We’ve recently had the privilege to hear from two former members of staff, Project Co-ordinator Hunter Reid and Heritage Manager Gordon Barr. Hunter came in to speak to our volunteers as well as the board and new staff members about the challenging process of securing funding in order to restore the halls. Getting the project off the ground required ten years of hard work and perseverance. Although eventually completed well within the timescale, every step of planning the restoration presented a new challenge. The council agreed to support the project at the last possible moment – over four decades of dereliction have made their mark and it was clear that the building would not survive any further unless it was renovated. Fortunately, the restoration proposal lined up with the redevelopment of the leisure centre next door and the project got the green light. From here on, the sheer scale of the works necessitated the involvement of multiple donors. In Hunter’s words, the two most difficult grants to get are often the first and the last one. Along with a small team, he promoted the project to various funders, many of whom were already familiar with the landmark building. The favourable attention of the press also proved to be incredibly helpful. In recognition of his achievements in spearheading this project, in 2013 Hunter was awarded an OBE ‘For services to architecture and community engagement in Glasgow’.
Our second talk of the month was delivered by Gordon Barr, who introduced the new team to the history of the Halls. Gordon joined the Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust at the time when the building works began. As someone with a passion for history, he was keen to find out more about how the building used serve the Maryhill community, and what lessons can be learnt from that today. He spoke about Maryhill as a proud anomaly in its time in that it was named after a woman who kept her maiden name, as evidenced by Mary Hill’s gravestone near the Cathedral. Prior to joining the city of Glasgow, the independent burgh of Maryhill was unique thanks to the variety of industries it nurtured. Many of the bygone trades were commemorated in the beautifully executed stained glass windows by Stephen Adams. As part of his post as Heritage Manager, Gordon carried out thorough research into these glass panels, collecting what became a visual history of the area. He remarked that the choice of artistic medium in itself was a measure of respect with which these trades were treated at the time – stained glass was remarkably expensive to commission, fabricate and maintain. In addition to this, the panels contain a fantastic degree of detail. The workers’ faces are all different and were evidently drawn from life. The story contained within these images is the legacy of an area that has celebrated its people and their crafts with pride.