Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Did I find some of George Square’s original Christmas Bells? (Yes I did)

Wandering along one of the routes I’ve not seen for some months, I was surprised to something I thought I was unlikely to see again (and wasn’t lying here until recently).

If I’m right, and these things are pretty rare and recognisable, it’s a pair of animated bells from the string which once hung around George Square as part of its past Christmas Lights.

Unlike the lights seen today, which can probably be assembled from various lighting modules found online, George Squares original Christmas lights were actually made locally, by Glaswegians, and formed the basis for many later display elements seen elsewhere. Prior to that, many of the features were obtained from Blackpool’s illuminations once they had been retired when those were updated. (That wasn’t just true of Glasgow, as I used to visit other illuminations, and slowly began to realise I was recognising items I’d seen before, in larger displays elsewhere).

Many of the elements were based on steel frames with rope lights attached. The rope lights were made of lights strung inside a clear plastic tube. Great fun for those who worked on them since they carry mains voltage and are joined by waterproof connectors. Well, you know what THAT means in Scotland – NOTHING’S waterproof in Scotland 😉

They were substantial, and stored from year to year for reuse, until the budget was steadily reduced, the street displays disappeared, and George Square became the centre of the council’s Christmas display.

Unfortunately, this find was sitting just behind a metal grid fence, so the pics aren’t the best thanks to its presence in front of the bells.

Click for bigger (sharper than the resized version below, and shows more detail).

George Square Bells

George Square Bells

I’ve passed the link to this post and pics on to someone involved in building these things many years ago, and will hopefully find out if they actually are what I think they are.


Remarkably,I was right, and those are a couple of sections from George Square’s original home-brewed Christmas lights.

The story behind them, and their history is both fascinating and surprising.

I had no idea about their background.

If you have an hour or so to spare, and are in the least interested, I thoroughly recommend sitting down with your favourite treat, and enjoying this video from someone who knows better than me.

Incidentally, if you’re not familiar with these videos, I might add that there are more which show some more recent gems and reveals about the squares slightly more recent festive lighting.


18/08/2019 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, council, Lost, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Ever wondered where George Square’s webcam hides?

Going back a few years, George Square enjoyed having two webcams overlooking its activities.

Both lay behind windows of Glasgow City Chambers, but there’s now only one, roughly in the middle of the top storey. The other was closer to the southern corner, and South Frederick Street.

I was seldom in Glasgow when it was active, and never spotted it.

However, after using the remaining one to check on Glasgow before heading in (sad to say, the reason for doing so was Scotland’s lovely weather, which has recently managed to be soaking wet whenever interesting events were taking place in the Square, so I stayed home, and dry). The weather is better now, so I lined up a few markers as spotted from the webcam view, and decided to try locating it.

Unlike the first try, this effort proved that a little planning makes this a lot easier.

Can you see it?

Glasgow City Chambers George Square webcan

Glasgow City Chambers George Square webcan

Does this help?

Glasgow City Chambers George Square webcam window

Glasgow City Chambers George Square webcam window

Let’s return the favour, and take a REALLY close look.

George Square Webcam

George Square Webcam

Here’s the link, so you can take a look at the view:

George Square Webcam

While the view’s not too bad, it does suffer from being behind that window, so when it rains in the ‘wrong’ direction the image is adversely affected.

There’s not much point in visiting this webcam when its dark either.

One of the square’s spot/floodlight is aimed right down the camera’s throat, and the glare wipes out any chance of seeing anything when it’s dark.

I’ve given up emailing the council, and responding to their request for feedback on the cam page.

Months after finding this problem nobody shinned up the pole and given the offending light a shove.

And when the post was made – surprise surprise, it started raining, in Scotland!

George Square daytime webcam

George Square daytime webcam

And when it gets dark, it looks something like this – great view of the floodlight.

George Square webcam glare

George Square webcam glare

09/07/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography, Surveillance | , | Leave a comment

George Square goes pedestrian on 20 July for Clean Air Day

After the previous news of suggestions and support to ban traffic from George Square, it seems Glaswegians are to get a taste of what the square would be like if traffic restriction were put in place, and the area was pedestrianised.

Glaswegians will be given a preview of tentative plans to pedestrianise George Square this week as traffic is banned from entering the area.

In celebration of Clean Air Day, Glasgow City Council will be forbidding traffic from entering the city centre location this Thursday (June 20) from 9am to 4pm.

George Square east will be closed in its entirety for the day, while George Square south will allow no waiting, loading or unloading from 3pm on Wednesday (June 19) to 4pm on Thursday.

Several companies will be in attendance at the event to promote public transport and leaving the car at home. They will range from bus operators such as First or Stagecoach through to smaller companies such as bike-only delivery start-up, Eco Runners.

There will be musical performances, displays of electric vehicle, car clubs and an electric taxi. People will be able to try out eBikes and conventional pedal cycles and there will be details of the ‘City Ways’ cycle paths initiative.

Picnic tables will be set out on George Square east with it closed to traffic, allowing people to eat out in front of the City Chambers.

City centre road closure offers a preview of a pedestrianised George Square

George Square (not) Grass

George Square (not) Grass

19/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

67% of respondents support closing George Square to traffic (Updated)

There’s probably no great surprise in this survey result (other than the number not being higher – but let’s not forget the naysayers who just say ‘NO’ because they like to):

A PERMANENT ban on traffic at Glasgow’s George Square was backed by two-thirds of people who responded to public consultation.

A newly-released City Council document reveals that more than 5,000 citizens took part in the survey last year.

Sixty-seven per cent were in favour of closing the high profile civic space to vehicles for good.

COUNCIL Survey Attracted Strong Public Support For George Square Traffic Ban

It’s a place I pass through fairly regularly, thankfully not driving, and while it may have been a nice place for the odd horse-drawn carriage to stroll around in the past, I’d say the arrangement of streets around the square NEVER suited more modern transport.

It’s almost as if a random mish-mash of streets arrived there, and later changes which may have reduced the volume didn’t do anything to improve the flow (if it even could). When I did drive around there, it was usually by accident (having turned into one of the one-way streets, so forced to go there just to get away).

I don’t say that as some sort of negative criticism, but merely to highlight the fact (to me at least) that there’s little advantage in having traffic circulate there.

Because… that’s all it does – circulate!

I’m pretty sure having it travel along the longer streets around the perimeter would lead to better flow and management, and avoid the silliness of trying to manage vehicles along some fairly short streets that just fill up and get jammed with those vehicles, even if it’s not all that busy.

I hope the planners can come up with something better, not just for the square, but the traffic management around it.

George Square Stitch

George Square Stitch


One of the local media sources picked up on this survey, and carried out its own online question for readers to give feedback.

Completely unscientific of course, since the respondents will be biased rather than a representative cross-section, but when I looked, the result was about the same as the official survey.

See it here:

Should a traffic ban be introduced at Glasgow’s George Square?

Interestingly, for me at least, was the arrival of the ‘Naysayer option’, which was able to make a negative from what I see (and noted above) as a positive.

But, quite frankly, it could be a nightmare for drivers, and as a result, there will certainly be those against the end to traffic around George Square – it is an incredibly popular route for the city’s buses, and for taxis serving passengers from Queen Street Station and these would have to be re-directed if a ban on vehicles was to take place.

Is it REALLY ‘popular’ for buses?

Or do they go that way because the one way system and current arrangement of the roads means they have little other choice? Or at least not one that is any quicker, as they would have to follow a more convoluted route around the existing road, one way system, and traffic lights

The roads and routing around George Square have become little short of a disaster over the years, with little or no benefit from having traffic circulate around it. I said, and still say, removing vehicular access from the short stretches of street leading to, and around the square, could only be a benefit, as it would force the traffic to be managed on longer stretches of road, where it can more easily be distributed.

As it is today, there’s merely a collection of short stretches controlled by traffic lights, with the result that the traffic has to stop frequently, or it will build up and get gridlocked in those short sections.

It would be funny to watch if it was not so serious.

It can sometimes look as if the place is gridlocked one moment, then almost deserted the next, as a wave of traffic flows through.

Update 2

Getting his name dropped in the media yet again, MP Paul Sweeney has spoken in favour of suggestion to ban traffic from George Square.

A Glaswegian MP has backed the proposed ban on traffic at George Square – because he says it currently resembles a “giant roundabout”.

Paul Sweeney, the Labour representative for Glasgow North East, spoke out after the results from a public consultation by Glasgow City Council revealed local residents had voted overwhelmingly in favour of pedestrianising the area.

Speaking to Glasgow Live he said: “It often resembles a glorified roundabout, so the plan should include the full pedestrianisation of the Square and adjacent roads.”

Traffic is just one issue bothering Sweeney, and he also called upon the authority to come up with a decisive regeneration plan to restore the civic hub to its former glory.

He added: “George Square’s civic splendour has been greatly diminished over the last 20 years despite several aborted attempts to refurbish it, so it is urgently in need of a major overhaul and redesign to govern all aspects of its appearance and use.

“Many historic features and monuments have been lost or dispersed but thankfully much of the planning has already been done to research the square’s historic design and prepare a comprehensive plan to restore it to how it appeared in the early 20th century.

“I urge the council to make use of the plan by Niall Murphy of Glasgow City Heritage Trust and ensure that the Victorian grandeur of George Square is rigorously restored, while combining the best aspects of tastefully designed modern amenities too.”

Authority chiefs say they are aware of the concerns and this is why they are allowing the public to take part in the consultations and decision process, but they are keen to point out that nothing has been decided yet.

Speaking to Glasgow Live, a spokesperson said: “It is very early days on this – and we’re looking for the views of the people of Glasgow on the use and design of George Square.

“This ‘Conversation about George Square’ with the city will see a public consultation which will ask what the people of Glasgow would like to see and experience at George Square, or how and if they would like the square to be changed.

“Nothing is off the table – we want to hear about what the people of Glasgow want to say about a beloved public space which is a huge part of our civic life and history.

Glasgow MP backs traffic ban proposal at George Square because it looks like a ‘giant roundabout’

Hopefully anyone still on the council who was around the last time plans were announced to revamp George Square will remember just how big a farce that idea became, with daft ideas to take out the statues and install Continental style water features.

That proved a mistake with a public backlash (since the plans were apparently just ‘announced’ without any consultation or, some said, without any consideration for our wonderful Scottish weather!

George Square redesign

George Square redesign

Having been to a few other cities where they have managed to largely retain the original Victorian splendour and ‘feel’ of squares in the centre, it shouldn’t really be that hard to keep George Square looking classy and elegant – especially if it is traffic free.

All they need to do is make sure no trendy designers get invited to the design party.

Some things are best kept traditional, especially if the people who live around them like them that way.

02/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography, Transport | , | 1 Comment

Somebody should start a ‘Fix George Square webcam lighting’ petition

I wonder why none of the people who like to do such things haven’t seen fit to start a petition to have an offending light in George Square fixed?

The thing has a been a pain for ages, especially when it was getting dark earlier, before we moved the clocks.

One of the square’s pole mounted floodlights is shining right into the George Square webcam, with the result that once it gets dark, the glare from this light blows most of the webcam image away, and the view is almost completely lost until the lights go off.

Like this…

George Square webcam glare

George Square webcam glare

George Square Webcam

I’ve contacted them a few times, using the contact form on the webcam page.

But, since the light is still blinding the cam after some months have passed since I mentioned it for the first time, it looks as if nobody is bothering.

It’s hardly a big job, and there are council workers around the square with cherry-pickers now and then, carrying out other maintenance.

27/04/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , | Leave a comment

Photographs remember the day when tanks rolled along Glasgow’s streets

Although I’m well aware of this event from 1919 thanks to the number of books I’ve thumbed through over the years, and no longer ‘raise an eyebrow’ or say “I don’t believe it”, I do wonder how many people this comes as something of a surprise to whenever it is raised.

This collection of pics recalls the day.

Today, marks the 100 year anniversary of the event which has become known as the ‘Battle of George Square’, ‘Bloody Friday’ and ‘Black Friday’.

On January 31, 1919, tanks and soldiers rolled through Glasgow’s streets as authorities attempted to quell city workers’ demands for a shorter working week and improved working conditions.

There is no commemoration of the event, and calls are now being made to have a memorial placed in George Square.


Red Clydeside: Incredible pictures of tanks and soldiers on the streets of Glasgow


Bloody Friday: 100 years since striking workers clashed with police at George Square

George Square Stitch

George Square Stitch

01/02/2019 Posted by | Civilian, military, photography | , , | Leave a comment

No risk of ‘catbutt’ in George Square

I do like the lions on the Cenotaph in George Square, and collected some more pics of the pair while the square was being decorated for Christmas.

George Square Cenotaph Lions

George Square Cenotaph Lions

Always looking down on us, always judging.

George Square Cenotaph Lions

George Square Cenotaph Lions

But, at least there’s no chance of catbutt.

Parked like that (they’re both more or less the same), I might get ‘Back of the head of disdain’, but a closer look suggests those rear ends aren’t going to make an appearance any time soon.

No George Square Catbutt

No George Square Catbutt


03/01/2019 Posted by | photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Some goodies from George Square

Since I was in George Square shortly before Hogmanay, it seemed like a good idea to catch a pic or two.

The first thing I noticed was some of the keen folk who wanted to make an early getaway.

Fork lift and white vans ready to go!

George Square Clearout Squad

George Square Clearout Squad

Back at the mulled wine stall, it looks as if the trade in ‘Mulled Buckie’ must have gone down well.

Even the bottles couldn’t stand up straight!

Mulled Buckfast Aftermath

Mulled Buckfast Aftermath

The next one is interesting (to me at least) as it shows the column in the middle of the square (with Sir Walter Scott, or his statue at least, at the top) has NO strobes illuminated.

These were operating before, and it seems they can be a bit of a pig to keep working if they get wet. Moisture and high voltage generally don’t play well together, and they have had a reputation for committing suicide in the past.

But I think the problem here is somebody just forgot to set them, or the fuse blew, since they’re ALL off.

Sir Walter Scott Column Strobes (Not)

Sir Walter Scott Column Strobes (Not)

And finally (maybe)…

Since I’d given up wandering into Glasgow before this happened, I didn’t know (until I checked) that the George Square celebrations had been scrapped by the council back in 2011, following years of complaints and weather-related cancellations.

See? THAT’S what happens if you just whine about something that organisers have no control over – they just say “Fine”, and return the favour.

I’m being quite serious about this. I got the date from a news story about the cancellation, and it’s probably a fairly safe bet to make that the same people who added a load of insulting comments regarding the members of Glasgow City Council (for ending the organised celebration) were exactly the same people who piled complaints into the council when the weather led to year after year of cancellation just before the big night.

I looked in on the George Square web cam, to see if any of those same whining and insulting individuals had the initiative just to go to the square (where people did just turn up to greet the New Year), but no surprises there, and the place was largely deserted.

It was hard to be sure, since some moron had left a floodlight pointing right into the web cam, and the glare was hiding most of the view.

This was the scene (somewhere behind all that glare) at seven minutes past midnight on Hogmanay.

George Square Web cam 2019-01-01 00:07:08

George Square Web cam 2019-01-01 00:07:08

I have to be honest… I’ve seen it busier.

01/01/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, Lost, photography | , | Leave a comment

George Square Christmas surprise

Watch that viewpoint, and PAY ATTENTION when taking pics!

I missed a thing while I was Playing with George Square’s Christmas Lights

That included an illuminated globe that had featured in its own area last year, lightly fenced off to let people queue up to use as a setting for their pics.

This year, it was just dropped onto one of the paths in the square.

BUT, I missed something.

From that path, it just looked like the globe was there on its own – it wasn’t.

There was another, only revealed if you were looking from the side.

So here’s the whole picture of this huge pair of ba Christmas decorations.

Hidden Globe Revealed

Hidden Globe Revealed

Hard to miss, but in the original pics, I did (check the originals in the post linked above).

Hidden Globe Revealed

Hidden Globe Revealed

I also mentioned the poor reindeer I spotted (with a sore head) while taking those earlier pics.

Thankfully, somebody noticed, called the electric vet, and it’s all better now.

George Square Reindeer Fixed

George Square Reindeer Fixed

I’d also tried grabbing a daytime shot of the Square, as that’s easier to gauge how much can be caught in a wide shot – you can see the edges in daylight, but not in the dark!

That eventually paid off, as I tried standing around the same spot at night, without also having to try to find it too.

Turns out it’s hard to get that wide night shot.

Traffic gets in the way, both wheeled and on foot, as you have to stand as far back as possible.

That could be dealt with (just using patience), but there a bigger problem thanks to all the poles and junk that intrudes into the view.

Guess I’ll just have to try standing in front of all that stuff, and take a set of pics to stitch together – nothing’s simple.

George Square Lights Wide

George Square Lights Wide

31/12/2018 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , | Leave a comment

Our wonderful weather II

After yesterday’s post on this subject, I was in Glasgow city centre again and passed through George Square during the evening. The Christmas market is still there, which I mention only because I deliberately avoided St Enoch Square earlier as it has a similar feature, or HAD, since I glanced down there from Buchanan Street only to see it had gone completely, so I needn’t have detoured.

George Square was pretty quiet, but still relatively busy with folk having a last look.

Last week, this would have been a solid mass of people.

George Square Post Christmas

George Square Post Christmas

However, the interesting thing was the lack of cold.

While many people were wrapped up as if it was freezing (and I ended up overheating when inside buildings yesterday – I really did have to step outside to cool down at one point, and I was far from ‘wrapped up’), and I honestly don’t know how they could stand being wrapped up in thermal jackets, hats, hoods, scarves, and gloves, others were wandering around in t-shirts.

Here’s one example I caught at the side of a pic of the Christmas tree.

Is this really Glasgow, Scotland, on 30 December?


Scotland In December

Scotland In December

I checked my own temperature records when I got home.

That said it had been over 12°C at my house then, and had started falling (but only to 11°C).

Bear in mind I live in a ‘cold corner’, and a city centre can easily be 2-3°C warmer than the surrounding area.

It certainly felt like that.

31/12/2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Playing with George Square’s Christmas lights

Another of those shots you shouldn’t be seeing from me, this time a daylight shot of George Square’s Christmas lights.

Fortunately, there’s  not much Sunlight at this time of years, so I might smoke a little, but at least I won’t burst into flames.

I went there after learning how smart it was to scope out a night shot during daylight, having tried it with the shot trying to get the whole of GoMA and its surrounding lights.

It was quite an education, finding out just how far I had to beck down St Vincent Street in order to get the whole scene in a single wide angle shot. Pity I can only do this with the compact, which has a wider wide than the widest wide of the superzoom I have for the dSLR.

Well, at least the higher quality catch it provides can be stitched, with little evidence of the join.

STILL missed a bit on the left (partly deliberate, as the building was beginning to encroach, but more than I meant to), I have to try harder to remember the compact show and exact view – dSLRs generally show a little less, so you don’t miss edges.

George Square Wideness

George Square Wideness

I went back later, to play with some more shots in the dark – which is not really dark with all those lights!

I arrived at the big wheel, and was irritated to find that barriers etc meant I could not get far enough back (when close) to get any more than 70% in frame, even on the widest setting, in either portrait or landscape views.

So, I had to give up and try the stitching mentioned above, but at least needed only two shots to get this combined view.

Can you see the join?

Fortunately, the exposure was the same for each pic, sometimes it can vary wildly. I was lucky the wheel stayed still too.

I can’t control the distortion in these (much), but really wide lenses do something similar, and there’s not usually much complaint.

George Square Big Wheel Stitch

George Square Big Wheel Stitch

I stepped back, to take some more normal, single, wide angle views of this, showing more of the lights, this time the illuminated globe that was on one of the lawns last year, and fenced off so people could take pics inside. They didn’t seem to bother doing that this year.

Then there’s the Squares Christmas tree, which seems to be really FAT this year.

I took a few of these, all slightly different, but mainly to see what would be caught from the ever-changing animated lighting of the big wheel.

From past experience, I’ve learnt there’s little or no point in waiting for a specific effect (unless you really really HAVE to), and you might as well just take a lot of shots to catch whatever is happening with the lights.

I should maybe add that these pics were taken before… it got cold and wet!

George Square Globe Wheel Tree

George Square Globe Wheel Tree 1

Note the lighting on the tree. In recent years it has been simply draped from the top, in lines.

In days gone by, it was wrapped or wound around the tree.

Both fairly easy to put on – but I’m told that when the light strings were wrapped around the tree, by the end of the season they were a pig to remove, having been worked into the branches by the wind.

George Square Globe Wheel Tree 2

George Square Globe Wheel Tree 2

Maybe they should make up special vertical looms.

The straight drape means there’s a lot of lights together at the top, but they’re sparse by the time they get to the wider bottom.

Two banks of LEDs would be good. One up top, as at present, then another with double density strings for the lower ‘half’.

George Square Globe Wheel Tree 3

George Square Globe Wheel Tree 3

I’m also a little surprised the tree lights are steady, and not animated in some way, which is really easy with LEDs.

Maybe that will be the next set 😉

George Square Globe Wheel Tree 4

George Square Globe Wheel Tree 4

I’m really surprised at what the compact is now delivering with the revised settings I made at the start of the season, but don’t ask me what they are, I’ve no idea what I changed. Actually, it has so many damned settings I have almost no idea what I’m doing with it. Half the phone book (manual) is dedicated to 4k operation, which I’ve never even looked at!

Notable things I’ve learned is that I was right about the smallish sensor it uses. The pics are surprisingly good, but there is the ‘Falling off a cliff’ aspect, where the image quality just disappears below a certain light level, where the dSLR would still be returning decent views.

The other really odd thing is that nearly all the shots are useable ‘Out of the box’, and don’t need processing to raise shadows, or lower highlights. I’ve hardly touched any (none of the above), and those I do need to fix were genuine low light views.

What I’m finding this year is that I’m shooting a lot of wide views, nearly always having to tip the camera back, away from vertical, and have to do a lot of perspective correction. I think I’m lucky I found that tool last year, and got some practice in, or all the above would be very distorted and weird looking.

06/12/2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: