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Old Glasgow

The historical centre of the city.

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I grew up on the outskirts of Glasgow. As I started to travel more and more and research many new places, I suddenly realised that I knew embarrassingly little about my own city. In the last couple of years I have started trying to remedy this by learning a bit about where I am from.

The heart of historical Glasgow centres around its medieval cathedral. This is thought to have been built on the site of the tomb of St Mungo, the partron saint of Glasgow. According to legend in the fifth century St. Ninian created a Christian burial ground in an area that later developed into Glasgow. A century later Mungo, who was born and brought up in Fife where he was trained as a priest by St Serf, had to accompany the corpse of a holy man, Fergus. Fergus's corpse was carried on a cart by two wild oxen. Mungo planned to bury Fergus wherever the oxen stopped the cart. They stopped at St Ninian's burial ground. Mungo buried Fergus there and established a church at the same spot. Mungo called the place he buried Fergus 'Glasgu' or the dear green place.

Glasgow Cathedral was the only major cathedral on the Scottish mainland which managed to survive the Reformation. Entry to Glasgow Cathedral nowadays is free. It has some beautiful stain glass windows. The tomb of St Mungo's is downstairs in the crypt.

The Tomb of St. Mungo.

The Tomb of St. Mungo.

Inside the cathedral.

Inside the cathedral.

There are several other historic sights near Glasgow Cathedral. On the hill behind it stands the Necropolis - Glasgow's city of the dead. This large Victorian era graveyard contains many interesting tombs and affords wonderful views of the cathedral and its neighbour the Royal Infirmary. I worked in Glasgow Royal Infirmary one summer when I was a student at Glasgow University and used to have to wheel laundry trolleys through tunnels underneath the hospital. Allegedly an escape tunnel for the monks to flee down if attacked went from Glasgow Cathedral to the area now occupied by the hospital.

Glasgow Cathedral from the Necropolis.

Glasgow Cathedral from the Necropolis.

Glasgow Cathedral and the Royal Infirmary.

Glasgow Cathedral and the Royal Infirmary.

The Necropolis includes the graves of around fifty thousand people. It was created by the Merchants' House of Glasgow and first opened in April 1833. On top of the Necropolis Hill there is a statue of John Knox mounted on a tall column. This dates from 1825. On our last visit I also noticed the grave of William Miller - the writer of the Scottish nursery rhyme 'Wee Willie Winkie'. The rhyme goes like this :

Wee Willie Winkie running through the town,
Upstairs and downstairs in his nightgown,
Chapping at the windows; crying through the locks,
Are all the bairnies in their beds, it's past eight o'clock?

The grave of William Miller.

The grave of William Miller.

Another notable grave is that of Charles Tennant (1768 – 1838) a Scottish chemist and industrialist who discovered bleaching powder. There's also a large memorial to Duncan Macfarlan (1771-1857). He was the Principal of the University of Glasgow from 1823 to 1857 and the Minister at St Mungo’s Cathedral from 1824 to 1857.

John Knox Column; Duncan MacFarlan grave.

John Knox Column; Duncan MacFarlan grave.

Next to Glasgow Cathedral stands the Saint Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art. This is a lovely museum which I did not do full justice to as I visited it in a bit of a rush. It is free to enter. This museum was built in 1989 by Ian Begg - no wonder I don't remember it from my childhood; it did not exist then. The museum building is designed to look like the Bishops’ Castle which once stood on this site. The museum has exhibits from and about all the world's major religions. It also has a Zen Garden, a cafe, a gift shop and clean, free toilets, too.

Saint Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art.

Saint Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art.

Stain glass window in the museum.

Stain glass window in the museum.

Hindu goddess.

Hindu goddess.

Zen Garden.

Zen Garden.

Just across the road from this museum is Provand's Lordship - Glasgow's oldest remaining house. Provand's Lordship was built in 1471 by Andrew Muirhead, Bishop of Glasgow. It was originally part of St Nicholas's Hospital. Provand's Lordship is now a free entry museum. It occupies three floors and has several rooms filled with period furniture and an art gallery on the top floor. The furniture in the house is mainly seventeenth-century and was donated by Sir William Burrell. As it is such an old building, there are many ghost stories told about it. Personally I have never found this building scary, but then again I have never been in it alone at night.

Provand's Lordship.

Provand's Lordship.

Inside Provand's Lordship.

Inside Provand's Lordship.

Provand's Lordhip also has a lovely little garden called the St Nicholas Garden. This is a medicinal herb garden surrounded by a cloistered walkway. The walls of the walkway are decorated with the Tontine Heads.

One of the Tontine Heads.

One of the Tontine Heads.

The Tontine Heads originally adorned the Town Hall built in Trongate by Allan Dreghorn between 1737 and 1760. David Cation carved five masks to decorate the walls of this building. Mungo Naismith later supplied an additional five masks. In 1781 the Town Hall was converted by William Hamilton into the Tontine Hotel and the ten masks became known as the Tontine Heads. These heads were acquired by Peter Shannan in 1872 and were used to adorn his new warehouse at the bottom of Buchanan Street. As well as the original ten heads, he added four more carved by William James Maxwell. In 1888 this warehouse was destroyed by fire, one of the heads was destroyed; the others were dispersed to various new owners. In 1994 all the heads that still survived were brought together again and relocated to St Nicholas Garden. These heads are well worth seeing as they have a lot of character.

Another of the Tontine Heads.

Another of the Tontine Heads.

On the walls of St Nicholas's Garden and on the lamposts in Cathedral Square visitors to Glasgow are sure to notice its rather unusual Coat of Arms. A famous rhyme goes along with it:

This is the tree that never grew,
This is the bird that never flew,
This is the fish that never swam,
This is the bell that never rang.
Let Glasgow Flourish.

Glasgow did not have a coat of arms until the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1866, Lord Lyon King at Arms gave approval for a coat of arms which contained a number of symbols associated with St Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow. St Mungo is well known for having preached a sermon containing the words: 'Lord, let Glasgow Flourish by the preaching of the word.' This was shortened to the motto: Let Glasgow Flourish.

The tree that never grew in the coat of arms started out as a branch of a hazel tree. Legend says that St Mungo was left in charge of a holy fire while he was in St Serf's Monastery, but he fell asleep. Some boys, jealous of Mungo's favoured position with St Serf, put the fire out. When he woke up, St Mungo broke off some branches from a hazel tree and prayed over them, causing them to burst into flames.

The bird that never flew was a wild robin which was tamed by St Serf and which was accidentally killed. St Mungo was blamed for the death, but took the dead bird, prayed over it and restored it to life.

The fish that never swam is always shown with a ring in its mouth, because a King of Strathclyde gave his wife a ring as a present. However, the Queen gave it to a knight and he carelessly lost it. The King then demanded to see the ring threatening to kill the Queen if she could not produce it. The knight confessed to St Mungo that he had lost the ring and St Mungo sent a monk to catch a fish in the River Clyde. The ring was found inside the fish.

The bell that never rang was St Mungo's Bell, paid for by an endowment left by John Stewart, the first Lord Provost of Glasgow. This bell was tolled throughout the city so that the citizens would pray for his soul.

The Glasgow Coat of Arms.

The Glasgow Coat of Arms.

While the cathedral area is the historic heart of Glasgow, I always think of nearby George Square as being the modern heart of the city. It is right in the centre next to Queens Street Station and not far from major shopping streets like Sauchiehall Street and Buchanan Street. It is where people gather on Hogmanay to listen to the bells and welcome in the New Year. It is where people stage protests there was a demonstration for transgender rights on our last visit. It is where city centre workers sit to eat their sandwiches on their lunch break.
Several famous, tragic or important events have taken place here. In 1919 a huge protest attended by over 90,000 people demonstrating for improved working conditions was held here. This was known as the Black Friday Rally. It turned violent, the Riot Act had to be read and fully
armed troops and tanks had to be deployed to restore law and order. In December 2014, a bin lorry crashed into pedestrians in George Square, killing six people and injuring ten.

George Square is named after King George III. It was created in 1781. It is home to the City Chambers the headquarters of Glasgow City Council which date from 1888. It has a lion flanked war memorial and lots of statues. These include one of Robert Burns, James Watt, Sir Robert Peel, Queen Victoria on a horse, Prince Albert, poet Thomas Campbell, chemist Thomas Graham, generals Sir John Moore and Lord Clyde and politicians William Ewart Gladstone and James Oswald. Right in the centre there is an eighty foot high column topped by Sir Walter Scott.

George Square.

George Square.

Posted by irenevt 02:40 Archived in Scotland

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