Monthly Archives: June 2018


OK so this is hardly a quote. But it has intrigued me ever since, as an eleven year old, I came upon it in my first French text book, at Woodside Senior Secondary School, . Glasgow.   It was accompanied by a drawing which served to explain the seeming circular  nature of the piece.  My lack of drawing skills prevents me from replicating the small sketch.   But it’s an easy read for those with more than an elementary knowledge of the language. 

Je  suis ce que je suis.

Je ne suis pas ce que je suis.

Si j’etais ce que je suis,

je ne serais pas ce que je suis.




The Maine, USA, artist, Marsden Hartley

‘We return to our childhood home at our peril. The familiarity may be comforting; the contact with ghosts, consoling. But the inevitable, entropic pull back into old patterns of thinking and feeling we spend a lifetime trying to undo can….be difficult.’



Many many Glaswegians will have their own stories about the Glasgow School of Art, now in ruins, victim again of an unforgiving conflagration.

My stories are from my childhood in the 1930s into World War 2.  

From the age of four, for six yeats,  I passed the Glasgow Schoolof Art four times a day, going to and from Garnetbank Primary School.  Did I realise then that I was being exposed to  the masterpiece  hallmark icon of a building by  Charles Rennie MacIntosh?  No.  Nor was I even aware then of the structure’s purpose.  

But I have no doubt that. the style.  the swagger, the  unique designs were etched firmly then in my young brain. 

My second Glasgow School of Art story, again from childhood, is eerily related to the current tragedy.  

During World War 2, the government,  as part of preparation for attack by air, had built on vacant plots in cities, large steel tanks – as I recall, about forty feet long by fifteen feet wide.   Thry were filled with water to be used as auxiliary supplies against fire and had a wire net on top to try and prevent wee folk from falling in.  

One such structure was placed on a vacant lot just below the Glasgow School of Art, adjacent to the Regal Cinema (predecessor of the O2).  My best pal, Roderick Bruce, lived on the other side of the Art School, at the corner of Scott  and Renfrew Streets.  So the water tank was fair game for us.  We found pieces of wood and sailed these ‘boats’ in the smelly stagnant waters.  (A bonus from that wasteland was finding a film frame of Betty Grable in full technicolour discarded by a Regal projectionist.)

In retrospect, think of  that lonely tank of water when  you compare it with the need almost eighty years later to lay fire hose from  Renfrew Street all the way to the River Clyde – about 3/4 mile –  to attempt control of the 2018 Glasgow  Art School blaze.  

As an adult, I have boasted to all within hearing in various parts of the world, especially in the U.S.A.,  of the remarkable creations of Charles Rennie Macintosh and his partners, known as ‘The Four.’

Now I am in tears, and angry that not a wartime incendiary bomb but something  preventable has taken away a lifelong symbol of the Glasgow I grew up in and admired – no, loved.








Tonight, I  will join my classmates in Ithaca, New York , via the internet, in their celebration of the  60th anniversary of our graduation  from Cornell University in 1958.   This will be the third and last night of their gathering and I look forward to greeting as many old friends  as possible via Facetime.

At the Memorial Service yesterday, my piece, An Alumni Hymn, was sung. 


EPSON scanner image
EPSON scanner image

My Class CoChair, Dick Haggard, tells me that the piece was well  received and that it is likely that it will become a standard Cornell song.