Saturday, 2 March 2019

Shawlands. Queen's Park. Langside College. South Side Memories. Part One.

I,m not really one for looking back a lot nostalgically as there's too many new things to still discover looking ahead of me. Thinking of places for a walk however I ended up taking a bus to Glasgow's Southside, (Shawlands and Queen's Park) one Saturday a few weeks ago. It was the coldest night of this mild winter so far- minus 10 in the countryside, so I thought Queen's Park might have good visibility for views.
                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
 It did indeed.... and it was also covered in a thick carpet of frost. Queen's Park, like many of Glasgow's hill top vantage points often have the look of former grand estates but this one was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton as a public park in the mid 1800s with great views over the City of Glasgow. Named after Mary, Queen of Scots as her army fought a famous battle near here-The Battle of Langside- and lost. The same man built many notable parks in cities UK wide. The Capability Brown of his era, only this time on behalf of the public, instead of grand landowners. Hopefully it will be treasured into the future  but that is not a certainty. (The huge growth of indoor gyms and personal trainers for ordinary people in recent years - instead of excising for free outdoors, drinking bottled water instead of tap, means it may become perfectly normal and accepted to pay for park entry in future, or houses built on this prime land, as that seems to be the way that trends are heading. ie many services that used to be free and taken for granted - are now paid entry only and it's considered normal to do so. I've noticed a few things concerning sports or outdoor pursuits now that seem increasingly to be shifting focus towards a notion that you should pay to get any real value out of exercise and keeping fit- hence rows of panting humans running on treadmills or static bikes indoors, behind glass, even on the sunniest days. Some, no doubt, will get addicted to this but many others will drop out after a few months just because the long term enthusiasm wanes and no wonder. Exercise outdoors and going whenever and wherever the motivation takes you is very different and ever changing thanks to interest and variety.
A flagpole view from the top of the park looking towards Castlemilk, a large housing estate also built on a rising hillside. This part of the park is open plan and full of expansive short grass meadows.
Other parts have a wilder feel with woodland trails. A view of Shawlands Cross here and the hills of Renfrewshire.
This is the same building as the one above only seen from Shawlands looking towards Shawlands Cross a stone's throw away.
Shawlands Cross itself. Not walked around this district much since I moved across the river over 30 years ago so it brought back some memories. I grew up and lived in Nitshill, Pollok for the first 30 years of life so Shawlands was the nearest large shopping district for my childhood and teenage years. Mika in this photo used to be Only Steven, another hairdresser, as far as I can recall its the exact same outlet location, and I took my driving lessons and test around this district. Basically, anything you wanted other than local shop messages you had to come to either here or into Glasgow City Centre, another half an hour away by bus. This area was quicker and often more convenient... and probably cheaper in fares. Two red Western SMT buses, Number 8 and 10 ran from Paisley/Barrhead/Neilson past our estate to Shawlands then into Glasgow ending up at the old SMT bus station under the Anderston Centre off Argyle Street. Most South Side destination buses ran from here to the outskirts. Other buses, number 48 and 49, not SMT colours but green and white Glasgow Corporation double deckers, ran from Union Street out to Pollok/Priesthill/South Nitshill termini. I travelled on them as well but the red SMT seemed a cut above, even at that age, more classy and often not as crowded. Space for imagination to flow freely. Like the subtle difference in feel between bus and train travel today. Also it travelled up through Orchard Park, Giffnock, and Merrylee, posh areas even today, and I liked that. Still do. A window into different ways of life other than my own. Born in a gutter but always aware of the stars in the sky above. And that special sunny bus ride through more upmarket areas always ended at the Anderston Centre. The cherry on top for an architecture enthusiast like me. ( I only found out recently the unusual routes were designed to stay outside the Glasgow city boundary as much as possible by keeping within Renfrewshire as Glasgow corporation operated one of the biggest fleets of buses in Britain so other independent companies had to pick up the scraps on the margins.) Opened in 1973 for many years this modern hi rise complex and concrete maze of walkways, underground car parks, different levels and shops fascinated me. To a teenager then this was the future- 1970s style. I loved it for the thrill of the new and its multi level allure.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=As3aFY_O0co

This is it here, above, in all its 1970s glory, (in 1985) shortly before it closed and transferred up to Buchanan Street in the early 1990s pretending to be Edinburgh in this Scottish film two minute clip. Hence the Princes Street sign. In those days I had a very similar suit, tie, and thin build on shopping trips as well. Wah! three stone heavier now, none of it muscle or six pack. My first excursions into the mountains also started from the Anderston Centre on many occasions as I joined a hill-walking club that met there at weekends to travel north. Happy memories of my first hundred Scottish Munros and first summer/winter adventures revolved around this bus station. ( We met to travel northwards by bus or car in a nearby side street.)
One of the first large modern shop, office, and high rise apartment brutalist structures of its time, outside London, it suffered from being too far away from the main shopping district of Glasgow City Centre. It was only a few hundred yards from the main shopping grid, a five minute walk away, but that coupled with only a few specialized shops inside sealed its fate. It's still there today, shops and buses gone, rebranded more as a business and office complex now. Still fun to explore though as most of the 1960s and 1970s architecture has disappeared altogether.

Coming down from Queen's Park I was delighted to see the old toilets still standing where they always stood on Pollokshaws Road as I needed a pee. Minus 10 degrees will do that to a mature bladder. Fortunately, it was open as public toilets are really thin on the ground these days. Unfortunately, it was a tiny soaking hovel of a thing squeezed into the locked and shuttered empty shell of the building, fully automated and 20 pence to get in.
I took this photo of it. This is progress? I was glad it was here but it was fairly unpleasant and soaking wet inside, presumably as its automatically cleaned with jets after every use. My rucksack stayed well off the floor in there. I'm not fussy when it comes to these things normally and will happily sleep in old sheds, barns, caves, bothies etc for fun but this one was dispiriting to use- and freezing cold- and wet- so I'd imagine anyone remotely fussy would not want to use it even if desperate. A metal tomb devoid of any luxury whatsoever, even a toilet seat.  It was unisex as well.
Although it saves money on employing toilet attendants and the old public toilets were often abused in various ways, this does seem like a backwards step for a civilized society to put up with. I would use it again but only through grim necessity. Weirdly, I have been in a city centre pub a couple of years ago where a guy was employed in the downstairs toilets to hand you paper towels for tips and another guy upstairs seemed to be employed to open and close the entrance door for any customers ( but not working as a bouncer) which was equally strange to behold. Gig economy jobs I'd imagine.
On a happier note Shawlands itself has not changed much at all. Unlike Ayr the shops here still appeared busy and doing reasonable trade with very few empty retail gaps. For one thing Shawlands has always been a fairly affluent place with most tenement flats in the surrounding streets privately owned. Also, like Partick, a large number of people live five minutes walk away from the shopping area so it's very convenient to stay local without using a car to get everything you need by just popping downstairs and around the corner. Victoria Road in Queen's Park/Govanhill is another nearby south-side shopping district bucking the retail trend as I observed recently so I think that's the key.  In Ayr the folk with money often live a car ride away, travelling into potential traffic congestion, parking issues, hassle etc every time so its easier and cheaper to shop online.
On the elevated walkway going into Shawlands Arcade. Built in 1971 this was one of Glasgow's first modern shopping malls. Most of the shops run along this long frontage with only a small middle section turning inwards. Number 3 Drumchapel to Govan via Shawlands bus passing. I found this bus very handy for connecting  north to south districts. Came here on the number three then I returned via Govan and the subway to Partick just for the change, making a complete circular tour across the city thanks to this bus.
Shawlands Arcade. Still has shops just not the premier supermarket chains indoors it used to have, most of them have moved to the nearby retail park but this arcade is not empty either. I have read reports they are thinking of major redevelopment here so this arcade might not last long in its present form. I've been watching the first Life on Mars (1970s era detective drama) recently and Back in Time for School so that's probably where I got my hankering to visit Shawlands from. A journey into my own childhood as you tend to forget things until you visit places like this. Early 1970s/ 1980s I knew this place very well. For instance, I'm old enough to remember not having a fridge or freezer when young just a kitchen cupboard, a larder, with a marble shelf for keeping things cold and fresh. Supermarkets and fridge freezers meant housewives could get out to work during the day yet still maintain a family. Something that's so normal now you tend to forget it hasn't always been that way, just introduced in the late 1960s/ 1970s for ordinary working class homes. You could store meals in advance for a full week after that and cut out the almost daily shopping trips. A technological freedom in lifestyle that empowered women as much as any suffragette.

Looking from Shawlands Arcade up towards Shawlands Cross. the Doune Castle pub/ restaurant used to stand where the arrow is with a large crossbow above the entrance and a bierkeller type bunker downstairs where music groups played.
Looking the other way, towards Newlands, The Embassy Cinema had a few visits. It stood here in the 1960s but is long gone. Funnily enough, I have no memory of entering it, what it looked like, or what film was on but I do have a strong memory of the bus stop where we got off at and the dog leg street, a short cut, we walked down to reach it. That still exists at the other end of this arcade walkway.
And here it is. Eastwood Avenue. I would be between six and ten then walking down here on rare trips to the pictures but it would have been something extra special to attract us, like a new Disney film. Funnily enough again, I went right off cartoons for many decades until new films like Toy Story, Cars, Frozen etc pulled me back in again with the sheer quality of the artwork, story and detail. Over the Christmas period all the best new films I watched for the first time were all animated/computer generated marvels and the films I thought I would like were disappointing- Watership Down... too many different rabbits and warrens to keep track of in the new remake. Big Friendly Giant. Boring, not as good or interesting as Willie Wonka.
Whereas Maleficent (better than expected) and How to Train Your Dragon 2 kept me entertained.
Langside Hall. Apparently, this grand building beside Shawlands Cross used to stand in Glasgow City Centre but was moved to Shawlands stone by stone and rebuilt here. Now that's progress. I'm impressed by that slice of engineering skill and daring- not shrinking a toilet block down to a tenth of its original size then putting a water canon in it.
Langside Hall. A detail.
Next up was Battlefield and Langside, just a short walk away over a hill.
I didn't go to university (very few pupils from my comprehensive school background did in those days, unless very bright) but I did go to college for a few years through an apprenticeship at work. And this is it here. Langside College as it was then in the 1970s now part of Clyde College. Felt strange wandering around here remembering how it used to look with a tiny dry ski slope at the front.
Being 16 to 19 coming here one day a week we had an hour for lunch and either spent it in the nearby Queen's Park 10 mins walk away, or in the chip shop across the road. Pubs were hard to get into at that age but in the summer months or good weather we often bumped into a tribe of local schoolgirls 15 -16 ish and started hanging around with them some lunchtimes ( hey, it was the 1970s) or met them in an ice cream cafe in nearby Victoria Road or in the park. Nothing happened untoward as we always had safety in numbers- around six to eight of them to five or six of us but it gave us a focus instead of wandering around aimlessly, messing about at the pond, in Shawlands itself, or talking about music and pop/ rock groups.... eating ice cream indoors but it was usually good banter and fun. And a lot of cheeky remarks from both sides. Luckily, in retrospect, we only had an hour before we had to go back to class.
Another view of the college.
The old Victoria Hospital, most of it now being demolished.
The new replacement hospital across the road.
 A Shawlands Arcade mural.









8 comments:

Anabel Marsh said...

Interesting tour - I get totally confused when I go to the south side. I know some of the areas but not how they join up. I was at a funeral in King’s Park yesterday, and a friend did chauffeur duty picking various people up so I saw a good deal from the car and noted various places i’d like to explore.

russell said...

2 points.
Growth in free outdoor gyms recently. Fine one in my local King's Park in Stirling. Fine all weather path has been built round the park, including the golf course. Huge numbers of people using it for walking / running / cycling. I'm sure it has encouraged many people to walk who never did before.
My pal's dad says that in 1950s the only time you could see Campsies etc from King's Park bandstand was at Glasgow Fair fortnight when factories were closed and there was no pollution.
I realise that in a lot of ways things aren't great just now and that some people are really suffering [foodbanks, etc] but it's not all bad and in a lot of ways things are improving.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Anabel,
This is just one part of a recent southside tour of places I used to know well so more districts coming soon.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Russell,
There's an outdoor gym at my local park as well, plus a trim trail. It's just that on recent walks every second shop seems to be either a vaping outlet or a new indoor gym- huge growth of both.Probably an age thing but it just seems an indoor exercise trend occurring now although the same thing happened in the 1970s with Bruce Lee films and martial arts gyms opening albeit on a lesser scale. I learned Karate through most of the 1970s.... in a gym indoors :o) I guess I'm not a skillful enough writer to observe things I see without it appearing that I am criticizing them.( except the toilet :) I will try harder. Point taken.
I love Glasgow's Parks, a great city asset and tourist draw, but they built them when 1900s Glasgow was heavily polluted and a million plus residents, as you say. With ongoing council cutbacks and half the population plus little pollution within cities I can see a time when they might say they have too many parks to maintain.

I was going to put in some differences between then and now- much safer and healthier now than in the 1960s/1970s and 1980s when gangs, knife crime and a heavy drinking culture made violence in the Glasgow council estates as bad as London appears now with stabbings a daily occurrence. Also teenage troublesome individuals with problems could easily find themselves locked up in care homes or in the case of wayward girls mental asylums or Magdalene type institutions for many years. in the 1970s and 1980s I worked in most of the Glasgow Council estates and living and housing conditions in them, throughout the UK in fact, were appalling. No comparison to today where all the housing estates have halved in size and look much better in appearance. Many of Glasgow's criminal top dogs came from the most deprived estates then and caused problems for decades,across generations, long after the estates improved so maybe it pays in the long run to try and avoid deprivation and hardship in society if you can avoid it. Left that out cos I thought the post was long enough.

Andy said...

Amazing how much there is of interest just looking out from a fairly ordinary suburban shopping precinct onto an ordinary looking suburban street.

blueskyscotland said...

That's the fantasist in me Andy. I've always been able to see beauty, mystery and wonder in the most ordinary of circumstances. I have a strong negativity streak in me as well but it's dampened somewhat by that other positive, fantasy side. My inner kaleidoscope turning, not always reflecting true reality. Last trip was photographing
carvings on old Glasgow buildings at height and I doubt I'd be happier exploring and photographing Angkor Wat or the Taj Mahal in reality. And it was free to get there :o)

Carol said...

VERY rare I ever use a public toilet - even a free one. Cold, uncomfortable and you do wonder about the germs!

There was that much frost on your first photo I thought you'd gone out in the snow! I hate it that cold personally...

When I was forced into using a gym with my broken big toe as I wasn't supposed to be walking around (although walking around is what cured it in the end as it improved my circulation), I was amazed at all the folk who, on a beautiful day in summer, could go on a treadmill and look out of the window into a perfectly good park! Weird folk, that's for sure! Oh - and PAY for the privilege - in Yorkshire! Even weirder!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
any germs in there would be swimming underwater :o)
Different times I suppose. Today its all about looking good, body sculpting, tattoos and piercings just like I used to have shoulder length hair, flared trousers and 1970s suits and shirts on then.