July 1950: “William Power Continues his Reminiscences and Recalls the Days When Glasgow Had its Own Bohemia”

An article on page four of the Daily Record, on Tuesday the 18th of July, 1950, reads:


WILLIAM POWER continues his reminiscences and recalls the days when Glasgow had its own Bohemia


WHEN I was a smallish boy, living in a top flat on the north-east side of Arlington Street, Glasgow, the people I envied

most in all the world were the Fulchers, who occupied a corresponding house, but one with full-size attics and a balustrated

roof, in what is now Ashley Street.


With opera-glasses, I had a tantalising view of them taking tea among the chimney-pots and head-shaking ‘old wives,’ against

the background of Garnethill and hazy Port-Dundas.


John Fulcher, head of this fortunate family, was the composer of ‘Hurrah for the Highlands!’ In his younger days he had been

the chief solo singer at the great Burns Birth-Centenary Banquet in Glasgow’s City Hall. Our district was a home of the Arts and

a highly respectable Bohemia.


That fine musician, Lambeth, the City Organist, was a familiar figure, in a velvet jacket and broad-brimmed hat; as was also his

brilliant successor, J. K. Strachan. Close by dwelt Duncan Smythe, a noted vocalist and choir-leader. A near neighbour of ours

was Mrs. Smith, a splendid singer and a very handsome woman.


In one of the joined-up villas facing the back of our house, lived for a time the famous violinist, Elkan Kosman, whom I often heard

practising. He married a Glasgow woman. In the adjoining villa dwelt the two Brothers Hoek, one of them a sculptor, who afterwards

made a name for himself in Belgium, the other the organist of Park Church, and a fine pianist.


An unforgettable experience was lying awake on summer nights, when windows were wide open, and listening to the musician Hoek

playing the sonatas of Beethoven. Things like the ‘Waldstein’ ‘brought all Heaven before my eyes.’ My younger brother, James, became

a fine organist.


Near-by, W. L. Renwick was studying literature, and Alfred Mylne yacht designing. Memories of Glassford Bell survived in St George’s

Road. Garnethill, with the School of Art, the residences and studios of Robert Brydall, A. K. Brown, Macfarlane Shannan and many

other artists, and its ‘theatrical lodgings,’ was a kind of Montmartre.


In the streets nearby one would see many interesting people, mostly unknown to me by name, but all of them executants of some

sort — stalwart, grizzled-bearded men in kilt and glengarry, moustachioed signors who were probably Irish, and handsome,

clever-looking young women. From many of the houses came sounds of arias, ‘cellos and bassoons.


Bohemia, of whatever sort, is never wealthy. Its average denizen forgoes luxury for art. A good few of the houses in the district around

St George’s Road were oldish, ground-floor and slightly sunk. They were many-roomed and low-rented. There might have been a

touch of mildew. But at night it was overborne by the smell of something nice frying for supper.


The company was jolly, and genially clever; the music and the talk delightful. There was no B.B.C. to do all our singing and playing,

and thinking and talking, for us. We enjoyed doing them for ourselves. St. Matthew’s Church clock was sulkily proclaiming two or

three before the merry party, after a deoch an doruis of hot toddy, sang and talked their way home.


Dear old smoky, disfigured, despised tenement-Glasgow, grimy nursery of bravely romantic souls, lovers of art and song and

brightly compassionate discourse!


That was happiness. Those were the days. I could live them over again. But ‘where is now the merry party?’ Dead and gone, or

buried alive in Bungalovia, playing bridge and listening to the wireless.”



The article includes a sketch-portrait of William Power.



The British Newspaper Archive.



George Fairfull-Smith, August 2023.