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.