festival was a sell out. No surprise with popular acts such as Aidan Moffat, Vashti Bunyan and readings from the likes of William Letford that time around. This year the festival stuck more closely to its own goals as "a venue on the outer reaches of a major city ought to doff its cap to artists on the edge of their disciplines or those creative people who are simply too curious to stick to one artform". They had advertised it as "recommended for the whole family". So taking them at their word we headed to the Platform as a family. There were options to include food in the ticket price and price reductions available if you had "local links". I was going to claim this on the fact that a decade ago I had spent a year working in Easterhouse but in the end "local links" just meant having a Glasgow postcode. The venue is not one I'd been to before. It is part of the Bridge complex in Easterhouse, which also includes the swimming pool, library, John Wheatley college and plays host to Scotland's National Youth Theatre.

Olympia building at Bridgeton Cross
We decided to make a day of it in the east end and started at Bridgeton Library. This recently re-opened in the former Olympia cinema and music hall building right at Bridgeton Cross and includes Scotland's "first BFI Mediatheque". This is a film and television archive from Scottish Screen and the BFI. Armed with just your library ticket you access this at a computer screen in wee booths in a dedicated section of the library. The choice is so wide and varied the hard part is deciding where to start, whether you go for old 50s Horlicks adverts and documentaries about Glasgow shipbuilding or the first episode of TV show Swap Shop. There are films too, from Gregory's Girl to Great Expectations. We ended up dipping in and out of a lot of things but our collective favourites were footage of the 1908 London Olympics and watching Peter Cushing as Doctor Who in Dalek Invasion Earth 2150.

BFI Mediatheque, Bridgeton
We also wandered round the corner to a gallery which has been open for a couple of years in an industrial building here but which I only heard about when there was a feature on it in The Skinny this month. The David Dale Gallery was hosting an exhibition by Harry Meadley featuring some other Leeds based artists. You wouldn't stumble across the gallery by accident unless you had come here on purpose but it is certainly worth seeking out. After this we swung past the Modern Institute in Osborne Street which has an exhibition just now of paintings by Swiss artist Nicolas Party. From here we could pop around the corner to get a vegetarian lunch at Mono and join in the fun of Record Store Day, the day when lots of men with beards queue up at record shops to buy vinyl they don't want but hope to flog later on ebay. Mono were also running a bus to Easterhouse for the Outskirts Festival, so wiping the last falafel crumbs from the corners of our mouths we headed for it.
David Dale Gallery

Outskirts Festival

As I'm visiting Denmark and Holland during the summer I was drawn by the chance to hear Danish Frisk Frugt (it means fresh fruit apparently), and Dutch performer/ musician Jaap Blonk. A Hawk and a Hacksaw's Balkan-influenced folky music was also a draw and the chance to hear a reading from Rob Newman, once part of The Mary Whitehouse Experience. There were other more eclectic offerings promised to and performance art promised throughout the evening.
Florence To
Jaap Blonk set the tone giving us a sound poetry recital. I've been to lots of sound poetry performances and I'm not convinced that it brings anything more than the reading of words or the playing of music could to tell a story or express an emotion. This was the first time that I'd forced it upon my three children though and their less filtered opinions are always interesting. They found it bonkers but amusing, which is probably fair enough. He gave us a history of Sound Poetry, from early 20th Century Russian to Dutch members of the De Stijl movement. Between acts in one of the rooms Florence To played projections of geometric shapes onto white pyramids to a background of ambient electronic music. It was hypnotic stuff and the later performers got her to leave it on to add to their performances. Some of the other art on show was a bit hit or miss, although I did end up with a bag from the screenprinting Poster Club. In the main auditorium next up was "Sonata for a Man and a Boy" by Greg Sinclair and an excellent turn by young Bartek Bialucki. It was a performance involving movement, conversation and a cello lesson where the man's inner child and boy's adult interplay. It was gentle and engaging and warm and fuzzy without feeling the need to be dark or foreboding. A poetry reading by Ryan Van Winkle never quite hit the right note, whereas acapella singers Crying Lion, were note perfect and oddly one of my children's favourite performances with their olde England cider-appley sound.
We were disappointed that Rob Newman wasn't well, as we'd been quite keen to hear him, but Scottish writer Kirstin Innes stepped in for him, reading her tales of social dancing torture at school.
Frisk Frugt
Frisk Frugt's latest album got a rave review in The Quietus so I was looking forward to hearing them. Danish musician Anders Laug Meldgaard comes from a country where jazz is apparently not a bad word, but also a country where it has not been allowed to stagnate and has positive influences on the experimental, jazz-tinged sounds of Frisk Frugt. Driven on by his forceful percussionist who used a variety of bells, drums and chimes Anders moved from keyboard to mini-sax and his homemade organ put together from an array of swanee whistles and recorders. Their last piece was particularly impressive and beautifully put together, moving from chaos to order. This was definitely the highlight of my day. The evening was finished in style by A Hawk and a Hacksaw, the two-piece from Albuquerque, New Mexico rattling off their Balkan soaked tunes on violin and accordion. It was a foot-tappingly good performance but a bit unengaging for me. Central European folk music is not something I have a great handle on so it is hard for me to know where respectful imitation ends and original music making begins here. I think perhaps the setting didn't help this with the audience sat in the auditorium chairs looking down on the musicians. It was music that would be better heard sat around a fire with them or dancing in a village hall.
A Hawk and a Hacksaw
Overall it was a well organised, interestingly curated festival. The atmosphere was pleasant and the unusual settling with library book shelves you could browse between acts and a sports centre cafe serving bottled beer and paninis worked well. It didn't feel like it had imposed itself on the area either but tried to engage with it. When a group of local boys kept wanting into things they were invited in without anyone fussing over it. Even after they ran out from the sound poetry guffawing theatrically I later saw Jaap Blonk and one of the festival organisers talking to them in a hall trying to show them how he makes his loudest farting noises. Other kids who had wandered in seemed to be getting a chance to do some screenprinting. Good effort all round, but maybe needs to work on the publicity a bit next year as this felt a bit like a wee secret.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Wagner, Thorn and Morton Rolls Over?

Review of... BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Wagner's Tristan and Isolde Act III, City Halls, Glasgow.

Tracey Thorn at Aye Write Festival, Glasgow.

...and a wee bit of Partick Thistle

I checked a dictionary definition for the word Wagnerian just there and it said "massive scale, drama and emotional intensity." I had expected to get that on Thursday night from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performing the third act of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. However the description can be applied equally well to the football performances of Partick Thistle this week.

I turned up at the "Braidwood Motor Company Stadium" (recent winner in the world's worst stadium name tournament) in Livingston on Sunday for the Challenge Cup final against Queen of the South hoping to see Partick Thistle pick up their first cup trophy since 1971. The first 120 minutes were more tense than entertaining, with Thistle not managing to show what they can do. Then came the twist at the end which would be unrealistic melodrama in an opera. When Thistle won a dodgy penalty in the final minute of extra time we were confident that Aaron Muirhead would put it away to equalise and take it to penalties. However when it was saved, Muirhead was then red carded for sticking the head on Queens' player Higgins (who was basically asking for it). Then in injury time Kris Doolan's goal DID take it to penalties....where we finally did lose it. As a naturally "glass half empty" supporter I was then anxious about the virtual league decider three days later against Morton. I needn't have worried. An amazing crowd of almost 9000 people turned up at Firhill to watch a nervy but solid 1-0 win nudge Thistle nearer to the title and promotion.

After that it was maybe not surprising that I found Wagner's operatic finale a bit of an anti-climax. The BBC SSO conducted by Donald Runnicles have been performing the opera's three acts live to a Radio Three audience from Glasgow's City Halls over the past few months. I've enjoyed the first two acts and written about them here before (Act I, Act II). Wagner's operas are famously bombastic and famously long. However this rendition has now been running almost 7 months, which even for Wagner is far too long a period of time. As well as meaning that I've had to get a story refresher each time we arrive back at the halls, it has also meant that the singers have changed on several occasions, losing all sense of unity in the story telling and leading to quite marked variation in tone and atmosphere between acts. Some singers (such as Marcus Eiche's Kurvenal tonight) act the part, whilst others (particularly Robert Dean Smith's flaccid Tristan) meander through. In fact I wasn't even sure that he'd died as he skulked over to the side of the stage. There was no drama in the performance of this final act tonight, even Isolde's final aria before she dies felt perfunctory. The earlier piece of the night, Richard Strauss's Metamorphosen held my attention more, his mournful piece written in 1944 showing where modern classical music was headed with his marked counterpoint that the likes of Steve Reich would pick up and run with.  Maybe I had just been spoilt for melodrama by the football I'd witnessed this week.

More engaging and enlightening was my evening at the Aye Write Festival to see Tracey Thorn do a reading from her excellent memoir "Bedsit Disco Queen" and Q&A. I've always liked the music of the singer /songwriter from Everything But The Girl. Her recent solo albums, even her Christmas one from this year are well worth exploring too. I was at school when EBTG first found fame and I followed them more attentively after sharing a hotel with them at the 1985 World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow. They were there to perform as part of Britain's cultural delegation, I was there as a kilt-wearing 14 year old delegate from the Glasgow West branch of Youth CND having a good time. Her reflections on this trip in the book were fascinating as she saw events from a different perspective from my recollections. She recalls the "clearly censored and nearly-mute translator-guides". I remember the translators spending their evenings drinking with the Scottish delegates, who kept slightly apart from the English group and my diary describes an 11-aside football match I took part in where Scotland played the Russian interpreters and "one Englishman who made up their numbers, and had to go to hospital with a broken leg". I hadn't dug out all my old photos, memorabilia and diary from that trip until I read Tracey's book mentioning it. I remember them performing in Moscow, along with reggae band "Misty In Roots" and Scottish folk singer Dick Gaughan, who kind of took me under his wing there. I remember Ben and Tracey running along the Hotel Cosmos corridor to their room a few doors down from me and the mileage I got from telling the cool girls at school that I'd seen them. Anyway, Tracey was kind enough to give a few minutes of her time to my reminiscences of that bizarre week tonight as I stood in line to get my book signed. It is a well written, intelligent book and well worth a read if you haven't come across it yet.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Partick Thistle Early Grounds

Firhill Stadium from the canal, March 2013
Previously I have written a blog of a short jog I had run around the sites of the old grounds of Partick Thistle Football Club. For a look at some information I came across on the old grounds whilst investigating this route please have a look at the earlier blog. Simon McKay added a comment to it that I had probably guessed wrongly on placing the Meadowside ground so near to the end of the River Kelvin. Partick Thistle played here from 1897 to 1908 in a ground which once held 16,000 people watching a match against Hibernian. In 1908 they moved to where they are still, in Maryhill, the ground partly surrounded by a bend in the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Firhill Basin that was once used for off-loading timber. I apologise in advance that this blog is a bit heavy on pictures because of the nature of it, so if reading this on a mobile, you were warned!
Firhill Stadium today
Last week on a trip through to Edinburgh with my children we popped into the National Library of Scotland and had a quick look at an exhibition about map makers Bartholomew. They had a Glasgow map on display labelled 1888, but it had Partick Thistle's stadium in Maryhill already in place, so was obviously a later map. This made me remember that I'd planned to have a look in the Glasgow Room in the Mitchell Library to see if I could find any old maps giving more clues to the location of Partick Thistle's Meadowside ground. I love guddling about in this room and I can easily lose track of time whilst in here, so I quickly got distracted looking at a lot of other stuff today. So here is a quick run through some of the old maps that I came across.

1876-1880 Overnewton Park

Somewhere just south of Dumbarton Road lies the site of Partick Thistle's earliest recorded home, Overnewton Park. On current maps Overnewton Square is as near as I can guess to where this used to lie. In this 1865 map "Overnewton" lies between Kelvinhaugh Road (now Haugh Road) and Kelvinhaugh Street. I stumbled across no maps with a pitch marked on them.

Overnewton 1865 map

1880-1883 Jordanvale Park

This ground lay just south of Dumbarton Road, beside what is now called Edzell Street (was called Hill Street) in Whiteinch. The pitch here was problematic and after 3 years they moved back westwards. The area was later used for a tram depot which can be seen on this 1898 map.
Jordanvale 1898 map

1883-1885 Muir Park

Muir Park now lies under the bottom of Gardner Street in Partick, but before the rising population made building tenement housing a profitable enterprise this area was laid out as Muir Park. On this map of 1861 you can see the West of Scotland Cricket ground on the left and the bowling green on what is now Fortrose Street which are both still there. The curling pond on Peel Street is now long gone. Thistle had their pitch at the lower end of Muir Park (between the P and A of Partick in this map).
Muir Park in 1861 map

1885-1897 Inchview

In 1885 Partick Thistle played their last game at Muir Park, against Partick FC, who were being wound up, and moved to their ground in Whiteinch - Inchview. This now lies roughly under the northern entrance to the Clyde Tunnel. In this map of 1896 "Inchview Athletic Ground" can be seen on the left hand edge, just south of Dumbarton Road.
Inchview in 1896 map

1897-1908 Meadowside

Meadowside shipyard, with Clyde off to the top.
In 1897, as one contemporary report put it "The Partick Thistle, urged no doubts by the encroachments of the avaricious building fiend, have decided to remove to larger fields and pastures more central". I had thought this was on the Clydeside near the mouth of the River Kelvin, with Thistle having to move for the building of a shipyard here. However my wife came across a reference in a Jules Verne book set in Glasgow ("The Blockade Runners") to the Meadowside shipyard, which was built here much earlier, in 1844. It even has a wee photo of this area, so I placed it wrongly in my earlier blog. In this picture above, the Kelvin is in the foreground, the Clyde heading upwards to the sea. The building in the centre is all that remains of this complex now and Partick Thistle built their ground on the grassy bit beside the Clyde just west of the shipyard. These maps below are a kind of before and after shot of Meadowside. The first is from 1892 and has ("1897 Football Ground Partick Thistle") added as an amendment. The second shows the ground and maybe explains why two boats were allegedly required to retrieve stray footballs from the Clyde on match days. This places the ground in a line straight south from what is now Sandy Road, under the two most eastern blocks of flats in the new Glasgow Harbour development. It was the building of the Meadowside Granary which required Thistle to find a new home.

Meadowside 1894
Meadowside map 1903

1908-Present Day, Firhill Stadium, Maryhill

When they had to move away from the land at Meadowside for industrial development on the Clydeside, a piece of land was procured in Maryhill, a pitch flattened out and a stand for 1600 people built. In the 1861 map what is now Firhill Road leads over Firhill Bridge to what looks like a farm called Firhill. Where the stadium would later be built lies an iron foundry, adjacent to the "timber basin".
Firhill 1861
By the 1898 maps the foundry has gone and the "Firhill" house has been replaced by Ruchill Park. On the north bank of the canal now lies "Firhill Iron Works" and "Firhill Saw Mills" as industrialisation moves on apace.
Firhill 1898
By the year 1921, when Partick Thistle won the Scottish Cup you can see the stadium on the maps. Earlier maps have just the main stand and indicate a rough slope for the terracing but by 1921 it looks more recognisable on the maps. Murano Street has been laid out now (named after Murano Glass Works in Venice as there were two large scale glass works on this street). Curiously what is now called Bonawe Street on the other side of Maryhill Road, was called Hampden Street in 1921, which seems appropriate that season (or not, as one pedant has pointed out Thistle won the Scottish Cup final that year played at Celtic Park).
Firhill 1921

 Anyway that was what I found in the Mitchell Library today. Please let me know if there are any glaring errors here and I'll put these pictures up on the Partick Thistle FC flickr page if you want to have a look at bigger versions.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Football History - Two Glasgow Exhibitions

The Scottish Football Museum, Hampden Stadium, Glasgow

More Than a Game, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

There are two opportunities at present to look at the history of football in exhibitions in Glasgow. Firstly there is the Scottish Football Museum which has had a space in Hampden Park ever since the stadium was redeveloped. Alternatively, at Kelvingrove Art Gallery until 18th Aug 2013 is an exhibition entitled "More Than a Game: How Scotland Shaped World Football".

Firstly I went with my children to the Hampden Museum, as we hadn't been for ages. It's £10 to see the museum and get the stadium tour, but children with Glasgow Kids' Cards are free (£5 otherwise). In the years that have passed since we were last there not a lot has changed. It starts off with a chronological look at the development of the game in Scotland, from the world's oldest international match between Scotland and England, played in Partick in 1872, to the foundation of the football league and it's development over the years. There are lots of nods to Scotland international teams, as is appropriate at the national stadium, particularly those that got to World Cup finals, with a model and video of Archie Gemmill's goal against the Netherlands, looking like something from a bygone era nowadays. It makes this solitary goal into a bit of a religious relic which is probably overstating its importance on the world stage. I think the film Trainspotting captured the moment more relevantly.

Much like Scotland reaching the World Cup, other things on show needed explained to my children as being before their time and entirely alien. For example, why exactly were there rows of "Inva-cars" along the touchline at most matches in the 70s? There is an awful lot on Rangers and Celtic here: photos of Terry Butcher, Ally McCoist's golden boot, Neil Lennon's shirt and various paintings of Celtic players. The "Hall of Fame" has a preponderance of Old Firm players too. Bertie Auld and Maurice Johnston were the only ones I spotted with a Partick Thistle link on my quick glance at the list, but then again I'm guessing it was their Rangers/ Celtic connections that got them listed here too, no? So we filled in a card to nominate a current Partick Thistle legend for this honour.
Chris 'Squiddy' Erskine's Hall of Fame Nomination
On looking at the Scottish Cup trophy, which is on permanent display here, I took what I saw on it as a good omen for the end of this season.
I'd like to see the First Division League table at the end of the 2012-13 season looking something like this, with Partick Thistle just one place above Morton. (If the picture isn't clear it says "Won by... No competition...Kilmarnock...Partick Thistle 1920-21...Morton 1921-22...Celtic...". In fact these were the first and last years that Partick Thistle and Morton have won the Scottish Cup).
Next up was the stadium tour. Considering that our group consisted of us being the only Glaswegians (and Partick Thistle fans to boot) plus families from Fraserburgh, Mauchline and Falkirk it was again depressingly centred on tales of Rangers and Celtic: which end they get for finals, which dressing rooms, which side of the tunnel they stand on. Please, Rangers and Celtic are not all that there is to Scottish football, and in fact most of the time they seem to be playing here against their will. The ground itself is the property of Queens Park Football Club of course of whom we heard precious little, and the tour guide's talk was out-dated by the fact that the old firm teams are 3 leagues apart at present and Rangers will only be visiting Hampden on league business for a while yet.
Warm-up area, Hampden Stadium
The tour itself is good though and was the favourite part of the visit for my children. You get into the referees' rooms and the dressing rooms, which to be honest were a wee bit wiffy from the Scotland and Wales teams occupying them 48 hours earlier. The astroturf indoor warm-up area allows everyone to have a quick kickabout. Then you get to walk out through the tunnel onto the pitch and pretend you are being greeted by the Hampden roar. A good time was had by all.
As the exhibition on at Kelvingrove is being organised by the Scottish Football Museum I wasn't sure if there was just going to be a lot of duplication. However from the leaflet promoting it it is clear that promisingly it aims to have a broader reach than just the Old Firm. There are talks running alongside it on topics such as women's football, the world's first black international footballer (Scotland's captain in 1881, Andrew Watson), Third Lanark, Queen's Park and from a Mr Robert Reid at Woodside Library on the 8th of June "The Story of Partick Thistle Football Club".
Entrance to the Kelvingrove exhibition
Like all the visiting exhibitions at Kelvingrove there is an entry fee of £5, but children under 16 are free. The normal Kelvingrove organ recitals were meant to have a footballing slant  with such classics as "Ally's Tartan Army" being performed, but at the time of writing a "technical issue" means that this isn't happening yet (I think it's just that technically this isn't actually music).
A nice touch was the entry ticket being a reproduction of the tickets for the world's first "International Foot-Ball Match" in 1872 at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick.

The exhibition itself is far more engaging than the one at Hampden and does make a better connection with the social history of football clubs' origins, particularly in the parts around the Third Lanark army regiment or the leather workers in Partick making 20 Tomlinson T-panel footballs a week. Also the early history of football in Scotland, including a leather football from the 1540s and early records of women's football are good. Although the exhibition is titled "How Scotland Shaped World Football" this doesn't really feature prominently in the exhibits, but a touchscreen tells the stories of Scots immigrants bringing football to all the corners of the Empire and beyond.  A lot of this is expanded upon in the interesting wee guide booklet.

I quite liked seeing the square wooden goalposts taken from Hampden which St Etienne fans blame for their not winning the 1976 European Cup Final due to their shape.

Otherwise the football parts are more predictable, but interesting none the less with films on the Real Madrid cup final at Hampden, the Busby Babes and various old Scottish international matches. Also the paean to great Scottish managers doesn't have any surprises, but what is glossed over is that Scotland once lead the way in many areas of football development, but we have now been left behind looking at museum exhibits of our former glories.
As a Partick Thistle fan I cannot stop myself looking out for any references to my team, and much as at Hampden (where a copy of the old fanzine "Sick In The Basin" is on show) here it was just in relation to our supporters with a couple on supporters club membership books on display.
My children were kept engaged throughout this exhibition with video touchscreens challenging you to be the referee, a virtual football video game projected on the floor, dressing up boxes and a brass rubbing bit with club badges.
"Can you see what it is yet?"
After that there is the obligatory exit through the gift shop, which has a Subbuteo table set up, which almost got me buying it anew, but I settled for the Partick Thistle coloured "The Jags" sweets instead, which I was delighted to see appeared to be outselling all of the others. Well, we were in the west end of Glasgow after all. 

Monday, 1 April 2013

Chas 'n' Dave. ABC, Glasgow. March 2013

I ended up at a gig last night that I'd been looking forward to for a while, Chas 'n' Dave at the ABC in Glasgow. Light-hearted, pub singalong "rockney" singers Charles Hodges and Dave Peacock have been doing their thing for over three decades, their first chart success being "Gertcha!" in 1979. A further seven chart hits followed. Before that they'd played as session musicians for various acts from Labi Siffre to Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent. In 2009 they announced that they were retiring as a band, but as is the way with these things, a mere two years later and they were touring again. Who can blame them? The ABC is a decent sized venue and it was mobbed. The crowd were in a party mood (eg pissed) and amazingly seemed to know most of the words to most of the songs, so a lively singalong ensued.

Big crowd for Chas 'n' Dave in Glasgow
My excuse for being here? I was 10 years old when Tottenham Hotspur won the FA Cup in 1980 and then again the following year. They were exotic and exciting with Ossy Ardiles and Ricky Villa scoring great goals so became my English team. This was helped by my mum's cockney friend being a big fan and sending us Spurs' calendars, etc. So I had my Spurs kit on at PE and could sing along to great big daft songs about them by Chas 'n' Dave. Then you had other crowd pleasers for any child of the time such as "Rabbit" and "Snooker Loopy". What's not to like?

They are a pretty low maintenance outfit. 69 year old 'Chas' on the piano, his 67 year old partner 'Dave' on bass and one of their son's on drums. They peppered their set with their hits, seemingly randomly deciding upon the fillers as they went along. They really are relics of a bygone era. Songs about London girls darning your socks or not caring about life's stresses because "I got my beer in the sideboard" really aren't going to bother the charts these days.

Anyway, I've seen them now, so I'll give it a miss when they do the next "farewell" tour. My only disappointment was they didn't do the Spurs songs! So if they do a Spurs tour next time, that is something I would buy a ticket for.