Monday, 7 October 2013

Sunny Govan. Fairfield Shipyards.Govan Old Church and River Clyde.

On the Sunday of the recent Open Doors Weekend I decided to go to Govan. It's a place I've cycled through many times in the past thirty years but only really touched the margins as it's part of a favourite cycle tour from my house taking in Bells Bridge over the Clyde, then the green and leafy Festival Park, then Bellahouston and Pollok Parks, returning via the White Cart Water beside Leverndale Hospital then Renfrew and the passenger/ bike ferry back to Anniesland. This is mainly a linking corridor of pleasant green spaces running through the heart of the inner city but I was aware of the changes happening in Govan as I cycled past. These new flats certainly caught my eye. You cant help but be cheered up by these. Brilliant example of  new architecture, from the outside at least.
Elder Park is also a favourite on the bike as it is a tree filled wide expanse of around 30 acres in an otherwise heavily built up, industrialised area. This large square park was donated to the surrounding community by Mrs Isabella Elder, the wife of Fairfield's Shipbuilding colossus and entrepreneur  John Elder. Like a lot of dedicated Victorian industrialists and technical innovators he probably worked himself to death as he died at a mere 45 years of age. His wife outlived him by many decades but sadly she died just before this sculpture above was unveiled. Although not an official title she was often referred to as 'Lady Elder' by the local community. The park was a monument to her husband and her vision in buying the land for the community created this green oasis for locals to enjoy and is a lasting legacy to this day along with the adjacent Elder Public Library which she also funded and insisted it be kept open on Sundays for the workers at the nearby shipyards to use on their day off. Education was seen as a desirable gift to bestow on every class in society to improve their abilities and thinking although not everyone wanted to read books and newspapers during these precious few hours of free time. After her husbands death she used her substantial wealth and influence to support a range of charitable causes and was well liked in the area.
Under her husband's guidance Fairfield's grew to be the largest and most successful shipbuilders on the River Clyde employing 9,000 workers by the early 1900's.
Well worth a look in here at the various sections and the list of ships they launched. Govan has so much history attached to it there is no way an outsider like myself can cover it properly so I'm going to use links to cut down on my own typing.
A view of the new Riverside Museum and the Tall Ship, The Glenlee, from Govan. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a large free car park and a riverfront walkway here not far from Govan underground station on the main street. After the decline of the shipyards and heavy industry this area suffered decades of  stagnation, crime and neglect with high levels of unemployment. It was not an obvious place to visit on the tourist radar. However, with the opposite bank containing museums, the newly opened Hydro concert venue, Glasgow Harbour, and a ferry link across the Clyde to Govan, a stones throw away, it is reinventing itself as a worthwhile addition to the tourist trail.
It's history is second to none as it was the religious capital of Strathclyde at a time when the neighbouring City of Glasgow was just a sea of grass and two cows wondering when St Mungo would arrive. Indeed, Govan is one of the oldest Christian settlements anywhere in Scotland and has many fine relics left behind by visiting kings, Viking warlords and the great and good of the ancient world for which it was an important centre, easily reached by sea. It has been argued that Glasgow's founder, St Mungo only settled in his 'dear green place'  because it was near Govan and he was a new kid on the block hoping to steal some of the action with his fancy stall set up on the margins of an already established religious powerhouse. Above is Govan Old Church which has some magnificent examples of stained glass in its windows.
Just one of many panels.
The Vikings left behind these Hogback Grave Markers which would only be used for people of high rank or importance in Viking society. The Vikings were not only raiders to these shores but settled and traded here as well if they found a place to there liking where they could make money and buy and sell commodities Europe wide due to their sailing skills and knowledge of foreign ports and harbours.
 The popular programme 'Time Team' carried out an archaeological 'dig' in this area surrounding the church and adjacent riverfront.
Clyde Hydro. First official' big name act' was a concert by Rod Stewart who opened it a week ago. The outside is transparent and lights up with a range of coloured displays at night. Doubt I'll be in it though except during a future Open Doors Day. £60 quid a ticket is way too much for me.
The old Lyceum cinema in the middle of Govan main street has been closed for years but it still retains these wonderful giant billboards either side of the entrance. I thought I'd capture them on here for posterity in case they don't make it if the building disappears in the future.
"Hey! Watch what yer doing wi that big pole Son! You nearly had ma bunnet aff there!"
What looks like an original promotion billboard for the wonders of 1960's 3D effects. 'The Lyceum' was of course the classical school run by Aristotle in Ancient Greece hence its modern pertinence for schools, cinemas, and places where they hope the public will be entertained and educated.
The only time I was in the Lyceum cinema myself was as a young teenager to see 'Carry on Camping.'with my mates from Nitshill. That was the nearest we got to porn when I was a fourteen year old. It was considered brave and risqué then I'll have you know. Changed days now with animal sex, gangbangs, celebrity fake porn, incest porn, simulated multiple rapes and anything else you can imagine at the click of a button on every twelve year olds smart phone world wide. No questions asked. It doesn't take a genius to work out what kind of problems that's going to store up for society in the future but as usual we start to bolt the door on it ten years after the horse has galloped away over the hill with Lady Godiva, or in my young case, Barbara Windsor.
Brave and risqué because most of Govan in the late 1960s /early 1970s was a rough place full of packed rows of red sandstone tenements three and four stories high. A land of heavy drinkers, hard people and grim deeds. It was also packed with rough notorious gangs and sure enough we were chased all the way back to Pollok by the Govan team. We were then chased by a notorious and violent Pollok gang called the Bundy who chased us all the way from the main Pollok roundabout to their border with Priesthill. The equally notorious Priesthill Run-a- Mock Squad then took charge of the last leg of the 'try to hit the outsiders with chains, axes, and sticks' relay. No wonder children today are becoming obese. We had to work really hard for the merest glimpse of a nipple or bare breast. Funnily enough I never returned to Govan for further cinematic treats of bras flying through the air. It just wasn't worth it. Not for Barbara Windsor anyway.
A photograph of a mural on the wall of a closed down public building in Govan.( I think it was an old 1960s style school but it didn't have a name on it) If this was taken from the fertile mind of a young child I'd be tempted to get the social workers in.  Unhappy Bunny- Bad old uncle perhaps? Each generation has to face its own particular set of demons growing up. Nothing new there.
 "Play with the funny sausage, there's a good wee boy."                                  "No."
Fairfield Shipyards. The office entrance.
Inside they have just refurbished the office space and are looking to let out these light airy offices to anyone interested in obtaining the use of one on a commercial basis. This was part of the Open Doors day Tour.
The Underground is a short five minute walk away and a large bus terminus to all parts of the city is even closer so it has good commuter links.
This was how I arrived, on the newly refurbished underground from Partick. Never seen it looking so clean, ready for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014 no doubt. You could eat your dinner off the floor!

A sculpture of G.I. Bride. A cartoon strip by Bud Neill, popular in the newspapers of Scotland years ago during the 1950s about the exploits of the fictional sheriff of Calton Creek and his faithful two legged horse. Slightly before my time this but still remembered with great affection by an older generation. It was largely inspired by the author watching American westerns as a child in the cinema then transporting this landscape to Scotland in his imagination. There is also a statue of another of his creations, his trusty two legged  galloper, complete with the sheriff and his arch enemy Rank Bajin sitting on top. Trying to rub the nose off the poor wee horse for luck seems a popular pastime these days as it's usually highly polished. This statue above can be found inside Partick Underground. The other is on Woodlands Road near Charing Cross just across from a well known pub.
Once inside this link click on 'cast' to see the various characters involved. Glasgow has always had a  fascination with westerns and all things American, be it music, culture, or cinema as many of its citizens either emigrated, returned or lived there at some point.
Govan cross. Sunday morning.
The new look Govan.

War Memorial on Main Street.
 The End.
 'Gone fishing.'
For the last two years I have been writing a book which is part autobiography, part novel, part travel guide and part unusual love story. It is set in Glasgow, Pollok, where I grew up, then expands to take in Arrochar, Loch Lomond, Glencoe and many other scenic parts of Scotland. It is written as a tongue in cheek comedy about a Glasgow hillwalking club and their relationships, love affairs (or lack of them) falling outs, and adventures on weekends away. Think Oor Wullie, the Broons, Para Handy with a dash of Gregory's Girl and that's what I was aiming for. Whether it's any good or not I'll leave that to the reader to decide. All the chapters are illustrated with colour photographs like the one above to give readers an idea of the places and situations I'm describing. (56 in total) 
The first few chapters can be viewed for free in this link to see if you like it and the entire book is only 98 pence to download. Cheaper than a scratch card and more chance of a laugh. Cheers everyone.
Update. I have just completed my second book on kindle which is a walking and cycling guide to the River Clyde and the Firth of Clyde, including most of the towns and major villages along its banks, the City of Glasgow and the holiday islands of Bute, Arran, and Great Cumbrae. Part brief history, part modern tour guide down the river from the city centre to Girvan and out past Ailsa Craig it is fully illustrated throughout with 146 original colour photographs and describes over 80 walks and cycle rides from a few easy flat hours in urban districts to day long adventures in remote countryside.
Suitable for both walking and cycling beginners or experienced veterans, many of the routes are little known and have not appeared in other guide far.
At £1:99 from kindle bookstore this may make an ideal Christmas present for anyone who has lived in the Glasgow, Paisley, Firth of Clyde District or is keen to explore Glasgow and the River Clyde's walking and cycling potential.
Link here to see the kindle sample.


Sue Hayton said...

10 years since I was last in Govan and so glad it looks so good and that new use has been fond for the shipyard offices which I visited just before they closed.
Keep up the good work!

Carol said...

I've got all the Carry-ons on video and watch them quite often - I still love them.

"when the neighbouring City of Glasgow was just a sea of grass and two cows wondering when St Mungo would arrive." - LOL - love that comment...

That sounds really scary about the 3 gangs chasing you off their patch. Does remind me rather of grouse on our moors though - they'll chase you to a certain boulder which marks the end of their territory and then just stop and squawk abuse after you - funny how they think they can't pass that imaginary border!

The Glebe Blog said...

Govan's always the answer to the dentist's question 'Comfy'.
I've been to Govan twice in my life. Once as a fourteen year old with my old man to repair a pressure gauge and once with my son in law to get an extra large steel plate bent into shape. That was 8 or 9 years ago at Kvaerner shipbuilders, what a place, could almost rival Scunthorpe's biggest shed.
Looks clean right enough, hope the visitors appreciate all the work that we're doin.
I remember seeing the G.I.Bride in ma dads paper. Bein' from over in Fife though, I think I had problems translating it. It's a strange thing that many local dialects are hard to understand. My late Irish wife used to ask me to translate County Antrim speech as I understood it better than her !

Great pictures and very interesting items Bob, another fine post.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Sue,
It's a much brighter place now and all the historic buildings of interest along the main street look as if they are getting a facelift.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Carry on Camping was filmed in the off season as the holiday park was closed and cheaper to hire then. Half the cast nearly got frostbite running around in swimwear pretending it was summer.
I used to do cross country running for the school so if I got a head start I could usually outpace the ones chasing me. Also you cant run as fast carrying a weapon like a stick or a chain over a distance so they usually gave up as their hobbies tended to be smoking, drinking and fighting.
I was crap at them but I always had a useful talent for spotting angry teens running towards me, team handed, then making a fast exit in the opposite direction. We are all good at something I suppose:0) Staying put and fighting it out toe to toe didn't appeal after visiting one of my mates in hospital the year before who did exactly that and was punished for it.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jim,
A lot of folk wont get that first line :) I always liked the Edinburgh based art rock/punk group the Rezillos in the 1970s as they had a quirky sense of humour. One of the singers had the stage name Fay Fife because she was fae Fife.
There must be hundreds of different local dialects in the British Isles.

Carol said...

I have to admit that, although I can stick up for myself pretty well, I usually try running away before fighting it out and only really fight if I'm cornered. I'm very lucky in having a bit of a "don't mess with me look" though which keeps a lot of people away in the first place - not the kind of gangs you're on about though unfortunately!

Anonymous said...

have you done a report on walking the clyde tunnel yet? i found that by far the most intimidating place in glasgow, even though it was deserted.

blueskyscotland said...

Posted it on May 2011 on here Mark but its under "Glasgow. A parks Tour in May." Used to cycle under it quite a lot to get across the river to Govan. Still unnerving though.
Sadly,I've been to a lot of intimidating places in Glasgow:)I used to work in the 1980s in all the worst/best areas of the city. I'd give Easterhouse, Possilpark, Barrowfield, Castlemilk, Dalmarnock and Blackhill the top honours back then, particularly after dark.

Anonymous said...

on the estates (these days) it's the dogs which scare me, not the kids. for some reason people don't seem to mess with me!