Glasgow Gallivanting: January 2023

If it’s January in Glasgow, it must be Celtic Connections! Two and a half weeks of glorious music from both sides of the Atlantic from which we usually pick a long list of about 20 gigs before narrowing it down to a manageable number. Top marks this time to country/rock/blues singer Lucinda Williams from Louisiana – almost 70 and hampered by the effects of a stroke which mean she can no longer play guitar (and indeed, needs help even to walk on stage), she can still belt them out. Her 1998 album Car wheels on a gravel road has been the soundtrack to most of our North American road trips. So far we have attended four concerts with two more to go this weekend. February can’t live up to this!

Last month, one of my galleries featured a new dog statue in Pollok Park. I didn’t know what it was, but thanks to Eunice who pointed out that it was a memorial to Scottish Police dogs, which immediately made total sense because the Police Dog Training Centre is nearby. The sculptor was John Doubleday and his model was PD Ziggy, a Belgian Malinois. In December he sported a purple collar and poppy, the symbol of remembrance for animals that served during wartime, and in January, he still wore a Christmas wreath at a jaunty angle.

Police dog memorial, Pollok Park

One mystery remains – I assumed the blank space was awaiting a plaque, but it seems there was one originally, though I have scoured the Twitter feed and can’t find any explanation for its disappearance.

We were in Pollok Park to visit exhibitions at the Burrell Collection and Pollok House. This is our third visit to the Burrell since its reopening in March 2022 after several years of refurbishment. Sir William Burrell (1861–1958) made a fortune as a shipping merchant which allowed him to pursue his life’s work – collecting art and antiques. Burrell believed in free education for all and wanted the people of his home city to benefit from his fine collection. In 1944 he and his wife Constance, gifted the whole collection to Glasgow. This much I knew, but the exhibition The Burrells’ Legacy: A Great Gift to Glasgow explains much more about their motivations, the foundation of the museum, and its current policies.

I did not know, for example, that Burrell continued to collect after 1944 and specifically targeted items to fill in gaps in the collection which he had already given away. Between 1944 and 1957, the largest number of objects he bought came from the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Greece, Mesoptamia (modern-day Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey and Syria) and Rome. Before 1944 he rarely collected items from these cultures., but now he wanted the future museum to represent worldwide history and quickly built up his collection. An example in the gallery below, purchased in 1954, is a mosaic fragment of a cockerel, part of a floor dated 100 BC  – 0 AD.

As you might expect, the provenance of some of the collection’s items is now considered dubious. An example below is the tapestry of The Visitation. In 2011, the heirs of German-born Jewish art collector Emma Budge (1852-1937) made a claim for it. After her death, it had been sold by the Nazis with her family receiving no money from the sale. Budge’s heirs accepted a payment from Glasgow City Council in 2015 that allowed the tapestry to remain in the Burrell Collection on the condition that the history of its sale is told whenever it is displayed.

The third example below also shows The Visitation, this time in stained glass. Burrell began collecting medieval stained glass in the early 1900s and had similar tastes to William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951), although his resources, large as they were, were not in Hurst’s league. However, due to financial difficulties, Hearst was forced to sell his art collection in 1937. His stained glass was very expensive, but despite being unhappy about its high cost Burrell went ahead and bought 12 panels from him in 1939, making Burrell’s stained-glass collection one of global significance. The Visitation, made in Lower Saxony about 1400, was one of these. It shows the pregnant Virgin Mary visiting her relative Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. Both babies, Jesus Christ and John the Baptist, are shown growing in their mothers’ bodies.

I found these insights into collection policies fascinating.

After the Burrell, we popped across to Pollok House to catch the Maud Sulter exhibition before it closed. Born to a Scottish mother and a Ghanaian father in Glasgow in 1960, Maud became an award-winning artist and writer whose work “explored the many connections between Africa and Europe, the often-hidden lives of black people, and the complex experiences of the African diaspora in European history and culture”. Her photography often placed black women in poses normally reserved for white women – unfortunately, the light reflecting on the glass on her large scale works meant I couldn’t get a decent picture. However, if interested, follow the link to the V&A’s page on Maud’s self-portrait as Calliopeone of the exhibits at Pollok.

Elsewhere in the house I was pleased to see new information boards on the role of women, the “Ladies of the House”, on how the owners got their money, including links to slavery, and to note the description of John Stirling Maxwell’s time in the House of Commons. Enlarge to read the last paragraph – I don’t think anything has changed! Finally, I loved the wee coos at the entrance advertising Pollok as a wedding venue.

Across town to Glasgow Women’s Library now – on my first visit this year I was moved by the foyer display of candles decorated in memory of women whose lives were snuffed out by so-called “honour” killings.

No walks outside the city this month, but still plenty to see. After all, we always have the bridge and the swans! The last image is one of several new buildings at Glasgow University. It’s named after a woman – Clarice Pears, mother of three of the funders – which, of course, I approve. But did it really have to look like an orange biscuit tin?

I gave the women’s history talk I mentioned last time, which I assume went well because the same group has asked me to do a walk for them! I have more walks in the diary (a couple of which need to be at least partially rewritten), a podcast and a Story Café to prepare, and some guest posts to write for a cycle hire company which has named its bikes after historic women and would like some biographies for their website. In other words, February is likely to be another quiet month on The Glasgow Gallivanter. Have a good month!


  1. One day I’ll get round to see the Celtic Connections live. Been intending to do so for a few years, but there always seems to be a reason why I can’t 😟


  2. A busy month, in a fabulous way. The candles representing the women who were murdered are very touching. Such a difficult subject.

    Will you share a link to your guest posts? Fascinated by the idea of people wheeling around on bikes named after women!


  3. Hi Anabel – you’re busy too … I’m always interested to read what you’re doing. Glasgow is full of opportunities and you’re both making the most of the city … and I’m so pleased the Police Dog has his inscription back … cheers Hilary


  4. How interesting about the man who gifted his whole collection to Glasgow. I’m also glad that some of the art remained there but glad they make note about where it came from.
    It sounds like you are very busy, last month and this month


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