Scotland Street School Remembers, a fascinating documentary revealing life in and around Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s last major commission in Glasgow has opened in the 150th anniversary year of the world-renowned architect’s birth.
Created by Scottish artist and filmmaker Margaret Moore, ‘Scotland Street School Remembers’ is now screening at Scotland Street School Museum until Sunday 30th September.
Through the 90 minute documentary, Margaret brings to life a hundred years of memories held by former pupils attending the Mackintosh designed school between the late 1920s and the school’s closure in 1979.
Thirteen former pupils recall life at the Kingston school, through wartime and up to the ultimate fragmentation of the surrounding community following Glasgow’s industrial decline in the 1970s.
Weaving interviews with archive film, illustrations, family photographs and song, Margaret draws a colourful, moving picture of life at the school and within the surrounding community through this period of great change.
The School Board of Glasgow commissioned Charles Rennie Mackintosh to design Scotland Street School in the early 1900s. The school, which is celebrated for its stone carving, metalwork, impressive tiled Drill Hall and leaded glass stairwell towers, opened in 1906 when employment around the Clyde was at its peak.
Harry Couper, Nan Tindle, Alex McKinlay, James Smith, Jim O’Neill and Stan Sewell take up the story from the late 1920’s through to the middle of World War II. At that time, most pupils came from families working in local businesses and industrial works associated with shipping. Classes were busy, discipline strict and teachers taught by rote.
Harry Couper remembers horse-drawn traffic and, in particular, a parade of decorated Clydesdale horses passing in front of the school. Nan Tindle, whose sister Esther also attended the school, recalls standing peeling potatoes over a sink in a cold classroom in the 1930s when her parents couldn’t afford the ingredients she needed to take part in the cooking class. Alex McKinlay recalls playtime with the familiar running toy of the period, the ‘gird and cleek’.
James Smith’s first day had a lasting impact. Arriving early, he was presented with a sand tray to draw on while he waited for the other pupils to arrive. He went on to become an artist and, as a Royal Engineer, drew maps in World War II.
The school years are also inextricably linked to wartime for James O’Neill and Stan Sewell. James remembers being evacuated to Ayrshire at the start of World War II leaving on a bus from Scotland Street School with his sister. Stan vividly remembers spending the night in a shelter with his mother and brothers during the Clydebank Blitz.
Bill Everitt, Margaret Campbell, Betty Eaglesham and Alex Hamilton recall life after the war up to the late 1950s. During the period teaching methods were modernised and plans laid for housing and transport reforms which would radically change the area.
Bill Everitt remembers a school trip to Argyllshire after World War II. The children juggled lessons with helping pick potatoes. As war gave way to better times, Margaret Campbell recalls her family buying their first television set to watch the Coronation in 1953 and all the neighbours crowding into her house to watch. Betty Eaglesham describes summer holidays ‘doon the water’ and her mother packing a big hamper to go on ahead by train.
In the 1960s and 1970s, with the waning fortunes of the Clyde and demolition of the local tenements, residents moved out of the area into new housing elsewhere. Local businesses closed and, eventually, in 1979, Scotland Street School fell silent too.
Gordon Rutherford describes how pupils progressed up the building as they got older, spending the final year on the top floor. He remembers the construction work in the surrounding area starting. Ruth Sills recalls the good and the bad school lunches and Kim Scott remembers her mum taking her in her pram along with the washing from her top floor tenement to the steamy. Both were pupils when the school closed and have touching memories of the last day.
Margaret Moore, explains the inspiration for Scotland Street School Remembers: “Scotland Street School is an important example of the style and vision of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It is also a building which has held an extra special place in the heart of thousands of people who have spent time working and learning within its striking walls. I began my wider Still Sounds project with a sound installation at the school six years ago. In Mackintosh’s 150th anniversary year, I wanted to take the project further, bringing to life the fascinating social history of the school and surrounding community through film.
“These are stories of everyday life. Though most didn’t understand the real significance of the building until they had left, the school was a huge part of their lives. Grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters all attended. It was the centre of the community, both geographically and in terms of collective experience, and the anecdotes reveal shared, precious moments of hardship and poverty, resilience and humour.
“People made the most of what they had and being part of a community. Living closely together, they supported and helped each other out. Although the community fragmented with the decline of heavy industry across the city, and former pupils still keenly feel the impact of this dislocation on their lives, these former pupils look back fondly. Scotland Street School is a wonderful microcosm of Glasgow’s social history during the period and an enduring memory for so many.”
Scotland Street School Remembers is the third instalment of Margaret’s wider Still Sounds project charting the social history of the school and local community at home, work and war during the last century.
Still Sounds began with a sound and print installation at the school featuring interviews with former pupils who spoke of school, family life and work in Glasgow’s shipyards. In 2014, Margaret opened Still Sounds: The Great War, a gritty documentary, giving a unique insight into the life of Glaswegian soldiers at war as remembered by their children and grandchildren, again all former pupils at Scotland Street School.
Scotland Street School opened on 15 August 1906 and closed in 1979. It reopened as a school Museum in 1990 and today attracts Mackintosh enthusiasts and visitors coming to learn about the history of education in Scotland.
The illustrations within Scotland Street School Remembers have been created by Aldous Eveleigh and Mike O’Brien. Editing and sound by Peter Williams.
Dates/Times: Now until Sunday 30 September
Showing daily 10:00, 11:30, 13:00 and 14:30
Except Sundays June 17 and 24
Museum open Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 – 17:00 except Fridays & Sundays 11:00 – 17:00
Venue: Scotland Street School Museum, Scotland Street, Glasgow G5 8QB
Until Saturday 30 June – Screening Room, Ground Floor
Sunday 1 July – Sunday 30 September, Scotland Street Room, First Floor
Admission: FREE entry
You can telephone the Museum on 0141 287 0500 to confirm screening times before you visit.