This month we feature the Auld Hoose in North Berwick. To be honest, on looking at this photograph I just want to be there. Right now. Warming my bones at the fire, supping ale, and sighing with contentment.
Inside of the Auld Hoose in North Berwick - Feb 2012
February 2013 News cartoon - the destruction of Glasgow's heritage
Glasgow, once the Second City of the British Empire, is being destroyed. It is not, as might be thought, merely being destroyed by a city council who wishes to bulldoze the past in favour of an instant plastic fix, but also by apathy.
The city has gone through many changes in its past. Each generation wants change, for each generation is different, and as each generation ages it wants the things it is familiar with to remain. Change is both welcomed and shunned in every generation. In effecting that necessary change there will be parts of our heritage that will be lost. There's no way around that. And so there is this continual social angst about what will stay and what will go. Not everyone will be happy. Such is life.
But the destruction of Glasgow's heritage has more to do with a lack of building maintenance than this cycle of so-called progress and change. This may be exemplified by Springburn Public Halls which slowly slid into an abyss of neglect before being demolished.
When a building of architectural merit becomes listed, it means very little, for if the owning council can find no use for it then the building is abandoned. In the absence of a regular programme of maintenance to keep that building wind and watertight, plants starts to grow on it, green moss coats the stone, the stone becomes damp and displaced, and in the end the whole structure becomes so unstable that it has to go. If it's taking too long for nature to do the dirty, then withdrawing all security and allowing youths to burn it down is a much swifter option. Glasgow is infamous for its big fires.
And now Glasgow City Council wants to spend millions of pounds fiddling with George Square. I'm not against change, although it would be nice to return the square to the dear green place that it once was. But George Square does not need fiddling with, especially now when money is tight, pavements and roads are disintegrating, and magnificent structures like the Winter Gardens in Springburn Park (the largest glasshouse in Scotland) lies abandoned and in ruins. If we all do nothing but sit back and watch this all happen, then Glasgow will become a city with a veneer of prosperity sitting in a wasteland of architectural and social decline. And we may already be there.
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February 2013
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Springburn is an area just to the north of Glasgow city centre. There, they once made trains, steam trains that were used in Great Britain and sent all around the world. Something like a quarter of all the steam trains in the world were made in Springburn.
Instead of doing something useful to help regeneration, Glasgow City Council seems to want to destroy the whole area.
Springburn Public Halls has recently been demolished. About the only thing saved were a few statues, one of which holds a steam train in her hands.
Springburn Park, sitting high on Balgrayhill, exists thanks to men connected with the area's railway industry. The park's Winter Gardens - the largest glasshouse in Scotland - was built by the then Glasgow Corporation 'as a condition for accepting a £12,000 gift from Hugh Reid, of the North British Locomotive Company, to finance the construction of the nearby Springburn Public Halls.'
Not only has Springburn Public Halls been demolished through a lack of care, but the Winter Gardens themselves are heading the same way, now lying in ruins.
There cannot be a more appropriate place to house a Scottish museum dedicated to the history of steam locomotives than Springburn. Such an attraction would rival that at York, would be another jewel in Glasgow's tourism crown and, more importantly, it would give something back to a place that deserves it. Springburn.
IT IS VERY hard to keep up with technology these days, such is its breakneck speed of progress. Take television. First there were black and white TVs, then colour TVs, then colour TVs with stereo sound, then flat TVs, then high definition TVs, then digital TVs, then the world of TVs just kind of exploded and the choice became utterly mind boggling. I vaguely recall watching a tiny black and white screen in a big wooden box at my Gran's decades ago. It was exciting. Is it no longer possible to just buy a telly?
IT IS BECOMING increasingly hard to relax in the park. It used to be the case (and I know you'll find this hard to believe) that you could go to the park and just sit down for a while. Or you could slowly stroll along, smelling flowers and all that kind of thing. Sometimes you could combine both the sitting and strolling and have a most enjoyable time. Now, it seems, one has to engage in some activity that involves peching: military training with sit-ups and push-ups, or mums and prams sprinting about the place. Sigh.
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I may be starting to become a bore here, but I keep harping on about the importance of building maintenance. Without a simple and largely inexpensive system of building maintenance buildings fall down.
Plants are not all wee green floppy things. They are strong. Just try crashing your car into a tree to see how floppy they can be. If you do not keep your roof-gutter free of debris, then plants start to grow in it. The roof-gutter then becomes blocked. Water that the roof-gutter would normally lead away from the building's facade then starts to spill over the side of the blocked roof-gutter. The stone on the facade of the building then becomes wet, green moss starts to grow, and plants start to get a real foothold.
The result is that water leeches inside the building causing internal damp, and the plants that grow get bigger. Their roots probe between stones of the structure and over time cause displacement of the stone itself. Hard to believe I know, but as I've said, plants are strong. The whole building then starts to deteriorate, and if left unchecked the building structure will fail, and the whole lot will come tumbling down.
The photos on the right were taken recently. They show downpipes on Partick Pumping Station in Glasgow, a rather attractive little red sandstone building constructed in 1904. The purpose of the downpipe is to take rainwater from the roof-gutter safely away from the building and down a drain. As you can see, one is functioning pretty well, while the other has failed, probably through leakage at joints or a blocked rainwater-head. The result is there for all to see: green moss and a large plant - almost a bush - growing. The inside of this building at this corner will be damp. If left unchecked this building will be at some risk. Just like Springburn Public Halls, which have now been demolished.
Partick Pumping Station in Glasgow - downpipe functioning fairly well
Partick Pumping Station in Glasgow - failed downpipe
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 ... Eventually, Bell and Beckett got washed and dressed, and left the flat. In the harsh light of a new day the streets looked little changed from the day before. Still there were bodies, most now covered with a sheet or a coat. There was no traffic, bar large white lorries that stopped to pick up the dead, and an occasional army truck weaving its way through the debris. Most shops were shut, except the supermarkets, where armed soldiers stood as sentries at each side of the entrance.
The Kelvin Way was quiet. It was like a Sunday. The only things living were the trees that grew in neat rows bordering the wide avenue, along with the birds that inhabited their branches. Near the public convenience they turned right and made their way up the steep set of steps leading to the university. They tried to pretend that there wasn’t a body sitting propped up against the outside wall of the toilet. They knew it was dead because a large black raven was standing on the head, looking conspicuously around before pivoting down and plunging its beak into an eye.

They were starting to grow accustomed to them. The bodies. Fleshy husks of men, women and children discarded by escaping souls. This one must have been missed by the authorities, like a whole load of others.
Up on the hill there were many cars that had been parked the day before. The owners of most of these vehicles – students and university staff – would not be coming back.
By the flagpole and the flowers they paused to look down over the park. It was stunningly beautiful. From up here there was no hint of the chaos that reigned below. Still there were green swathes of grass, lines of trees, and paths climbing up to the majestic sweep of Park Circus. Beyond the park, Glasgow was spread before them. It looked just as it always did. The Finnieston Crane still stood beside the domed brick structure of the old pedestrian tunnel entrance, a reminder of the Clyde’s great ship-building industry and of all the other industries for which the city was once famed. That very crane had been used to lift massive locomotives, built in Springburn, from low-loaders onto ships, where they would be taken to a new life in some far-off land. Most of these industries were dead, but amidst the decay that crane still stood, tall and proud, as if guarding the very river that gave life to the city.
They walked further down the hill and stopped in front of Beckett’s departmental building. The main door of the West Medical Building was open. Inside could be seen loose sheets of paper blowing around in a slight breeze. All that was missing was the Wild West tumbleweed. Upstairs, some lights were on, but somehow they knew that no one was inside. At least no one whose heart was still beating. ...