Category Archives: ROSS

Layers

Thirty-eight and fifteen Robert St, Glasgow. My great-grandparents Archie and Jane Rowley lived here, and raised twelve children from 1911[1] until their deaths in 1932[2] and 1942[3]. Today it is a car park in a light industrial area, a candle workshop and retail outlet.[4]

I do not see the carpark. I see nineteenth century tenements, taking their shape from the road. Covered in black grime, dirty dusty windows, filthy grimy footpath, few cars and much horse dung. Children everywhere, playing, laughing, running, fighting, talking, shouting, screaming. All in the melodious tones of my mother tongue, music to my ears, indecipherable to outsiders.

Two streets away, the shipyards overshadow all of Glasgow. It fills the air; with still more noise, hammering, welding, scraping metal; smells, acrid, dusty, foul. Its smoke, clouds everything with underworld, ghostly dimness.

This is my inherited memory, layering the landscape, in ways that only family can. The shipyard disappears taking the pollution, noise, and jobs. Next, the tenements, children and adults. Progress is what it is, the sun is bright here now, in the carpark of the candle factory.

[1] Scottish Birth Register, 1911, GROS Data 646/02 1851,Georgina Marion Rowley (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 18 October, 2012)

[2] Scottish Death Register, 1932, GROS Data 644/24 0628, Rowley, Jane  (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 17 August, 2012)

[3] Scottish Death Register, 1942, GROS Data 644/24 0628, Rowley, Archibald (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 22 March, 2005)

[4] “Robert Street, Glasgow, Scotland.” Map. Google Maps. Google (https://www.google.com.au/maps/ : accessed 12 December, 2017 .

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Sounds and Smells of Glasgow

Archibald Rowley[1], was born in the very small village of Forgandenny near Perth in Scotland. His father, the local policeman died a mere two and a half years after Archie’s birth.[2] Sometime after that, his mother moved her family to Perth, where she worked as a laundress.[3]

The next place we find Archie is in Glasgow in 1891[4], where he is listed as a 19-year-old coppersmith. It is hard to imagine what that change could have been like for young Archie. The 1881 Scotland Census gives the population of Perth as 95,044, and Glasgow as 487,985.[5]

The shipyards would have been incredibly noisy, hot steel, copper, and other metals being poured, moulded, and hammered into shape. Metals would have given off an acrid smell, and close bodies from less than adequately plumbed housing would have been rank. After work, the scene would have changed to a crowded publican’s house where body, urine, smoke and alcohol would combine in that unique way only a pub can smell, and the drunks would variously shout, sing, and fight.

I imagine it would have to be experienced first-hand.
[1] Scottish Birth Register, 1871, Parish Forganenny, County Perth , 0015, Archibald Rowley (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 22 March, 2005)

[2] Scottish Death Register, 1873, Parish Foganenny, County Perth, 05, Thomas Rowley (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 22 March, 2005)

[3] 1881 Scotland Census GROS Data 387/00 014/00 0161 Archibald Rowley

[4] Scottish Census 1891 644/13 027/00 022 Archibald Rowley (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 22 March, 2005)

[5] http://www.londonancestor.com/misc/bc-population.htm Retrieved 22 July, 2016.

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Crisis of Faith

A fanciful account

She genuflected, crossed herself, then followed the line to the priest. In a trance, her body seemed a second or two behind her, unattached and out of reach. Her mind, on the other hand was razor sharp.

Hell, hell,” she thought, “what would a bloody priest ken aboot hell? The hardest thing a priest ever had to dae was remember tae speak in English, that monotone, bastardised tongue of the Sassenach. It may as well be Latin, for the way he speaks it, you’d be sure he was sucking on a stane, and if he stuck that nose of his any higher in the air, his heed would fa’ right aff.”

Hell is being married to a man who spends half his life working, and the other half drinking near’ every penny he’s paid. In between one and the other he comes hame only just lang enough to faither another bairn. Twelve bairns, twelve.”

She was at the alter now, kneeling with her mouth open. “Blood of Christ” said the priest.

Blood of Christ, what would a man know about blood, or bleeding.” Her son Allan flashed in her mind, seven years old and coughing up blood, tears running down his face, his eyes bloodshot full of fear. Seven years ago the previous month, and still that face haunted her. “Well maybe some know a little of bleeding.

She stood up, having consumed the small biscuit “Body of Christ”. Her head was swimming, there was a pain in her chest like a knife being twisted between her ribs. She swayed visibly until the woman behind her placed her hand on her shoulder, just enough to steady her.

She shuffled back to her pew. How she had gotten through Christmas she did not know, but three more days and a long drunken night and it would be nineteen fifteen.  “Nineteen fifteen, Glasgow Scotland, that’s where hell is.” She grunted audibly, to the withering glare of her husband Archie.

Annie’s no here again,” she thought, “I wouldnae be either, if I had a choice. Twelve bairns I’ve had. I’ve no’ even finished havin’ my ain bairns, before my bairns are havin’ bairns. My wee Lizzy and Annie’s wee Johnny. The pair of them gasping for air, one would fa’ asleep and the other wake, the whole hoose awake and praying. My bairns, they are. Mine. I’ve nursed and fed, and loved them day and night. What dae I get? I get to watch them thrown out into the street. My first born, cast out into the street like a pail o’ shite, by her ain faither!” Another grunt and another withering glare.

Only a few weeks old and Johnny was gone. Annie putting her first born in the ground, that was hell. Three weeks later, and Lizzy’s gone too. Pulmonary something-or-other the doctor said. Died o’ breathing is what he meant, the pair of them, died o’ breathing.”

Outside the church, Jane surveyed her brood. Why they were so happy she could not understand. Watching them playing on the icy street, she could clearly see that they were happy. She began the short walk home, the children and the husband following after, she couldn’t have cared less, she was numb.

She was making some tea when the two Archies came in. She looked up at them, young Thomas darted out from behind them and let the cat out of the bag.

“Archie’s going to be a soldier. He’s gonnae get those German’s” he crowed pretending to fire a rifle, “He’s gonnae win the war.”

Jane nearly feinted. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph Archie, what are you thinking of.” She blasphemed.

“Leave him, Jeanie, leave him, he’s a man noo” Archie senior said accusingly.

“Me an’ the lads went yesterdae, we enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders, we had our medicals and we’ve a’ passed. All I have t’ dae is wait for ma uniform and orders.” Archie junior was beaming with pride.

“Och, Archie, Archie, what have you done?” It was rhetorical, she didn’t wait for an answer. She put her coat and hat back on and reached for the door. “I’m off tae visit Annie.”

She shook her head unconsciously, “I cannae lose another bairn, I cannae, my heart is already broken.” She muttered under her breath as she trudged the short distance through the icy street to Annie’s house. “Nineteen fifteen, a’ the world’s gone mad.”

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Finished Map

Completed Annotated Map

I chose my paternal great-grandparents, Archie and Jane Rowley, as the subjects for this map. Glasgow is the place of my childhood, and so I chose to draw with children’s crayons.

Archie worked in the shipyards, and the shipyards dominated Glasgow. Family lore painted him as a drinker and they moved twelve times in seventeen years. I represented these things with whisky spilling into and further polluting the Clyde, and an oversized passenger liner ensnaring the city and polluting the air.

Jane had twelve children, I marked each birth and joined them chronologically. A pattern emerged correlating with the Glasgow Underground which was open in their life time. I represented the nearby stations as mouths swallowing and spitting out lives.

Two births did not fit the pattern, fifth child Allan, born in Perthshire and ninth child Alice, born outside the underground network and away from the Clyde Shipyards. Allan died of Tuberculosis in the nearby Royal Infirmary at this time. Contemporary maps (1914) show a “Poorhouse” at this address. I had a strong emotional reaction to these discoveries and it changed the mood of the map. I broke the line at each of these places and drew tears and broken hearts spilling onto the ground and increased the darkness of the sky. I left the gardens brightly coloured and incongruous with the rest, but signifying that all was not doom and gloom.

I would enjoy expanding this piece to a three dimensional work, giving each of the elements a deeper more significant treatment.

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Annotated Map

I am constructing an annotated map for part of my Family History studies. The unit, Place, Image, Object requires that I create a representation of a place of significance to myself or my family.
All my ancestors are either Scots or Irish and the little I know about them all centres around Glasgow. That made the choice of place easy, next was who and how. The who was answered by choosing the family I am currently investigating, on my paternal side, my great-grandmother Jane Ross and her husband Archie.
Jane lived around the beginning of the twentieth century, and had twelve children. I had noticed whilst collecting the birth records of each child, that they moved almost every year until their last child was born and then remained there until their deaths.
The most difficult part was working out how to print out a map of Glasgow large enough to map their moves as many times they moved only a few doors away. I enlarged a Google map on my tablet until it was about the right size and then I took screen shots. It was tricky trying to move the selection sideways and create an overlap for joining, but even trickier was moving vertically and then back again. My first attempt was quite reasonable but I learned enough to make it a second time.

Annotated map 3
I carefully marked each address where Jane and Archie lived and drew a line to show the chronological order of each address. Not many people know that Glasgow has an underground railway, and I knew it was very old, so I looked up when it was opened and found that it was newly opened at the time of this family. I added this to the map as could clearly see the correlation between where they lived and the underground stations.
At first, I had intended to interpret the map with embroidery but I decided instead to interpret it in a drawing. This was mainly due to the time constraint; I may yet do an embroidery for my own satisfaction.

Annotated map 3
I was a child when my family emigrated from Scotland, so I chose to use crayons and child-like drawing. The Clyde River is central to the Glasgow story and so it bisects my page. The Underground Railway is in the centre, and only those stations next to their houses are marked, but they are marked like a dragon’s mouth spewing them out and swallowing them up.

Annotated map 2
The Scots are known, not unfairly, for their capacity to drink whisky, and the only story I know about Archie is one in which he is drunk. I drew a bottle pouring whisky into the Clyde and further polluting its’ waters. An oversized passenger liner in the centre represents the influence of the shipbuilding industry that created Glasgow as it is today, as well as the fact that the liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth II were built here.
I have paused for the time being whilst making that most difficult of creative decisions. Is it finished? I hope you enjoy it.

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