Glasgow Gallivanting: September 2022

Near Strathblane (from one of John’s post-Covid cycle rides)

So – we lost half of September to Covid! We both had 13 days between first symptoms and a negative test, but because our infections were staggered (I got ill first) it took almost two and a half weeks out of our lives. Fortunately, we both had it fairly mildly and have no after-effects, apart from being more tired than usual, but it has made for a quieter month where small events mattered. It was very reminiscent of lockdown, with John working at home (when he could) and, when we started to feel better, getting out for local walks on the canal at times when we knew we could avoid people. All our favourite swan families are still about!

We were less happy to note when we walked along the canal to Lambhill Stables that Aurelius, the giant Roman Soldier who has featured on these pages before, in May 2021’s Gallivanting, has been vandalised. Someone has tried to chip away at his helmet, and a fire has been lit under his nose leaving the impression of a black beard. Why are people like this, it’s mindless? For comparison, a picture from last autumn shows him in his pomp (with added Anabel to give an idea of scale).

It seems to have been a month when the universe was sending me messages! Another reminder of lockdown – the last remaining window teddy bear (that I know of) is now messaging about a new era. I assume he means the transition from Queen Elizabeth to King Charles.

Elephant Park has also featured before, in May 2017’s Gallivanting. At the time I was concerned that these two concrete elephants near my home were under threat because of redevelopment of an adjacent building. Well, they disappeared for years, but this month they have come back. The former Shakespeare Street School has been converted to flats / apartments and new blocks built around it, but there is still space for a nice little landscaped area with elephants.

The messages they are sending me are a bit doom-laden though!

I found far more uplifting messages in the grounds of Gartnavel Hospital. Let There be Light is a permanent feature, but when I walked through the grounds recently three of the benches had painted stones sitting on them. Such stones have become quite common since lockdown, but the Gartnavel examples take the artwork to a whole new level. I looked at each one, turned it over, and put it back exactly as I found it. Sad to say, on my next visit they had all disappeared.

Let there be light 

The final set of messages is amongst these murals decorating an ugly barrier on a building site at Glasgow University. I shall do my best to take the advice of the last one!

Post-Covid, I manged a couple of museums, one with John and one with my friend Anna. The former was St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art which finally reopened in September. Glasgow Life, the organisation which runs cultural and sporting venues on behalf of the City Council, has been very slow to open some of them after the pandemic. This worries me a lot, though I have some sympathy because they lost a lot of money in lockdown, and also a lot of staff – I was told by a library staff member that 1/3 left during lockdown (not sure if this just applies to libraries, or all Glasgow Life venues).  I’m very glad to see things starting to get back to normal, and as soon as we heard St Mungo’s had opened we wanted to revisit.

There is so much to see, but I was most moved by these depictions of the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. The first three images are by Robert McNeil (b. 1947) who worked as a forensic technician in Kosova and Bosnia. After retiring, he started painting some of the sights he had witnessed. He also helped provide evidence for the prosecution of Ratko Mladić. His paintings are:

  • Witness (2012). Over 8000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were massacred by the Bosnian Serb Army and Serbian paramilitaries near Srebrenica in July 1995. At first the forensic team thought blindfolding victims was an act of mercy, but they later discovered from eyewitnesses that the killers didn’t want to look them in the eyes.
  • Subjugation (2017). This cardigan was found in a mass grave in Kosovso in 1999. Each piece of clothing found was washed, dried and hung out so that families could identify their missing loved ones.
  • Srebrenica Woman (2010). A Bosnian Muslim woman weeps as she recognises her husband’s remains from such pieces of clothing.

The final image is Massacre of Srebrenica (2019) by Peter Howson (b. 1958). Howson was an official war artist in Bosnia, an experience which made him very ill and caused the break-up of his family. His memories are still too painful to talk about, but he says that painting them helps him to try to understand why humans do such evil things to each other. This truly is a scene from hell.

On a lighter and happier note, Anna and I visited Maryhill Burgh Halls for 50 Pots, the 50th anniversary show of the Scottish Pottery Society. The exhibition (on till end October) includes information panels and examples from historic Glasgow potteries (I had no idea there had been so many, from the first opening in 1748 to the last closing in the 1980s) as well as contemporary responses by students of Craft and Design at City of Glasgow College. It was good to see the concentration on women’s work.

This image of the Pressing and Jolly Shop at Bell’s Pottery (lots of women!) forms the backdrop to the pottery timeline, partially shown here. The opening of each pottery is juxtaposed against other significant events, including the births of some historic women. My second-favourite, Isabella Elder, is there. Pressing is a process for making flat or shallow pottery, while jollying is a process of making hollow pottery (for example vases, bowls or tankards) inside a revolving mould.

One decoration process is described in the panel below (click to enlarge) and you can see the same porcelain vase in the case of items from Possil Pottery. It’s so ugly it’s almost beautiful! But I wouldn’t have it in my home.

And finally, the work of two of the students, both referencing women.

After the exhibition, Anna and I walked up to the new Stockingfield Bridge over the canal. It’s not fully open yet, but one of the soon-to-be-11 artworks is now accessible. River of Words by Anoushka Havinden is a series of inscribed paving stones. A poem flows down the centre, surrounded by words and names that identify the important ideas, places, folk and history of the area. I was overjoyed to find that many of the women mentioned in my Maryhill Women’s History Walk are there, including my number one favourite, Jessie Stephen. I absolutely love it and will need to reroute my walk to take it in.

Two lovely buildings to end with – Websters, built as Lansdowne Church in 1863, is named in its current incarnation as a theatre-café-bar for Alf Webster who designed its stained-glass windows in 1913. We had pre-booked tickets for a concert which fortunately took place after we were both healthy. And Glasgow Women’s Library needs no introduction. I hadn’t got a picture of it with its 30th anniversary flag so took one this week before it disappears (the library is now 31). I had the pleasure of taking along a friend who had never been before and finding that she loved it as much as I do.

Well, that went on a bit! Perhaps it wasn’t such a quiet month after all. Happy October!


  1. Sad to see the damage to the Roman. We are not too bad here but Adelaide is having a lot of problems with youth vandalism and violence. I was also interested in the reluctance to re-open things. Our problem is the lack of staff – all over Adelaide and also up here there are notices outside many businesses “We are hiring”- and that includes McDonalds. One last thing – they are now talking ( in Australia) about a fifth injection for a new Covid Strain.


    • It’s always a shame to see vandalism. It’s staff here too, I think – so many library / museum staff left during lockdown they’ve had to do big recruitment rounds. We’re about to get our fourth vaccination, but I think those in more vulnerable groups might be on to number 5.


  2. Glad to hear you are feeling better. Cross fingers we have yet to catch COVID and we certainly hope we won’t in the coming weeks as we are preparing for a big trip and we will have to show a negative test…
    Another nice month of activities though closer to home… (Suzanne)


  3. Doesn’t look like COVID slowed you down much. You certainly did see a lot. Poor Aurelius. He looks so different now. You’re right about mindless people, they seem to be everywhere. So I too follow the messages in the stones. And the River of Words is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.


  4. So nice to see your Swan families. 🙂 Hugo and I were buzzed by four low flying swans yesterday by the river, don’t often see them down there , they were quite a spectacle! Such a shame about Aurelius the Emperor, what idiots do things like that! The poetry walk looks interesting. X


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