Glasgow School of Art Fire – eyewitness report and pictures

IMG_5854 blaze near roof
As I sit down to write this, my clothes and hair smell of smoke. I’ve just witnessed a profound tragedy – the fire at Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building.

There’s huge sadness in the city. I saw people openly weeping in the streets. This was more than just a building. Iconic in terms of the world’s built heritage, the Mack was also part of this city’s heart and soul.

I became aware that something was happening when I looked out of my living room window at 1 pm and saw a plume of smoke rising above Garnethill. I picked up my camera and headed out and saw the worst of the blaze and so there are some pictures of what I saw below.

Glasgow’s School of Art is more than a building. It is a complex institution in which beauty, hope and challenge are forever interwoven. The Mack was indeed a precious icon but it was a working building which produces the art of today and of tomorrow. As I stood with students mourning losses today, there was already talk of what could be saved; what could be rebuilt. None of us looking on know what to make of what we have seen yet everyone seemed to want to talk of what would yet live, even as the smoke of what was burning was billowing around us.

For firefighters, emergency planners and police we give thanks. For students, alumni, administrators and staff we pray for peace. For bystanders, witnesses and for the whole of this creative, vibrant city, Lord we pray. Amen.

There will be prayers for all involved on Sunday in St Mary’s Cathedral, and no doubt across the city.

Christchurch, New Zealand

Turned on the radio an hour ago to hear about the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. Immediately began to think about New Zealanders whom I know and immediately realise who we will be praying for today in church in addition to those whom we have been thinking about in North Africa and the Middle East.

The the news that the quake has toppled the spire of Christchurch Cathedral itself. People describe the dust cloud rising from the debris.

Christchurch Cathedral, hmm.

I realise a connection. Soon after St Mary’s, Glasgow was built, the architect , Sir George Gilbert Scott began work on Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand.

I manage to find some pictures on Flickr. Apart from the apse at the East End, its essentially the same building as St Mary’s.

I gaze at the space that I know so well yet seemingly constructed from stone a world away. I think of the congregation there. Those who sat at worship in those seats but two days ago and shared Eucharist with us and with all God’s people.

O God,
be with the people of Christchurch this day.
In your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

[Pictures from Edwin Lee. jgraham and ken mccown]