Aye Write 2019, Tom Shields review by Mary Irvine
Aye Write Festival 2019
Tom Shields Mitchell Library Sunday, 24th March 1.15 p.m.
One of the many things I love about Glasgow and its people is the humour, the banter and, at the above event, I was not disappointed. Tom Shields is perhaps best known for the humorous ‘Tom Shields’ Diary’ which appeared in ‘The Herald’ for many years. The interviewer for this Aye Write event was Joe Farrell and the cut and thrust of the banter equalled any of the great comedy duos.
The main theatre of the library was full and the audience were grandly entertained, not only with the repartee but also by an introduction to, and discussion of, many of the places in Tom’s latest book,’111 Places in Glasgow That You shouldn’t Miss’. When asked why he wrote the book the answer was ‘Because they offered me money.’ They being a German publisher who had already produced some 250 books of 111 Places not to miss in other cities. Edinburgh had already been ‘done’ by Gillian Tait but when asked to do Glasgow she said she knew just the man!
The instructions from the publisher were quite clear. They didn’t want the usual tourist guide but the more arcane places. They apparently did mention at one point there were too many pubs in the selection. Joe did the readings and the extracts were fascinating, encouraging the listener /reader to visit these places – as did Tom’s further expositions.
To find and collect the places Tom had his own thoughts in addition he talked to people, he walked and unashamedly plagiarised. He tried research at The Mitchell Library but got distracted with books. The book has themes or groups, Churches, many deconsecrated and being used in other ways. St Luke’s Oratory was one of Tom’s favourites. Pubs, included the Horseshoe Bar in Drury Street. Statues, particularly the ones on George Square, some of which Tom thought should be replaced by those more deserving. Other places were the Doge’s Palace Glasgow Green), The Savings Bank (Argyll Street) and the Wallie Closes with their decorated tiles.
The question posed ‘How far does Greater Glasgow extend?’ referred to the inclusion of the Logie Baird Heritage Centre in Helensburgh. After some amusing ‘discussion’ Tom justified the inclusion, apart from on merit, on the fact that Baird once worked in Glasgow! He then caused more laughter when he shared the fact that Baird had invented heated socks, a success in WW1, adding he had made more money from the socks than he ever did from the televisor.
Tom did say he wanted the patter of Glasgow to permeate the book. It worked well but caused problems when the book was translated into German. Some things just DON’T translate. We were treated to an insight into what is obviously going to become the alternative guide to Glasgow, probably a more exciting one – a cult could easily be born. No organised tours, one hopes. Rather days of individual exploration and discovery, maybe based on one of the themes.
It’s very true ‘People Make Glasgow’.
Mary Irvine, March,2019
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