Sunday, July 30, 2017

A brief history of the Glasgow Fair




The Glasgow Fair dates to the 12th century, and is one of the oldest pubic holidays and was granted by William the Lion, King of Scotland (1165 to 1214), after Bishop Jocelin asked for permission to hold festivities within the boundaries of Glasgow Cathedral in 1190. By the 1800s, the fair moved to Glasgow Green.



Glasgow Green was established in the 15th century and is the oldest park in the city. It sits on the north bank of the River Clyde on the city’s east end. King James II granted the land to Bishop William Turnbull and the people of Glasgow in 1450. Originally it was an uneven swampy area composed of the High and Low Greens, the Calton Green and the Gallowgate Green, divided by the Camlachie and Molendinar Burns. Initially it was a grazing area with the banks of the Clyde used for drying fish nets and communal washing. Over the years, the burns were drained and the green levelled and extended. After the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), the Town Council of Glasgow employed 324 jobless as workers to remodel Glasgow Green. Throughout the 19th century, the green was used for political meetings, demonstrations and public executions.



At first, the fair was associated with the sale of horses and cattle. As time passed the gathering became a focal point for traveling showmen, who took advantage of the large audiences. More recently the fair become associated with amusements, with circus and theatre shows as centrepieces. As was the custom most local businesses closed on 'Fair Friday' to allow workers and their families to attend. The community of travelling show people grew in the city towards the end of the 19th century. In anticipation of the fairs around the city, showground families acquired, or leased patches of land. By 1912, the fair incorporated penny gaffs, these were make shift theatres, which cost one penny entrance fee. Originally a gaff was the name given to a cock fighting pit. Cock fighting was banned in the 19th century and the penny gaff featured clowning, dancing, singing and short melodrama. The Glasgow Fair in 1912 featured a scenic railway to visitors on a simulated ride through Japan and back to Scotland. Green’s Carnival at Whitevale. Gallowgate attracted large audiences eager to see films on a silver screen of Trench War. As the years passed, Glasgow Green became the site for amusements, circus animals, shows and ride simulations.



Prior to the Industrial revolution in the 19th century, fairs, markets and the like were patronised by the gentry as part of a paternalistic ethos. Both cultural, and structural changes came with industrialisation and the spread of factory work and unprecedented regularity and intensity of working hours produced a new formation of leisure activity. Most workers had the Sunday off, but apart from that the only other time off was during the religious holidays of Christmas and Good Friday. In 1871, the Bank Holiday Act gave workers a few paid holidays each year and four new public holidays were introduced in England and Wales, and 3 in Scotland. Opportunities for leisure activities increased dramatically as real wages continued to grow and hours of work continued to decline. In urban areas, the nine-hour workday became increasingly the norm; the 1874 Factory Act limited the workweek to 56.5 hours, encouraging the movement toward an eventual eight-hour workday. Moreover, a system of routine annual vacations came into play, starting with white-collar workers and moving into the working-class. By the late Victorian era, the leisure industry had emerged in all cities. This provided scheduled entertainment of suitable length at convenient locales at inexpensive prices. These included sporting events, music halls, and popular theatre. Glasgow was well served with railways with inexpensive railway fares; the Clyde steamers allowed working class people access to the seaside resorts and cheap hotels along the Firth of Clyde, Rothesay and the Ayrshire coast.



It soon became a common practice for local industries to close during the second half of July, to allow the majority of their employees a holiday on the Trade Fare. Literally everything would have stopped production, shipyards, retail (for the most part), and Glasgow ground to a halt. Being paid holiday pay in hand meant it was not out of character to see wives of workers waiting patiently outside the docks or depots, to ensure their husbands did not spend their fair fortnight wages, in the pub.



After the Second World War, tens of thousands of Glaswegians made their annual exodus from the city either travelling by rail to exotic locations such as Blackpool or "doon the watter" on the Clyde steamers. Huge queues of holiday-makers formed at Glasgow's Central Station or the Steamer Terminal at the Broomielaw with families eager to start their holiday. A regular call was “Taps aff, we’re going doon the watter for the fair.” (Shirts off boys, we are going to the seaside). Blackpool became a Mecca for thousands.



Saturday, June 3, 2017

Middle of the Road (Sally Carr)



The Electrons were formed in 1964 and consisted of brothers Ian and Eric McCredie (formerly of The Dominos) and drummer, Ken Andrew (former The Talismen Beat Unit). They later changed their name to the Douglas Boys and backed Glasgow singer, Jan Douglas. In 1967 Sadie Carr (stage name Sally Carr) joined the group as a replacement lead singer when they were Part Three, Sally stayed and the group became Part Four. Latin American numbers featured heavily in their live act and their management encouraged them to reflect this in their name, Part Four became Las Caracas in 1967. For the next three years, the group toured the UK and in 1968 they appeared in ATVs talent show, Opportunity Knocks with Hughie Green.



The band did very well winning many of the heats but despite their popular appeal no interest was shown from recording companies. Sally, Ken and Eric turned professional in 1969 and Ian joined them a year later. The band had plans to move to Argentina, but delayed their decision to play on a cruise ship to the Caribbean. A new name was necessary and Ken thought of Middle of the Road, all agreed and the band was launched. On route to South America the band hit a hitch whilst in transit in Italy. Left stranded and penniless they worked the local restaurants. The group was heard by an RCA, A & R executive, who invited them to Rome for a recording test. Things went well and they recorded three songs Yellow River, I can't tell the bottom from the top and Jesus Christ Superstar. The company liked them so much, they included these recordings later on their first album.



At first MoR were used to back Italian pop singers including Sophia Loren.



The record did well in Italy and was the first of many film themes to be recorded by the group. RCA Italiana teamed the group with Italian producer, Giacomo Tosti in 1970 who found Chirpy cheep cheep which was written and recorded by Lally Stott. When the band heard it at first, they expressed reserve but Sally soon convinced them it was a good idea. Copious supplies of Bourbon were available in the studio when the song was recorded but on its release it went to Number one in many countries including the UK.



C4 stayed in the UK hit parade for 35 weeks and sold 8 million records world-wide elevating Middle of the Road to the third most popular recording artists in the Billboard Charts in 1971. Writers, Mario and Giosy Capuano joined the production team who produced a string of International hits. “Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum," their second single was used in a Fiat promotion for the launch of the Fiat 127. Car and single did very well.



"Soley Soley," was produced by Giacomo Tosti and penned by Spanish songwriter, Fernando Arbex, with lyrics co-written by Sally. The song was recorded in Madrid and got to Number 2 in the UK charts.



Despite their fame on the Continent and obvious commercial success, Middle of the Road was not promoted in the UK. The band toured nonstop around the world for the next two years and visited Brazil, Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The next single Sacramento, reached the top ten charts in most of Europe, including many of the East European countries like East Germany, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland.



Together Samson and Delilah, Yellow Boomerang and Talk of all the USA, sold over 2 million copies in Europe alone.











Neil Henderson (former Bay City Rollers) joined the group but by the mid seventies, the band was beginning to lose their mojo, and tastes in popular music were changing. Abba who once were the warm up band at MoR gigs, were now in the ascendancy. MoR changed labels but despite serious attempts to reconfigure their musical style, the band had no further success. A marketing war between Ariola and the giant RCA Corporation ensued and old recordings not previously released prevented their new works from impacting. Eventually Sally left to the band in 1977 to follow a solo career. A year later Ken left while Ian and Eric continued to exploit what was left of the Middle of the Road’s reputation. In 1981 Sally and Ken returned to MoR for a short time to re- record and perform their old hits. In 1991 they were back together again for a German TV gig and enjoyed a renaissance on the European nostalgia circuit. The band is still together as, Middle of the Road featuring Sally Carr, with originals, Ken Andrew and Neil Henderson. Shug Devlin (keyboards) and Phil Anderson (guitar and vocals) complete the lineup.





Worth a listen:
Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep (1971)
Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum (1971)
Soley Soley (1971)
Sacramento (1972)
Samson and Delilah (1972)
Talk of all the USA (1972)
Yellow Boomerang (1973)
Kailakee Kailako (1973)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Bill Martin



William Wylie MacPherson was born in 1938 in Taransay Street, Govan, Glasgow. His father was a poet and piano player and Wylie learned to play piano as a child. He later attested his song writing skills to his father’s early influence. He went to Govan High and began writing songs as a teenager. Wylie left school at 15 and started as an Apprentice Marine Engineer at The Alexander Shipyard in Govan. His two main interests were song writing and football. At 18 he went to London to try to sell some of his songs but returned without success. On his return he was delighted to sign for Partick Thistle and later joined Johannesburg Rangers in South Africa and the for next three years Wylie found himself exiled but kept writing and in 1960, London Music Publisher accepted one of his compositions called “That’s the only way.” The song was never recorded. Undaunted he kept at it and eventually in 1962 he had his first published song, “Kiss me now,” recorded by Tommy Quickly.



The song sold moderately in Australia but was a flop in the UK. Quickly was one of Brian Epstein’s GEMS artists and this did raise Wylie’s profile. Still writing as Wylie McPherson he was advised to shorten his name to ten letters and chose Bill Martin. In 1964 he teamed up with Tommy Scott and together they wrote songs for: The Bachelors, Twinkle, Van Morrison, and Serge Gainsbourg.











In 1965, Bill met Phil Coulter and formed a publishing company which spurned hits for many British artists. The impressive list includes: The Troggs and Geno Washington (Hi Hi Hazel 1965); Cliff Richard (Congratulations 1968), and Cilla Black (Surround yourself with sorrow 1969), The Dubliners (Scorn not his simplicity 1970) and many, many more.



















However, it was a composition for the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest which catapulted them into the superstar category it was Puppet on a string recorded by Sandie Shaw.



Success continued into the 70s staring with the number one hit by The English World Cup Squad (Back Home 1970).



Martin and Coulter were quick to spot the rising popularity of Scotland’s Bay City Rollers and penned a few of their hits including: Remember (Sha La La La) (1974), Shang a lang (1974), Summerlove Sensation (1974), All Of Me Loves All Of You (1974), and the band’s #1 US hit Saturday Night (1976).























Phil Coulter and Bill Martin translated the lyrics of Jean-Pierre Bourtayre and Claude François song. "Parce que je t'aime, mon enfant" (Because I Love You My Child) into English and the song was recorded by Elvis Presley in 1973 and reached #20 on the Billboard pop chart,



Bill and Phil later formed the Martin-Coulter Music Group to discover new talent including Billy Connolly and Midge Ure. Martin-Coulter Music, also signed other songwriters including Van Morrison, Christy Moore, Donal Lunny, Eric Bogle, They continued the hit factory with Kenny “The Bump" and 'Fancy Pant's; Slik with ‘Forever And Ever’. (1976).







Aside from pop music Bill also wrote for films and TV including “The Water Babies”, some “Carry on" films and a number of television theme songs including "Spiderman ".







The partnership with Coulter ended in 1983 when Martin bought out Coulter's share of the business then sold it to EMI Music. In the same year he produced the stage musical Musical Jukebox which ran to critical acclaim in the West End for six months. Bill has continued to write songs and collaborated with many other composers. As a songwriter, record producer and music publisher the boy from Govan has had No1s in every country of the world and some estimated worldwide sales of over 35 million. Bill Martin continues with other business interests but was recently inducted into his old school Govan High's Inaugural Hall of Fame in 2011 and joins fellow luminary, Sir Alex Ferguson.



Worth a listen

Tommy Quickly
Kiss Me Now (1963)

The Troggs
Hi Hi Hazel (1965)

Sandie Shaw
Puppet on a string (1967)

Cliff Richard
Congratulations (1968)

Cilla Black
Surround yourself with sorrow (1969 )

Dana
All kinds of Everything (1970 )

England World Cup Squad
Back Home (1970 )

Richard Harris
My Boy (1971)

Dick Emery
Ooh you are awful (but I like you) (1972 )

Elvis Presley
My Boy (1973 )

Bay City Rollers
Remember (Sha La La La) (1974 )
Shang a lang (1974 )
Summerlove Sensation (1974 )
All Of Me Loves All Of You (1974)
Saturday Night (1976 )

Kenny
The Bump (1974 )
Fancy Pants (1975)

Slik
Forever and ever (1975)
Requeim (1976 )

The Water Babies
High Cockaloum (1978)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Great Glen and the Loch Ness Monster





The Great Glen in the Scottish highlands is a rift valley 60 miles long and contains three famous lochs; Lochy, Oich and Ness. Loch Ness is around twenty two and a half miles long and between one and one and a half miles wide. It is deeper than the North Sea at 754 feet with a flat bottom. It holds 263 thousand million cubic feet of water or 16 million 430 thousand million gallons of water with a surface area of 14000 acres and could hold the population of the world 10 times over. It is fed by 7 major rivers the Oich, Tarff, Enrich, Coiltie, Moriston, Foyers and Farigaig plus numerous burns, with only one outlet the River Ness which flows 7 miles through Inverness into the Moray Firth 52 feet below the loch surface. Loch Ness never freezes because a thermocline lies around 100 feet below the surface. The top water temperature alters depending on the weather conditions but below the thermocline the temperature never varies from 44 degrees Fahrenheit. The mysterious steaming across the loch is due to heavier cold water falling below the thermocline and being replaced by the warmer water from below.



Nessie is a mystical creature that reputedly inhabits the largest freshwater lake in northern Scotland, Loch Ness . The most common speculation is the creature represents a line of long-surviving plesiosaurs. Although its existence has never been proven scientifically, eye witness accounts describe the cryptid as a large pre-historic sea creature. Nessie remains the most famous example of cryptozoology first reported on 2nd May, 1933 by a water bailiff called Alex Campbell. Later the same year a tourist and his wife reported a dragon like animal crossing the main road as it made its way to the loch. They described a four feet tall animal with a 25 feet long body and“undulating” 10- or 12-foot neck. The couple also said they saw an animal in the beast’s mouth possibly a small lamb. Soon other claims of sightings followed.



Reports of a monster in the remote Scottish Highlands were enough to attract the attention of the general public. British newspapers sent reporters to Scotland in search of additional testimony and proof the monster’s being. Marmaduke Wetherell , celebrity game hunter was engaged and discovered enormous tracks he thought belonged to a creature at least 20 feet long.



Plaster casts were taken and sent to the Natural History Museum in London for verification. These were found to be a hoax.



The first purported photograph of the monster was published in the Daily Express on the 6th December 1933. Robert Kenneth Wilson was a London gynaecologist refused to have his name associated with the photograph and the paper dubbed the it the the Surgeon's Photograph .He reported taking four photos but only two came out clear. The first one with the small head and back became the iconic image and for many years was regarded as the best evidence of the monster’s existence.



It took another 60 years to reveal the true origins of the Surgeon’s Photograph. Ninety year old Christian Spurling, (Marmaduke Wetherell step son) admitted he had colluded with Wetherell and Wilson to produce a hoax photograph.



In 1933 Bertram Mills, circus empresario offered a £20,000 reward to anyone who could capture the monster for his circus. It remains unclear whether Mills could afford the reward but it did start a landslide of interest. Reports of a monster in the Loch meant there was prize on Nessie’s head and this attracted the attention of armed hunting parties to the remote location. Local concerns were such Inverness-shire Chief Constable William Fraser wrote a letter to the newspapers in 1938, stating as it was beyond doubt the monster existed he believed his power to protect the monster from the hunters was "very doubtful".



Local man, Hugh Gray took a picture in 1933 which depicts a creature with a long grayish neck that tapers into a thin head rising out of the water, followed by two humps. Despite the photograph being published the quality was generally poor and eventually dismissed by most. Gray was a well known practical joker which only added to skeptics’ dismissal of the evidence. More recently the photograph has been analysed in detail and may indeed be genuine.



Still gripped in monster fervor R. T. Gould published his book, The Loch Ness Monster and others in 1934. Gould’s work included collected records of additional reports pre-dating 1933. The earliest recording was AD 565.



There is a tale about St Columba who saved his companion Luigne moccu Min when he was chased in Loch Ness by a beast. It is recorded in Adomnán’s Life of St. Columba, the Saint made the sign of the Cross and commanded: "Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once." The beast immediately halted as if it had been "pulled back with ropes" and fled in terror.



Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster pre-1933 were rare, but did exist. Doctor D. Mackenzie of Balnain wrote to Robert Gould in 1934 to say as a young man he had witnessed an object that looked much like a log or upturned boat wriggling and churning up the water. The object moved slowly at first, then disappeared off at a faster speed (circa 1871). Sightings of the monster increased following the building of a road along the loch in early 1933. This brought both workmen and tourists to the formerly isolated area. In the same year Arthur Grant was on his motorbike and claimed to have nearly hit the creature while approaching Abriachan on the north-eastern shore of Loch Ness. It was a moonlight night and Grant was sure he saw a small head attached to a long neck.



More sightings, photographs and filmed encounters followed. A South African tourist G. E. Taylor in 1938 took a three minute 16 mm colour film. The film was never shown publically but a still was published in The Elusive Monster (1961) by Maurice Burton. Some experts thought the photograph was genuine but because it was never open to more detailed scrutiny like many reports it was dismissed as inconclusive. In 1951, Lachlan Stuart, a local Forestry Commission woodsman took a picture of what appears to show three humps moving in the waters of the Loch. Thirty years later it was revealed the humps were thinly disguised bales of hay covered in tarpaulin in another elaborate hoax. The Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau was formed in 1961and sporadic land sightings continued until 1963.



Many sonar attempts had been made but most were either inconclusive or negative. In December 1954, the fishing boat Rival III made sonar contact with a large object at a depth of 146 metres (479 ft). It was detected travelling for 800 m (2,600 ft) before contact was lost then found again. In 1961 two submarines with sonar experts on board was used but were unable to locate Nessie. They did however find a vast underwater cavern at 950 feet deep. Many speculate the elusive Nessie might use this as a hiding place. In 1975 an American-based expedition used underwater photography and special sonar to examine the Loch Ness. The underwater camera was able to take images of a moving object that had flippers. Based on these photos some scientists concluded that the 20-foot long creature was possibly an ancient reptile that became extinct with the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.



One of the most interesting videos of the Nessie was taken in 2007 by Gordon Holmes, a 55-year-old lab technician. Considered to be one of the best filmed evidence to date the absence of other objects in the video does make comparisons impossible. Other evidence includes a sonar image taken in 2011 of an unidentified object considered to be 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) long which apparently was following the boat of a local fisherman for two minutes at a depth of 23 m (75 ft).



George Edwards, a cruise boat operator, claimed a photograph he had taken in 2011 displaying a hump out of the water was genuine. On first inspection the photograph appeared genuine but closer scrutiny confirmed the so called monster was a fibreglass hump previously used in a National Geographic documentary that Edwards had participated in. Later he freely admitted to the hoax defending his actions as ‘ramping up interest in the Loch Ness monster and attracting people to the area.’



In 2014 after “Official Registrar of Loch Ness Monster Sightings reported no sightings of the creature had been recorded in 18 months. This was the first time since 1925 so much time had passed without a confirmed sighting claims, many feared the Loch Ness Monster was dead. Then Andrew Dixon who was browsing an Apple map of the Loch saw what appeared to be the monster close to the surface of the loch. Possible explanations for the image were it could be the wake of a boat, a seal causing ripples or a floating log. Some even believe the image was Photoshopped using an image of a whale shark. Closer inspection did also reveal the image bore a close resemblance to a Loch Ness-based cruise ship called the Jacobite Queen.



Most scientists consider it impossible for a dinosaur like creature to survive for millions of years unseen. Most sightings are simply explained away by floating logs or unusual waves. Loch Ness is fed from the Moray Firth in the North Sea via the River Ness. The sea is frequented by porpoises, dolphins and whales and seals and dolphins have been filmed in the loch many times. In the last three decades independent scientists have used sonar and satellite imagery to scan every inch of the loch and found 'no trace of any large animal living there'. The Loch Ness monster however is estimated it to be worth in the region of £50 million per annum and more than 500,000 tourists travel to the area every year in the hope of sighting the beast. Reason enough them to keep the secret of Loch Ness secret.

More information

Loch Ness Hunter Haggis Tours
Loch Ness Investigation
Official Registrar of Loch Ness Monster Sightings



Is the British Government Hiding The Loch Ness Monster?


Is the Loch Ness Monster Dead?