Ranald's GI Bride comes home to Partick - February, 2011
Often people tell me about Local Characters they would like to see featured on the website. Some time ago Roy Beers, who knows all there is to know about who's who and what's what in the West End, mentioned that Ranald MacColl would make an ideal candidate. Ranald is particularly known for his very individual approach to design, someone with the ability to turn a very ordinary space into something unique and wonderful. His work can be seen in a number of pubs in the West End including The Lismore, The Ettrick and the wonderful Ben Nevis.
Ranald is known to be somewhat elusive, however, I was very keen to pin him down and eventually caught up with last week in Offshore, in Gibson Street - a meeting which resulted in one of the most lively conversations I have enjoyed in a long time.
He is a busy and multi-talented individual constantly working on a raft of projects He has achieved success as a writer and currently works as the cartoonist for The Mirror... Tommy Sheridan column and the Ron McKenna column. Just last year he was nominated for his work in the Cartoonist Category of the Scottish Press Awards. Ranald showed me some of drawings he was working on and I laughed at the likenesses he had caught of some familiar West End faces including David MacLennan, Peter MacDougall and Rony Bridges'.
Ranald has a lively and attractive personality and has a lot to say about a lot of things. My interviewing talents are far from well developed and Ranald has so much to say and is so interested in life in the West End that my only option was to 'go with the flow'. I met up with him at 12.30 and remained captivated until after 4.00 p.m. I learned about his high regard for other local artists, his fascination with the cartoonist Bud Neil and his concerns regarding some of the developments in his home town of Oban.
He left the West Highlands in the late 60's to study at the prestigious Glasgow School of Art, although he reckons that many of his skills were developed at a later stage. His first work base was in the West End where he had a tiny office in Ashton Lane above the Ubiquitious Chip. He spotted the potential to expand this well known West End restaurant and one of his early projects was the creation of the wonderful garden restaurant which makes the interior of the Chip so special.
Ranald created the bronze GI Bride statue at Partick Station February, 2011
This same vision and his ability to transfer ideas into intriguing design has contributed to the success of other Glasgow pubs such as The Lismore in Partick and the Ben Nevis on Argyle Street - traditionally Gael friendly locations. The design of the Ben Nevis is particularly impressive, although outside the pub appears quite ordinary inside it is inspired and astonishing - with a celtic 'theme' that goes way beyond tartan and bagpipes.
Roy Beers', who writes the pub guide on this site is a big fan of Ranald's work -
The Ben Nevis is sort of "contemporary Celtic", but it's really a bit cleverer than that - there are many flourishes which need explained when you're actually there; for example the "Highland fault line" in the floor.
Whilst there are some similarities, each design is an individual creation and Roy's view is that Ranald is:
'the only person, who actually makes an artistic statement out of a pub (rather than including mere "decor") while still allowing the place to be very much a pub. It's all about sociability, community culture and local roots, I think, and in Ranald's case it's all inspired by his own West Highland ancestry, and his strong opinions about Gaelic culture
The most recent 'Ranald design' is The Albanach in Edinburgh, Belhaven's new bar on the Royal Mile. The Albanach, which translates from Gaelic as "The Scotsman", is described as 'a traditional Scottish bar in a modern context' an effect Ranald has created through his 'no holds barred' approach to design, where Ballachulish slate and Caithness flagstone can be combined with glass and stainless steel.
He is full of enthusiasm for his work and is enjoying life - a talented man making his mark on this City.
Thanks for Craig Young for the photographs of The Albanach. Photograph of Ranald will be added to the page in the near future.
Pat Byrne, October, 2005.