Graveyards of Glasgow: Western Necropolis and St Kentigern’s

Cenotaph, Western Necropolis

Glasgow’s main Necropolis, which I wrote about last time, is not the only one in the city which also boasts Southern, Eastern and Western Necropoli. I’ve yet to visit the Eastern one, the Southern has appeared in a long ago post on the Gorbals, and the Western first appeared (along with its neighbour, Lambhill Cemetery) in May’s Gallivanting post, a visit which inspired us to go back to explore further.

Western Necropolis

Established in 1882, the Western Necropolis was one of several non-denominational cemeteries established to cope with the huge demand for burial space created by the rapid expansion of Victorian Glasgow. Garden cemeteries were designed to be recreational spaces where contemplation of death was made less painful by careful layout and design. The Western was the last of the four Necropoli to be created, and the only one to have a crematorium on the grounds: built in 1895 it was the first crematorium in Scotland and only the third in Great Britain. Opposite the cenotaph and crematorium is the monument shown above, It commemorates the South African War of 1899-1902, the Second Boer War.

Further into the necropolis we found a grave for which we were specifically looking. Sir William Alexander Smith, who founded the Boys’ Brigade in Glasgow in 1883, is buried here with his wife and other family members. His headstone is shown below in a gallery which also includes images of the building in North Woodside Road where the BB began, and of its commemorative plaque.

Other graves to catch my eye included (left to right below) Isobel MacKinnon Gardner who died at the young age of 32 in 1908, an array of Celtic crosses, and the three-part Walker memorial. The last one prompted some further research into “David Walker of Belmont, Kelvinside Gardens, and Principal of Belgravia College, Glasgow” who died in 1906.

I had never heard of Belgravia College, but it turns out to be a school for young ladies situated on Newton Terrace, Sauchiehall Street. To appreciate fully the floridity of its description it’s worth following the link to this 1891 business directory entry, but here’s a flavour:

The College, which was established in the year 1868, has had a career of great usefulness and academical prosperity. Having been instituted for the special purpose of providing young ladies with a very complete course of instruction, in all branches of a liberal English education, upon the most moderate of terms, it has with a remarkable elasticity of constitution adjusted itself to the varying needs of the age, and to-day, by reason of its admirable appointments, excellent management, and efficient teaching staff, occupies a position of scholastic repute of no mean order.

Lucky young ladies!

The Western Necropolis forms part of a larger cemetery network with the adjoining Lambhill Cemetery and St Kentigern’s. Having visited the former last time, this time we crossed into the latter via the poignant Infant Memorial Garden, as shown above.

St Kentigern’s

St. Kentigern’s Roman Catholic Cemetery was established, like the Western Necropolis, in 1882 and is named after the founder of Glasgow (also known as St Mungo). Many memorials feature beautiful, if sentimental, sculptures.

Two memorials of note are shown below. The worst pit disaster in the area was at Cadder, in August 1913, when 22 miners were killed. Most lived locally and all of Lambhill turned out for the funeral cortege. This collective memorial for the eleven Catholic miners was erected in St Kentigern’s, while the others had individual stones in Lambhill Cemetery.

Benny Lynch (1913-1976) was the undefeated flyweight champion of the world and the first Scotsman to win a world boxing title. His black marble headstone was erected by fans, features an image of him boxing, and has the inscription “Always a fighter”

Jewish cemetery

Finally, we arrived back at the entrance to the Western Necropolis via the Jewish section which serves Garnethill Synagogue in the city centre (also shown).

Next time: Cathcart Cemetery

Glasgow Gallivanting: May 2020

Glasgow University from Ruchill Park

And another month in lockdown has passed. We are still tramping the streets round home on our daily walk, in between John finishing work and dinner time, but at the weekends we go a bit further. This is Ruchill Park. It’s less fashionable, and therefore quieter, than the Botanic Gardens, our closest park, but it’s very rewarding, especially if you climb the little mound with the flagpole. Glasgow is spread out before you.

Victoria Park

This is another park slightly further away, though it’s also very busy so I’m not sure I would go back here despite its pretty pond with ducks and swans.

Western Necropolis and Lambhill Cemetery

Possil Loch

We walked out to the Western Necropolis via Maryhill, and back via Possil Loch and the canal. I always find graveyards interesting in a sad sort of way. Here, we found lots of Commonwealth War Graves, including soldiers from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The only famous person I spotted was Will Fyffe (1885-1947), a music hall star from well before my time, but whom my mum remembers fondly. His grave is marked “I belong to Glasgow”, the title of a song he wrote.

The Necropolis runs seamlessly into two other cemeteries, St Kentigern’s, which we didn’t visit on this occasion, and Lambhill. Here, I was looking for the monument to the architect, James Sellars (1843-1888), seen in the gallery below.

Many of Sellars’ buildings still exist in Glasgow including one which, coincidentally, we photographed earlier in the month – Anderson’s College Medical School on Dumbarton Road. Sellars died during its construction and the building was completed by his head draughtsman, John Keppie who, as part of Honeyman and Keppie, went on to employ Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

After this visit, we found cemetery maps online and printed them out (might have been an idea to do that first) and noticed all the things we’d missed. More about a subsequent visit next month!

Floral attraction

Our more local routes have provided some stunning colour, especially the Botanic Gardens and Glasgow University’s grounds:

Rainbows and teddies

Every time I go out I declare that I’m not going to photograph any more windows with rainbows and teddies. Then this happens:

Maybe in June I’ll give up!

Street art

In April, I shared a coronavirus mural by street artist Rebel Bear. A new one, depicting a health worker, has appeared on the wall of the Ubiquitous Chip bar and restaurant in Ashton Lane off Byres Road. There is another in the series, depicting a man with a coronavirus round his ankle like a ball and chain, but it’s in the city centre where I no longer go. You can, however, see all three in this BBC article.

The same wall used to be decorated with the advert for Auchentoshan whisky shown above. This is one of nearly 200 photos in a file on my phone marked Street Art, so I thought the current circumstances would be a good excuse to get rid of a few. Those below, a mix of official and unofficial decoration, were all taken in and around Byres Road, though some no longer exist.

Tartan paint is on the wall of De Courcy’s Arcade in Cresswell Lane. The two pieces of graffiti art on crumbling old buildings were added to the Western Infirmary as it was being demolished last year and have long since gone. Embargo (the wings) on Byres Road and Bar Gallus both still have their murals, but the final two images of the building opposite Gallus on Church Street have been painted over. No great loss!

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Normally when we visit Kelvingrove we’re there for an exhibition. Now that we can’t go inside we pay far more attention to the outside of the building. The rather grand entrance above presided over by St Mungo, Glasgow’s patron saint, is just the back door! The front entrance is shown in the gallery below, along with various exterior adornments including the four elements of Glasgow’s coat of arms: the tree, the bird, the fish, and the bell.

The last bit

As we head into our third full month of lockdown, things have eased a little here in Scotland. We’re allowed to meet members of another household in an outdoor space, so we celebrated this on Saturday by visiting friends who have a very large garden. We took our own bottle and glasses, keeping the required 2m / 6ft apart at all times, and had a lovely time. The length of such visits is determined by the strength of one’s bladder as going indoors is still not allowed!

Another concession is that we can drive somewhere to exercise, roughly within five miles. This doesn’t really help much in our urban situation, and given reports over the weekend from beauty spots a little further afield, I think I’ll stick to what I can do from my front door at the moment. Even those routes make me nervous because of the increase in crowds. I don’t think our infection rate is anywhere near low enough to take risks.

And finally to my Scottish word of the month. Sleekit can just mean sleek, as in smooth and shiny, but to describe a person as sleekit is usually pejorative, meaning sly, crafty, or sneaky. I have seen this word used more than a few times recently in relation to a certain government advisor. My choice of words for him was a little stronger!

I hope you are all keeping safe, well and happy. Enjoy June as best you can!