Glasgow Police Boxes. The Scottish TARDIS
With Doctor Who returning to our screens and Glasgow's own Peter Capaldi taking on the role this weekend I decided to take in some TARDIS boxes lying about the streets of our fair city on my weekend run.
Doctor Who was something I was really into as a child, when Tom Baker had the role. I was an avid reader of all the Doctor Who books that came out in those days, my favourites being anything written by Terrence Dicks. When I was 8 years old we went in to get Tom Baker to sign one of them, in a book shop in town. My brother has never really got over his name being omitted by the great man, and added as an afterthought when prompted by my mum. The inscription reads something like "For Paul aged 7 from Doctor Who (777). Tom Baker, (and Peter too)".
|Tom Baker signed my book - happy days!|
Now watching with my own children we got into the revived Doctor Who series on BBC, but after David Tennant left the role I rather lost interest. The acting was getting too silly and the storylines just daft. My children have stuck with it though, and I fancy that tonight we will all give it another go to see if Peter Capaldi can get it back on track.
We recently went on a family holiday to Wales and a highlight for us all was the Doctor Who museum in Cardiff. It was far more slick than the one I visited in Blackpool in about 1984 and I was just as excited by the old TARDIS consoles as I was by the numerous costumes that they had there (I mean "my children were just as excited...").
|Exhibit at the Doctor Who Experience, Cardiff|
|Exhibits at the Doctor Who Experience, Cardiff|
I came up with the idea of trying to jog around all the existing Glasgow Police Boxes after a visit recently to the Bo'ness Motor Museum. Like the old Blackpool Doctor Who museum, this is a home made museum created by a fan (on this occasion largely of James Bond, whose cars and props make up most of the exhibits). It's a great wee museum and I'd encourage you to visit it. Amongst its rather random displays there is an old TARDIS, salvaged from a BBC storeroom many years ago.
In the first episode of Doctor Who in 1963 he had landed in a London junkyard and his time machine and spaceship (Time and Relative Dimensions In Space) had blended into its surroundings by taking on the appearance of a Police Box. The clever trick of the "chameleon circuit" becoming stuck in this guise helped the early programme makers keep the show within budget.
|A TARDIS in Bo'ness Motor Museum|
Glasgow Police Boxes
Glasgow now has six old Police boxes on the streets, which I think is more than any other UK city. In the days before many people had a phone in their house this was the way for people to call for help. Unlike Doctor Who's flimsy looking thing these were made of concrete, apart from the wooden front door which opened. As well as a phone they contained some items a policeman may require such as an incident book and first aid kit. At one time there were 323 of these boxes on the streets of Glasgow, only 10 remained by 1994 and a decade later there were only 4. In the past year or so 2 more have been returned to the streets of Glasgow. Until 1982 the GPO maintained all telephone lines in the UK. Unlike the rest of the UK where Police boxes were painted blue, the post office maintained the Glasgow Police boxes, and therefore painted them red like their post boxes.
Starting with the Glasgow police box which lies furthest to the east takes us to Barrowland Park at the city centre end of London Road.
|Police box on London Road, Barrowland Park behind it|
|Barrowlands Park walkway by Jim Lambie|
Famous for his works using colour, lines and popular culture there is an exhibition of more of Jim Lambie's work at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh at present. He is apparently not related to John Lambie, famous for his use of colourful language to get the red 'n' yellow lines of Partick Thistle setting the football world alight in the 1990s. (Follow this link to some of his work, which may contain strong language).
|High Street at Cathedral Street, Glasgow|
|The High Street police box starts to dematerialise if you |
photograph it with the sun behind it
|King Billy on a horse|
|Wilson Street Police box, Glasgow|
|On Wilson Street the Doctor is declaring his referendum voting intentions|
|Duke of Wellington and traffic cone(s)|
|Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow|
|Buchanan Street Police box|
|Buchanan Street, Glasgow|
|Cars (barely) on display at Glasgow's Riverside Museum|
|Red Police box on Sauchiehall Street|
|Police sign now replaced by Evening Times|
I finally jogged along Great Western Road to find the box I am most familiar with at the top of Byres Road, as I pass it regularly on my way to watch Partick Thistle play at Firhill up the road from here. Again until recently it was used as a coffee shop and is in good nick at present.
|Police box on Great Western Road, Glasgow|
So those are the Police boxes currently on show in Glasgow. The other 317 that we used to have appear to be long gone. The Glasgow Police boxes currently out on the street are now mostly B-listed and will hopefully not be swept aside in the name of modernisation.
A lesson to show that you never know when some old piece of junk will find a new set of fans.