(That’s the pupils at nearby St Francis Primary, incidentally, not the historians, architects and campaigners also working hard to bring this important building back to life, although they know stuff too.)
Eleven-year-olds Kiera, Amer, Ryan and Natanial, and Rohaan who is 12, have been learning about the gatehouse, which was designed by Charles Wilson and built in 1848.
Through the school’s links with Friends of the Southern Necropolis, the action group run by Colin and Elsie Mackie, the children have been helping to restore the cemetery and turn it into an environmental and educational hub.
Kiera reckons: “Restoring the gatehouse would let everyone know the history of the Gorbals.”
Rohaan says: “It is important to save the architect’s work, and it’s one of the oldest things in the Gorbals.”
“We should save the gatehouse because it is a great example of Charles Wilson’s work,” says Amer.
“It’s part of our local history,” says Ryan.
Natanial sums it up: “Generation to generation, we need to keep our history.”
As we launch our 2019 Streets Ahead awards, in association with our partners Glasgow City Council, City Building and City Charitable Trust, we caught up with previous winner Friends of the Southern Necropolis who are campaigning to save the gatehouse as part of ongoing plans to improve and restore the historic graveyard.
Colin Mackie explains: “The gatehouse of the Southern Necropolis has survived two world wars, the development of the Gorbals and the demolition of nearby high-rise flats on Caledonia Road. Charles Wilson, who designed the unique building, was laid to rest at his family plot in the here at the Southern Necropolis.”
Colin is hoping to secure funding from the Princes Regeneration Trust to allow restoration work to begin.
“The gatehouse was shortlisted before but sadly just missed out, so we hope this time round Friends of Southern Necropolis might be able to further raise the profile and strengthen support for the restoration and reuse of this special ‘window in time’ to the rich historical legacy of the Gorbals and Glasgow,” he says.
“Once restored the gatehouse (and the cemetery) would serve as a history and heritage hub for the community, and would be open to visits from local schools and community groups.”
Since receiving a Streets Ahead grant in 2014 and winning a Streets Ahead award for Best Clean Up Campaign in 2016, Friends of the Southern Necropolis has continued its transformation of the cemetery. Its most recent educational programme, the Resurrecting and Preserving History Project, has been a huge success.
St Francis Primary teacher Pauline Gleeson explains: “Our primary seven pupils are really enthusiastic about helping to save the gatehouse. It has been wonderful to visit the graveyard to learn about the past. It has enabled the pupils to develop a sense of responsibility for their local area and its history. Should the gatehouse be restored, this would be a fantastic additional outdoor learning resource.”
The pupils have created posters highlighting the importance of the gatehouse, and raising the profile of the Southern Necropolis as a valuable historical and educational asset to the community. FoSN also organised a visit to the school by Fiona Sinclair, the architect who was involved in the first feasibility study of the gatehouse.
Fiona said: “The gatehouse is one of the few buildings to have survived the dramatic changes to the Gorbals from the 1950s to the present day.
“It’s tremendously important as a symbol of the old Gorbals, and as an example of the early work of one of the city’s pre-eminent Victorian architects, Charles Wilson (designer of Park Circus). The Southern Necropolis was designed not only as a burial ground but as an area where trees, planting and paths provided respite from industry and densely packed tenements, and it still has the potential to be of considerable community benefit.
“The gatehouse itself is still capable of creative re-use, and would make a wonderful focal point for the area if restored and re-imagined.”
Graphic novel artist Henry Ponciano, who illustrated the Children Vampire Hunting Brigade books based on the legendary Gorbals Vampire, has created an artwork – featuring his characters standing outside the cemetery with a ‘Save Our Gatehouse’ banner.
Henry said: “I had fun illustrating images of the Southern Necropolis gatehouse. The views are astonishing, unique and beautiful. I hope we can all preserve our historical landmarks and traditions that makes us who we are.”
David Lucarelli, who wrote the stories, says: “Colin gave me a tour of the cemetery and I instantly fell in love with it, steeped as it is in history and lore. The majestic Gothic architecture of the gatehouse entrance is a key piece of what makes the Necropolis a national treasure. I’m happy to do what I can to help preserve the gatehouse and the cemetery for all the future child vampire hunters to come…”
There are many more great groups like Friends of the Southern Necropolis out there – we want to hear about them. Our annual celebration, the Streets Ahead Awards, is open for nominations now until the closing date of April 26.
To nominate, visit the dedicated awards website at newsquestscotlandevents.com/streetsahead
For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0141 302 6019.
We will be awarding eight prizes, including an overall winner, to be announced at a special ceremony on June 18.
There will be trophies for the best garden, best clean-up campaign, best environmental initiative, best community garden, best community initiative and best business initiative, plus a schools award.
Don’t miss our Streets Ahead coverage in tomorrow’s newspaper and online at www.eveningtimes.co.uk when we catch up with another awardwinner to inspire you to get involved.