Glasgow Gallivanting: February 2020

Glasgow Cathedral

Rain, sleet, rain, hail the size of marbles, rain, howling winds – and did I mention the rain? February has been a terrible month, but there’s no point in sitting at home moping about it so there’s still plenty report. We visited Glasgow Cathedral where, although we’ve been there umpteen times, John always finds new things to snap, such as these grotesques and a poignant memorial which I’ve never noticed before.

The memorial below is to Thomas Hutcheson (1590-1641) who, along with his brother George, bequeathed money to found a hospital for the elderly and a school for poor boys. The school is still operating today, although fee-paying and co-educational, as Hutchesons’ Grammar School. The original Hutchesons’ Hospital was replaced between 1802 and 1805 – this building still exists and now houses a fancy restaurant.

Peter Lowe or Low (c. 1550 – 1610), whose memorial is on the left below, was a surgeon and founder of the institution now known as the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. The image on the right is at the entrance to the churchyard, with the Museum of Religion behind it and two lampposts featuring Glasgow’s Coat of Arms.

Some interior shots below include the Martyr’s Memorial which commemorates nine Covenanters executed in Glasgow between 1666 and 1684. Covenanters believed in the Presbyterian form of worship. Scotland wanted to keep its church independent from the English episcopal church headed by the monarch, and this led to a political crisis as signing the Covenant was seen as treason. In the 30 years up to 1690, around 18,000 people died in battles and persecutions.

In the two shots below, you can just see at the edges the reason for our visit – a Historic Scotland exhibition called Romantic Scotland through a lens which explores life in 19th century Scotland through HS’s photographic archives (on throughout March).

The explanation is here if you want it, but life did not look very romantic to me! Blood, sweat, toil and tears sounds about right.

However, I enjoyed the exhibition – some of my favourite images are below. My great-grandfather would have been a ploughman around the same time as this man, portrayed c1890.

Across town at GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art) we visited a couple of good exhibitions this month (both now finished). The thought-provoking Everyday Racism documented ten micro-acts of racism. Though the photographs are staged, the incidents are all true, for example the story of Simone’s hair. It doesn’t matter how “micro” the action, the effect of such depersonalisation can be huge.

Domestic Bliss explored “domestic labour and feminism, public and private space, intimate relationships and historical narratives”. I liked the faux-domestic setting of some of the exhibits, and the interesting juxtapositions from different periods, such as this bathroom cabinet containing early 20th century shaving mugs by Jessie M King and pefume bottles by Niki de Saint Phalle (1982).

Paisley, the town my Mum lives in, is about half an hour’s drive from us. We don’t often act as tourists there, but it’s well worth a wander and we took advantage of that on one of the few dry afternoons of the month. Paisley town centre has the highest concentration of listed buildings anywhere in Scotland outside Edinburgh, plus a great selection of street art, but I’ll keep that for later. Let’s start with churches:

The Coats Observatory and Paisley Philosophical Institution:

The Peter Brough District Nursing Home, now private accommodation:

Old weavers’ cottages:

The Town Hall and the Coat of Arms on a nearby bridge:

A selection of statues:

The recently refurbished Russell Institute:

And some faded grandeur to finish. I think the ghost sign on the left says Royal Bank of Scotland. The building on the right is the Paisley Trophy Centre.

In February, we went to not just one Window Wanderland, but two. Window Wanderland is a scheme in which communities brighten up winter by transforming their streets into an outdoor gallery. Govan joined in for the first time this year – there were some good windows, but they were very spread out and as it was a cold, wet evening we didn’t explore the whole thing.

Govan’s buildings looked splendid by night, as did the statue to Mary Barbour, leader of the Rent Strikes in the First World War (you can also spot her in the Govan Gals window above).

Another of my sheroes appears in the window gallery – 19th century philanthropist, Isabella Elder “a true woman, a wise benefactress of the public and of learning”. One of the buildings she gave to Govan, Elderpark Library, is in the gallery below. We also visited the early medieval Govan Stones in the Old Parish Church – it was a relief to get out of the cold for a while.

The second Window Wanderland was in Strathbungo, which we also visited last year. It was an even colder, wetter night, but this was a more compact site so we persevered and saw most of it. Red Riding Hood is my absolute favourite of all the windows we saw over the two events. It’s simple on the surface, but so clever.

There were many, many more: below is a flavour of the ingenuity on show. Some householders even put on performances, and we were very grateful to the lady who came out with a tray of mulled wine. That warmed us up for a while.

I’m running out of time, so on that colourful note I shall wrap up February – here’s hoping for a warmer March!

Gallus Glasgow W: Wellington

Duke of Wellington and cone
Duke of Wellington and cone

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, hero of Waterloo and twice Prime Minister, has sat on his horse outside what is now the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) since 1844. For the first 140 years or so he was unmolested, but sometime around the 1980s the tradition of capping him with a traffic cone emerged. The council and the police don’t like this, but as fast as they take one down, another goes up in its place, costing, allegedly, £10,000 per year to remove.

Living statueIn 2013, Glasgow City Council considered a £65,000 plan to raise the statue’s plinth in an attempt to deter the ‘coning’ of the Duke. This led to #Conegate: a storm on Twitter and Facebook, an online petition and even a rally to Keep the Cone. The plans were quietly dropped and the cone remains. GoMA (owned by the council which so dislikes it) continues to sell greetings cards of the coned Duke and a new hotel is using his image in its interior decor because it represents the humour of Glasgow. I found the article about this quite hilarious. Apparently the Sculptor in Ordinary to the Queen in Scotland (me neither) thinks the cone is comparable to “acts of cultural destruction carried out by so-called Islamic State.” Get a grip!

The street artists are getting in on the act too. I came across the mini-Wellington above in Buchanan Street before Christmas. I’m not sure he’d want to ride into battle on that horse, but he looks pretty gallus all the same.

X is a bothersome letter – I bet lots of people have to cheat a bit, and I’m no exception. Come back tomorrow to find out what Glasgow X represents.

A grand day out in Glasgow

You can be a traveller in your home city, right? As my blog tagline is “Writing about my favourite places” Glasgow certainly qualifies. For our first weekend back we were looking for something to do to make us feel as if we might still be on holiday, so I turned to Glasgow Museums for inspiration. The British Art Show is on, but only until 21st August so I would recommend rushing along to see it. It only happens every 5 years and the only other port of call left is Plymouth (from 17th September). In Glasgow, the exhibition is spread over three venues but we only had time to do two today. GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art) is housed in a neo-classical building which used to be Stirling’s Library. The library moved out when GoMA moved in, but has now moved back into the basement. One feature you might notice, other than the typically dreich Glagow weather, is the statue with its nifty headgear:

20110807-184909.jpg The traffic cone on Wellington’s head is a Glasgow tradition, I don’t think anyone even bothers to remove it now as it returns so quickly. However, I have never seen the hat on top of the traffic cone before!

20110807-191350.jpg The other venue we visited was the CCA (Centre for Contemporary Art) and in between we fitted in lunch in Amarone, one of my favourite city centre restaurants. It’s part of a larger group, but doesn’t feel like a chain restaurant. It’s near the Subway and the Concert Hall so perfect for pre-theatres, the menu for which varies quite a bit and always has more than one choice for veggies. This was the first time I’ve been at lunchtime and it was just as good. My highlight was the sweet potato and cauliflower soup with gorgonzola cream. Yummy. Saves cooking tonight too. Now for the culture bit. We really enjoyed the exhibition. Highlights included portraits by Alasdair Gray which were spread over both venues. I liked the twin portraits of May in GoMA, one showing her fully clothed in an armchair and the other naked in an imaginary armchair. I also liked George Shaw’s enamel paintings of the Coventry council estate he grew up in because they could easily have been Glasgow. Most fascinating were the films. I walked into one by Elizabeth Price (GoMA) called User Group Disco and the first word I saw on screen was taxonomy. It was all about classification and categorising objects, in an imaginary Hall of Sculptures, that were similar but different. The objects whirled about on screen to music (warning, to a headache-inducing point if you are vulnerable): some were decorative and some were functional (kitchen implements for instance) and I think the point was that they could all be classified as art if we chose. It appealed to the librarian side of me anyway. The other film we enjoyed was at the CCA – though as it lasted 24 hours we only saw a small part of it. The Clock, by Christian Marclay, consists of thousands of excerpts from films which show clocks, watches and characters reacting to a particular time of day. It is synchronised to the actual time and you could set your watch by it. I was amazed by the amount of research that must have gone into this. We watched for about 20 minutes from 3.15pm and I lost count of the number of film clips used. I don’t know if this is a particularly rich time of day or if other time periods also feature so much in films. There was everything from Mary Poppins to James Bond and, even more amazing, as well as the time some of the action coincided. For example, Mary Poppins raised her umbrella to fly away and the very next clip also had someone floating through the air. I’m lost in amazement and wished we’d had time to see more. I highly recommend this exhibition and hope to make it to the third venue next weekend.