Category Archives: Videos

Govan Graving Docks

A couple of weeks ago I had a look round Govan Graving Docks. The docks were built in the 1870s,  expanded in the 1890s, and were in use for the repair and refit of ships until the 1980s. The Buildings at Risk Register describes the site as an “outstanding complex, unique in Scotland.” They are a Grade A Listed Site and they include a Grade A listed building in the site, the Pump House for Docks 1 and 2. There was another Pump House for the very much larger dock 3 but that building has been bull-dozed. All that remains of it is a pile of rubble and a large hole in the ground alongside of Dock 3 with the remains of the pumping equipment.

The site has changed hands a few times since the docks closed down. In 2006 they were bought by New Vision Ltd for its investment potential. The owners of a Grade A site are meant to keep the site in good repair. But  Grade A Site notwithstanding, these docks are now derelict. Here’s what the remaining Grade A Pump House looks like:

The Property Developer’s Proposal 

One option for the site is to develop it for housing, offices and hotel space. New Vision – having let the site go to rack and ruin for over a decade presumably waiting for it to generate a big enough profit for them – currently have a planning application in to Glasgow City Council for a scheme that includes over 700 flats in several ten storey buildings on the site. The application was meant to have been decided a few months ago but no decision has yet been announced. There have been significant objections to the plans by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and Historic Scotland.

A postponement of the decisions by the planning committee is perhaps a good sign for those folk who want a different future for the site.

Opposing the Property Developers are The Preservationists

Clyde Docks Preservation Initiative (CPDI) are campaigning against New Vision. They have some interesting information about the company’s possibly ropey finances in their Planning History Summary. But their main concern is that despite Glasgow’s former position as a major world ship-building centre, yet Glasgow has no museum or other heritage  centre dedicated to that history. Their plans are for the Graving Docks to be the focus for a maritime history development. Indeed, as they point out,  Govan Docks is the only site left that could be home to such a heritage development. They have put up prize money for a competition open to architectural students to develop design concepts for a maritime park at the docks.

Then There is the Shipbuilder’s Proposal

Ferguson Marine Engineering, a ship-building yard further down the Clyde in Greenock, have submitted a separate notice of a very different planning application for the docks. They propose re-opening at least one of the docks and using it for repairs and refits again. Currently if Scottish-based ships need repairs they have to go south to England for suitable dry docks. Basically Ferguson’s proposal would bring ships back to the Clyde again. It would also bring jobs and apprenticeships back to Govan. Ferguson also suggest that other parts of the site, which is large, could be developed by other groups for a maritime history centre and other cultural and leisure activities and possibly some of the site could be used for affordable housing. Glasgow Life reported on the proposal here.

Meadowbank Granary

Glasgow’s Other Clydeside Developments:

There are several examples of large scale property developments which have been built on the river. The Glasgow Harbour comes to mind built after demolishing the massive and iconic Meadowbank Granary complex. By the way, it’s not a harbour by any stretch of even a developer’s imagination. The flats are nice enough, I’m sure. But they sit on their own – no shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and cut off from nearby Partick by the busy traffic of Clydeside Expressway.

Braehead Retail Park further west on the river did  have a maritime history centre in it. But the Clydebuilt Museum was closed on 16 October 2010, after Capital Shopping Centres withdrew an annual subsidy that was an original condition of planning permission for Braehead Shopping Centre. Can they do that sort of thing with no come-back? The not very memorable building is now occupied by a Krispy Kreme doughnut store which opened on 2 December 2015. 

In fairness there are some very good developments along the river. But they weren’t built by property developers. They have mostly been built and funded by public concerns like  Glasgow City Council, the Scottish Government, and others. The Riverside Transport Museum designed by Zaha Hadid, the Science Museum even if its tower has never opened to the public, the SECC. And the Hydro Arena though that was funded by SSE, formerly Scottish & Southern Energy. There is a new small private development just opened immediately across the river from the Graving Docks. It’s a distillery and it’s based the renovated Pump House for the now filled-in Queen’s Docks. It’s a smashing building. And it could be twinned with the Graving Docks Pump House if it were to be similarly renovated.

What I Think

It seems a no-brainer to me.  Ferguson Engineering can get some of the docks up and running again and they are signalling that they would work with other groups, like CDPI, to develop other parts of the site.

The Graving Docks could be the site for a reopening of a heritage centre like Clydebult but much, much better. 

What is Glasgow City Council’s role for Govan in all this?

The Council have a clear concern to provide good housing for the city. Good office accommodation. Good hotels. Good leisure facilities. Attracting good jobs. It must be a thankless job at times and I appreciate the people who stand for the Council.

Govan is a part of the city that has seen much of it’s main employers – in engineering and ship-building – close down over the years. BAE Systems is there in the old Fairfield Shipbuilding Yard and there’s a small heritage centre about Fairfields. Harland Wolff Shipyards used to stretch right along the Govan waterfront. All gone now and replaced by social housing in the 70s.

During my walk round the Graving Docks I got talking to a local man who worked in a small car repair shop next to the graving docks. I asked him what he thought about the various proposals for the site. He knew about them, he’d gone to the public meetings about them. His view was that anything would be better than how the site is just now.  He also said that people need good housing and he’d try to buy a flat if any were built on the site. Clearly the Council will regard his needs and those of other Govan folk as very important. So let’s build good affordable housing stock on part of the dock site, houses that chap can afford to buy and will appreciate living in. But is he right in saying that anything is better than the current derelict state of the docks? I don’t think so.

The city’s motto is “Let Glasgow Flourish” and the current informal motto for the city is “People Make Glasgow”. There could be a third motto along the lines of “Looking After Glasgow’s Heritage.” A century and more ago Glasgow’s philanthropists, some of them Govan shipbuilders like William Pearce and John Elder, gave money for parks and libraries and community halls. These days not so much.  If our Council doesn’t look after our city’s heritage, who will? 

We have an industrial heritage and ship-building was at the heart of it.  During WW2 Stanley Spencer, the UK official War Artist, spent time in our shipyards drawing the men and the ships. We have a heritage of social history associated with the shipyards as those of us old enough to remember Jimmy Reid know. We have an architectural heritage. Glasgow City Centre is a great Victorian and Edwardian building development. It’s also the home of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and we know just how his legacy has nearly been lost in two fires at the School of Art. 

Lachlan Goudie is a Scottish artist and TV presenter. He has made documentaries about some of Glasgow’s heritage. He presented the BBC documentary about Stanley Spencer’s Clydeside paintings, some of which are in the Riverside Transport Museum. He’s had a recent exhibition of his own paintings done in Scottish shipyards.

by Lachlan Goudie

His latest programme is a BBC documentary called “Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Glasgow’s Neglected Genius”. It’s somewhat telling that Mackintosh, a world-renowned architect, can be described as being neglected by his home town. At the end of the programme, Lachlan Goudie makes a telling comment. He is standing beside the Clyde, somewhere near Pacific Quay, looking at the riverside buildings opposite and he says this:

“But in Glasgow, even in his worst nightmare, Mackintosh can’t ever have imagined that the future would look like this. …. Mackintosh was all about designing buildings that learnt something from their environment, learnt something from the history and context of the place in which they were built .

And here we are at the very heart of Glasgow, by the Clyde, the river that gave Glasgow its identity, its pulse, its history and its future. And it’s a desolate wasteland of the most incompetent architectural carbuncles These are homes for people and they just look like bits of space junk that have been deposited here. This is the Glasgow style  of today and I think Charles Rennie Mackintosh would be deeply disappointed.”

So Dear Councillors of this Dear Green Place, remember your Victorian and Edwardian predecessors, remember the shipyards and the men who worked in them, remember Mackintosh your neglected architectural genius – and most of all remember to build in a way that learns from our environment, from our city’s history and from the context of the places where you are building. And most of all, apply all that to Govan Graving Docks. Even derelict, it is still a hauntingly striking place. Have a look at this video and just imagine how you could honour its history and its heritage. 


Frogs, frogs and more frogs..

The frogs arrived back in our pond a week or two before the Arctic cold spell at end of February. The pond promptly iced over. Whether they were under the ice or under the snow, most of them reappeared once normal weather had resumed.

And then they got on with what they had come for….

Siberia Comes to Glasgow

It’s not often that Glasgow gets snow, snow and more snow. But it has just happened. Siberia came to us. Here’s the proof.

Things are slowly getting back to normal. Slowly being the operative word. I got my walking boots and crampons on yesterday to venture out for some milk. Nae milk to be had! McColls had none. Coop had none. And somebody told me that Sainsbury was still closed. Fortunately this morning, McColls had had a delivery and my coffee is white again.

And my car is appearing from under the 25cm of compacted snow it’s been hiding under. And she’s all charged up again, bless her!

And one from the BBC The Social YouTube channel : The Snow Day

Ciostal the Collie

In 2016, I spent a few weeks at Big on Isle of Lewis looking after my friend’s collie. His name is Ciostal. Pronounced something like Kee-shtal but he wasn’t too fussy at my not very good Gaelic pronunciation! I hadn’t been over at Uig on the Lewis west coast before. He and I had an enjoyable time exploring the local beaches and hills. Here he is

As with the rest of Scotland, if you wait for blue sky before you set off for a walk, you’ll spend a lot of time indoors! And often if you set off anyway, you might get a bit wet but the blue sky often appears later on. We had a very stormy couple of days when a Force 10 storm barrelled in from the Atlantic. 

Enjoy the videos!

Pope Francis at TED – The Future You

I’ve had this TED Talk on my list of ones to listen to for months and now just got round to it.   I don’t share the Pope’s Christian beliefs.  I could wish he didn’t quote Mother Theresa of Calcutta. But basically this is a good man’s reflections on what most helps and hinders human beings to live in harmony and look after this planet. It’s worth a listen.

“…. the future is made of yous, it is made of encounters, because life flows through our relations with others.”

Bercow, the Speaker, Speaking Some Welcome Home Truths

The Speaker of the Commons gets asked a point of information about the possibility of  Trump speaking at Westminster Hall. Speaker Bercow left no doubts about his view on that. As Dennis Skinner says at the end “Just two words, Mr Speaker. Well done.”

However since this happened Bercow is facing calls for him to resign. These calls come from Tory MPs. So no surprise there. The grounds for a resignation are said to be the Speakers make an agreement to be politically neutral while they hold the position of Speaker. 

You might say that Bercow’s words were not political neutral in that they go against the stated views of the PM in inviting him for a Royal State Visit as opposed to a Head Of Government visit. I prefer to think of Bercow giving the Commons the ethical argument for why Trump should get nowhere near Westminster Hall or the Royal Gallery.

Croig to Canna

At the end of August, I was on another sailing holiday with Skipper David Leaver on his ketch the Saltwater Gypsy. The first day we sailed from Dunstaffnage up to Croig a little harbour at the north end of Mull. Almost no wind to speak of so we used the engine all the up the Sound of Mull. The water was smooth enough to make spotting the porpoises pretty easy.

Croig harbour, Mull
Croig harbour, Mull

This is Croig on a sunny day with the mountains of rum away in the distance. By the afternoon when we were there it had started to rain….still a very beautiful place though.

Old anchor at Croig slipway
Old anchor at Croig slipway

From Croig the next morning we sailed over to Canna passing Muck and Rum on the way. It was a sort of rocking’ and rollin’ sail with a six foot swell coming across at right angles to where we were aiming for. Made for interesting spells at the helm! Some footage below. We anchored at Canna for two nights and had two walks ashore around the bay at A’Chill and up on to Compass Hill and round the cliffs on the north side of the island.

Bluetit Video Gallery

On Barra

Bishops Isles seen on approach to Barra

After our sailing trip to the Small Isles, August 2016, we took the ferry – and the car – from Oban over to the Isle of Barra for a few days. I have been on Barra once before, very briefly.

My plan for that earlier trip was to fly from Glasgow to Barra, stay in Castlebay over night, then use my Scottish Senior Bus Pass which gets me free bus travel anywhere – yes, anywhere – in Scotland for a day’s bus and ferry journey up to Stornoway at the north end of the Outer Hebridean archipelago. The bus and ferry schedules all link up so it’s a great way to travel. I’d arranged to stay a few days with a friend who lives near Stornoway before getting the ferry over to Ullapool and the bus back to Glasgow. I’d never been to Lewis before.

I did it all that except that the early morning plane couldn’t land at Barra Airport because of seafog. And then my midday flight was delayed till the first flight got back to Glasgow and by then it couldn’t land at Barra because the tide was up. You did read that correctly. The landing strip at Barra is a beach. 🙂 Which was the main reason I wanted to take the flight on the 18 seater twin engine Otter that LoganAir use for the route. They did fly us out but landed at Benbecula instead of Barra. Benbecula is four islands further along the archipelago northwards from Barra. Then they arranged transport for us back down to Barra that afternoon! See more here.

Castlebay & Kismet's Castle
Castlebay & Kismul’s Castle

This trip we were based in Castlebay  for three days. The weather was the usual  mix – sunshine, a few showers and a lot of wind. First morning was wet so we drove up to Eoligarry at the north of Barra where the airport is. And there’s a very highly recommended cafe in the terminal building. In fact the cafe takes up more space than the arrivals / departures space. We were in time to watch the midday flight from Glasgow arriving and then departing. A twenty minute turnaround!   You’ll find video of the Twin Otter below.

Barra Terminal Building


The west coast of Barra is a series of beaches and headlands and machair, the belt of fertile land just beyond the high tide mark. It’s found all over the islands, mostly on the west facing coasts. In summer it’s covered in wild flowers.  We spent two days wandering along the beaches, watching the Atlantic surf, watching seals watching us, bird-spotting. And inevitably, ended up in the airport cafe on several occasions. 

It’s the Ciostal Movies!!!

Costa is a collie who lives in Timmsgarry, Uig on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. I looked after him for a couple of weeks in the summer. He’s great!! The place is also great. Wild and beautiful. Uig is about an hour’s drive from Stornoway. Less if you’re a local and used to driving on single track roads. Ciostal (pronounced Kissh-tal) likes walks. So do I. So we explored some of the nearby beaches, hills and headlands. The result is a set of four movies starring Ciostal –

  • Ciostal Goes to Bolsta
  • Ciostal at the Radar STation
  • Ciostal Goes Hill-walking
  • Ciostal and the Storm

Here they are. Enjoy.