I am always looking for new places to write. I’m happy to be a nomad or a butterfly and explore and adore new places. I went to Glasgow, cos I love Glasgow. It’s arty, bohemian, real, down-to-earth, charming and more, with exquisite architecture, all courtesy of the very formidable Charlie and Maggie Mack! Bear with me while I explain.
An aura of European sensibility is truer of Glasgow than it is of Edinburgh. Glasgow is a European city in Scotland – there is no getting away from this – but its central city grid system of streets also pays tribute to the city centres of America and Australia.
Glasgow Central Station is like Paris Gare Saint-Lazare and the perfect starting point for a walk back in time in search of world-renowned architect Charlie Mack, (Charles Rennie Mackintosh) and his equally talented yet lesser known wife Margaret MacDonald.
Mackintosh IS Glasgow. His presence is as equal in importance to Glasgow’s identity as Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is in Barcelona, underscoring the fact that Glasgow is a city of art, a working class city without pretension where art and culture are as important as life itself, not something removed, something for the wealthy.
My story begins with an afternoon date with Charlie Mack at the Willow Tea Rooms on Buchanan Street. As afternoon gave way to evening, I went in search of Charlie; his story is far more interesting than mine.
In 2016 Glasgow’s brand is ‘People Make Glasgow’, and Charlie and Maggie embodied this in the 19th and early 20th century.
Charlie and Maggie both went to the Glasgow School of Art and as was the case in those days, Charlie’s talent as an artist and architect was quickly recognised, his wife’s less so.
His Glasgow architectural projects include the following: 78 Derngate, Hill House, Ingram Street Tea Rooms, House for an Art Lover, Hunterian Art Gallery, Mackintosh House, Queen’s Cross Church, Willow Tearooms, Glasgow School of Art and a huge portfolio of beautiful paintings.
His wife Maggie, who he credited as far more talented than himself, includes much work she completed with her husband including the Willow Tearooms glass frontage panels.
Glasgow’s story outside Mack’s reputation is super-impressive. It’s a city that’s produced talented artists, writers, comedians, singer-songwriters, politicians, history-makers in an almost never-ending abundance. It’s a city to come back to time and time again. The atmosphere is electric (there’s something always going on behind the scenes – that’s what it feels like. It’s welcoming and cultural.
Glasgow impresses because it does not want to impress. It simply is, a city that has given birth to so much talent through the centuries and continues to do so.
Charlie and Maggie Mack eventually moved to France in the latter part of their lives and found endless inspiration there. The mark they both left on Glasgow is poignant and obvious. Glasgow’s reputation as a city of culture is hard to knock.
Come nightfall, I ended up at Fratelli Sarti, an Italian restaurant on Bath Street in the West End of Glasgow. I’d never been there before, but I felt I was home. I wanted to stay long after my empty plates had been cleared and my coffee and Chianti had been drunk. That’s what Glasgow does to you. It makes you feel as though you’ve come home.