Scotland Street Public School, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and a filthy wet day in Glasgow!


Girls entrance to the school and the wonderful Mackintosh tower

Girls entrance to the school and the wonderful Mackintosh tower

Travelled up to Glasgow last Friday to visit friends with the idea of a “photography weekend” and a chance to get out into the wonderful Scottish countryside around Loch Lomond.

Stark and imposing tiled corridors

Stark and imposing tiled corridors

Well, as they say “the best laid plans of mice and men” I was in for a massive disappointment as we had two days of virtual non stop rain and Glasgow on a filthy wet grey day can be a depressing place.

Captured memories of former pupils

Captured memories of former pupils

Gazing out of the window on Sunday morning we saw that it was still raining so decided that an “indoor visit” would be appropriate we decided to visit Scotland Street Public School designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and now preserved as a museum.

Poverty was a real issue in Glasgow

Poverty was a real issue in Glasgow

Scotland Street Public School was designed by the celebrated Glasgow architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, between 1903 and 1906 for the School Board of Glasgow. Since 1873, the School Board of Glasgow had been responsible for providing education and school buildings for all children in the city between the ages of five and thirteen. Scotland Street was Mackintosh’s second public school – his first was The Martyrs’ Public School in Townhead, 1895.

Tiered desks in a classroom

Tiered desks in a classroom

Mackintosh had to include the standard school requirements of the time into his design: separate playgrounds, outside toilets, entrances and staircases for girls, boys and infants; teachers’ rooms on each floor; a drill hall and electric lighting. He had to allow accommodation for 1250 pupils and include a cookery room in his design.  Classrooms were to be stepped and allow for a maximum of 66 pupils.  Infant classrooms were to be located on the ground floor and senior years on the top floor.  Mackintosh designed the school around a corridor system, allowing the rear – south facing – wall to be a bank of windows, letting maximum sunlight and solar heat into the classrooms.

The PC brigade will have apoplexy about this!

The PC brigade will have apoplexy about this!

Mackintosh produced two sets of drawings for the school.  The first set he passed for approval by the School Board. The second set – with a more elaborate decorative scheme – he issued direct to the Clerk of Works for building work to start in December 1904. It was not until November 1905 that the Board discovered that significant changes in the design of the tiling scheme, windows, doors, stair railings and drill hall were being made.

Girls uniforms

Girls uniforms

After much heated correspondence, Mackintosh revised his designs and the school was completed to the Board’s wishes, in the summer of 1906. The school cost a total of £34,219 1s 1d – Mackintosh was £1,500 over budget!

Girls domestic science room

Girls domestic science room

The entrance to the building is quite magnificent with the two imposing towers and once inside you are transported back over 100 years to see how a school was then.

They even learned how to wash and iron.......

They even learned how to wash and iron…….

What struck me (and reminded me of my own early school days) was the use of tiles on many of the walls in the school, which gave it a very cold and impersonal feel.

When things were done in "old money"

When things were done in “old money”

There are classrooms with all in one desks / seating, blackboards and in one classroom a dunces cap (my, how the PC brigade would have a field day with that!).

Comment from a child who had visited the school......

Comment from a child who had visited the school……

There was a also a very large room where the girls learned how to cook and bake as well as receiving instructions on how to wash clothes and iron them (that’s when men were men and women did as they were told……….he says tongue in cheek).


Hop scotch in the corridor

What is really interesting is that the museum has recorded the experiences of former pupils of the school and it is possible to sit and listen to the memories of pupils who attended over 50 years ago. There is also a catalogue of photographs of school groups going back many years and people are invited to identify themselves and record and memories they have of their experience at the school.


Recipe for the girls cookery lesson

It is an absolute pleasure to wander around the school and reflect how education has changed over the years (and not necessarily in some cases for the better!). Education is the foundation of any progressive modern society and we should cherish educational opportunities, no doubt as many of the young children from impoverished backgrounds did so many years ago at this school.

If you are visiting Glasgow and have a spare hour or so I do urge you to go and visit the school, details can be found here:




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Employee Engagement….something missing?


Some radical new research shows what creates “employee engagement” (don’t worry, this is the latest fad amongst management thinkers) in the workforce.

Most of the above I would suggest is blindingly obvious, but then why do so many organisations and managers get it wrong. It would seem that some kind of metamorphosis takes place when people become managers resulting in personality  and behavioural changes, often to the detriment of those they are managing.

My favourite definition of management is “applying common sense to uncommon situations” which sounds easy in theory but is very hard to put into practice.

Going back to the table above, I note that there is one fundamental motivational element missing i.e. being paid a decent salary! But let us not dirty our hands by mentioning “filthy lucre”.

Posted in Employability, employment, Management | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Mock Assessment Day at Bradford University 2015

Competition is fierce in the tower building exercise

Competition is fierce in the tower building exercise

A couple of weeks ago I participated in one of the annual “mock interview” days for the second year Business Management students at the University of Bradford School of Management. As usual the performance of students was varied but the feedback from the students about the experience had been very positive, the vast majority saying that they found it constructive and valuable.

No, I can't believe it has stood up either!

No, I can’t believe it has stood up either!

Yesterday was part two of the programme i.e. mock assessment centres where the students undertake two activities:-

  1. Building a tower one meter in height using only straws
  2. Developing a series of questions for recruitment purposes
I am in charge!

I am in charge!

Working with a fellow assessor (a NHS graduate finance trainee) we observed the various groups and it was interesting watching the difference in performance between the first and second activities. They had obviously listened to the feedback we had given them and made a determined effort to work more effectively as a team.

Girls go for it.........

Girls go for it………

One group in particular made a real “hash” of the tower building exercise because they did not plan what they were going to do, when I asked did they all have a clear vision of what their tower would look like when they started to build it, all of them smiled and said not really. However, they learned so much from the exercise that their performance in the second task was extremely good.

Tower building tools.......pack of straws and a ruler

Tower building tools…….pack of straws and a ruler

During our feedback sessions with the different groups we talked about the importance of communicating effectively, what effective team working looked like, assertive behaviour, planning and organising, time management (a big issue for them), goal setting as well as a range of other important competencies.

It's all about concentration........

It’s all about concentration……..

The groups were very cosmopolitan in make up, one group consisting of two Chinese students, one Estonian and one local Bradfordian. When doing observation of “international” groups it is important to take into account potential differing “cultural norms” in terms of attitude and behaviour.

Assessor looks on in disbelief that the tower has stood upright

Assessor looks on in disbelief that the tower has stood upright

It is a pleasure to participate in such days which all form part of the School of Management Career Management / Employability programme which aims to prepare students for transition to the next stage of their career development, be that employment, further study, time out, voluntary work or entrepreneurship.

Groups work individually to develop a set of questions

Groups work individually to develop a set of questions

Congratulations to Elaine Dean and her colleagues at the School of Management for organising an excellent day which I hope the students fully appreciate.




Posted in Diversity, Education, Employability, employment, Equality, Higher Education, Universities, University Graduates, West Yorkshire, Yorkshire | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Tesco and Costa Coffee…….shocking customer service!

Last Friday I called into the Tesco superstore on the ring road in Oldham to pick up a few essential items. When I got to the checkout I was served by a gentleman who looked in a bit of discomfort and he said that he gets cramps in his leg when he sits at the till. He also started rambling on about the doctor changing his medication at which point I “switched off” as I had no wish to get into a debate about medical prescriptions.


When he had put the items through the till I said to him “I just want the Tesco points putting on this card” with the intention of paying cash. I them put my card into the machine and was pre-occupied with something that when he said “put your PIN number in” I did so, not thinking that this would be a transaction.

I then gave him a £20 pound note to pay my bill and he said that the transaction had gone through on my card. I pointed out that I had specifically said that it was “just for the points” to which he responded “I will need to get my supervisor to sort this out.”

The supervised came and said I would need to go to customer service to get a refund, by this time I was feeling quite angry and pointed out to the supervisor that I had specified “points only” on the card but all he could say was that I would need to go to customer service. There was no sympathy whatsoever from him, no offer to resolve the issue personally and a studied all round indifference.

As I had already been delayed I simply said “I will let the transaction stand but it is the last time I shop at this Tesco store.”

Yesterday (Saturday) I called into the Costa Coffee in Kingsgate Shopping Centre, Huddersfield to get a drink. I joined a lengthy queue to place my order and I just happened to look at my watch which showed just after 10.15am. At 10.29 I eventually got served having whiled away my time wondering how the hell it takes them so long to serve customers.


Whilst being served I noticed that there was a new coffee machine standing idly whilst the staff were trying to use one machine to serve all the customers. I asked one of the staff why they were not using the second machine to which she responded “the manager is trying to set it up and it has to be done via his laptop” (no, I don’t understand either).

The manager was hunched over his laptop in front of this new machine but seemed to be making little headway. It did strike me that it would probably have been better if he had arrived early and set up before what would be a very busy day in the run up to Christmas. But still, I guess you can’t legislate for common sense!

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From Spem in Alium to Lux Aeterna

Many years ago when I was first exploring the world of classical music I had started listening to various choral works by Mozart, Mahler, Verdi and of course the greatest choral work of all, Beethoven’s 9th symphony.

One of my friends at the time said that in his opinion Thomas Tallis’s “Spem in Alium” (40 part motet) was possibly the greatest piece of choral writing in classical music.

My response at the time was along the lines of whom or what is “Spem in Alium and who the hell is Thomas Tallis? I promised my friend that I would seek out the said work and give it a listen.


It is so long ago that I cannot now remember which version of it I listened to but I think the choir was conducted by David Willcocks. I put the record on and sat back not knowing what to expect.

Just under 10 minutes later I was of the opinion that I had possibly just heard the greatest piece of music ever composed. It was so unlike anything I had ever heard and even now there is very little (if anything) that can match the sound of unaccompanied voices rising and falling as they weave a pattern of transcendental beauty.

I also now think I know where Ligeti got his inspiration from to compose Lux Aeterna which came to prominence when Kubrick featured it in his epic film 2001, A Space Odyssey (much to Ligeti’s annoyance).

I have never been lucky enough to hear Spem in Alium  done live but it is on my “bucket list”

Posted in Classical Music, Culture, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

To Raise the Spirits

In what has been a dreadful week for the French and Parisians in particular (not to mention the thousands of foreign visitors to the capital) I offer you the video above which needs no further explanation.

Posted in appalling behavior, Classical Music, Culture, Genocide, Islam, obscenity | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Whats a little bit of flooding to true Yorkshiremen

After the outside of their pub flooded in Leeds, there was only one thing to do for John Kelly and Steve Holt… Embrace the rain, get wet and have a pint.


John and Steve enjoy a pint "alfresco"

John and Steve enjoy a pint “alfresco”

“The water came in pretty quickly and pretty heavily and once we realised, Steve (the pub’s owner) drove off to get some sandbags,” the manager of the Kirkstall Bridge Inn said.

“I stood and shouted at the water but it didn’t seem to do much. Then we realised it wasn’t getting any higher and the damage had already been done, so we decided we might as well sit in the beer garden anyway and have a pint,” said John.

The water came to within a couple of feet of the Kirkstall Bridge Inn’s back door. “It was remarkably cold. The first 15 minutes were a little bit uncomfortable but once we settled down it was surprisingly therapeutic, to sit not just by the river but in the river. It was a little surreal but it just became normal,” he adds. “It was nice.”

John says there were no seats available inside the pub at the time. It was full of customers having Sunday lunch. “So it was either loiter outside or sit in the river,” John explains. “We just thought we’re not going to get beaten by a river, we’re going to have a beer.

The customers thought we were pretty stupid – they’re probably right,” he says. “Especially the parents who’d told their children off for running too close to the river. A crowd gathered and eventually we got shouted out by Steve’s missus and we had to get out like naughty little boys.”

Only in Yorkshire could this happen………………


Posted in Beer, Culture, Landscape, scenery, Tourism, Tradition, Weather, Yorkshire | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment