Friday, January 17, 2014

A wally close

"Through in the west" is where our friends live. I'm surprised and interested that Veg Artist picked this out as being - as I suppose it must be - a Scottish expression. I can't think what other people would say. "Over in the west"? "Across in the west"? Maybe just "in the west"?

Here's another phrase, then. These pictures are of a "wally close". Is that clear?

Well, maybe not. That's certainly a Scottish way of putting it, particularly a west of Scotland way.

A close (pronounced "clo-" as in "clothes" and "-se" as in "cross" (so, maybe "cloh-ss") is a narrow lane between buildings or, in this case, the public entrance hall of a block of tenements (traditional flats). In Glasgow these were often tiled, partly for hygienic purposes but also to suit the taste of the time, which was probably the late 19th/early 20th century. Our friends had come across this particularly nice example so we popped in to have a look.

As you see, there are boats and a lighthouse and villages - a general coastal scene.

This is the view over the water which may have inspired them.

This is the next-door close - not nearly so artistic. 

And "wally"? (with a short "a" as in "apple" - nothing to do with walls). That means "china" or "pottery". So a wally close is a tiled hallway (to tenements). 

There are other "wally" things, for example wally dugs - those Staffordshire pottery dogs (etc) with flat backs that were made to stand against the wall on your mantelpiece.

And what might one's personal wallies be? As in "Ye'd better get yer wallies in - the meenister's at the door."

("Put in your false teeth - the minister's arriving.")

PS - if you're interested in the tiles, one of which says J Duncan, have a look at

The firm also did shop walls. 


  1. Gillie4:22 pm

    This is one of the reasons I read your blog, Isobel, I can go *home* again! I wondered if anyone would pick up the through comment, I suppose the *English* equivalent is in the west. Very posh Wally close, that's Glasgow for you..Dunfermline not so posh!

    Didn't comment but loved the first quilt in the last post.

    Had a giggle at the wallies and the meenister!

  2. Lovely tiles! We would say, "over in the west" or just "in the west" and guess west of where from context.
    "Wally" is a term I've never heard "in all my born days". So thank you for this interesting post!

    (And the first set of word verification "letters" were completely incomprehensible for this human. Maybe a robot could figure it out.......)

  3. What interesting tiles! We would say "out west"....there is a lot of land west of here.

  4. The use of the word through would suggest to me a tunnel or a gorge along the way.

    Wally for me has a completely different meaning .Wallace was the first name of my late father in law( such a dear man ) and R's second name.( Not with a short a sound )
    I like the tiled walls.

  5. Do you know which factory/factories made those beautiful tiles?

  6. Yes, one tile said J Duncan, so presumably James Duncan tile manufacturer of Glasgow.

  7. Thanks for the explanation, but for me the pictures were enough on their own! Those tiles (and the stained glass door in one photo) are absolutely beautiful. Don't you have vandals over there? Something like that over here would have been chipped away or sprayed over long ago...sigh..

  8. So very interesting... both the tiles and the expressions. On the U.S. east coast we say 'out west' when we mean the west coast. It's just 'to the west' for any place closer to home. Funny, it's one of those things I never gave much thought to previously.

  9. What a coincidence - I got a text from my mother today telling me she had been to the dentist to have her partial plate fixed more firmly. It said "No longer shoogling my wallies!"

  10. I really enjoyed this post. Loved the photos, love that your alleyways, I mean closes, are tiled so prettily and love that I will be able to recognise and correctly pronounce this phenomenon should I ever make it back to Scotland.

  11. Living in West Wales as I do, any further west and we'd be in the sea, so we just refer to places by their names. I don't often go 'east'!!
    Love the tiles, too.

  12. Oooh, look at those gorgeous tiles! As always, you're a font of information -- what interesting uses for the word "wallie" -- none of which I'd ever heard before. That's not a word that we use. As for west -- we say out west -- as in, "my family lives out west" or "we're going out west in a few weeks". If it's fairly close to here we'd say "just west of here".


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