Glasgow Gallivanting: January 2019

The Giant Lanterns of China

On the first Saturday of the New Year we headed over to Edinburgh armed with tickets for The Giant Lanterns of China at the Zoo (still on till mid-February). It was amazing! Three sections covered Chinese legends, Scottish myths and animal species, especially those threatened or extinct. It was good that even the information boards about the mythical creatures all had a section on conservation, eg The Monkey King board warned against the trade in exotic pets.

Chinese legends
Scottish myths
Animal species

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

We visit Kelvingrove regularly throughout the year. While another Glasgow Museum, the Burrell Collection, is closed for refurbishment Kelvingrove has a changing display of some of its treasures. The current exhibition is on medieval art which has some stunning stained glass panels.

However often we go, I always spot something new. How did I miss this, I wonder? It’s A big cat with a bit of writing underneath by John Knowles which has been in the collection since 1992. Bright and eye-catching though it is, it was the words (to which the information panel made no reference) that drew my attention: WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union) and 1913 Cat and Mouse Bill. This was the common name for the Bill which became the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health) Act, by which the government sought to deal with the problem of hunger striking suffragettes. It allowed the early release of prisoners who were so weakened that they were at risk of death.  They would be recalled to prison once their health was recovered, where the process would begin again, hence cat and mouse. Horrific!

Celtic Connections

I never have that feeling of January being a bleak month after Christmas. In Glasgow we have Celtic Connections, the brilliant winter music festival!

This year we went to six events with musicians from Scotland, Ireland, the US and Canada. The most moving was An Treas Suaile (The Third Wave) written and performed by Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis and fiddler Duncan Chisholm. It commemorated the Iolaire disaster which I wrote about in one of my Hebridean Hop posts. In the early hours of New Year’s Day 1919 the Iolaire, carrying 280 servicemen home to Lewis, sank just outside Stornoway harbour, almost certainly due to navigational errors. Overcrowding (the capacity was only about 100) and insufficient crew compounded the problems, with the result that 201 men were lost in a tragedy which reverberates in Lewis and Harris to this day. Fowlis and Chisholm created a multimedia event honouring both those who died and those who survived, many of whom performed heroic feats. I can’t say I “enjoyed” this exactly, but it was definitely a highlight.

No photographs of that concert, but below are Rhiannon Giddens, Karan Casey and Loudon Wainwright III. Can’t wait for next year!

Burns Night

January also has Burns Night in memory of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns. This year we celebrated at a local restaurant, The Bothy, with good food, good company from our friends John and Pat and good entertainment from The Caledonian Cowboy who piped, recited and made us all laugh. I learned that, when you take religious subjects out of the count, the three most popular people for statues are Christopher Columbus, Queen Victoria and Robert Burns.

The menu wasn’t wholly traditional – there was haggis but not in its plain haggis, neeps and tatties version – and I’m fairly sure Burns never ate a deep-fried Mars Bar. I can now say I have. The verdict? Not as sweet as expected but not something I plan to repeat either.

Glasgow Cathedral

It’s a while since I’ve been into the cathedral – the last time was for a funeral. This time I wanted to see a new exhibition, Scotland From The Sky, which features a series of aerial photographs from around the First World War onwards. We spent a long time in front of a shot of Glasgow in 1988, of which you can see a detail below. X marks roughly the site of our house which wouldn’t be built for another five years.

Whilst there, we also took time to look at features such as the stained glass and the crests on the ends of the pews. I picked out a few crests that meant something to us (clockwise from top left): Glasgow University (John’s employer), Glasgow Academy (his old school), the city council and Strathclyde University (my former employer).

Banton Loch and Colzium

The weather in January wasn’t great, but we did seize one sunny Sunday afternoon to stroll round Colzium Estate and Banton Loch. Once home to the Edmonstone family, Colzium House now belongs to the local council and its grounds are very popular with walkers. Banton Loch is actually a reservoir – it was built in 1773 to feed the new Forth and Clyde canal, flooding the site of the Battle of Kilsyth (1645). Apparently, bones and armoury are still being found in the fields to the north of the loch – although fortunately not by us!

The last bit

I wrote a different kind of guest post this month for my professional body, CILIPS, which is running a Meet our Members strand. I was invited to reflect on library life after retirement – you can read it here. I’ll let you into a little secret. I’d actually decided that, six years after I finished work, it was time to let my membership lapse. Then they asked me so nicely to write this post that I paid up again. Don’t tell CILIPS or they’ll be asking me to write something every year …

Finally, to my Scottish word of the month – in fact I’ll give you two. The word bothy has cropped up twice: once as the name of the restaurant where we had our Burns Supper, and then in the gallery above where you might have noticed the sign for Stoury Bothy. Many of you will know that a bothy is a hut, either basic accommodation for estate workers or a shelter in mountainous areas. “Basic” certainly doesn’t apply to the restaurant, but what about Stoury Bothy? Looking on Trip Advisor I find it is a very attractive holiday cottage, not basic and not stoury either – stour being a Scottish word for a cloud or mass of dust (pronounce stoor as opposed to the English place name which is pronounced to rhyme with flower. See also oose which has a similar meaning.)

In conclusion 1) if that were my cottage I would call it something else and 2) I do not mean to imply that you need lots of synonyms for dust. I’m sure you never have any.

Happy February!

Saints and sinners: a Glasgow urban walk

St Mungo mural
St Mungo mural

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook was full of a new Glasgow mural so at the first opportunity we went to see it for ourselves. The artist, known as Smug, has chosen his subject matter to match its location. It’s on a gable-end near St Mungo’s Cathedral, which is named after the city’s founder and patron saint, and represents a modern-day representation of one of his miracles, the bird that never flew. St Serf, St Mungo’s old master, tamed a robin which was accidentally killed by some of his disciples. They blamed Mungo who took the dead bird in his hands and prayed over it, restoring it to life. Look carefully, and you will see a halo round the modern Mungo’s head.

From the mural we crossed the road to the Cathedral and cut through the Necropolis. I was looking for a particular grave, that of William Minnoch, which I needed for another project. Successfully found!

From the Necropolis, we continued down to Duke Street and the Tennent’s Brewery. Now, I’m not saying people who drink beer are sinners – I’m more than partial to a pint myself – but it makes for a good post title. Mind you, some of the characters in the many murals which line the brewery walls look as though they might well be acquainted with a little bit of sin.

I’ve long meant to take a guided tour of the brewery but you need to book and, as I’ve never got round to it, we turned round and continued our circular walk. Plenty of interest as we headed back up towards the Cathedral.

For our final stop, we were back to saints. Provand’s Lordship is the oldest house in Glasgow – it was built in 1471 as the manse of the Master of the Chapel and Hospital of St Nicholas. After the Reformation, it had many secular uses before opening as a museum in the 1980s.

In one of the upstairs rooms, there was a collection of paintings of old Glasgow created in the early 1990s by Tom McGroran. I liked this one of Bridgeton Cross, a place I’m very familiar with, in the 1950s. For comparison, here it is today.

St Nicholas’s Garden, behind Provand’s Lordship, was laid out in the 1990s after the fashion of a 15th century physic or medicinal garden, so each bed has plants to treat different parts of the body, indicated by a moulding on the paving stones in front of it. The example below is for reproductive medicine.

The garden also features coats of arms, including Glasgow’s with the motto “Let Glasgow flourish” and the symbols of Mungo’s miracles (you’ll need to enlarge, I think, to see the bird that never flew perching in the tree that never grew!)

Around the cloisters are the Tontine Heads, so-called because they came from the old Tontine Hotel. There are 13 in total, varying in date from about 1737 to 1873. I’ve chosen two to display, because they reminded us of certain Scottish politicians. Anyone with knowledge of Scottish politics may wish to hazard a guess…

By this time, the weather was very wet and we hurried off to find a warm drink then get the Subway home. I hope you’ve enjoyed this stroll with some of Glasgow’s saints and sinners which I’m linking to Jo’s Monday Walks,  Monday Murals and  Art in the Streets.

Gallus Glasgow R: Religious buildings

St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art was the first in the world to cover all major world religions together. It sits next to Glasgow Cathedral (1197) and superficially looks almost as old, but it dates from the late 1980s. The Scottish baronial style was deliberately chosen to emulate the Bishop’s Palace which used to sit on the same site. In the images below, the third building you can see is the Royal Infirmary.

Some details from the museum:

The Cathedral is Church of Scotland and there are, of course, many more Christian denominations represented in Glasgow as well as buildings for other world religions. For example, Glasgow Central Mosque:

Glasgow Central Mosque

Garnethill Synagogue:

By RonAlmog, (Flickr page) (Flickr) CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5), via Wikimedia Commons
By RonAlmog, (Flickr page) (Flickr) CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5), via Wikimedia Commons

And Gurdwara Guru Granth Sahib:

Gurdwara Guru Granth Sahib

Most religious buildings which have been mentioned in the Challenge so far have been converted to other uses. This is a small, and by no means comprehensive, selection of those which still fulfil their original purpose.

Tomorrow in S we’ll look at some art – but not in a gallery.