shotlandka's weebig world

By shotlandka

Festive Glasgow

So, what in this picture makes you so sure you're looking at a picture of Glasgow? Of course the architecture is the obvious one, with the City Chambers in the background. But if you take out the architecture, is there anything you wouldn't see in another city in the UK, or even further afield?

I'll give you a clue - look right! Those are not traditional Christmas symbols, are they? The lights show the symbols of the city of Glasgow, the name coming from the Gaelic Glas-chu, or green hollow, and if you play with the Gaelic a bit you get the better known 'dear green place', which must have been rather ironic for most of the city's inhabitants over the last 250 years, from the height of the Industrial Revolution to about 50 years ago when the heavy industry which so characterised the city was in its dying throes.

But I digressed (yes, it's going to be one of the blips again!), back to what I was going to tell you. Glasgow has been inhabited since prehistoric times. It was a handy place to ford the Clyde, in the days before it was dredged to get the ships right up to the city centre with was even smaller than it is today. The old phrase is Glasgow made the Clyde and the Clyde made Glasgow. Both true in many, many senses! (there I go again!) But it started to develop as a centre from the late 6th century, when St Kentigern (that's his Sunday name, but we in Glesga prefer Mungo, so that will be used from now on) arrived and decided it looked like a nice place to start a church and a cemetery. From those roots grew the second city of the British Empire, a city of riches and poverty, of incredible industry and education, not to mention a great sense of humour, and some pretty cool bridges.

St Mungo's life was an interesting one, with a variety of competing legends surrounding him. Allegedly he came on his mother's side from the royal line which ruled a part of Scotland at that time, but she was thrown out by her father for getting pregnant to the wrong man, and Mungo was raised by Saint Serf, moving to what would become Glasgow aged about 25. He didn't stay there all the time, getting in trouble with some of the local authorities necessitated a few extended trips away, including periods living in Wales and in the Dumfries area, but he settled back in Glasgow again.

The symbols of the city are connected to four miracles performed by St Mungo, and are summarised (not very logically) in the wee rhyme:
The bird that never flew,
the tree that never grew,
the bell than never rang,
the fish that never swam.
The first story, as a young man some of his classmates wanted to get him into trouble, so they killed St Serf's pet bird, planning to blame Mungo, but he brought the bird back to life. Bet they were annoyed!
The second miracle, again from his time with St Serf, was managing to relight a fire with branches taken from a tree when he'd fallen asleep and the fire had gone out.
The third (and not actually a miracle this one) - the bell was brought back from his trip to Rome (during his time in Wales) and was rung during services and at funerals. Sadly the original bell no longer exists, but a replacement was made in the seventeenth century and can apparently be seen in the People's Palace, though I have no memory of having seen it there.
The fourth, and there are various versions of this one doing the rounds, the one I choose to tell is that the king at the time accused his wife of having an affair, and claimed that she had given a ring to her lover. Nasty man that he was he'd thrown the ring into the river Clyde so she couldn't produce it and prove she hadn't given it away. The queen appealed to Mungo, who sent someone off to catch a fish (as you do), and when it was brought in and cut open, there was the ring. Other versions would have you believe that she had in fact given the ring to her lover, who had thrown it away himself.

As well as these symbols, which are used on the city crest, Glasgow also takes it's motto from St Mungo. The phrase 'Let Glasgow Flourish' is taken from one of his sermons, the full phrase continuing 'by the preaching of Your Word and the praising of Your name'.

So there you go, I do like those lights, though would question the extent to which they are really Christmas decorations, but they're quite fun.

And why not give you a tune - and what other could it be but this one.

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