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.

Glasgow Women’s Heritage Walks

If you don’t know Glasgow, a great way to explore the city is on a guided walk. And if you DO know Glasgow it’s still great, because you will find out all sorts of hidden histories and little known facts. Several organisations can help, but my favourite walks (DISCLAMER! I help with them) are Glasgow Women’s Library’s Heritage Walks. There are five in total: West End, East End, Merchant City, Garnethill and the Necropolis. In addition, for most of them you can download maps from the link above to follow the walks yourself and for the West End walk there is even a podcast at £3. Walks are £7.50 and the programme runs regularly throughout the year. Below is a montage of three of the walks, and a link to a great blog post by a recent participant on the Necropolis Walk. I also wrote in more detail on this blog about the Necropolis after my last tour exactly one year ago and I’ve created a Storify about this one..

Women of the Necropolis Walking Tour

Glasgow Necropolis

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, we set off for the Necropolis, Glasgow’s Victorian garden cemetery, armed with two leaflets about it: Glasgow City Council’s Heritage Trail and Glasgow Women’s Library’s Women’s Heritage Walk. It proved confusing trying to follow them both at once, so we went round with the Women’s Walk and then went back later to fill in some of the gaps from the other leaflet. I must say, given the choice I would stick with the Women’s Library one which gives very clear directions to the monuments you are expected to look at. We got confused a few times with the City Council trail. If you’re interested, you can also join a guided tour by the Friends of Glasgow Necropolis.

Two things dominate the Necropolis: the Cathedral at its gates and the John Knox Monument at its peak. We ended up with photographs of both from all angles. Here’s the Cathedral from above the Davidson of Ruchill Mausoleum:

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And John Knox amongst a forest of other monuments:

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This is a rather sad relief from a memorial to Agnes Strang who died in childbirth in 1849 leaving the baby and three other small children:

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Isabella Ure Elder was a pioneer in promoting Higher Education for women and is one of only three women commemorated as statues in Glasgow – not here, but in Elder Park which she founded in Govan as well as a library, a hospital and a School of Domestic Economy. She sounds wonderful.

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We liked the Major Archibald Douglas Monteath Mausoleum, mainly because of the quirky faces round the doorway, one of which definitely resembles a cat:

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After that there was time for one last general view:

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Then it was back to the rather splendid gates before setting off for home after an enjoyable afternoon:

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