Minutes of an Ordinary Meeting of the Old Glasgow Club
Held at Adelaides, 209 Bath Street
On Thursday 11th April 2013 at 7.30pm
Ms Sannachan (President)
Ms Sannachan welcomed everyone to the meeting and explained the fire drill procedure and housekeeping rules. It was
requested that all mobile phones be put to silent or turned off.
The minutes of the last ordinary meeting held on Thursday 14th March were approved, proposed by Margaret Thom and
seconded by Petrina Cairns.
Ms Sannachan welcomed everyone to the last ordinary meeting of the session and thanked everyone, new and old and for
their continued support over the year and reminded everyone that the AGM was on Thursday 9th May, 7pm at the Ciity Chambers.
Ms Sannachan said that Glasgow City Heritage Trust, 54 Bell Street had an exhibition on at the moment which might be of interest
to us : Glasgow Shops – The Development of a Retail Empire. The exhibition is running until Monday 3rd June.
Ms Sannachan said that she had received another request for information. This time it was from a member of Hampden Bowling
Club, who was looking for any information and photographs on the original Hampden Football Park. Ms Sannachan asked if anyone
has any information that they pass it on to one of the OGC Directors.
Ms Sannachan prompted us on the request at last months meeting from Susan Grant of Caledonian University, who was looking
for any memories, maps or photographs of Cowcaddens before the University had been built there. This request is still ongoing
and there is a meeting at the University on the 24th April to register your interest. Tea will be at 3.15pm. All the information is
available to view on the Caledonian www.gcu.ac/archives/gcu/
Mrs McNae asked if everyone had taken a note of upcoming Old Glasgow Club dates.
Tappit Hen on 23rd May – this is not just a bowling competition, it’s also a social event. Just turn up and enjoy the night.
It is taking place this year at Kelvingrove Bowling Green, and afterwards we will retire to a local hostelry fro a buffet.
JAS Memorial Walk 1st June – Past President, Mr Brian D Henderson is leading a walk around Kinning Park and Plantation. We will be
meeting at Kinning Park Underground Station at 11am. The walk will last approximately one and a half hours.
Old Glasgow Club Annual Outing – Trip to Inverary Castle and grounds (guided tour of castle) and then a walk around Inveraray.
Mrs McNae asked if everyone had looked at the Old Glasgow Club shop where there is Club merchandise for sale and information
on current and upcoming events.
New Glasgow Library App – you can now find a title, reserve, borrow or renew it on your app firstname.lastname@example.org
New Bridgeton Library – The library is now opened in the refurbished Olympia building in Bridgeton. As well as the library, the
Govan Stones – discover this unique collection of early medieval stones. One of our members has just become a volunteer guide.
More information on www.thegovanstones.org.uk/
New Get Into Govan – A new website where you can find out about all things Govan, past and present. www.getintogovan.com/
Aye Write – starts tomorrow, Friday 12th April and runs until Saturday 20th April. More info on www.ayewrite.com
Glasgow Museums – For up to date exhibition information and details of Summer opening hours visit
Ms Sannachan introduced Mr John Park and Mr George Parsonage who will give a talk on The Glasgow Humane Society.
George Parsonage – “Good evening, this is John Park and I was born in a park”.
John Park - I noticed from an extract that your organisation was founded in and around 1900 – The Glasgow Humane Society
are 223 years old. I understand that some of you may have heard of us but I was intrigued about your Club. Stories of Glasgow
washing greens, the glories of Govan, The Police, and further down your list, The Tall Ship. That is the other end of the scale
from our small boats.
My purpose this evening was to do an introduction for five minutes (or until George butts in). I will tell you some history and
George will tell you the sexy stuff.
The Glasgow Humane Society is one of the oldest organisations of its kind in the world. At that time attempted suicide was a crime and
anyone going to the rescue of someone in the river who might be trying to commit suicide was in danger of being thought to be
an accessory. People were not therefore eager to go to help their fellow men and women who were in trouble.
The Glasgow Humane Society is a unique charitable Institution. James Coulter, a wealthy Glasgow Merchant died in 1778, leaving
£200 in his will to help found a Humane Society, as a beginning or raising fund for removing deceased or people in trouble from
Under direction of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons a letter was written to the London Humane Society to receive a copy
of the aims of their Society.
On August 16th 1790 the inaugural meeting was held in the Tontine Hotel.
Gilbert Hamilton, ex Dean of Guild was elected President, and Robert Cleghorn, of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Secretary.
In 1790 a great deal of Glasgow’s life was centered on it’s shallow river which frequently flooded up to the Cross and on to it’s
Green. The Green was always crowded, women washing clothes, children bathing and men fishing. Drownings were all too frequent.
Apparatus was kept at locations near to the River, like the Washing House on Glasgow Green. Money was paid and medals were given
to those who helped in rescue or ran for assistance.
Various persons were Society Officers during the first fifty years. Among those were Robert Jones, John Wiseman, Robert Duncan,
James Baird, Duncan Downie, John McLean, James Geddes and John Geddes.
It was decided that a boat should be stored at Glasgow Green and the first house was erected here in 1795.
Introducing the Geddes family. In 1859 George Geddes I becomes Officer until he passes away in 1889.
In 1889 George’s son also named George (II) was appointed officer. He was awarded various medals for his rescues, including
a silver medal from the Royal Humane Society and Gold Medal at the World Lifesaving Championships in Paris, 1900..
It continued to be a family affair. Fortunately there was a man to succeed and his name was Ben Parsonage who was already giving
sterling service to George Geddes II and had taken part in several rescues. When George died in 1932 Ben Parsonage took sole
charge until his death in 1979. And, when Ben died, George Parsonage was his natural successor.
George is an artist and sculptor, as well as being a good swimmer. He is a Member British Empire (M.B.E) and is the most decorated
Humane Society Officer, ever. He also has two degrees, etc………
I think George can speak for himself about the society he so nobly serves.
George Parsonage - Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
A young reporter kept looking for a story from my Dad, “I’m busy” my Dad would say. There was lots of publicity but my Dad was
quite shy. The reporter from the Daily Record didn’t give up and turned up one day when my Dad was in the boat. “Do persons drown
here often” ? “No son, just once” and then my Dad shoved off into the water leaving a bemused reporter behind.
The prevention of accidents is my main charge, we strive for better safety along our waterways. Universities, schools, clubs, all come
to us for assistance. By virtue of being in the water so much we see tell tale signs and often see accidents before they happen.
665 accidents and 22 lives have been prevented and saved in the past 20 years. We are proactive, not reactive. There is a notice
board near us with rules and guidelines for safe use of the River Clyde.
Around 0900 one June morning, I was informed by Police patrol that there was an old lady who had gone missing and had last been
Seen by the River Kelvin in Kelvingrove Park. Not being able to get very far, family and Police feared the worst. It’s always sad when
you think that you are going to recover a body. I always scour the banks before I go into the water. It just happens that Dumbarton
Bridge had scaffolding around it at that time. I heard moaning from under the bridge so I tied ropes and slid down to the water and
there was the old lady hanging on to the scaffolding under the bridge. The old lady was very tired and cold and with assistance from
another officer we managed to get her out of the water and on to a stretcher. We ran down Church Street and kicked in the doors of
Casualty. The only reason that she had survived so long were the facts that it was a warm June night and because her arms were so
strong from walking with sticks. She had held on hour after hour. That she had clung on so long, what a will to live.
Over the years I have had the ability to be at the right place at the right time. Had we not had a hoax call then we would not have
Been able to save the worker that had fallen in. I also seem to have developed a 6th sense and have acted on premonition at times,
Have gone upstream instead of going downstream as asked and saved the life of a man.
I don’t use the word suicide, I see them as regrettable accidents. I don’t think that anybody has the right to damn people who are
seen to take their own lives.
Things are not always as they seem anyway. A man was seen taking off his jacket and clothes and it was assumed that the man
was taking his own life. The man had gone into the water after he had seen a man with all his clothes on going in. Had my Dad
not found the clothed body it would have been assumed that the man seen disrobing had taken his own life, as would have the
old lady been considered a suicide.
We took part in the Queen’s Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant onf the 3rd June, 2012. We were one of the 1,000 boats that took part
and were the smallest rowing boat. The Queen and I have one thing in common, we were both born into the job.
What we do – we prevent accidents, we do water safety courses, we give total or additional safety cover at events, we keep watching
briefs on river and riverbank users, we have a Lifeguard Corp, we have developed a network of public helping to make a safer
We work in conjunction with Strathclyde Emergencies Co-ordination Group, Clydeport, BASICS, Glasgow City Council Water Safety
Working Group, Glasgow City Council Culture and Sport, Maritime and Coastguard Agency , Royal Life Saving Society and have given
advice or assistance to Strathclyde Police, Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, Lake of Menteith Rowing Club, Glasgow College of Nautical
Studies, Glasgow Science Centre.
We give advice on access routes, lighting of bridges, access gates etc on building works being undertaken on River Clyde, River Kelvin,
Canals and Lochs.
Over the years we have had problems with local naming – The Ferry Nightclub, we used to get calls saying there was somebody in
the water at The Renfrew Ferry. Differenf ferry, different location.
We have to get the names correct. George 5th Bridge and Kings Bridge (some people call King George 5th Bridge). The Suspension
Bridge at Calton Place has no official name, you could call it Lower Suspension Bridge or you could call it South Portland Street
Suspension Bridge. We have to be specific.
One thing that may interest you, we do not have lifebuoy boxes because we do not want to give false security. What do you do if
you run to it and it is empty. We hang the lifebelts on a hook, where it is apparent if there is a lifebelt. We can put up 3 life belts
for the cost of a box and belt.
We have introduced some 500 lifebelts with GPS along the River Clyde, each have been given unique ID numbers. This means that
when you call 999 and give the number of the lifebelt it helps pinpoint the location of lifebelt at the control room. We have only
managed the River Clyde so far. Even after all these years we do not have lifebelts on River Kelvin or River Cart.
We have the highest amount of safety precautions put in place of anywhere in the world but unfortunately sometimes people think
that they know better than people who work the Clyde.
When they built the Tradeston Bridge, the very famous group of engineers that designed and built the bridge didn’t realise that the
River Clyde is tidal. They should have put up signs saying – only fall in at high tide.
Unfortunately sometimes people think they know better than the people that work the Clyde. If we are asked we can save Council
money and ratepayers money !
We have rules and guidelines for people using the rivers, there can be hundreds of people using the water at any given time.
We use people, we must learn from their mistakes and that is how we come up with the rules, past experience.
We encourage delegates to learn from us, and, us from them. Our stats each year are good but there is more that we could give.
We have so much to offer, so much more to offer.
Find out more at www.glasgowhumanesociety.com
Q – Could you tell us about the pictures ? What part did you take in the Jubilee Thames River Pageant ?
A – Very little. We were one of 1000 that started at Wandsworth and ended at Tower Bridge. We were the smallest rowboat taking part.
George – nobody is employed. I am voluntary just now. 5/6 years ago we were on a grant form Police Services. But things changed
overnight and we lost the £90,000 grant. We were left with quandaries, we were training people up. We are looking for the
correct person but I don’t think there will ever be another Ben Parsonage, another 24/7 person. Do you get the person first or
the money then the person.
John – that’s half of the answer. We have a core of volunteers and we have the necessary cover for the services that we offer. The
Society has many things that it turns its hands to. George cooperates with the Executive Board and long after we have gone out
to pasture or under the water we have to have plans in place for its future.
We have ideas for expansion of the boathouse to a museum and teaching facility to show the history of the Parsonage family.
To inform people of what we have done and what we plan to do. I really don’t think that the Councils could survive without the
Information we gave them, we have learned to charge them.
George – people help me but for the future we have to have concrete plans in place.
Q – You’re the riverman and your father before you. You know the river. I think the Clyde is a sad river, and underused compared
to other rivers all over the world?
A – Today it was overflowing with children, we had training camps on. Upstream of the river it is teeming with people, downstream
it is a different kettle of fish. Commonwealth Games, I wasn’t happy but when we got them, I said, “can we stop this bickering,
and can we all unite”. That’s the same as with the river, we filled in the docks etc when we shouldn’t have. We have great plans
for the future. We have to figure out the correct answers in utilising the river. We have got to remember that it was built as an
industrial river and not a leisure river. There are not many rivers in Europe that are as narrow and deep as the River Clyde.
Q – Will there be an improvement with these new yellow lifebelts.?
A – Yes, since with the information provided we can pinpoint where the lifebelt is instead of relying on people giving the correct
Q – What is your area covered?
A – I went wherever we were called, Loch Lomond, Greenock, Lochs etc. Wherever we were asked. It’s mostly advice now which is
new to us in the last 5 years, this advising etc. We were used to doing the high profile work of rescue. Glasgow, Lanarkshire,
Q – You thought somebody was looking after you, I think you are the one looking after others!?
A – Too often I have been out in the car, started arguing or similar and have turned around, back to the house. As I have got back to
the house I have found somebody looking for us, somebody had fallen in the river. Sixth sense.
Vote of thanks
Old Glasgow Club Director, Mr Ian Frame, thanked John Park and George Parsonage of The Glasgow Humane Society for their
vibrant and informative talk on the history and the behind-the-scene workings of the Society. It had very obviously been enjoyed
by all, given the amount of questions asked.
Q – The Molendinar flows into the River Clyde at ?
A – Glasgow Green, beside The Albert Bridge at The High Courts.
Winner – Anne White
Next Directors Meeting – Thursday 5th September
Next Ordinary Meeting - Thursday 12th September
Miss Sannachan wished all a safe journey home and reminded everyone about the A.G.M on the 9th May at City Chambers, 7pm.
Please bring along your Old Glasgow Club membership card, you may be asked for it when you sign in.
Director Old Glasgow Club