After the opening ‘Walk-UK’ meander around Glasgow’s West End, I thought I’d stay in the city a little longer & check out the other side of the centre, where the famous Glasgow Green offers a healthy & history-laden hike to residents & visitors alike. You start at a place called the Saltmarket – just a stone’s throw from the central ‘Tron’ building or the Clydeside River walk, its definitely easily accessible. The actual launch for the walk commences opposite the High Court, underneath the Mcclennan Arch.
This miniature ‘Arc de Triumphe’ sets the tone for our journey through the Trojan layers of Glasgow Green. Back in the 18th century, when Glasgow was consider’d to be, ‘one of the most beautiful small towns in Europe,’ the arch had been erected orginally as part of the 1796 Assembly Rooms, built on the north side of Ingram Street. When the building was demolished in about 1892 to make way for the new General Post Office, the arch was preserved and moved first to Greendyke Street and then in 1922, to Glasgow Green.
Once through the arch, the first item on the itinerary is a fountain of Sir William Collins a Scottish publisher, who served as Glasgow’s Lord Provost between 1877 and 1880. He was the first fully abstaining Lord Provost of Glasgow, gaining the nickname Water Willie, & in 1880 was knighted by Queen Victoria chiefly for his sobriety. In 1881 supporters of the temperance movement erected a fountain in his name, in Glasgow Green.
“Erected by temperance reformers in recognition of valuable services rendered to the temperance cause by Sir William Collins, Lord Provost of the City of Glasgow 1877-1880. 29 October 1881.”
Just after the fountain is what I believe to be an uncrackable circular maze marked out on the floor. I mean I’m right good at sudoko & stuff, & I spent a good ten minutes trying to solve the puzzle, but to an avail. It was time to carry on my walk.
Its now time to head along a treelined pathway in the direcion of the huge coloumn. Half-way along you’ll reach a giant, multi-colour’d ‘G’ which reminded me of the symbol for Granda Television I saw so many times in my Lancastrian boyhood. Its actually the symbol of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which were held in Glasgow & through which a few cool walks & artistic set-pieces were infused into the city, to its cultural enbetterment.
This whole area of Glasgow Green is a bit like masonic Washington D.V., especially with the extremely tall & noble monument to Nelson rising 144 feet above the level ground. It was built in 1806, the year following Nelson’s victory & martyrdom at the Battle of Trafalgar. The name is one of three battles inscribed into the base of the coloumn, the other being the naval victories at Copenhagen & Aboukir in Egypt. The three combined basically destroyed Napoleon’s quest for an empire beyond continental Europe, which eventually led to his downfall. Fascinatingly, when Napoleon was at the height of his power in 1810, the column was struck by lightning!
Glasgow Green has been a shared Weegie wonderland since 1450, when James II, via Bishop Turnbull, gifted these common lands to the people of Glasgow. Initially it was used for washing, bleaching linen, grazing, drying fishing nets and for swimming. The Green’s verdant spaciousness is a great place to meditate away from the hustle bustle of Scotland’s largest city. In 1765, James Watt was walking on the Green when he suddenly epiphanized just how a steam engine might work.
Over the centutries the Green has also develeoped a reputation for live concerts – in recent years TRNSMT has moved in with loads of top quality bands. But there’s one band who has graced the Green I’m particularly interestd in. As a massive Stone Roses fan, visiting Glasgow Green for me was a quasi-spiritual experience – a bit like a pilgrim visiting Jeruslaem during the Crusades – I’d missed the actual event, but the happy phantoms still flew overhead.
Back in 1990, just before they Roses went off the radar for four long years, they play’d what many say was their finest live gig ever, a n electric charge of a triump in a massive marquee into which 8,000 happy Roses fan flooded.
The gig was on the 9th June, after the crowd sang along to the opening bassline of I Wanna Be Adored, the gig lasted 70 euphoric minutes or so, through the following tunes; I Wanna Be Adored / Elephant Stone / She Bangs The Drums / Shoot You Down / One Love / Sally Cinnamon / Sugar Spun Sister / Standing Here / Fools Gold / Where Angels Play / Waterfall / Made Of Stone / Elizabeth My Dear / I Am The Resurrection. The last two tunes are a great listen, with the audience singing along to Elizabeth My Dear, bursting into riotous applause, and then the drum beat for Resurrection kicks in. A classic moment.
The gig was not long after Spike Island, which was let down by poor sound & weird vibes, but Glasgow Green was a brilliant comeback. Bassplayer Mani has said in interviews since that this was their favourite ever gig – “When we were on stage that day, we all looked at each other, and then just went up another level”. As it turned out, this was the last Roses gig for five years, & the Roses then seemed to die a death in ’95. However, the Tweenies saw their ‘Ressurection’ so to speak, & a return to Glasgow Green in 2013 which, perhaps not as triumphant as the 1990 gig, was full of grown men crying with their kids over the return of those messianic Mancs.
A few of us, pals from school, had come through from Alloa in a hired mini-bus. Driving across the central belt, listening to the Happy Mondays. Kincardine, Cumbernauld, Stepps; Wrote For Luck, Lazyitis, Hallelujah. We talked, as the motorway blurred by, about Manchester, Madchester, with the loud authority of ignorance, as if we knew something about it. The Hacienda, Afflecks Palace. These were just words to us, words we had learned through the NME. But it felt exciting to say them, and to make plans (never realised) to go there one day and see these places. Peter Ross
Back in 2021, its now time to have a wee look at the Irish and Highland famine memorial, in the grounds of the Winter Gardens building, ie the giant greenhouse on the Green. Its essentially an upturned boat & some interesting information boards, which are well worth a read, tho’ beat needs a spruce.
It is part of a garden area called the ‘Commonwealth Hub Park,’ which features plants and stones native to Ireland and the north of Scotland. They are metaphors for the grand exodus to Glasgow from the same famine-ravish’d parts of the British Isles which saw great swathes of immigrants sail to America for a better life. Of the million who left Ireland, 100,000 arrived in Glasgow.
170 years on, we are privileged to be able to say Glasgow remains home to one of the world’s great Irish diaspora – and a city proud to be home to more Scots Gaelic speakers than anywhere else in the country
Leaving the Hub Park, aim front left towards the famous, wrought iron, blue ‘St Andrews’ suspension bridge. It was built in 1854-55 to replace the busy ferry that carried workers from Halton & Hutchesontown.
The entrance to the Green is called the Ben & Sarah Parsonage Gate, the former of the two being a rescuer of folk from the Tyne. On his death in 1979, the Daily Record obiturized him as;
A shy unassuming boatman who singlehandedly rescued more people from drowning than any other in Britain
We’re now at the River Clyde Walkway. Keeping the river to you right, as you follow its course you’ll find yourself in rowing club world. Rowing on the Clyde was a once massive affair. In the decades before organised football took a grip of the city, one of the main sporting events of the time was rowing. Each shipyard on the Clyde back then had their own Rowing Club, with regattas on the Clyde could attracting massive crowds of up to 100,000. Things are different today – you’ll pass yourself the Glasgow Schools Rowing Club, organised by Strathclyde University, & across the waters you’ll see the civilian Glasgow Rowing Club.
Continuing along the riverside, passing under the above bridge, this section of the Green is given over to sports – there’s a hockey stadium & a few football pitches. The sporting tradition gores back to at least 1787, when Glasgow’s first golf course was opened here, while 85 years later, in 1872, Rangers FC were formed on the Green. The story goes that while waiting for a boat by the Clyde, four lads first witnessed the game of football being played, which was a rapidly growing sport at that time. A ball was soon acquired, a fellow call’d Moses chose the name Rangers from a sports book of the time, & the rest is a rather successful history, including this year’s title which halted Celtic’s bid for 10 in a row. The funny thing is both Celtic & Rangers have both had nine-in-a-row sequences, & the past decade was Celtic’s second of those sequences – its the ‘Little League of Glasgow’ on a completely cosmic level. Talking of which, here’s one of my sonnets on the same subject;
To Celtic Park, vast stadium of green,
Two famous football teams have come to play
Tricolors answering “God Save The Queen!”
Both urging laddies on into the fray
To happy cheers & gestures of dismay
Those twenty-two young lions give their all
As the swirling winds of a winter’s day
Whip up a frantic phrenzie round the ball,
Lord of a contest far too close to call!
Both “Come on the Hoops!” & “Come on the ‘Gers!”
Loudly resound til found the precious goal
When little lads & leaping managers
Become part of the great soul-stirring show
That settles the little league of Glasgow.
We are now at our last 200m of our sortie by the Clyde. You’ll come to some steps, which you’ll climb & then turn left & head for the park surrounded by railings. Inside I was greeted by a flutter of daffodils & a fabulous stone time spiral which tells the chronological story of Glasgow Green – absolutely fascinating!
Back into the park, head for the Winter Gardens – its quite a way but quite a straight shot. Take the paths to your right as the lap round the Gardens & you’ll see two cool buildings. Just on the edge of the park is Templeton On The Green, a former carpet factory based on the Doges Palace in Venice. In front of it on the Green you can still see the drying poles which were once full of Glasgow’s washing.
The other building is the famous People’s Palace, which cost £32,000 to build which was paid for partly by Caledonian Railway who had tunnelled under the Green. On its opening in 1898, Lord Rosebery stated: “A palace of pleasure and imagination around which the people may place their affections and which may give them a home on which their memory may rest”. He declared the building, “open to the people for ever and ever”. Over a century later its still well-loved by the Weegies, housing a cool museum & stuff.
The final item on our tour of the Green is the wonderful Doulton Fountain. At 46 feet high and 70 feet across at its base, it is the largest terracotta fountain in the world. It was originally gifted to the city in 1888 after the International Exhibition of Science, Art and Industry by Sir Henry Doulton to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, and is decorated with a figure of the Queen and groups from Canada, Australia, India and South Africa representing Britain’s Empire.
From here its just a wee hop, skip & a jump back to the arch at the start of the walk, where the epic cultural Xanadu of Glasgowland awaits.
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