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 weekend without rain!

In honour of a weekend of glorious weather, I’m taking a break from my holiday diary to add some pictures of Scotland basking under blue skies. It doesn’t happen often enough.

The Glasgow Alphabet Map

Through social media, I’d been aware of Rosemary Cunningham’s gorgeous Glasgow Alphabet posters for some time. I just hadn’t got round to buying any yet. Sorry Rosie! Then I read that she was creating a map and was looking for people to talk about their memories of the various letters. As J was for Jordanhill (the Campus where I used to work) I jumped at the chance and some of my words now adorn the back of the map. Rosie has also been offering guided walks through the summer, and on Saturday John and I joined her and eight other people to stroll through Glasgow from the Lighthouse to the People’s Palace, both of which I’ve written about before. Some of the letters, such as W for Wellington, were exhibited on the Lighthouse windows – I love that the People make Glasgow slogan on City of Glasgow College is clearly visible too. On one of our first stops, we met the Wellington statue for real. The cone is a Glasgow tradition, though his horse doesn’t always join in.

Glasgow Alphabet exhibition
Glasgow Alphabet exhibition
Duke of Wellington and cone
Duke of Wellington and cone

Just a few of the other stops are shown below….

…. and we added some of our own sites on our way back to the Subway. The kelpie sits atop the Briggait, the mural represents the Year of the Tiger 2010 (commissioned by Tiger Beer) and the statue is La Pasionaria, a heroine of the Spanish Civil War. She is one of only three statues of real women (as opposed to idealised muses) in Glasgow: the others are Queen Victoria (and doesn’t everyone have one of her?) and 19th century philanthropist Isabella Elder. See Isabella on my Elder Park post.

You can find out more about Rosie’s work on her website, and she also has an Etsy shop where you can buy the maps. Although the current season of walks is over, she is doing one for Doors Open Day next month. Booking opens on the 27th, so get in quick – it’s great!

Fast Castle

On Sunday, we headed over to Berwickshire on the East Coast. I’d read about Fast Castle on Undiscovered Scotland and was keen to see it. There’s not much of it left – you hike down for three-quarters of a mile to a rocky promontory with a few ruins clinging to it – but the walk was beautiful with a new view at every turn. The sea really was that blue and the heather was even more purple.

Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister, stayed here on her way to marry James IV in 1503. We amused ourselves on the way back imagining the reaction to Fast Castle of a girl (she was only about 14) brought up at the Tudor court – and pitied her.


We pressed on to the village of Coldingham for a late lunch (thumbs up to the New Inn) and a quick walk round the priory ruins and parish church before heading for our final destination, St Abb’s Head.

St Abb’s Head

We spent about two hours on a circular walk here, another beautiful spot.

When we were at Fast Castle we noticed a helicopter hovering and a lifeboat circling, but we thought they might just be on an exercise. By the time we got to St Abb’s there were several more boats combing the sea and it was obvious something was wrong. Apparently, a group of divers went out on Sunday morning and one failed to resurface. The search has resumed today (Monday) and, as I write, the diver is still missing.  This tragedy (I can’t see a good outcome) cast a pall over what was otherwise a very happy weekend. My thoughts are still with his / her family.

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.