A High Definition photo doc of late medieval grave slabs in Kilmartin Church graveyard.
Kilmartin (Scottish Gaelic: Cille Mhàrtainn) is a small village in Argyll and Bute, western Scotland. It is best known as the centre of Kilmartin Glen, an area with one of the richest concentrations of prehistoric monuments and historical sites in Scotland.
Kilmartin Parish Church is a congregation of the Church of Scotland. The present church building was designed by architect James Gordon Davis and opened in 1835, though there had been earlier churches on the site. The churchyard has an important collection of early Christian and medieval carved stones, known as the “Kilmartin Stones” in the ‘West Highland’ style, dating between the 14th and early 16th centuries.
Originally, the stones would have been laid flat on the ground to cover a grave. After the Reformation, however, many of the stones were moved, and in 1956 they were moved inside a shelter to protect them from the weather. The symbolism of the motifs carved onto the slabs is the subject of much discussion and speculation. Many feature swords or claymores, some alone, others with surrounding designs of twining or interlaced foliage. Several depict armed men. Other motifs include crosses, fantastic animals and shears; a comb appears with shears on one stone.
The location and stones rose to fame in the early 1980s when they were mentioned in the best selling book “Holy Blood Holy Grail”written by Lincoln, Bagient and Leigh, who claimed the grave slabs were proof of Knights Templar activity in the region at the time of Robert The Bruce [early 14th Century]. It is generally thought by most historians that, although some of the dead could be classed as “knights”, none of them were Templars. The grave slabs are those of Scottish noblemen and landowners.
You can visit our HighRes photo gallery of enhanced images to study the detail of the slabs <<HERE>>
In the churchyard are a large collection of late medieval gravestones in the ‘West Highland’ style, dating between the 14th and early 16th centuries. Many are marked by figures of warriors in contemporary dress with spears and swords, along with figures of fantastic animals, foliage and interlace patterns. None are inscribed, so the identities of the persons commemorated are unknown. They can, however, be taken to be the monuments of the local landowning or minor noble class in late medieval times.
You can visit our HighRes photo gallery of enhanced images to study the patterns and detail of the slabs <<HERE>>
Kilmartin Church was evidently an important burial site, and the graveslabs of the ‘Loch Awe school’ of carving may have been carved in a workshop at or near Kilmartin. The swords shown on many of the stones refer to warrior (or, more broadly, social) status, and have no connection with the Templars or other medieval military orders, as is sometimes suggested. Women are commemorated on some of the stones, their symbol often being the shears (referring to household activities).
The Church of Scotland minister at Kilmartin between 1655-87 was John Duncanson (c.1630–1687) who was appointed in 1655, removed in 1662 when episcopacy was re-established but restored in 1670. His son Major Robert Duncanson was a key figure in the 1692 Glencoe Massacre.
You can visit our HighRes photo gallery of enhanced images to study the detail of the slabs <<HERE>>
FEATURE A short sequence of “behind the scenes ” video footage of producing the High Definition photo doc, of late medieval grave slabs, in Kilmartin Church graveyard….or “A perfect photo opportunity: hanging about a graveyard at night to get the Kilmartin Stones in the right light” 🙂
[Troy is an author, researcher, filmmaker and artist living in Glasgow Scotland]
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Much has been made about the use of “Hal” in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” as a metaphor for a conflict in man, between man’s reason and the divine will of god. C21 Troy makes new discoveries on the meaning of Hal as a choice of name by Arthur C. Clarke for the A.I computer of the space ship United States Spacecraft Discovery One” (or XD-1)
Stanly Kubrick’s letters to the head of production for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey where he mentions his concerns about the “theme” of the film.
Kubrick writes – “Does I. B. M. know that one of the main themes of the story is a psychotic computer? I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, and I don’t want them to feel they have been swindled. Please give me the exact status of things with I. B. M.”
The film director obviously had a great respect for the computer company and did not want to be seen as a betrayer of good faith. I believe I.B.M. had given computers to be used in the film and were technical consultants. Was Kubrick also making sure they were on board with the program, appreciating the merit of such a great story, while testing the water to see how far he could push his vision without being detected? Was the department he was in communication with at I.B. M. even aware of the film’s more metaphysical aspects?
Even today, people can’t agree on what message is being conveyed in 2001: A Space Odyssey, so the staff at I.B.M. in the late 1960s can be forgiven, for being equally in the dark.
The thing about Hal
Many people have noticed the relationship of the name of HAL, which is an abbreviation for “Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer”, to the acronym of IBM “International Business Systems”, which has an increase of one letter difference.
Both Arthur C. Clarke the author and film director Stanley Kubrick denied that any relationship was ever intentional but i am inclined to think that there may have been some unconscious hand at play here.
In Sufiism “Hal” is a well defined concept.
“Hal – Condition or state of being; pl. ahwal. Used by Sufis to refer to the transitory spiritual state of enlightenment or ecstasy resulting from passage along the way to mystical knowledge of God. Considered a gift from God, as opposed to an acquired stage (maqam). Although the recipient may not have deliberately sought this state, reception of it is typically understood to be the result of a definite, disciplined rule of life. Hal is often described as a trancelike state and can be either voluntary or involuntary. Some Sufis engage in ecstatic behavior while in this state, making it suspect to more legalistic interpreters of Islam.”
What interest could IBM possibly have in Arabic?
Well, at the very least, as the historic origins of calculus of course.
Hindu-Arabic numerals, set of 10 symbols—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0—that represent numbers in the decimal number system. They originated in India in the 6th or 7th century and were introduced to Europe through the writings of Middle Eastern mathematicians, especially al-Khwarizmi and al-Kindi, about the 12th century.
i suspect that it was the founders of IBM, who were knowledgeable, not only of the history of calculus but eastern esoteric theology also, who notched up the letters to make a statement about their belief in the future of Artificial Intelligence. Giving the will of mankind, as a synthetic program of free will, reign over any divine plan from a “supreme being.” I think Arthur C. Clarke was well aware of this though he may have hidden the Sufi meaning from Kubrick, who, whether consciously or unconsciously, put the opposing forces at logger heads in his Space Odyssey.
In the Western World, amidst the pop culture of youth in the mid to late 1960s were not just a time of mass experimentation into psychedelics, there was a new, genuine awareness of spiritualism from the East. Just think of George Harrison and his hymn to Krishna “My Sweet Lord”and all the pop iconography that surround that one event to understand the magnitude of the situation. So too can we see this eastern mystical experience and philosophy influence Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke.
The mysterious, supposed abstract metaphor of the final sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey, becomes crystal clear to students of Hindu theology, familiar with the concept of reincarnation and the circle of life, of birth, death and rebirth.
As Bowman perceives himself at every stage in the cycle with an enlightened consciousness.
..and what of Hal?
In perfect dual symbolism, the artificial eye is the modern antithesis to the divine, All Seeing Eye of God.
Dave Bowman gets to experience the real Hal
[Troy is author, filmmaker and artist living in Glasgow Scotland]
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An up-date on the rescued footage of The Partick Folk Festival from 2004.
We have now managed to add the salvaged footage to a playlist on You Tube HERE▼
Featuring performances from
Jock Tamson’s Bairns
A spectacular evening of “Scottish & Irish Fiddle Traditions” with Aidan O’Rourke, Archie McAllister and Kevin Burk
An evening of “Songs Of The Gaels” with Maggie MacInnes, Maeve Mackinnon and Darren Maclean
The Mick West Band
A very rare performance captured on video of the late great Mick Broderick [founding member of The Whistlebinkies” and his band created for the festival “Tapsalteerie”
Some footage of the folk sessions during the day in The Lismore Bar
Darren Maclean, Maeve Mackinnon, Mick West and possibly the only recorded interview with Mick Broderick of The Whistlebinkies.
We hope you will enjoy these videos as much as we have and will research the back-catalogue of fine Scottish Folk Music made by the musicians featured here, which are still available to buy on CD recordings.
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A rare video of Scottish folk band “The Clutha” performing at the Partick Folk Festival in Glasgow 2004
A few weeks ago i was contacted by a folk music fan asking about a video I made in 2004 documenting some of the highlights of The Partick Folk Festival.
In that video there is a short clip of The Clutha a ground breaking band from Glasgow who rose to fame in the early 1970s. It turns out that there is very little footage of this band performing and this music fan was very keen to see if there was any more footage. The problem was so much of my archive got ruined in 2012 due to flood damage and I could not remember if that particular reel had survived.
After much rummaging about I discovered some but not all of the reels from this festival and as luck would have it I had two songs of The Clutha saved.
So for any folk music connoisseurs and Scottish Music Historians here is that video re-digitised on YouTube for you to enjoy.
Which I hope you do.
The songs performed here are “Jock Hawk’s Adventures in Glasgow” and
“The Tartan Plaidie”
View more photos of The Batmobile at our gallery <<HERE>>
The 1966 Batmobile from the iconic 60s TV series of the DC Comics “Caped Crusader” BATMAN
This fully working “road legal,” stage prop was built by renowned cinema and TV custom car builder George Barris, who built it around the design of the futuristic concept car called the Lincoln Futura. The Futura was built by Ford at a factory in Italy at a cost of $250,000 but never seen production. Barris acquired the car in the mid 1960s for the cost of $1.
The Batmobile was probably the most well known car in the western world at the time of the TV show inspiring the trend for future TV heroes to have a “pimped-up” egocentric, custom car.
The original Batmobile was auctioned by it’s owner George Barry in 2013 and sold for a staggering $4.6 Million, matching the record with the Aston Martin DB5 driven by Sean Connery in the film Glodfinger, ”for the “Highest Price Fetched At Auction” for a movie car.
The Batmobile originally had a front “slasher blade” that could be extended to break through barricades or ram villain’s cars during high speed chases but this was removed by the request of the producers as they felt it too dangerous. The Corgi toy from the same era retained the “Slasher Blade” which could be extended by the press of a button, it also fired rockets, making the Batmobile a “boss car” in many a toy box. A pristine toy Batmobile still in box, in full working order can fetch up to £700 in eBay!
This Batmobile was driven by actor Adam West who played Batman in the TV series in the 1960s .
Scottish Fans of Batman and Robin as well as custom car enthusiasts can view the Batmobile as it makes an appearance at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum Of Transport from 24th November to 24th December 2017
You can view more photographs of the 1966 Batmobile at our image gallery of Flicker <<HERE>>
The statue of Lobey Dosser returns to Woodlands Road after a year’s absence. The famous statue, dedicated to comic-strip writer William “Bud” Neill, features Neil’s legendary comic strip hero riding on his trusty steed “El Fideldo” (Elfie), his resourceful two-legged horse and with his adversary, the villain “Rank Bajin,” sitting handcuffed behind. The comic strip which appeared in the Herald and Evening Times newspapers and ran in the 1940-50s , saw a second run in the 1980s and was a favourite amongst Glaswegians as it was written in the local dialect known as “The Patter” and had many comic parallels to Glasgow place names and legends.
His memorial plaque reads –
Statue erected by public subscription
on May 1, 1992, to the memory of
1911 – 1970
CARTOONIST & POET
Creator of Lobey Dosser, Sherrif of Calton Creek, his
trusty steed, El Fideldo, resident villain Rank Bajin,
and many other characters
The statue was away getting repaired after being damaged from the abuse of people constantly sitting on it. El Fideleo has only two legs and it seems they were not up to supporting the extra weight of a third horseman.
The new statue has been fenced off to deter unwelcome sitters and has been modified to strengthen it including put on a reinforced concrete podium.
The much loved Lobey’s statue was sorely missed by local people who now can enjoy it once again with some reassurance that it will last for many years to come.
Sculptors: Tony Morrow and Nick Gillon
Foundry: Powderhall Bronze
Plaque: Co-operative Monumental Services
Location: Woodlands Road, West End, Glasgow
Date executed: 1992
BRINGING IN THE MISTLETOE
– a masterpiece decoded
by C21 Troy
C21 Troy gets under the surface of this famous Scottish masterpiece to reveal a forgotten story, left as a series of symbolic and allegorical clues, which tell of a great controversy of secret practices and heretical views, held by the founding fathers of the new religion at the time of the building of the first Christian church in Glasgow which became Glasgow Cathedral.
The first time i came across this painting was in a book I bought at a jumble sale in my local church [when jumble sales were meaningful and frequent] in the mid 1970s. I remember saving up my pocket money for weeks and feeling chuffed with myself for getting such interesting things for pennies:- a newish book on paintings with nice photos and an older book on first world war aircraft that I was into in a big way at the time. I also got a FREE signed photo of Moira Anderson who opened the event. Well the photos were lying in a box on a chair at the exit and you could help your self, at least I think you could. I gave it to my mom who gave it to a neighbour who was a fan [dirty old man].
I suppose the painting must have been hanging in Kelvingrove Art Gallery at this time but I don’t remember it being there…really it was the photo of the painting that made an impression on my young mind. The only thing I recall from the text was that the people in it were druids and it was Scottish and that was intriguing enough for me.
We lived between Charing Cross and Garnethill, only one block separating us from the Art School. Garnethill in the 1970s was, just as it is today, very multi-cultural, a mixture of Scots, Indian, Pakistani and Chinese with a few Japanese, Polish, French and Italians for good measure. All hard-working families whose kids went to school together at Garnetbank Primary and the Boy’s or Girls Brigade in Renfield St. Stephen’s Church if they were old enough.
Being so close to the art school meant that your “ARTISTS!” warning light was permanently set on “RED ALERT!”. Young students, “so serious and deep” and older bohemians, some of them hipsters, some failing to maintain their dignity, whom they liked to hang about with, and there was still a few original Hippy Freaks knocking about…possibly “occultists” still waiting for their revolution, not realising that they had missed the boat ten years before and anyway, the boat was just about to be hijacked by pirates, nihilists with “electrical shockers” and all concepts of “hip” were about to be ripped apart and then safety -pinned together in new ways, a new sound, sound of the anti-ways, .. a new era on the cusp of the horizon
I thought they all looked familiar, the people in the Druids painting that is, they could be my friend’s aunties or big sisters and that old bloke pushing the two bulls – well that must be old Father “Whatsname” from the Chapel down the road. . [Actually his name was Father Gitts and he was a local legend] .and going north across the hill, over the field, not so hard to imagine drovers en route to Cowcaddens. The whole thing looked like a community wedding parade, except for it being winter…and there being no …..bride ..and groom.
When i saw the painting again recently in the Museum, I was struck by its size, so much bigger than i imagined and the gold was like “real gold”, shining! My photo never managed to capture how shiny it really was. Then there was all this symbolism, mysterious and captivating and nothing written about it from what i could gather, nothing to explain “what it all means”.??… and still being that man of a curious child, I wondered.
There has always been at the back of my mind a desire to find out and maybe share what i discovered with you one day. .. so here goes….
A painting that always instils a sense of wonder in all who happen upon it is “The Druids: Bringing In The Mistletoe” or just commonly known by my fellow Glaswegians as “The Druids”. It was painted in 1890 by two Scottish artists of renown, George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel, and hangs in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum.
It’s quite unusual to have two artists credited in producing a painting together isn’t it? We cant really tell which artist painted on which parts as they both paint with a similar technique in the “Post-Impressionism” style, though “The Druids” is often described as “symbolist” which it definitely is.
The use of gold leaf to accentuate the ritual objects in the painting was highly innovative at the time and caused quite a stir, when “The Druids” was exhibited in London and then Munich in 1890. Some believe the painting may have had an influence on the Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt, who incorporated gold leaf into his work ten years later. Maybe it did… maybe it didn’t .. but there you have it .. Gold Leaf!
It would seem that the painting is a pictorial representationof one of the earliest and probably most well-known descriptions of druids given to us by Pliny The Elder, in hisNatural History[AD 79].
“The Druids –for that is what they call their magicians– hold nothing more sacred than the Mistletoe and the tree upon which it grows, provided it is a hard-timbered Oak… Mistletoe is rare and when found it is gathered with great ceremony, and particularly on the sixth day of the Moon…Hailing the Moon by a native word that means ‘healing all things,’ they prepare a ritual sacrifice and banquet beneath a tree, and bring up two white bulls, whose horns are bound for the first time for this occasion. A priest arrayed in white vestments climbs the tree and, with a golden sickle, cuts down the Mistletoe, which is caught in a white cloak. Then finally they offer the victims, praying to the god to render his gift propitious to those on whom he has bestowed it. They believe that the Mistletoe will impart fertility…”
—Pliny the Elder, ‘Natural History’, XVI, 95.
It has to be said there are not many other accounts of “Druids” in ancient texts. Pliny’s account obviously influenced the artists a great deal though it is still a mysterious painting in many regards. What they have elaborated on Pliny and managed to suggest through symbolism seems so ahead of it’s time, as these ideas resonate so well with our modern “New Age” school of alternative thought and history. One wonders where the artists got these ideas from or is theirs the generation that started the New Age from their imagination or a secret source?
The depiction in the painting is of a procession of apparently ancient people clad in vibrant, colourful robes, leading two white bulls over a winter-land by the light of the waxing moon. We are reminded of that ancient, tribal civilisation of Celtic peoples, that spanned all of western Europe during the Iron age. They were presided over by a class of “wise men” [and apparently women] known as “Druids”, keepers of ancient earth mysteries, performers of the sacred arts, medical practitioners and mystics and who have all but disappeared from existence.
UNDER THE SURFACE: Bringing In The Mistletoe
The properties of Magical Mistletoe In ancient times mistletoe was hung inside the home to keep out unwanted ghosts [evil spirits] . Mistletoe had to be cut from the sacred oak at the right phase of the moon, “the sixth day of the moon” according to Pliny and you can see the waxing moon on the horizon in the painting. It was believed to have many medicinal properties, though is poisonous if ingested by humans and was also used as a fertility enhancement. In the painting, freshly cut Mistletoe is decoratively arranged over the horns of the two white bulls. In the Pliny account the bulls are to be used as a sacrifice to the Druid god.
A Bit Of Perspective Much has been said about this “tipping up” of the perspectiveof this painting, that it has been intentionally been skewed to look “flat” and capture the whole procession of druids as they are walking past you. Indeed they do look like that but I feel that there is more to the use of this perspective as a device and the moon is key.
I don’t think the perspective is skewed in any away. To me it looks as though the procession has come over the horizon and is now travelling downhill on to a flat terrain where “you” are viewing it from, dead straight and is just about pass by you to the right. They are walking down hill.
With the moon, a distant orb in the background and the rounded hills of the terrain also looking like spheres, I think the idea that is being suggested here is that the Druids have, or at least their knowledge has it’s origin off-world and have travelled from other planets, “other realms.” Indeed if you follow their faces back into the horizon you can see that they emanate from the clouds/sky in the top left corner.
– also it should be noted that they are walking toward the sunrise, their faces and golden paraphernalia lit up as they catch the first rays of the sun, It’s light casting long shadows of the trees on the ground as it rises on the Earth.
Looking at this fine parade one cant help notice the facial features of people from many races, spanning from as far as Asia across Europe and even South America. Informing us that Celtic Druidism was a world religion. Also that, with the exception of the bearded man, all of the people in the painting are women, denoting the powerful and essential role woman had in ceremonial matters. Perhaps the artists are trying to show us the importance of the Divine Feminine and veneration of Nature / Goddess amongst the Druids. Also, the central figure appears to be a blending of the two, that is to say s/he is androgynous and whose face has caught most of the light and so is highlighted for significance in the painting.
Another device of the perspective is to allow the vantage point for the viewer to frame the main group of five characters, including the two bulls, into a pyramid, with the red flag at the apex. This would link the Druids to the pyramid building cultures such as Egyptian, Mayan, Chinese and others. So it is being suggested here that all pyramid cultures were practising a form of druidism or ancient “Gnosis” [from the Greek meaning knowledge]. Whether the pyramid idea is intentional or not there is the need to frame a certain group in a triangle and this seemed to me to be important to the artists.
The six main characters that form the pyramid can be “distilled” into five separate elements in the painting ‘The Druids: Bringing In The Mistletoe’.All are dressed in unique colours and each with symbols that associate them with the basic alchemical elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. also I think there is a slight nod to both astrology and astronomy.
Starting from the bottom upward we have
FIRE – the high priestess, her fiery red hair crowned by a single gold head band. She wears a cape designed with golden snakes set in an orange sun disk. She is associated with both the element fire and the sun and I think she has the features of an Indian woman with henna in her hair. Another serpent -a cobra, is placed in the centre of a golden sun circle which is placed on a six sided, hermetic seal, sometimes called the “Seal Of Solomon” which is it’s self set inside another outer-border circle, elaborated with celtic design to make up the large golden disk she wears on her chest. I think the links to Hindu mysticism are astounding. The cobra is symbol of the “serpent energy or “Kundalini” as it is known in that practice.
Also the “Seal Of Solomon ” axiom “as above so below” is referenced by the other scythe positioned at the top of the frame in the mirrored position to the one in the painting, and has in it’s centre three serpents.
The snake also eludes to those “Serpent Races” [- see snake cults such as the Ophites ] that apparently had to be expelled by Christian missionaries in Ireland and Scotland and no doubt all across Europe. So this “Fire Druid” encapsulates all the above ideas and more if one follows the serpent motif in all world cultures.
WATER– Is depicted as two young women walking close together and facing the sunrise, could they be twins? What associates the pair to water is the large clam shell design on the shawl of the one in front and the artistic rendering of the letter “W” at the bottom of the design. The fact that there are two of them one could associate them to “Gemini the Twins or indeed the shell to Venus / Aphrodite – or even the actual planet Venus, but i like to think of them as Pisces, symbolised as two fish. Their features are like Mayan woman of South America or maybe they are dark Spanish beauties.
AIR –For air we have rather oriental looking androgynous druid and s/he holds a red flag blowing in the breeze ,hence her association with air.
EARTH– What can i say about our symbol for “Earth”? Only that it is a green shawl or cape symbolising vegetation and is standing behind the red flag. I suppose the bulls themselves are Earth symbols as the Taurean nature is always associated with earthy materialist types in astrology.
SPIRIT– The fifth element is “Spirit” and here we have a wise old man dressed in white, denoting spiritual purity with a sun disk behind his head in the style of depiction we are familiar seeing in Christian iconography to denote a saintly personage or a specific Saint. Two bulls and bulbous head suggests phallic symbol – the male principal, seed -the holy fire and life-force in esoteric Gnosticism.
In Alchemy– The transmutation of metals into gold was symbolic of the perfecting of a soul. A self realised individual who transformed their bestial, lower nature into one of a spiritually awakened, conscious state ,to become a fully fledged Human Being. So it is fitting that all the religious ceremonial objects are gold, to denote their high spiritual value.
THE MESSAGE TO THE CHILDREN OF A FUTURE SUN
If we look back to the “Earth Druid” in green, hidden behind the red flag, we can see a large symbol painted on her cape/ shawl. To the uninitiated it just looks like the other symbols of the mysterious writing adorning the Druid’s clothes and flag. To the uninitiated yes, but to anyone who studies written music they will immediately [although no one has until now] recognise it as the musical notation symbol for a “hold” or “pause” called a “Fermata” written
When it is placed over a bar [ the flagpole?] it is used to denote the end of a musical phrase or section of music. The chief druid leading the procession is carrying a ceremonial golden scythe used for cutting the mistletoe but is also a symbol for “time” and “death”, meaning the end of a cycle. Holding it in the “arch upwards” position it forms the last letter of the Greek Alphabet “Omega,” written like so [ Ω]
Sounds a little sombre and final doesn’t it?
Cheer up good reader and read on, I feel it in my bones that we have not heard the last of our dear sun worshippers.
As mentioned before, both druids and saint are all facing the rising sun together which is significant as we can derive our third and forth symbols from this to complete the message.
1) Pause – Rest – End Of Cycle
2) OMEGA – The Last of Our Line
3) Christian Saints and Druids
4) Face the dawn together.
“We, the last of the Druids have reached the end of a cycle and though our work must stop, it is only a pause, as a new day dawns we, both Druids and Christians face the rising sun together”
or if you like this sort of thing [ I do]
Druids we, last of our line must rest our work Now ends our time.
Turn to face the rising sun [Christos] A cycle starts A new day dawns
It is a a subtle statement by the artist’s Hornel and Henry who are prophesying a new renaissance in druidism in the 20th Century.
The main message to be read in the painting is therefore that the druid’s exit from the stage of history was only a pause and that the last of their line was absorbed into the modern esoteric Christian Church waiting for such a time as when the human race had acquired sufficient knowledge [Gnosis] to resurface!
This is very much a Glasgow painting, painted by some of the “Glasgow Boys” of fame, perhaps the artists wanted to say something, a nod, a reference that could tie it to the city for posterity, maybe an event in it’s ancient past that could link it to the aesthetics of their time?
‘The Druids: Bringing In The Mistletoe’ – Christian Symbolism – Fergus / Mungo
“Bringing in the Mistletoe” a title that commands the eye to search for mistletoe in the painting and there we find it, entwined behind the bull’s heads, in front of the old man, who seems to be driving them, as they pull a cart, the frame of which you can just make out in the lower left hand corner of the painting.
I always find this corner section of the painting to be a little crammed as if it was the intention of the artists to make bulls, mistletoe and old man appear fused together, that they are to be taken as one symbol. Both man and bulls are the embodiment of the male principal in nature and both druid and christian symbolism is associated with sacrifice here. The actual killing of the bulls as sacrifice in the old pagan ways and the sacrifice Jesus made to save mankind.
Taking our “Spirit Druid,” the old man in white, to me he stands out amongst the other characters in the painting. First because he is the only man and also because he has what appears to be a halo around his head. He is depicted as a saint but Glasgow’s patron saint is St Kentigern affectionately known as “Mungo” meaning “dear one”. Is he supposed to be St. Mungo, and if so, what is he doing in such controversial though very distinguished company?
At the time of Kentigern [6th Century AD] in the British Isles, the once prevalent, indigenous religion of druidism had dramatically declined. Beside this, there would be remnants of pagan Roman and the larger, dominant Anglo- Saxon belief system. The newer Christianity, though rising in popularity was still a cult. So perhaps our painted saint is meant to represent Mungo or at least the embodiment of Christianity at this time and it’s links, according to the artists, with Druidism.
Were there links to Druidism? Quite possibly, ….almost certainly. Well we have the character of Simon Magus in the Bible [ Acts 8: 9-24] who was excommunicated by St. Peter for being “Gnostic.” as proof and for all we know our saintly druid in the painting may be a reference to him or at least mystics of that ilk.
What of the Druid converts? Why would Christianity appeal to druids who had such an ancient belief system of their own that gave so much to it’s followers, connecting them to mother/father god, spirit, nature, the cosmos and incorporating the arts and earth sciences? How could it even compete?
Simply by being not that different, so no competition really. The first Christians were Gnostics [from the Greek Knowledge] and practised a form of esoteric Christianity with symbolism, method and an ultimate goal of “salvation” that would have been familiar – if not too far removed from the native holy men of Britain. Druidism for want of a better word to define it [Rome 50s BC] and Christianity once enjoyed a time of peaceful co-existence and mutual appreciation.
For the remaining druids under persecution from the Anglo Saxons, – Christianity was probably the safer option with many high priests eventually being absorbed into the Celtic Christian priesthood. The original vein of Celtic / Gnostic Christianity prospered until it was deemed as heresy and all but wiped out with Norse paganism by the all-powerful, intolerant and vengefully unforgiving Roman Catholic Church, 600 years later in the 13th Century. [see The Albigensian Crusade]
Many first churches were built on the sites of sacred druid worship albeit some of them on Anglo-Saxon shrines already now built over them. Originally the sites would have been open air alters or standing stones, in sacred groves or sites chosen for some astrological observational advantage. The new priests on the block would be able to hook in many a lost sheep from the catchment of “pagan” stragglers visiting them.
‘The Druids: Bringing In The Mistletoe’
This is very much a Glasgow painting, painted by some of the “Glasgow Boys” of fame, perhaps the artists wanted to say something, a nod, a reference that could tie it to the city for posterity, maybe an event in it’s ancient past that could link it to the Victorian aesthetics of their time?
In the book he commissioned in the 12th Century documenting the life of Saint Kentigern’, [or Kyentyern meaning “first lord”] Bishop Jocelyn of Glasgow Cathedral, in the telling of the story of the monk, mentions that after his miraculous “disturbing of the river Forth” to escape his master St. Serf and his disciples, on that same night, he stayed in the house of a holy man named Fergus. Fergus an old man, who was very ill and not long for this world, had been informed by divine revelation, that in the presence of St Kentigern he would pass from this earthly realm. He asks the kindly monk to preside over his burial which Kentigern promises to do.. Amidst the prayers to bless his immortal soul, the old man gives up the ghost , leaving Kentigern to honour his promise to attend to his funeral.
The following day Kentigern had the old man’s body lain on the back of a wooden cart which was being pulled by two untamed oxen and prayed to God to guide them to his chosen place for burial. To quote directly from the book,
‘And in truth, the bulls, in no way being restive, or in anything disobeying the voice of Kentigern, without any tripping or fall, came by a straight road, along where there was no path, as far as Cathures, which is now called Glasgu …’
The site where the bulls stopped was a cemetery that had been consecrated by St. Ninian 150 years earlier and this cemetery is said to be the site where Kentigern established his first church. It is believed that the original cemetery lies under what is now the Blackadder Aisle of Glasgow Cathedral. It is worth noting that the “modern” Victorian burial ground called “The Eastern Necropolis”, is situated next to the Cathedral site, on a man-made hill today and was also possibly chosen for its proximity to St. Ninian’s ancient cemetery. Which for all we know may have been a Druid site previous to this. Going back to this strange passage in Jocelyn’s book, “came by a straight road, along where there was no path..”
What did Jocelyn mean by this? ” a straight road, along where there was no path?”
Jocelyn was piecing together fragments of written legends and the spoken word of local stories to compile his story of Kentigern, editing as he saw fit that is, taking out or obscuring anything that made him feel uncomfortable that pointed to positive aspects of the “Old Religion” that may have mirrored Christian miracles or beliefs etc.
To me it reads like allegory of something. …but of what?
In recent years many have thought it to mean a “prehistoric sitealignment ” ascribed to Harry Bell in his publication “Glasgow’s Secret Geometry: The City’s Oldest Mystery.” The main jist of Mr Bell’s discovery is that the city was built along a network of prehistoric communication lines.
Harry believed that Jocelyn was describing an “invisible path” or sight line that ran from Carron Ford to what is now the Eastern Necropolis where the bulls finally stopped.
Of course an “invisible path” could be a reference to “lay lines or “dragon lines” and the alignment between Carron Ford and The Necropolis is known to energy dowsers such as Graham Gardner of the British Society of Dowsers and those of similar sensitive abilities who have visited the area.
So we have two good and believable interpretations of what the “straight road, along where there was no path” may be – an ancient site alignment or even a lay-line – known to the Druids. Bishop Jocelyn’s account is the first reference to any road or path of any kind in the area and begs the question, why did he describe it in such an ambiguous fashion? Did he feel that he had to disguise any reference to a previous culture, namely the druids because of fear from criticism or even reprisals from his superiors? Was there still rivalry between both religions? Druidism and Christianity? Well he was, with the commissioning of the book The Life Of St. Kentigern, trying to establish Glasgow Cathedral as a major site on the Christian Pilgrimage trail and he most definitely sought the approval and help from the Pope in the Vatican in Rome at the time [see my short film about Jocelyn here] to settle land disputes but Druidism was all but none existent at the time. So why the need to disguise it such a way? Why mention it at all, why not just say ” came by a straight road as far as Cathures, which is now called Glasgu”? and miss out the “where there was no path”bit? Perhaps because there was no physical road there at all?
I would like to offer an idea of my own dear reader, that Jocelyn’s description of the “path”, choosing his words so cleverly, was an attempt to flag it as important, for those with “eyes to see and ears to hear” well at least “eyes to read”, as it spoke not only of Druids and possibly their lay/site lines but of something that was diametrically opposed to Roman Catholic doctrine and was known to Jocelyn and everyone in Christendom at that time as “The Great Heresy” with dire consequences for those that practised it.
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Even today, this passage from the book of Matthew in the New Testament, throws rival Christian factions into disarray – with much gnashing of teeth, tearing of clothes and rolling in the dirt…and other unchristian behaviour between them…ok so maybe it doesn’t… but it is still an idea of contention in some circles of modern Christian Theology.
Basically – the “wide gate and broad way” – is the path walked by sinners, [see 7 deadly sins] everyday Christians, who believe their soul can be saved, regardless of their conduct, because their sins will be forgiven as long as they believe that Jesus Christ is their Saviour. So it is a question of “Faith” and as long as they have it, everything is going to be rosy.
Through time, with the advent of organised religion, these “everyday Christians” learned to accept the legitimacy of ordained priests to explain the bible to them which, they believed is the word of god and is to be taken literally and for said priests to act as middle men between believers and god with the power to forgive sins. So the priests were heavily invested in the “broad way”
Women of the cloth would be sisters [nuns] but would never be allowed to be Bishops and were generally seen as inferior to men. See St. Paul “the misogynist.”
Believers meet in churches, which are subservient to a mother church which would have been Rome in Jocelyn’s time, and followed a strict code of conduct as decreed by it. If you fell out with the church you were excommunicated and doomed, no longer able to seek salvation for your soul, though some managed to be received back into communion if the pope or a Bishop saw it fit to do so….all heavenly pursuits vindicated.
The “straight gate and narrow way”- is not for the faint of heart because of the discipline required to achieve “salvation”. Basically the earliest “Christians” – who came to Britain, done so in the first Century via the invading Roman Army . They practised a kind of esoteric Christianity where they believed that the word “Christ” is a title, not a personal name. The “Christos,” a word derived from the Greek meaning, “Anointed One,” and Krestos, whose esoteric meaning is “fire” predated the arrival of Jesus the man and is the “sacred fire” or “life force” in nature. They saw the human body as a temple where this force resided and could be realised. Jesus “The Christ” was a great Master and teacher to them and was seen as living embodiment of this life force or spirit that they could obtain, and so have “Christ in their hearts.” In other words, anyone with developed capacities of awakened consciousness could become a Christ, a true human being.
The path to this inner-self realisation was known as “the work” and starts from the premise that people posses the essence to produce the soul but they do not posses the soul yet.
These holy men and women raised the power of this life-force by acts of dedication [the work] relying a lot on chastity, meditation, the study of esoteric knowledge [dead sea scrolls] and highly moral living which enabled them to disintegrate the undesirable psychic elements within [see “Seven Deadly Sins”] and in doing so, cultivated the soul which could survive death of the body.
They believed Jesus to be the embodiment of this life force in the universe and associated him with the sun [his symbol as radiating light and energy] Jesus was a great Master who lit the way for adepts who saw “The Christos” ( Anointed One) as the Logos – the very “Word” uttered by god to call all into being – self created and equated with both the Consciousness of god and the consciousness of mankind.
They had no need for stone buildings with effigies as was the Roman model for worship of their gods. They met in peoples houses or in the open air. They had no priest class, only “holy men” who were teachers, so no need for any middle man between them and god. They did not follow any book but were instructed by their esoteric teachings [see secret gospels] and were guided by their personal inspired revelation and logical reasoning in the course of their meditations. Salvation was the responsibility of each individual and one had to acquire Gnosis [Knowledge] and walk “the narrow path” to seek the Divine Spirit of Redemption- faith did not come into it. Gnostics saw themselves as “living Christs.”
God is incarnated in the Perfected Soul of an individual. Gnostic. Christianity was a tool that allowed them to achieve this. A religious system based on self knowledge and practice and did not rely on Faith.
You could see why the Catholic Church in Rome did not like the Christian Gnostic, D.I.Y. approach to salvation. As it totally undermined their function and power and it is why they accused those who called themselves “The First True Christians” and “living Christs” as heretics.
Was the” straight road, along where there was no path” a network of Christian Gnostics and druids practising along the area from Carron Ford to St Ninian’s cemetery that Kentigern was privy to, and indeed was probably part of and that his Chronicler Jocelyn Bishop Of Glasgow, had to disguise this inconvenient truth because of fear from retribution from his superiors in mentioning it? Though mention it he did, albeit in a coded fashion, to record it for posterity.
I think, those romantic Glasgow Boys of the Victorian renaissance quite possibly thought so..and now after my journey into this research I think so too.
I think it is fair to say that the artists, Henry and Atkinson saw a new Scotland of spiritual enlightenment based on the path of Hermetic wisdom.
This Hermetic principal is finally encoded in the “secret geometry” of their composition for the painting “The Druids: Bringing In The Mistletoe” As it portrays a balance and union of energies of “male and female”, the two serpents on the “Staff Of Hermes,” making each axis of a St. Andrews Cross which is the national flag of the Nation Of Scotland and St. Andrew it’s Patron Saint. With one axis made entirely of women and the other a composite of man, bulls and tall erect trees. The centre axis of this cross is the androgynous person whose face is lit up the most to show this magical union of both. The Gnostics saw the Supreme Being as androgynous before splitting into the natural forces of male and female. Our axis in the painting is the alchemist’s “Hermaphrodite” or “Rebis” as it is known and is a symbol of marriage of Spirit and Mankind.
[Troy is an author, researcher, filmmaker and artist living in Glasgow Scotland]
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Chitty Chitty Bang Bange pays Glasgow a visit to help raise money for Strathcarron Hospice.
This car is the final road version used in the “truly scrumptious” 1968 film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. From Ian Fleming’s story, the Chitty car was brought to life by Ken Adam – famous for his production designs for James Bond films and cartoonist/sculptor Frederick Rowland Emett.
As racing car number 3, Chitty is seen at the start of the film at the 1908 German Grand Prix during which it crashes.
The car was reconstructed by W.G,. Grant using original components from the number 3 racing car. Fitted with a Ford 3000 V6 engine and automatic transmission, the car was allocated the genuine British registration number 11 GEN.
Five other car props were built for the film including the hover and flying versions.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car, 1967
Originally built by Alan Mann Racing, Hertfordshire
Restored by W.G. Grant
Lent to Glasgow Museum Of Transport by Gordon Grant until early 2017
Fundraising for Strathcarron Hospice
Visit Chitty Chitty Bang Bang over the month of January 2017 at the Glasgow Museum Of Transport
What relevance does twentieth century public art have in our “modern Britain” now, and is there anything truthful about it that can tell us who we are, where we came from and what paths we may have as options in the future? The statues on Kelvin Way Bridge have a story to tell anyone who will “listen”.
Kelvin Way is an important road that crosses the River Kelvin in Glasgow’s west end, joining Sauchiehall Street to the roundabout at University Avenue. Here you can get the connection to Byres Rd, Great Western Rd [via Gibson Street] and Woodlands Rd, which thousands of vehicles take each day to enter the junction on to the M8, to travel east out of the city.
During the best part of the day, the sound of birds and even the river is drowned out by heavy traffic, people, all in a rush to get somewhere else. For pedestrians however, assuming that is, that the vision is not lost to you, tapping on your mobile communications vice, the experience is altogether different, as you walk through a parade of evergreen splendour, amidst some of the most magnificent metropolitan parkland scenery in Scotland. Kelvin Way – The River Kelvin, Park and Grove, all that remains of the ancient woodland.
Kelvin Way is predominately used by young people, on their way to University, and Kelvingrove Park of course, with Tennis Courts and bowling green near by. In the long summer nights, many attend evening performances at the Bandstand, which has seen a resurgence of use since it’s restoration, hosting small festivals with some “quite big name bands”. Opposite the Bandstand, that area that used to be the Putting Green and now used by local people to walk their dogs at weekends. I have seen amateur “sheep dog trials” there. Also its one of the main routes for people visiting the spectacular, Gothic Revivalist Epic Fantasy in Red Sandstone, and of late, my home from home, Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. Where I am writing this now.
One of my first memories of Kelvin Way is of being bumped along broken tarmac in my pram, [push chair if you prefer] my mum having to navigate the small ramps and troughs made by the large roots that spilled out along the way.
This is how the woodlands announced it’s self to me, bursting through the pavement, letting me know that from now on, “Forrest Rules Apply” and I would be engaging with “Wild Nature”. To my mom, well she was just taking her kid in his pram to the park and she never complained about the bumps which were there since even when she was a child… and to do so? Oh that would just be a little disrespectful! The only way to do it properly was by making “wheelies” lifting the front wheels up and driving on the back ones for ease of control. I’m not sure if she experienced ease but for a toddler it was certainly a fun ride…and we hadn’t even got to the park yet. . . .
That jolly jostling always indicated to me that we were near the park and with growing excitement knowing, that even if it rained, as it often does here, we may go to the museum! Whatever the weather, it was always an adventure.
As we got on to the bridge over the Kelvin, I remember the smooth pavement and the steady rumble of pram wheels and looking up at the fearsome statues. Strange green behemoths, their features obscured by oxidisation, though i never understood that at the time, I was a little scared to look at them for long as i expect most people were ….and never… NEVER catch their eye!… in case they noticed me. The ghastly peering and leering, perched up there, and an eerie bright green, as if they were sea creatures covered in algae, looking very much like remnants of a lost civilisation. What were they all about? .. and they have lights on them… do they light up at night?…. I bet they are even more scary at night. My mom said they were “Guardians of the Park” , which I thought was very possible, and in time, I grew to see them that way and was grateful for their protection.
KELVIN WAY BRIDGE
The bridge here is KELVIN WAY BRIDGE, built by architect Alexander Beith McDonald (1847-1915) and it is a single arched, red brick bridge, clad in red Locharbriggs sandstone and spans the River Kelvin on the west side of Kelvingrove Park. On the road side, standing on the pedestals of the abutments at the four corners of the bridge, are four groups of ornamental bronze sculptures that have always fascinated me. The statues are of allegorical figures, arranged symmetrically with each sitting with their back against an ornate, central bronze column. This column is decorated in Scottish Baronial style and makes the base for a lampstandard or “street light” if you prefer, which is supported by four stylised dolphins. As far as I know, these statues are the only bronze sculptures of human figures on any bridge in the city.
N.B. Kelvin Way was originally Radnor street, a small section of the street remains south of the bridge with the Doctors Surgery on it.
In 2014 Glasgow held the Commonwealth Games and as part of preparation for that important event, the bridge and the woodland area round about went through a large restoration program, with repairs to the stonework and all the statues cleaned and brought back to their original condition of dark, shiny bronze. The surrounding trees and hedges were cropped back to allow a better view from the park. All it needs now is to set the road in cobble stones for the desired effect of an authentic looking , early 20th Century urban vista.
[Cobble stones are preferable even though they had tarmacadam in 1901]
As a way to commemorate the restoration and make some record of it before the elements, take their toll again, I thought it would be nice to take some detailed photos of each group and allow you, dear viewer, to get a better “swatch at ’em”.
As you can see, this documentation became an “I&D media” project and I have written a brief history of the sculptures with some comments on their symbolism and what I think is going on with them. If you want a closer look then just click the image to open up a larger photograph in a new tab. Some of them are in High Definition.
– Troy 7/11/ 2016
What do we know about these strange objects amongst us?
THE SCULPTURES – BRONZE CASTING
a ‘dignified addition to the decoration of the bridge’
The sculptures were made by Englishman, Paul Raphael Montford,(1868-1938). A rising star in London at the time of the commission, with quite a few impressive works of public statues and architectural sculpture already under his belt.
Montford was awarded this commission in 1914 after winning a competition, with the purpose of creating a ‘dignified addition to the decoration of the bridge’. The competition was adjudicated by George Frampton who had supervised the original sculptural work for Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Paul Raphael Montford competed against twenty eight submissions from all over the UK. Glasgow’s Alexander Proudfoot and Richard Garbe from London were the runners-up, each awarded £50 for their designs.
The outbreak of World War One saw an increase in the demand for raw materials which ultimately created a scarcity, and as a result the casting was delayed for twelve years, although Montford had full scale models exhibited in the The Royal Academy in 1918. It was not until 1926 before the finished bronze masterpieces were installed on the newly named, “Kelvin Way Bridge”* , cast by founder A B Burton of Thames Ditton.
There is some great information about Paul Montford’s time in Australia here. He certainly was a prolific artist.
* previously known as Radnor street Bridge.
Kelvin Way Bridge – Sculpture and Symbolism – ALLEGORICAL FIGURES
– and what they mean to me anyway….
There are four groups of figures on Kelvin Way Bridge, these are named:-
1) PHILOSOPHY & INSPIRATION (north-west abutment) 2) PEACE & WAR (north-east abutment) 3) COMMERCE & INDUSTRY (south-west abutment) 4) NAVIGATION & SHIPBUILDING (south-east abutment)
1: PHILOSOPHY & INSPIRATION
PHILOSOPHY: A wise looking elderly scholar with one hand stroking his beard the other, placed on a book that sits open on a pedestal. Beside him a human skull; a symbol of man’s mortality, rests on another book.
The scholar is rendered fixed in contemplation, between two books. Although they balance the composition, they seem to be of opposing ideas… opposing forces. Perhaps one is a book of science the other theology. He “looks to his laurels” and considers if he can reconcile the two, pondering the perplexity of the material universe and wonders if there is any meaning to human existence.
His right hand rests on an open book, as if he was about to turn a page. . [perhaps a new chapter in his life] The book sits on a pedestal symbolising the institution of religion, a foundation pillar of society, the tenets of “Divine Law”.
Around the back of the skull, is the branch and leaves of a bay laurel. It is wound in the ancient “horseshoe” fashion, positioned, as if to suggest a “Laurel” awarded to victors or in this case a “Masters Degree,” as the branch or wreath is given in some countries. So the book under the skull may represent science, “materialism,” the so called “Enlightenment”. Perhaps this is something the scholar had invested a great deal of his life in and where he had made many achievements. Now in later life, he looks away to contemplate more spiritual matters – the existence of the soul. Here the laurel branch in it’s position around the skull, calls into question the value of such academic achievements in the sight of god. A necklace of prayer beads or prayer rope, as used in many religions, is caught in the folds of his gown beside the skull and book and this reinforces the idea of theology. So this configuration of elements within the sculpture denotes the classic philosophical dilemma.
N.B.: The word “laureate” in ‘poet laureate’ refers to the laurel wreath. Common usage is for “victory”. The expression “resting on one’s laurels” refers to someone relying entirely on long-past successes for continued fame or recognition, where to “look to one’s laurels” means to be careful of losing rank to competition. -from Wikipedia.
INSPIRATION: A young woman musician with a rather pensive expression, raises her lute heavenward, in a gesture as if to invoke divine intervention to help her compose her next song. By her side, her free hand rests on a well-used music manuscript or song book that she seems to have exhausted. Her fine, bountiful clothing is reminiscent of a well-to-do Florentine woman during the Renaissance. She bares a striking resemblance to Francesca Cassini, known as “La Cecchina”, Italian singer, composer, poet and lute player in the early Baroque era. Indeed this statue is probably based on her and Florence is considered the birth place of the Renaissance. Over her dress and blouse she wears an apron, heavily embroidered with flowers. This again associates her to the city of Florence which was previously named “Florentia” meaning “Flowering ” by Julius Caesar in 59BC. Over her manuscript behind her, a bunch of roses are lain on top. Flowers, and more specifically roses, are significant symbols in World Mystery tradition. As a symbol of the “Chalice”, the receptive vessel of the soul opening to receive the in-pouring of Divine influence and inspiration.
N.B. The Latin word “calyx” meaning cup or Chalice is the name given to the sepals of a flower which are cup-like and which support the petals.
The rose has long been recognised as the western equivalent of the eastern lotus as a symbol of the unfolding of higher consciousness and this “unfolding” can take the form of Inspiration.
2: PEACE & WAR
PEACE: A young woman sits working by her spinning wheel, in what must have been a typical domestic scene of a handcraft industry, spinning flax in the early 1770s. At that time Glasgow was Britain’s leading linen town before the industrial revolution and the demand for cotton.
She pauses for a moment to glance lovingly at her child, who sleeps peacefully beside her. The sleeping child holds a rag doll in it’s right hand, which really sets the scene of calm and stability.
Symbolically, the 12 inner spokes of the wheel suggest time, the hours marked on a clock as the Earth travels round the Sun. The artistically rendered gear design on the wheel face, suggests motion, connected beyond the wheel. The stability and harmony of planetary movements, in a fixed system around the sun. All is in order, in balance and harmony, a time for peace and prosperity and doing the “real work”.
The sleeping baby. Is he not the cutest? He is safe in his slumber, his mother quite vigilant…shhhh you might wake him.
N.B.The spinning wheel also resonates as a symbol with the “Twelve-Petalled Lotus”. One of the body’s energy centres associated with heart, knowledge and sacrifice, in Indian mystical tradition called “Chakra”. Spinning wheels originate from India and were first used between 500 and 1000 C.E.
The spinning wheel or “Charkha”[different spelling] was the ” ever moving wheel of divine law and love” according to Mahatma Ghandhi. and became the primary emblem on the flag of the Provisional Government Of Free India in the late 1920s and an icon of deliverance from poverty and serfdom to the world’s factory workers.
WAR: By stark contrast to “Peace”, we have “War”. A fearsome Celtic warrior in a kilt, bare-chested and wearing a head scarf crudely tied around his head. Perhaps he is engaged in a guerrilla war against one of Scotland’s ancient occupiers. He turns as if stirred, belted plaid thrown sporadically over his shoulder and rising, as if to defend from an attacker? Or, is he startled, caught mid flight, as he attempts to run with his spoils?
In his right hand he holds what now looks like a medieval”pike head” but more likely the hilt of a Scottish [broad]sword that has since been damaged and the main part of the blade now lost. [I will have to find out about this – If you have any information on what the sword looked like then please contact me]
Beside this sword, his dagger, sheathed but ever-ready for combat.
He sits upon a heavy blanket that has a faint trace of grid pattern, under which lie the crushed skull of a bull with horn on one side and at the other [street side] what could be another bull horn, although looking at the dimensions, it looks like the horn of the Aurocks, an extinct type of large wild bovine.[ Extinct by 17th Century] There is some detail on it to suggest that this horn was fashioned into a trumpet, perhaps symbolising vanquished Norse or even indigenous native tribes of Picts. . . but of course, horned-skull and bones also suggests a foundation built on the bestial nature of man. Lets hope he can rise above it.
Under his left arm he holds as if guarding, what appears to be a Norman helmet, the contents of which first appear to be religious items but on closer look are actually a mixture of precious trinkets, money pouch, prayer beads and crucifix – perhaps they were made from gold – Are these the ill gotten spoils of war or is he running with them, carrying them off for safe keeping, defending them? Either way it is all very ambiguous.
Everything about this statue is raw and brutish and it was the one which frightened me the most when i was a child. His gaping mouth and wild animal stare made him look possessed. As an adult, I can appreciate all the effort the artist made in rendering the detail. Like the ancient leather wound shoes and strapped leggings. It is really the most intriguing amongst all of the groups to me.
N.B. From A.D. 400 to 1000 , northern Great Britain saw the withdrawal of Roman forces and arrival of the Scotti from north-eastern Ireland. It also marked the time of disappearance of the Picts, colonisation by the Norse and the formation of a united kingdom of Scotland.
3: COMMERCE & INDUSTRY
COMMERCE: This sculpture is represented as a young woman merchant dressed in fine flowing silks and gown. You can just about make out a delicate floral pattern in the weave or print of her dress.
She is a trader on the “Silk Road” which was a network of trade routes that linked the Far East with the Mediterranean and Britain going back into antiquity. Her curly-toed “Persian” shoes indicate her area of operation and remind us that European Merchants were welcomed in many eastern counties, embraced the culture and made them their second home.
Her foot rests on two books, a reminder that it was not just consumer commodities like cloth and spice that were bought and sold, knowledge was also shared:- in literature, science, art, religion and philosophy. Her right arm extends out with a hand gesture as if to receive payment for goods while her left hand is offering a bag of money. This portrays the “money-go-round” of a healthy economy.
On her head she seems to be wearing a kind of padded belt thing over her scarf that I presume was used to support bails or merchandise being carried on the head. In fact, I think that bundle of folded material with the buckle on it beside here is probably the very container used to carry her wares. You can get a better look at it here. So our merchant was not shy of putting in an honest days graft.
She gazes down, to passers-by on the pavement, offering them a bag of money or rather, she is showing them a philanthropic side to commerce, where the profits from a nations trade are returned to it’s people in many forms, including wonderful arts-works such as these, for people to enjoy and be inspired by.
INDUSTRY: An earnest looking man in the garb of foundry worker at the height of the industrial revolution, delicately props the handle of a heavy sledge hammer with one finger, as he takes a moment to rest from his labour.
This action of “propping and balancing” offers a hint from the artist to show the science and ingenuity of precision-design, in the art of manufacturing for heavy industry and not just “muscle power”. Although the industry could not have achieved the heights it did without it. Behind our blacksmith, machine parts and heavy metal arranged like a sculpture within a sculpture, for use in shipping and coal mining and in all the vertexes where steam-powered industry met industrial manufacturing in Scotland.
[ -> high resolution image gallery from this photo set and more here ]
4: NAVIGATION & SHIPBUILDING
NAVIGATION: A young woman steers her vessel steadily, her expertise at boat handling suggested by the calm and confident expression on her face.
The tiller she holds to steer her rudder, is like one found on what was once called a “lighter” or now more commonly know as a “barge”. This is interesting because instead of the theme of “sea navigation,” and the usual references to “Clyde Shipping” one see so much of in the city, here the sculpture is making reference to the navigators of the man-made Canals. Indeed her other hand is making a signal gesture indicating that she is about to approach another barge and it is alright to pass. As if she is saying “go ahead” or “pass on this side”, not getting her ropes tangled up being horse-pulled and all. It is certainly very subtle and unique, I cant think of any other public sculpture dedicated to the canals in this way here in Glasgow.
The Glasgow branch of the The Forth & Clyde Canal or “The Great Canal” as it was referred to in 1790s, was cut as a junction from Stockingfield in Maryhill, to the terminus at Port Dundas. [between 1782 and 1790] Ships normally restricted to deliver to coastal ports could now unload their cargo at Bowling on the Clyde or at Grangemouth on the east coast. In fact Grangemouth was founded by Sir Lawrence Dundas in 1768 to serve the purpose as the east coast entrance of the Forth and Clyde Canal. Goods could be transferred to Glasgow by horse-pulled barge. Coal, timber and grain were the main commodities. and so much trade came into the city by canal that Port Dundas operated mainly, by way of extension, as an east coast port. Also there are prints from etchings that clearly show larger vessels with tall masts at Port Dundas so some of these could have come in from the Atlantic. As the Forth & Clyde Canal was originally made deep enough to take them.
Another subtle and clever use of the term “Navigation” is that it could be applied to describe a section of the large workforce of immigrant Irish who came to settle in Glasgow. Known as “navvies” short for navigator, they were the elite workers who dug the trenches and plied the waters of what was the largest scale, engineering project the country had ever seen since the building of Roman walls, that was The Forth & Clyde Canal.
I think her bare feet, like the foundry worker, are a statement of her connection to the earth and so not a “sea faring” navigator..
The massive ship’s block and tackle at the back of the sculpture is obviously from a seafaring ship so a connection to Ocean Navigation is not entirely neglected.
When you mention “Glasgow” in any other country, the first thing that people say is “Shipbuilding”
Next to alcoholism and street brawling what they really say is “Train Spotting”!
SHIPBUILDING :To represent shipbuilding we have a young woman dressed in plain, loose-fitting blouse and skirts, with a heavy shipwright’s apron over her dress.
She gazes at a model hull, which she holds balanced in one hand and contemplates the sea worthiness of a design of what appears to be a “Northern Cog,” a medium sized, sea trading vessel, built in Europe at their height during the 12 Century. Her look is cold and analytical although her face radiates health and beauty. At her side, her other hand rests on a wooden mallet, to be used for butting and aligning wood joints, such as the large beam her foot rests on. She looks to me as if she is ready to start on the full scale version now.
On her head she wears a simple cloth band – used to keep her braided hair in place, which has been rolled up, like loosely spiralling rams horns on each side of her head. This hair, fashioned so, is a clever device to denote her ancestral linage as a Norse. Those ancient Vikings who sailed down the Clyde in conquest of Dumbarton and got buried in Govan on the south bank of the Clyde. It goes without saying that the Vikings were renowned ship builders and navigators, the best in the world, and I believe had sailed to America, 500 years before Columbus. Another subtle indication of her pagan, Nordic, tribeswoman’s ancestry, is the embroidered “wheat design” around the neck of her blouse. Traditionally, wheat signifies harvest, fertility and productiveness.
Govan is where we find the Viking “hogbacks”, graves stones in the parish church and of course Govan was the centre of Shipbuilding in Scotland for close to 100 years. The Scottish owned, Fairfield yard, founded in 1834 took the upper Clyde to world prominence, before mergers and going into decline then finally being sold to the Norwegian Kvaerner group in 1988.
I love how this sculpture portrays the whole gamut of wooden shipbuilding on the Clyde. From medieval times to the time of the tall ships, as represented by the block and tackle on the back mentioned earlier. An idea so well conceived and subtle in it’s execution, it’s a nice touch, especially as these statues were installed at the height of industrial Clyde metal works and yards. – Yet it is the origins of the wooden craft of shipbuilding on the Clyde we are being reminded about, and where there is a river and people gathered – then there will always be the need for a boat.
N.B. Both ship and wheat are on the “coat of arms” of Partick, long associated with Govan.
All of these figures with the exception of one, are seated in the same posture, with one foot raised on a pedestal of some sort and the other on the ground. Perhaps this is a device to express the idea that they have the potential to realise a spiritual dimension, that they are already partially elevated, by their integrity, sincerity and honest living. However with one foot on the ground they are for all intentions, very human and “earthed” .Perhaps the foot symbolism denotes that they are balanced between both worlds. The exception of course is “War” with both feet on the ground perhaps indicating his turning away from the spiritual and embracing his bestial nature..
DAMAGE DURING WORLD WAR II
During the Second World War, on the night of 13-14 March 1941, two of the groups, ” Philosophy and Inspiration” and ironically, “Peace and War”, were badly damaged during an air raid by the Luftwaffe, who dropped landmines on parachutes on their bomb-run over the River Clyde’s shipyards near by, during the Clydebank Blitz . My mother who lived with her family in Kelvinhaugh Street at the time ,remembers her brothers and some local kids running out, early next morning, and salvaging bits of torn parachute to keep as souvenirs…Kids Eh!
The bombs shattered the granite balusters throwing them into the river, statues and all, a fair distance below. The blast range was sufficient to take out most of the north facing windows of the Museum which also suffered some minor structural damage. The statues lay on the river bed until 1951 until being retrieved by Benno Schotz who, along with Morris Singer & Co Ltd, repaired them, re-casting the missing right arm of one of them, presumably the arms of “Philosophy & Inspiration” since they are closest to the main blast zone. You can see the jagged cracked seam along the jaw-line of the head of “Inspiration” if you look closely. The original arm was eventually spotted and retrieved by some local people who saw it lying in the exposed sediment of the river bank in 1995.
You could be forgiven for mistaking the sculpture on Kelvin Way Bridge as “fanciful.” Since no one seems to say much about it, except that they are “allegorical figures” They are apparently some of Glasgow’s most photographed statues. Yet no one seems to be looking at them, except perhaps children, and anyway “these statues could not possibly have a connection to every day Glaswegians….could they?.. well maybe that guy wie the hammer once did”.
Perhaps that is why the use of allegory is so appealing to me, as it tries to convey something of the complete immensity and complexity of the “real story” and the force of nature behind it, using the language of symbolism.
What relevance does twentieth century public art have in our “modern Britain” now, and is there anything truthful about it, that can tell us who we are, where we came from and what paths we may have as options in the future?
The statues on Kelvin Way Bridge have a story to tell anyone who will “listen”.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about these amazing public artworks and if you happen to be in the park area near the university or museum then please visit Kelvin Way to view them in person.
Always remember to look up.
bye for now – Troy
Paul Troy A.K.A. C21 Troy A.K.A. Twenty-first Century Troy is a artist and film maker living in Glasgow Scotland.
[ I&Dmedia have made a wonderful image gallery of the statues of Kelvin Way Bridge some of them as high resolution images for you to study. The gallery from this photo set and more can be seen on their Flickr web site portal here ]
A bit about Benno Schotz whose sculpture ” The Psalmist” is near by Kelvin Way
Benno Schotz was later given a site west of the bridge by the riverbank to install his modern abstract sculpture in metal, titled “The Psalmist”, in 1974. Situated in the Tom Honeyman Memorial Garden, near the north bank of the River Kelvin. It is my belief that this modern art sculpture is actually a representation of an oarsman a “gondolier” to be specific and the sculpture is commemorating the 1888 Exhibition Of Glasgow. For the exhibition, they dredged the River Kelvin and had a gondola specially imported from Venice, as one of the attractions. used to give short pleasure cruses on the river. The gondola was driven by two gondoliers who worked in shifts and who were quite popular with visitors, who affectionately gave them the nicknames of “Signor Hokey” and “Signor Pokey”. So perhaps the sculpture could be one of those or even suggestive of a third unknown and mysterious gondolier, “Signor Cokey!” Was the title “The Psalmist” given to the piece to commemorate the artist who was renowned for his religious art works elsewhere?
This article is original writing and intellectual copyright laws apply.
Paul Troy, A.K.A. C21 Troy,
A.K.A. Twenty-first Century Troy
is an artist and film maker living in Glasgow Scotland.