Friday, 31 May 2019

Forgotten Women

Women pass on our stories, but they are often forgotten in the archives and annals of history. 
We live in a world where most of the statues are to men. I used to wonder were there no great women artists or musicians. Then I discovered, yes there were many outstanding women artists! –

In my life time there have been women of genius and great accomplishments – Joni Mitchell, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Oprah Winfrey, Coco Chanel, Angela Merkel, Christine Lagard, Hilary Clinton, Angelina Jolie, and many, many more. 

There are many women, who not only supported their husbands, but added to their creativity. 
I also read of how women influenced their children – Robert Burns learned not only from his father, but from his aunt’s stories and his mother singing the traditional ballads. 

Scottish author Sara Sheridan has written a new book where all the names in Scotland are female names!
Where are the Women? (2019) Sara Sheridan
Margaret MacDonald
Elsie Inglis

 A Few Examples

Elsie Inglis: Female hero honoured in Serbia. There is no statue to her in Edinburgh, only  plaque in st Giles, she brought hygiene to war conditions and saved many lives. 
**Elsie Inglis, doctor and suffragette, who fundraised for the first Scottish Women’s Hospitals (SWH)  hospice for poor women Edinburgh in 1894. She attended Edinburgh medical school and qualified from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Edinburgh. She trained at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson’s new hospital for women London and later at the Rotunda Dublin. She was appalled by the general standard of care and lack of specialization in the needs of female patients. 

She is best known for The Elsie Inglis maternity hospital and her war work when she set up the SWH for Foreign Service which sent medical teams to Belgium, France, Serbia, and Russia. After the British army turned her down she gained support from the French government. She was told – to go home and sit still by the UK war office! She went to Serbia and worked to improve hygiene to reduce typhus and other epidemics. She was awarded the Order of the White Eagle of Serbia

Margaret MacDonald
– (1864 -1933) Scottish artist whose design work became one of the defining features of the "Glasgow Style" during the 1890s.With her husband, renowned architect Rennie Mackintosh, she was one of the most influential members of the loose collective of the Glasgow Four. She exhibited at the 1900 Vienna Secession, where she was arguably an influence on the Secessionists Gustav Klimt and Josef Hoffman. Her husband Charles Macintosh said, Margaret is the genius, I have only the talent.’

Beverly Martyn, English singer songwriter (1947 - )
Apparently John Martyn wrote his best songs with Beverly Kutner, his wife, which she gets little credit for. Beverly had worked with Paul Simon, Nick Drake. They recorded three albums together before John was persuaded by the record label to go solo - Stormbringer, Road to Ruin and Bless the Weather. She played piano while they wrote songs together for Solid Air.  Beverly was then left on the house on the hill to raise their children. John toured and turned to alcohol. Beverly left him after ten years of marriage.    
Nelle Harper Lee (1926 – 2016), author of To Kill a Mocking bird, one of the best loved American classics. 

Sofonisba Anguissola (1550 Spain) 
Lavinia Fontana (1520 Italy) 
Artemisia Gentileschi (1615 Italy). 
Clara Peeters (1594) 
Lady Butler (1846 England) 
Berthe Morisot (1841 France) 
Karin Larsson (1859 Sweden)  
Margaret MacDonald (1864 Scotland) 
Georgia O'Keefe (1887 America) 
Elsie Inglis -  (1864 –1917) Scottish doctor and suffragette,
Muriel Spark – (1918 – 2006) Scottish author
Margaret Macdonald – (1864 -1933) Scottish artist
Mary Somerville  (1780 – 1872)
Mary Barbour(1875  – 1958)


Friday, 17 May 2019

Victoria Morton's painting Soliton Kelvingrove


At Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, from the Hamilton Bequest (since 1927), there are world-renowned works by Glasgow Boys William Kennedy, Scottish Colourist Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell and painter Joan Eardley as well as Monet's View of Ventimiglia and The Young Girls by American Impressionist Mary Cassatt.

The final paintings are by Scottish abstract painter Victoria Morton's Soliton hangs at the gallery's south east stairs next to Salvador Dali's Christ of St John of the Cross.
As an art student, she came to Kelvingrove and was inspired by the Scottish Colourists and the French Impressionist collection. The colours in her work and the broken brush she is looking back to past master examples: a sensory experience.



" Morton's paintings are closely connected to her practice as a musician (she sings as well as playing bass recorder, piano and analogue synthesizer). Working through painting, sculpture, found objects, photography and sound, the artist explores colour perception, expression and non-verbal communication. "They were very open-minded," 



Morton, "I wanted to make a series of works where people could just walk in and experience them all at once, almost like they were different movements in a piece of music. I was thinking about broad and universal themes like light and sound and the physics of sound. The name Soliton comes from a type of wave form that exists in nature and also in physics. I was interested in that sound aspect because I work with music as well. "Soliton is quite a sensory piece. There is a direct connection to music and waveforms. I wanted to make a large scale, abstract expressionist painting that relates to real experiences. I love colour and the effect it has. Colour is a type of waveform, so there are different frequencies at play.”


Scottish Women Writers

*Catherine Carswell 1876 – 1946
Carswell wrote of the worlds of Europe and Glasgow. Carswell was a professional reviewer for the Herald newspaper. She wrote of great women characters of modern fiction: vulnerable, tough, bright and strong. 

Biography Robert Burns (1930):The Sage Pilgrimage (1932); the Tranquil Heart (1937),
The Scottish world is not for Joanna: Italy and Europe must be experienced before she can fully inhabit her potential


*Nan Shepherd(1893 – 1981)
`The Quarry Wood, The Weatherhouse, A Pass in the Grampians. Shepherd wrote of identity and freedom; landscape and spirituality; responsibility and choice. Her most famous book is  The Living Mountain (1977).


*Willa Muir (1890 – 1970)
Women: An Enquiry (19250, Mrs Grundy in Scotland (1936), Imagined corners (1931); Mrs Ritchie (1933), Living with ballads (1963); Belonging (1968)

Aileen Christenson’s critical study moving in circles on Willa Muir’s writings (2007)

All three have either place in any canon of modern literature, write Alan Raich. Scotland should be glad to give them acclaim.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Our Culture of Violence (posted in 2005)


I’m writing about the tragic death of a young 20yr-old boy ( he was a tall rugby player) who lived behind us here in a northern suburb of Glasgow. He was violently and indiscriminately attacked in the centre of Glasgow by two youths.  A recent study from California cited Scotland as having the highest rates of Youth violence in the world. When it reaches so close to home, it shocks and horrifies us all. 

As I pick up the Evening Times I read of further attacks. Apparently the two Youths involved in the random attack, injured several others the same night. My son works as a junior doctor in Glasgow and those on call in the Infirmary talked of the numbers brought in injured that same night. It was a Friday night after an Old Firm clash. 

We live in a Culture of Violence, that starts in the home and spread out into the community at large. Add to this a cocktail of alcohol over-indulgence and ease of access to drugs, and you have a lethal combination, a powder keg just waiting to explode.  

 Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, recently suggested in the press that it was time for an Open Debate on this pressing subject.  Perhaps we need to look at other cosmopolitan areas such as New York, which used to have a high level of violence, and adopted a zero tolerance approach several years ago – which meant targeting young criminals and the smallest crimes, before it leads to the more serious ones.  My daughter was there this summer and found New York a safer city to walk around in than Glasgow. We also need to tackle the alcohol and drug abuse problems, through education and through stricter laws on selling alcohol to the very young.   

The introduction of laws banning physical violence in the home may help to raise awareness that violence towards others is not acceptable behaviour in our society. This also raises questions about our society’s attitude to violence generally, as a way of controlling others. There are other more successful ways of coping with problems and with young children. Another problem is the severe lack of male role models for many young boys growing up here, and the fact that Scotland has such a high rate of single parent families.

The second issue is attitudes to binge drinking. We glorify ‘being drunk’ and ‘binge drinking’ in Scotland – as if it is something to be proud of.  A whole generation is being caught up in a cheap triple alcoholic haze. Do we care? Well we should. We set the example by what we do and say. My view is it is the entire ‘Culture’ and attitudes here in Scotland that have to change, and not about a few experts telling the less fortunate to behave better. 

It is time we looked seriously at these and other alternative ways of behaving, before youth violence escalates even further on our streets.