Philip's Glasgow tours are more 'hysterical than historical'

Wrapped in a tangle of brambles and curling vines, Philip Frey takes us to one of his favourite crumbling tombs in Glasgow's sprawling Necropolis.

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Philip 'Dumbleflip' Frey, who has carried the Queen's Baton twice, gives tours around Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis
Philip 'Dumbleflip' Frey, who has carried the Queen's Baton twice, gives tours around Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis

Gothic spires made of cast iron have broken off but it still looks like a remnant from a fairy story.

A walk around the Victorian cemetery looking out across the Glasgow skyline is a highlight of one of his city tours. When darkness starts to fall, he takes groups of tourists to hidden paths, telling them ghost stories on the way.

"I have a lovely little trick, I lower my voice so they have to come in to listen closely, that's when the imagination kicks in and works overtime," he smiles. "Of course I forget to tell them there are deer running around here at night and when one jumps out from behind a gravestone everyone gets a real fright."

It was just a couple of years ago when Philip, better known as Dumbleflip, started offering free city tours. Suffering from poor health and struggling to cope with the deaths of two close family members, he says his world just collapsed.

With a background in psychology, in the past he has worked with children and abuse victims, but after two major heart operations he could no longer work. To get his life back on track he decided to go online and said: "Does anyone out there want to help save my life? This is what I plan to do ... I love Glasgow, let me show you Glasgow for free."

The following week he did his first tour, meeting 35 people at Glasgow Cathedral, and that's where it all began. Though the tours given by Philip and his friends were free, people gave a tip. They saved the money and at the end of the year donated it anonymously to children's charities around the city. Last year, that amounted to more than £17,000.

"We don't run about shouting what we do, we don't rattle tins or pack people's bags in supermarkets, It's all very low key and it works," he says, as we walk around the Necropolis. "We put the money in envelopes and anonymously drop it off at different charities. We just write on the envelope: 'From your favourite secret Santa.'"

Philip describes the off the beaten track tours as more hysterical than historical.

It was a love of Harry Potter that gave Philip, 52, from Govanhill, Glasgow, the moniker Dumbleflip.

Now the name has stuck and it not only connects him with the Glasgow tours, which can be booked on the Dumbleflip Facebook page, but will be the name of a new charity Philip is setting up next year. Once he has an education programme in place, the charity will go into schools in Glasgow to talk to children about protecting themselves again predators.

Philip also has the privilege of being one of the few people who has had the honour of carrying the Queen's Baton through the city twice, after he was selected as a baton bearer in Glasgow for the Manchester Games in 2002 and this summer's Glasgow Games.

"I didn't realise I was doing anything good until I was nominated as a baton carrier," he says.

During the Commonwealth Games, BBC's The One Show featured Philip when he took the crew on what he calls the "follow your nose" tour.

"We ended up at the Red Road flats and the Fort shopping centre at Easterhouse. They wanted to see the real Glasgow."

His tours usually finish up at a cosy pub in the city centre for a drink but on November 29, last year, all that changed after a helicopter came crashing into the Clutha bar.

"I was approaching the pub with a group of 20 tourists, we were coming to the end of the tour and as I got closer I could see it was mobbed outside so we went to another pub.

"I didn't know anything about the crash until I got home when my phone and e-mail were going crazy, with people wanting to check I was okay."

As we wind our way back around to the top of the Necropolis and head to the gates, Philip shares one last ghost story.

"I'm not sure how much truth is in it but I like to think it's true," he nods. "At St Andrew's Square there is faded writing on the side of a building: Glasgow Children's Asylum. Two young brothers were being treated badly and jumped over the wall to try and escape and killed themselves.

"The people of Glasgow thought this was such a tragedy and raised the money to bury the two boys in the Necropolis.

"The story goes that when people come up here at night they hear children laughing even though there are no children nearby. I say in the tour, 'I like to think it's because the boys are happy and just running around being boys'.

"By the time I have finished that story, people are reaching for hankies."

Visit www.facebook.com/dumbleflips.imag inarium for tour details.

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