LITTLE ghosts fill our city and you probably walk past them every day without even noticing.

Echoes of the past – families, livelihoods and businesses – haunt Glasgow’s streets. Mostly faded, sometimes peeling and often looked over by all except those on the lookout.

Ghost signs are all around us and yesterday a group of history enthusiasts have launched an exhibition showcasing their best finds.

The Ghost Signs of Glasgow Exhibition has set up shop in a studio in Bridgeton’s Rogart Street for the next month.

Merryn Kerrigan, who coordinates the project alongside Jan Graham, said: “They’re faded signs of shopfronts and we document them to tell their stories and history.”

In a spooky coincidence, the project finds itself linking between pandemics, with Jan’s favourite exhibit on display the Wylie and Lochhead sign in Mitchell Street, behind the Frasers building, the old site of their upholstery workshop.

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She said there was a special resonance with our current circumstances to this exhibit because of the turmoil of the past year.

“They made their name during a pandemic in the 19th century [the cholera outbreak of 1832] as undertakers, that was their forte and they grew the business,” said Jan.

Another fascinating sign in the collection is the sign for the Sick Children’s Dispensary in West Graham Street. It’s held dear by the project’s two coordinators because it now forms part of the Glasgow School of Art, where both studied. It was a daily sight for them when going to and from campus.

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It was established in 1888, funded by donations by philanthropic Victorians, at a time when Glasgow had one of the worst rates of child mortality in Europe and provided urgent care to poor, ill youths, lessening the burden on the existing children’s hospital.

Looking at some of the displays may fill viewers with a strong impulse to have them preserved forever, with the beautiful hand-painted signs far more elegant than the plastic and neon which fill the modern high street.

But it would be impossible to preserve ghost signs as they are, explained Jan, because they disappear and reappear at various points in history, passing in and out of view over the years.

“It’s quite important this project because a lot of these are quite ephemeral and can disappear as fast as they appear,” she said.

“It’s a part of Glasgow’s heritage often at risk of being lost. They are vulnerable to development, people paint them over when they take over a business. So it’s a way of researching that, archiving them and keeping a lasting memory of it.”

They have a digital archive of signs across the city on their Flickr page, which also includes information the dedicated team of researchers have unearthed by trawling through deeds and historical records in the Mitchell Library.

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Prior to the pandemic, the Ghost Signs team hosted tours around the city, showcasing the obscure and hiding-in-plain-sight advertisements and shopfronts of Glasgow’s past.

The exhibition was curated by Jan and Merryn with the help of two volunteers, Lucia Marquez-Leaman and Juile Sheridan, who researched the histories of some of the signs. It will run Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm until September 19, when it will move to the Arlington Baths in the West End for a few months before heading to Maryhill Burgh Halls.

It’s hoped that the display can be located in the city’s South Side in time for the Govanhill Festival next year.