MJ STEEL COLLINS tells how a community centre in Glasgow has a ‘guardian’ to watch over it
The Pearce Institute is a large community centre that has served the community of Govan, Glasgow, well since it was opened in 1906, in the name of local MP and Baronet William Pearce.
Though somewhat reduced in capacity in comparison to its heyday, the Institute continues to be an important part of Govan.
In its time, it has provided libraries, reading rooms, a shooting gallery, theatre, sports facilities, cafe, pool and a plethora of classes, as well as hosting the local dances where several local romances are rumoured to have started.
In recent times it has faced closure, but came back like a phoenix from the flames thanks to a local campaign. These days, it is somewhat tired, but still pushes on – with some help perhaps from a little known and ethereal guardian – the ghost of the woman who established the Pearce Institute in the first place, Lady Dinah Pearce, widow of William.
The haunting of the Pearce Institute, or P.I, as it’s known round Govan, is something of an open secret. Not everyone knows about it, but some people have a story to tell.
Many have reported seeing a strange female figure flitting about P.I. She is most commonly seen standing in the balcony overlooking the MacLeod Hall – strangely enough watching the Zumba class. If she’s not seen, her stare is certainly felt. It’s the apparition’s resemblance to an old photo of Lady Dinah Pearce that has led some to believe it is her ghost making sure the P.I. kept for the community. Surely a handy thing in an era of where community facilities are being slashed by cuts to public spending.
Staff in the P.I. feels she is a friendly spirit; one of the caretakers feels safe passing the nightshift in the dark although he’s had a few hair raising experiences. Certainly, the atmosphere in the place is welcoming, though if the axe falls on the P.I., who knows if that would remain the case?
Despite the fact that the ghost is benign, that hasn’t stopped some people being frightened. Ghost with a Glasgow sense of humour per chance?
One tale dating back years ago involves a caretaker, now long gone. One night, he was the only person in the entire building and was checking things over in the MacLeod Hall. The hall just happens to boast a magnificent pipe organ, sadly now in disuse. It was unconnected at the time of this incident. Things seemed to be shipshape, when all of a sudden there was an almighty blast of sound as the disconnected organ began to play! This put the wind up the caretaker, who hotfooted out the building.
The MacLeod Hall seems to be at the centre of things in this haunting. One of the current caretakers told me that one night; he was making the rounds, when he heard the sound of footsteps and the doors of the hall’s side entrance swing open and closed. Of course, nobody else but him was there!
Things have happened in other part of the building. In the foyer, lights have been seen flickering, the apparition of a woman walking across the way, and the night the ghost pranked a paranormal team by leaving the taps in the cafe kitchen stuck on all night. It appears that old Govanites like to come back to their favourite ‘haunts’ as well – the apparition of an old man was seen in the theatre by local psychic Tom Rannachan. Some people believe that an evil entity lurks in the basement by the boiler, in the tradition of many an ancient boiler room. And the old shooting range running beneath the adjacent graveyard is meant to be a site to behold.
To end our tour of the haunted Pearce Institute, I have my own tale to tell. The staff kindly let me have a run of the building to see the ghost for myself. I had been directed to a spiral staircase, deigned by some to be particularly eerie, which was tucked in behind the MacLeod Hall. I was having some difficulty finding it. From upstairs came the banging of a hammer as preparations were made for the Christmas panto. I was just about to return to the caretaker’s office for more specific instructions, when a door blew open by itself, almost ageing me by several decades at the same time. Lo and behold was the spiral staircase. Just the vibrations of the work being carried out above. Wasn’t it?