Visiting Glasgow – Byres Road

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All cities have their iconic streets. One of my favourites is Byres Road in Glasgow’s West End. It stretches from the working class district of Partick at one end, to the beautiful Botanic Gardens and mansions of Great Western Road at the other. With both the University of Glasgow and, until their recent move to Pacific Quay, the BBC Scotland studios close by, it has a vibrant, diverse feel to it.

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Visiting Byres Road on my trips back to Scotland, it remains familiar, and yet new enough, to still excite me. I love how Byres Road honours its past by not knocking down ‘old’ buildings, but by repurposing them, turning an old church into a theatre,  and an art deco cinema into a restaurant.  The city – and street – is alive!

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My grandparents used to live about halfway up Byres Road, and I spent a lot of time there when I was a wee girl. Much has changed since then. The pork butcher shop, which I remember having tiled walls, carcasses hanging from hooks which dripped blood onto the sawdust covered floor, is now an Oxfam shop, while Colquhouns, where we used to go for lunch on a Saturday, now houses a Pizza Express.

Across the road from their flat was Ashton Lane, now a trendy mews, with the famous Ubiquitous Chip restaurant and entrance to the Grosvenor Cinema.

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Byres Road has many of the stores you expect to see on any High Street – Boots, Marks and Spencer Food etc – but there are some great independent shops too where you can buy  unique gifts.

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And if you fancy getting a cup of coffee from ‘The Tardis’ you’ll find that there too!

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The butcher shop I remember has long gone, but down near the Partick end there’s another butcher with a good sense of humour.  I used to hate potted meat!  Yes, I guess that means I was a ‘toff’.

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And if you fancy stepping back into history, pop into Curlers Rest (formerly Curlers) for a drink. Established in the 17th century, it used to stand beside a pond where – you guessed it – they curled in the winter.

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Wartime Rations – Days 27 and 28

My last entry for this month’s wartime rations. When I spent a month eating wartime rations earlier this year it was really easy; perhaps because it was in the middle of winter when everyone hibernates at home. This month, with anniversaries, birthdays, Thanksgiving… well, I’ve probably ‘eaten at the Savoy’ just as frequently as eating rations.

meatballsSo my last entry for this experiment was the final dish I made with the remains of my ground beef ration for this week; meatballs made with the same ingredients as the burgers (chopped onion, breadcrumbs, seasoning, bound with tomato sauce), baked in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes and then covered in gravy. On the side, home-made fries and my newest favourite, shredded cabbage fried in a little bacon fat. For dessert, we chopped up and shared the remaining toffee apple. Given that November 1st brought snow here in Calgary, reminding us that winter has finally arrived, it really was the perfect comfort food.

If you’re wondering why I’ve used archived copies of The Glasgow Herald as my go-to paper during the past month, it’s not just because I come from Glasgow, but my Uncle Alex, Anne’s big brother, used to be a journalist with the paper. An RAF pilot during the war, when he returned to Scotland he became the Voice of Scottish Golf, not just on the radio, but with The Glasgow Herald and then as the editor of Golf Monthly. When he died in 2000, both The Telegraph and The Glasgow Herald published obituaries.

anne2013Anne says: He started as a general reporter; he ‘covered’ the launching of the Queen Mary, I know, because he came home saying, ‘She did it!’ – but whether he was talking about Queen Mary successfully throwing the bottle of bubbly or the great ship successfully floating instead of sinking to the bottom, I don’t know, ships always being referred to as feminine. Then he started covering sport and eventually as you know became Scotland’s prime golf journalist.  He was sent to the first post-war American (Open Golf/Ryder Cup?) and his boss told him proudly that he would be flying there (flying being a great rarity at the time).  Alex of course was disgusted after his years and years as a bomber pilot DFC, so they let him travel one way on the QM.  I remember a photo of him with some famous golfer (Henry somebody I think) which appeared in the paper and of which there was a print at home.

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Anne with her big brother Alex (Percy) Huggins, early 1940s.

Another memory from Anne: After Alex had done many, many more than the stipulated number of bombing flights he was transferred to the Azores on anti-submarine patrol. Here there were bananas, and when he came home on leave (after VE Day), managed to bring us a few – Mother made sure their skins were put right on top of the rubbish bins so that when the lid was lifted the dustmen could wonder at them!

Having bombarded you with almost daily posts for the past month, I’m going to take a break for a few weeks and plan to return with my usual schedule on December 15th – although I may add the occasional post before then. Looking forward to catching up with you.

Wartime Rations – Day 26

burgerDinner tonight was real hot comfort food before going out into the cold Hallowe’en night trick-or-treating; homemade hamburger, roasted squash and mashed potatoes.  Burger: ground beef, breadcrumbs, chopped onion and seasoning to taste, bound with a little tomato ketchup.  For the squash; I chopped it into  bite sized pieces, sprinkled the pieces with a tiny bit of sugar and cinnamon, tossed them in some melted butter and roasted them uncovered in the oven at 190C for about 35 minutes.

For dessert, my husband and I chopped up one of the toffee apples I made yesterday into pieces and shared it. It tasted so delicious that we decided we’re going cut up the apple next time before dipping it into the syrup and leaving it to harden. Sounds decadent… but within our wartime ration allowances!

I’m heading out trick-or-treating with my granddaughter shortly (her first time!) so a very quick catch up with The Glasgow Herald for October 31st, 1944.  One article in particular caught my eye.

The Population Problem:  Scotland is definitely a younger country than England or Wales, but an examination of the Registrar General’s figures show that in both countries the population is ageing. Women of child bearing-age between 15-45 in 1937 formed 24.2% of the population but within the next generation they will drop to 18.5%.

At the end of the South African War, children formed 1/3 of the population, today they form 1/4. If the same story continues, in 70 years time the number of children in Scotland would be halved to 1/6th.

Population breakdown: Scotland 1944
Population 5 million
2 million live in 4 cities.
1 million live in 26 large towns
1/2 million live in 66 medium towns
1/2 million live in small towns
1 million live in rural areas.
2/5 of the population live within 20 miles of Glasgow

Given that it’s now exactly 70 years since that report looking into the future, I thought I would check out the current statistics. It makes for interesting reading.

In 2011, the population of Scotland was 5.2 million.

The population of the 5 major cities was as follows:
Glasgow:   592,820
Edinburgh: 486,120
Aberdeen:  217,120
Inverness: 56,660
Stirling:  89,850

If children are defined as aged 0-19 years of age, they made up 22.39% of the population in 2011.

If children defined as aged 0-14 years of age, they made up 16.14% of the population in 2011, almost the exact prediction from 1944.  Fascinating!

Wartime Rations – Day 19

turkey burgerI found myself really craving salad today. Maybe it was something to do with the fact we’ve only got a few more days of sunshine forecast before the temperatures start to drop below freezing. I’ve been limiting myself to tried and true winter vegetables so far, but when I had another look at the vegetables in season, I noticed spinach. Yes! Something green and salad-y. But it’s still ‘wartime’ and I had about 2 ozs of turkey and mashed carrots left over from the weekend, so I really had to use them up.

The solution? Turkey ‘burger’ (1 medium mashed potato, small amount of chopped fried leek and chopped up cooked turkey meat all mixed together, shaped into a burger and then fried in a little butter) with carrots, spinach, blackberries and a little chopped apple on the side. It’s funny… just a few odds and ends yet it made a really nice lunch. In fact, it made two ‘burgers’ so I have leftovers for tomorrow. More importantly, I really enjoyed my salad!  Yay!

anne2013Rather than comment on what was in ‘today’s paper’  on October 24th, 1944, I thought I’d let you in on a conversation I had with Anne this morning.

It’s been interesting seeing the blackout times in the paper get longer and longer now that they were going into the winter months, so I asked Anne about it. Basic questions like, what was the blackout made of? What did it feel like once the blackout was up for the night?

The blackout was made of a black material that went inside the normal curtains next to the window. Once it was blackout hours, you couldn’t turn a light on in a room without ensuring the blackout curtains were closed, which often meant stumbling across the room in pitch darkness first. She can’t remember if coupons were needed to buy the material, but it was cheaper to buy than other fabrics. And she can remember some people making clothes out of it.

Outside, you could use a torch, but it had to be taped so only a small beam of light showed. The same with car lights.

Which got me wondering what it was like to be outside in the blackout when there was a fog. Even I can remember the filthy smogs we had in Glasgow back in the 60s, and having to go to school with a scarf over my face to protect my lungs. What must fog have been like during the blackout? Anne’s reply was that the fog didn’t just spoil your vision, but also your hearing. It was the absence of sound that she says she hated more than anything. You’d be standing at the bus stop waiting for the bus and have no sense of it until it loomed out of the fog less than ten yards from you.

She has a particular memory of being sent to the chemist’s shop to pick up a prescription for her parents. It was only a few steps away from their flat in Byres Road in Glasgow, but she especially hated going there when there was a fog outside. The 40s was still a time when chemists prepared their own pills and potions, so there were always vapours hanging in the air inside the shop which seemed to affect her particularly badly when she went back out into the fog, burning her throat. She’d run home to the kitchen and the fire where the family congregated. Not only did fire keep the fog away, but with fuel rationed, it was the only room they were able to keep warm.  “Everyone lived in the kitchen,’ she said.

We discussed a few other wartime nuggets  – little things that you can’t find in the history books –  but I’ll keep them until tomorrow.

 

Wartime Rations – Day Five

fishandchipsI seem to be eating out a little more frequently than I had planned when I started this programme. It’s the long weekend here in Canada, so we went out to lunch at Earls. Trying to stay within my rations I had halibut and chips, but the helping was so large that I think it’ll just be soup for me for dinner tonight!

The Glasgow Herald

Once more, only 6 pages. I wonder why? It’s getting closer to the end of the war, but is this when material was in real short supply?

Page One: Blackout times: 7pm – 7.09am

What I’m finding interesting about the front page of the paper is that this isn’t where to find the top news. This page is about announcements and adverts. For example:

Silver Weddings: At the Bath Hotel, Bath Street, Glasgow on 10th October, 1919, but Rev. D Galbraith, assisted by Dr Chisholm M.A., Donald M. Wilson to Agnes C. Sloan. Present address: Morangie, 19 Larch Road, Dumbreck, Glasgow.

Crystal Palace on St George’s Road, Charles Laughton in The Man From Down Under.

Page Two:  10,000th ‘Fortress’ Completed. The American Association of Aircraft Manufacturers announced in Los Angeles yesterday that the 10,000th Flying Fortress had just been built by Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle.

Page Three: German Positions Taken in Rear. The Landing by Canadian Forces at dawn yesterday in the Scheldt Estuary pocket west of the village of Hoofdplaat was reported last night to be ‘progressing satisfactorily’. The assault in the enemy’s rear was made to ease the pressure on the Canadians holding the Leopold Canal bridgehead, and already (reports Reuter) there are signs that the ferocious German attacks at the canal are weakening.

Page Four: No more ration-free bacon. Cooked belly bacon sold off the ration for the past 6 months was from yesterday issued to retailers for the ration bacon requirements. Coupons will be necessary when buying it.

Page Five: Foot and mouth disease was confirmed yesterday among pigs at Spennymoor, Co Durham. The usual standstill order was made.

Page Six: For Sale. Huntly Gardens, Glasgow. 3 public rooms, 4 bedrooms, 2 dressing rooms, 3 bathrooms, kitchen and servants’ bedroom. Entry can be given as soon as the house is de-requistioned by the War Office. (I checked on recent sales at this address. The house has been turned into flats and one recently sold for £475,000. But what I found really interesting is that had been taken over by the War Office.  From whom? How much had they paid the original owners? What was it used for?)

Wartime Rations – Day Four

fishI decided on fish tonight. Although fish wasn’t a rationed food in WW2, it wasn’t always available. Fishermen had to put to sea in dangerous waters to haul in their catches, so often weren’t able to go far from shore. Also, which I didn’t realise, there are also distinct seasons for fish with cod being in season (in the UK) from October to January.  Who knew?

I rarely eat fish – I like it but my husband doesn’t – so I don’t have too many fish recipes to hand. But I do remember, from working in NHS hospitals years ago, that they used to serve up cod in a mustard sauce, which I decided to replicate. (Bake cod in oven at 180C for about 15 minutes. Make a white sauce, add mustard powder to taste, then pour over the fish.) It was delicious, and to add some colour and veggies I threw in some roasted Brussels sprouts which cooked in the oven at the same time as the fish.

berryPudding – because I am enjoying eating pudding every night – was apple and blackberry crumble using some of the leftover crumble mix from the other night. Also, saving energy, the pudding baked in the oven at the same time as the fish and veggies – although it needed a little more time.

The Glasgow Herald – Monday, October 9th, 1944

Only six pages again today, and I’m starting to find myself more interested with the ‘local’ news than the actual ‘war’ news.

Blackout times for Glasgow: 7.02pm until 7.07am- so nights are starting to creep in.

Page One: The writing is a bit blurred on this advert, but from what I can make out, the price at Rowans of 70 Buchanan Street for Officers’ uniforms were as follows:
Air Force Tunic: £9-6-6d
Trousers: £3-10-0d
Greatcoat: $14 – 4 -6d.

For comparison of what money bought back then, please check out this site for wartime prices.

Page Two: Scottish War Plant Closed. A war factory at Mossend, Lanarkshire, closed down on Saturday. When the factory was in full production over 500 men were employed, but recently only part of the plant was in operation. Members of the staff have received their notices. One hundred and twenty men are affected.

The above post is interesting when compared with the following one.

Page Three: Need for Private Enterprise. Mr Anthony Eden on Saturday urged that private enterprise should not be stifled after the war. He told Bristol Conservative and Unionist Association that the issue which would confront Britain when Germany and Japan were laid low was whether British industry would be able not only to re-establish itself, but markedly to raise pre-war levels.

Page Four: Food Facts.  Vitamin Foods. In view of the approaching winter, please see that every child under five gets cod liver oil and orange juice every day.

Page Five: Going My Way. Bing Crosby, after travelling so many roads to different places that all turned out to be the same, has deserted his fellow-voyagers, Hope and Lamour, and has gone up a rather odd side-turning to make ‘Going My Way’ (Paramount). In this he plays a young Roman Catholic priest who is sent to renovate a New York parish going downhill; he reforms the local Dead End Kids and sets them to singing Ave Marias, saves young girls from the streets, and raises money for the debt-laden church by composing and selling a sermon in song, a sort of Crooners’ Creed.

Certainly this sounds like the most dreadful slush, but, oddly enough, it is not. This is largely thanks to the acting – Mr Crosby’s diffident charm remains as strong as ever in a clerical suit, and Barry FItzgerald’s playing of an old priest, dry and eccentric, is as good a character sketch as any the screen has given us for some time.

… Altogether, we are still inclined to go Mr Crosby’s way, whether he is heading for Mandalay or the New Jerusalem.

Page Six: Peebles Auction Market. Owing to foot-and-mouth disease restrictions, the sale advertised for Friday, 13th October, has been meantime postponed.

A terraced house for sale at in Bellevue Road, Ayr, comprising 3 public rooms, 7 bedrooms, a kitchen  and servants’ accommodation was being offered for £2,250. I checked on modern-day prices for the same property. The building has now been divided into flats, with one recently priced at £197,844 and the other at £228,500!

Wartime Rations – Day Three

No food photographs today as breakfast was toast and marmalade, and lunch will be leftovers from yesterday’s evening meal. I’m heading out to ‘the pictures’ with a friend this evening, so will be grabbing something to eat at the mall. Keeping in the wartime spirit, I’m planning to enjoy a fish supper/fish and chips. If fish isn’t available, I’ll make do with chips.

Sunday post 1October 8th 1944 was a Sunday. There was no edition of The Glasgow Herald on Sundays during wartime, so I tried to find examples of other newspapers online, especially The Sunday Post which was a fixture in most Scottish households. I was unsuccessful, but I did find a link to a documentary on the 100th year anniversary of this iconic Scottish paper which also includes accounts of the paper’s experience during both world wars. (Minutes 37.55 – 40.30 for WW2.)

Anne worked for The Daily Record in Glasgow, so I asked her about what Sunday papers were available, and also about her experiences working in a newspaper office.  I also asked:  Given there was no edition on Sunday, I assume they didn’t work on Saturday, but must have had to work on a Sunday to get the Monday edition out.  How did that square the very Presbyterian notion of keeping the Sabbath holy?  Do you remember?

One of the things I love about eye-witness accounts are the details you can’t find in history books, so here are Anne’s memories.

anne2013No memories really of its interfering with church.  I can’t see that anyone would have accepted having to wait till Monday for write-ups about the dozens of football matches on Saturday afternoons.

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The Broons in The Sunday Post, February 1944

Most households would take The Sunday Post along with one or maybe two others; the Sunday Post was the demand of children for Oor Wullie sitting on his up-turned bucket and, of course, The Broons.

Most newspaper businesses did publish a Sunday paper but under a different name. You could perhaps find out by looking up Outram Press on Internet.  I worked for the rivals: the Kemsley Press in Hope Street.  My first job there was to sit with headphones on, from about 3 in the afternoon till 10 or 11 at night, taking ‘stories’ from correspondents all over Scotland for Kemsley’s morning paper, ‘The Daily Record’ , straight on to the typewriter for local calls and using shorthand for ‘long distance’ or ‘trunk’ calls.  These could be anything from the latest news in a court case to the prices obtained at the latest cattle auction, and had to be taken straight to the chief reporter.   Kemsley also published ‘The Evening News’ and on Sundays ‘The SundayMail’.  I got one day off a week and, not being involved in The Sunday Mail’, had Saturday off as well, so was having a 5-day week when most working people were still working half-day on Saturday.

I loved the feeling of ‘things happening’, was fascinated by the men operating the Linotype machines which pulled down the tiny lead (I think) characters (known as slugs) from the slots which surrounded the operator and was used to form the text; loved to go down to the basement and watch the huge, noisy presses in action as papers poured out, and watching as photographs from distant parts printed themselves oh-so-slowly, dot by dot, line by line, and eventually made a picture – do you remember those pictures? If you looked carefully you could see the individual dots, all varying shades of palest grey to black which resolved themselves into a printable illustration.

There were newsboys (sometimes rather old boys) waiting to get their supply to hawk in the city streets; and other boys loading sheaves of papers into waiting vans for further afield.

The Kemsley building was many stories high but with the war, the upper floors were redundant since paper was scarce and the papers had very few pages.  When war ended a decision was made by someone (Lord/Lady Kemsley?) to fit the empty space with hospital-type beds and offer them as accommodation to Empire servicemen who had been serving in Europe and wished to visit Scotland, sometimes the land of their parents perhaps, during their last leave before returning home.  They were also free to use the canteen.  So I met men from all over the Empire: Canada, Australia, New Zealand and S Africa.  Have to say I liked the New Zealanders best and happily took four of them (safety in numbers!) to the carnival in Kelvin Hall to have a go on the bumping cars etc.  All good fun.