2009 Scotland, UK

World Federation International Tourist Guides Day Event- Glasgow style!
 
The Glasgow and West of Scotland branch of the STGA marked the World Federation day this year in a distinctive way. We invited students of tourism from Glasgow’s four universities to go on a coach tour of the city. Standard route- we’ve all done it- but this was with a difference! At various points along the route Glasgow ghosts came on to the coach to tell their story.

We began at Glasgow Cathedral, a religious centre of enormous significance before the Reformation in 1560. Our ghost Queen Langoureth (aka Blue Badge guide Anne Robertson) dated from 800 years earlier.  Queen in that area, she had given a ring to her lover: silly thing to do as it had been a gift from her husband. She approached Mungo, the man of God, whose church stood where the cathedral now stands, as he was known to be able to perform miracles. He, believing her to be truly contrite, went to the river, prayed, and a fish appeared with the ring in its mouth. Queen Langoureth faded into the shadows of history. Mungo went on to be canonised, is the patron saint of Glasgow, the coat of arms of which bears a fish. Thus Glasgow and our tour began.
 
After the Reformation Glasgow’s importance began to fade. The Glaswegians searched around for an alternative way to way to finance themselves. Tobacco was the answer. Grown in the fertile colonies of Virginia and the Carolinas, it provided vast wealth to the Glasgow merchants, who termed themselves the Tobacco Lords. They strutted in their cocked hats and scarlet cloaks, striking from the Plainstanes (pavements) any lesser mortal who dared to walk there. In flamboyant style one of them  William Cunningham (aka Blue Badge guide Stewart Noble) regaled the students with a description of Glasgow in the 17th century: tobacco filled coffee houses and trade with an ever-expanding empire.

From the Merchant City the coach made its way west, mirroring the development of the city itself. At George Square, the beating heart of this great city for over 150 years, Queen Victoria  (aka Blue Badge guide Moira Wadsworth) told of her two visits to the city during her sixty four year reign. Her second visit was in 1888 to open the City Chambers, a magnificent building from which Glasgow has been administered ever since. It was, she told the students, perfectly appropriate that she should visit the second city of her empire. Coming back in 2009 she was delighted to see so many changes in the city since her 1888 visit. She was certainly smiling: we assume she was amused.

Blythswood Square is a lovely place: elegant houses and a beautifully kept central garden. But here in 1857 there occurred a scandal, which more than twitched the curtains of Glasgow’s respectable middle classes. At no.7 lived a young lady by the name of Madeleine Smith. Respectable Victorian, she was nevertheless conducting a rather more modern relationship with an impoverished Frenchman, Pierre Emile L’Angelier. She tired of him: he did not take the hint. Curiously he then began to develop stomach cramps. but only after he had been visiting (secretly) Madeleine. The cramps became more severe until one night he did not recover. A funeral. Enquiries! An exhumation of the corpse! Arsenic! Madeleine was arrested and charged with murdering her lover. (Curtains shaking off their rails!) It hit the headlines in London, Paris and New York, but the verdict was Not Proven. Madeleine was free. Emile (aka blue Badge guide Bruce Cochran) was buried in the Ramshorn Kirkyard, but his memory loves on.
The tour continued with Blue Badge guide Viola Lier in her normal place, microphone in hand, linking the locations from ghost to ghost.
 
At the university there are gates installed in 1951 to mark the 500th anniversary of Glasgow University. On the gates are the names of famous people associated with the university, eg the bishop who founded it, the king in whose reign it was founded, Adam Smith and that eminent scientist, James Watt, responsible for inventing the separate condensor for the steam engine which set in motion the Industrial Revolution. Here James Watt (aka blue Badge guide Roy Stewart) explained the significance of this to the 18thc world and the enormous impact it had on the development of Glasgow.
 
Thence we made our way to the Glenlee, a tall ship built on the Clyde, the river which flows through Glasgow, and which circumnavigated the world four times before coming home. It was an ideal location to conclude our tour as River Clyde in the 19th century was the larges shipbuilding location in the world. Appropriately the ghost of shipyard owner David Elder (Ian MacDonald) met and told us about his shipyard’s significant impact on the Clyde – later to become Fairfileds.  We have a saying in Glasgow: ‘the Clyde made Glasgow and Glasgow made the Clyde’. The river and the city are tightly woven together. Here is Glasgow’s story: pre- reformation pilgrims arriving by boat, tobacco from the Americas, shipbuilding, heavy engineering being transported all over the world, emigration and immigration. 
 
The students were piped on board by another Blue Badge guide Tom Mitford. There they were addresses by the Chair of the Glasgow branch of the STGA, Maggie McCann. She explained who Blue Badge guides are and the position of  Scottish guides in relation to the World federation. Viola Lier as the STGA trainer then spoke on the training necessary to become a Blue Badge guide. Liz Cameron, Glasgow’s ex Lord provost and now Chair of Culture and Sport Glasgow gave a motivating speech on Glsgow’s development and the importance of tourism in the city today.  
 
This being the year of Homecoming, it was appropriate that Robert Burns was part of our day. Sandra Middleton sang two Burns songs. Over tea and biscuits the students mingled, watched a DVD about Scotland’s Blue Badge guides, asked questions and examined the World Federation banner brought along by Pat Blain secretary of the World Federation.
 
The entire event took only three hours, but we believe its impact will be much longer lasting. Most of the students had never heard of Blue Badge guides. Now they do.
 
The organisers of the event would like to thank all the Blue Badge guides involved, the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, the Glenlee and Southern Coaches.
 

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