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Visiting the Scotland Street Museum

A middle-aged woman in traditional teacher's costume fixes me in her stare.

"How dare you interrupt my class? I will belt your bottom until it's red raw!"

No, you have not stumbled upon an extract from a new installment of the Fifty Shades series. I have come to Scotland Street School in Tradeston, Glasgow, where the woman is the star turn in a re-enactment of a Victorian classroom.

Designed by Charles Rennie Macintosh, it opened in 1905 to educate 1250 primary school children. Due to declining numbers, the school shut its gates in 1979. The architectural gem found purpose again in 1997 as a museum of education, which is how I find it on a dreich Thursday afternoon. A school day.

Mackintosh drew inspiration from Falkland Palace for his two glass turrets which grace the front. And its façade is palatial. Inside, the school appears similar to any Victorian era school; cold clinical tiling on the walls; exposed piping feeding into wrought iron heaters. But the beauty is in the detail. Each window has a single stained glass panel of Mackintosh's Glasgow Rose design.

As I walk down the breezy corridors I feel a presence. I hear the murmur of children's voices, but it's so vague I think I must be imagining it.

As I inspect a particularly decorative dart, a well-dressed older gentleman chuckles at my ignorance. "It's a fountain pen", he croaks. Now approaching 80-years-old, he attended the school in the 1940s. Were it not for a bend in his back he would stand far taller than me. His broad shoulders tell me he was an athletic younger man.

His memories are positive. "On a winter's morning we had to leave the milk on the radiator to let it thaw". I remind him free milk is gone from many schools. He shakes his head. "Aye, they were better times, there's no doubt. Simpler, but better."

Climbing Mackintosh's elaborate staircase, a view of Glasgow is laid out through the turret's panoramic glass front. I can hear the noise of children chatting again, louder this time.

The source of the noise is behind a heavy wooden door marked 4B. Slowly, I poke my head round the creaky old thing. The chatting dies instantly as small faces gawk at me from behind single wooden desks. It's the teacher with the piercing stare and the tawse. I leave faster than a child playing British bulldog.

Scotland Street School Museum is opposite Shields Road subway station on the south side of Glasgow. Entry is free. It is open every day and there are regular workshops and other events. Call 0141 287 0500 or email museums@glasgowlife.org.uk.

Aidan McLure

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Education

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