Overtoun Park Bandstand
By Carol Foreman
© Rutherglen Heritage Society
Erected in the park in 1914, the bandstand has been a much loved landmark for generations of Ruglonians. Here, Carol Foreman tells the story of the bandstand, focusing on its travels to UK garden festivals in the 1980s, and highlights its current poor condition due to historical neglect.
The photo above from the 1950s shows the bandstand in Overtoun Park in its second position in the park. It was originally at the Mill Street end. Created by Walter Macfarlane & Co. at their Saracen Foundry in Possilpark, it bears the inscription ‘Presented by Sir James Fleming, Knight of Woodburn to the Corporation of the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen 1914.’
The bandstand was dismantled and transported to Stoke-on-Trent on loan for their 1986 Garden Festival. On its return, it was again removed from the park, this time, to be erected at the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988.
Arriving at the south side of Bell’s Bridge visitors made their way into the enclosure to hand over their tickets before progressing through the huge ornamental gates modelled on the work of Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. Ahead, was the Overtoun Bandstand restored to its original dark blue and gold glory. Standing on a stepped base at the top of the High Street, it was a major venue for day-to-day events and concerts.
The High Street had over 20 single-storey shops as well as street cafes and restaurants. A picnic area featured a giant teapot, cup and saucer sponsored by Stoke-on-Trent as thanks for being allowed the use of the bandstand in 1986.
The Festival souvenir shop was near the bandstand and the Tourist Information Centre was at the other end of the High Street. The design of the High Street incorporated five towers styled to represent the city’s most famous spires, such as Trinity College, Glasgow University, The Tolbooth, The Tron and the ‘Greek’ Thomson Tower.
Leading from the High Street across the railway track was the ‘Rendezvous’ meeting point where visitors returned to again and again, as it was from where most journeys throughout the Festival site started and finished.
The first image is a section of a plan of the Festival layout which shows exactly where the bandstand was situated. It was the first building to be reached on entering the site from the south side of Bell’s Bridge. As we can see, the High Street was forward of the bandstand. Top middle is the ‘Rendezvous meeting point.
Left, map showing the location of the bandstand at the 1988 Glasgow Garden Fesival
The second image shows the bandstand with its bright blue roof standing out at the start of the High Street. As the bridge is open in the view this would have been to allow the PS Waverley that plied the river during the Festival to pass through. Inset is the Festival logo.
Right, aerial photograph of the Glasgow Garden Festival, showing the bandstand in the centre. Painted black in recent years, the bandstand's colour at the Garden Festival was blue.
After the Garden Festival, the bandstand was re-erected at its present site in the park where it lay neglected and in bad repair. In 2014 however, the bandstand’s centenary, Rutherglen residents pleaded with South Lanarkshire Council to save it and went on to the Rutherglen Facebook site to express their concerns.
According to a Rutherglen Reformer article in July 2015, one user wrote on the site: ‘It’s sad to see it being neglected.’ Another said, ‘Such a sad sight. A shadow of its former glory.’ Someone even wanted it put back to its original place in the park.
Left, the bandstand at the Glasgow Garden Festival, 1988
Image credit: Jim Bolton
Local artist John Quinn posted pictures he had taken of the bandstand alongside one that had been taken years ago when it had been in good condition. ‘Comparing with what it looked like in days gone by’ he said, ‘now it’s suffering from vandalism and neglect and if it cannot be monitored within the park it should be moved elsewhere.’
He suggested it could be moved to David Walker House as there is an area at the front where it could be used to put on concerts and events for the residents. John went on to say: ‘In 2013 the Queen Victoria Fountain in the park was painted and it looked beautiful but the bandstand was left. It was gifted to the people of Rutherglen in 1914 yet 2014 passed without any sort of memorial.’
Despite the Facebook comments, in 2015, Council leader Eddie McAvoy whose ward covers the park told the Reformer no-one had approached him about the bandstand. He said: ‘The bandstand should be kept to a high standard of maintenance, but I haven’t had a single complaint about it’
Stephen Kelly, Head of Facilities, Waste and Ground Services was reported in the Reformer article as saying: ‘While we understand the concerns of the public’, there are no plans to upgrade the bandstand at this time. However, arrangements are currently being made to repair the damage to the internal ceiling and to paint the pillars. We would be happy to look at suggestions by any local groups on the future use of the bandstand.’
Source: Rutherglen Reformer
Above, painting of the bandstand by John Quinn, 2015
Today, the bandstand's predominant colour is black. At the Stoke-on-Trent and Glasgow Garden festivals in the 1980s, it was mostly blue. It is likely however, that the original colour of the roof was red. Three people we talked to confirm this, while another person said it was green with a red roof!
There are old postcards which show other structures in and around Overtoun Park painted red, including the 1897 Queen Victoria Fountain (see the link at the end of this page), the park gates in Mill Street and the shelter at the bowling club adjoining the park. It seems unlikely that the bandstand would have been painted a different colour. Also, there are recollections and pictorial evidence of council vehicles being red before the town was absorbed into Glasgow.
Local artist John Quinn, who kindly allowed us to use his painting of the bandstand (above) commented as follows: 'Not sure of its original colour but an early photo on Rutherglen or Auld Rutherglen [Facebook pages] shows it pink! It was certainly blue at the time it went to the Garden festivals and that blue colour is now beginning to show as the black paint is peeling off with its sad neglect.'
The photo, perhaps from the 1960s or 70s, does indeed show the bandstand as pink, suggesting the colour had faded from its original red.
Right, a concert taking place in the 'pink' bandstand.
Image credit: John Quinn
The Council did paint the pillars as this image of 2016 shows. However, they were slapped over with black paint instead of restoring them to their garden festival blue colour.
The guttering was also painted black. However, the golden coronet and some of the original ironwork was left.
As to suggestions on the future use of the bandstand, many were given, but no regard taken.
Left, the bandstand photographed in 2016.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Moving on four years to 2020, the bandstand is still neglected as this collage demonstrates.
The top image shows that there are still vestiges of blue and yellow in the coronet half-way down the roof which is in bad condition externally.
The next two images show damage to the internal ceiling with bits missing here and there. However, fortunately, the ornamental wrought iron brackets are still in faded blue and gold, albeit, some are damaged.
The image bottom left shows a large area of gutter missing. Again, some of the original colouring is evident. There are damaged bits of guttering all round the canopy, but the section shown is the worst. Also revealed is part of a bracket hanging loose.
Bottom right shows one of the black painted pillars where the paint wearing off exposes the original blue colour underneath.
Who knows what’s next for the bandstand? I certainly don’t. However, I do know it would be iniquitous if it was to fall into such disrepair that it was not restorable and its resting place would be a scrap yard. What an ignominious ending that would be for one of Rutherglen’s once beautiful, historic landmarks.
Carol Foreman is the author of Made in Scotland, Glasgow Street Names, Hidden Glasgow, Lost Glasgow, Made in Scotland and Glasgow from the Air. She is a noted local historian and lives in Rutherglen.
Rutherglen Reformer: full article from July 2015 reporting on residents' concerns about the condition of the bandstand.
Scottish Ironwork Foundation website. Photograph of the park's Queen Victoria Jubilee fountain in its red colour.
Pavilions for Music website: provides database of British bandstands and promotes their continued use.