Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Lion and Unicorn on historic Glasgow University staircase smartened up for 330th

With a year in hand before the actual 330th anniversary, I wasn’t in a hurry to go get new pics of the Lion and Unicorn in Glasgow University.

I had collected some pics fairly recently, and you can find some more detail of their history in that post. No need to repeat here.

However, the historic pair are, it seems, set to celebrate their 330th birthdays next year, and the gold paint has already be drawn from stores in preparation for the event.

So, since I was nearby, AND has some unexpected spare time in hand, I just had to make the effort and walk up the hill to the university.

Lion and Unicorn Retouched

Lion and Unicorn Retouched

It’s a bit unfortunate that you can’t really get a good angle/view of the pair from the front, as they sit part way up the staircase.

The views are all from just below, or just behind and to the side.

For what it’s worth, my colours are accurate and realistic, unlike some other pics seen online, where they seem to have been made more vivid.

29/07/2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Did I find my ideal job?

Looks as if I could make someone’s career, and maybe even be paid while I was doing it.

In reality, I don’t think I could risk it though – all the asylums may have been closed, and their building now lie derelict, but I’m pretty sure they’d find somewhere to lock me up.

The bright yellow sign was the first thing that caught my eye as I wandered the street through Glasgow University.

Experiment membership sign

Experiment membership sign

So, I had to step back a bit, to see the context, and find out what sort of ‘Research Experiment’ might be going on behind the door.

Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology

Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology

I wonder if it’s a test?

You fail before you’ve even started if you don’t read the small print, and go in this door instead of going to the waiting room.

Or, is that this the first part of the selection process, a piece of Doublethink that lets them select their subjects, and they actually want the people that go in this door instead of going to the waiting room?

Oh well, that’s me stuffed – stuck in the street, unable to decide which door I should choose.

It would be interesting to know if they had someone watching the street, whose job was to spot people who had become trapped in that mental decision loop, and go snap them out of it after an hour or two.

Cat Cannot Brain Today Has Dumb

20/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Glasgow University Lion and Unicorn Staircase

I missed this set of stairs recently, when I started visiting the Glasgow University Memorial Chapel for organ recitals.

It doesn’t lead to the chapel, but to the adjoining building, to the right of the chapel, which is the chaplaincy.

Glasgow University Lion and Unicorn Staircase

Glasgow University Lion and Unicorn Staircase

A nearby plaque gives more detail.

Glasgow University Lion and Unicorn plaque

Glasgow University Lion and Unicorn plaque

The staircase originally formed part of the University’s Old College site on High Street, situated in the Outer Court and leading to the Principal’s Residence and the Fore Hall. In 1690, the University instructed William Riddel, a mason, to place stone bannisters on the staircase with figures of a lion and a unicorn on the first turn.

When the University moved to its new site in Gilmorehill in 1870, the staircase was transported and incorporated into the new building, together with parts of the High Street gatehouse, which were rebuilt as Pearce Lodge.

When first installed in Gilmorehill, the staircase turned right at its middle landing, but was later altered to turn left, as seen here.

There isn’t really any sort of higher viewpoint to get a better look at the pair, so without doing something silly, this is about as good as the view gets.

Click for bigger.

Glasgow University Lion and Unicorn

Glasgow University Lion and Unicorn

The pair has a historic significance.

The Lion and the Unicorn are symbols of the United Kingdom. They are, properly speaking, heraldic supporters appearing in the full royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. The lion stands for England and the unicorn for Scotland. The combination therefore dates back to the 1603 accession of James I of England who was already James VI of Scotland.

08/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Glasgow University undercroft lighting has gone

Previously caught Under Bute Hall at Glasgow University, in the cloisters referred to as the undercroft, was some decorative LED lighting wrapped around the columns.

I’m not sure how long this was present, but when I was visiting a few weeks ago I noticed some of the lighting was not working properly.

I couldn’t be sure if it had failed, or if it had been damaged, but sad to say, looking at the pattern of failure, and the wiring, suggested damage was more likely than failure, a thought reinforced by the extent of the failure. Also, given how long the strings had been there, working fine, multiple coincident failures really weren’t that likely.

Sadly, subsequent visits have shown that ALL this decorative lighting has been removed.

Since it’s hard to take a pic of something that isn’t there, here’s a recent pic I happened to grab when passing through, just before noting the failure/damage, and the disappearance of the LED strings.

Glasgow University Bute Hall undercroft LED lighting

Glasgow University Bute Hall undercroft LED lighting

Be it due to vandalism, or planning, it’s a shame this simple enhancement to the area is no longer present.

11/05/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

University of Glasgow Department of Virology

Still to be found (for the moment at least) in Church Street, just off Dumbarton Road, this University Of Glasgow Faculty Building was the Department of Virology.

I hadn’t really noticed it before, being preoccupied with the adjacent multi-storey building, the Pontecorvo Building, Basil Spence and Partners in association with Peter Glover, 1961-1962, which housed the Institute of Genetics, or more interestingly for me, a Paternoster. That item featured in an episode of ‘Taggart’.

As can be seen, these building are now abandoned, and you will also see a demolition contractor’s van parked nearby.

The entire area behind this building (mostly the old Western Infirmary) has already been razed, and cleared for new development.

I assume the two buildings mentioned here will suffer the same fate soon.

Canmore says:

In June 1957 Basil Spence and Partners were commissioned to design the Institute of Virology for the University of Glasgow. The building, situated on Church Street adjacent to the Western Infirmary, was designed during 1958 and the construction was completed by 1962. The new building was to house the first Virology department in the UK, and contained laboratories, research rooms, staff rooms and a library. The four-storey concrete structure is clad in glass mosaic panels and green slate slabs.

In 1958 the practice was also commissioned to design the Institute of Genetics on an adjacent site, but construction work did not begin until 1962. The resulting building, completed in 1966, was a seven-storey structure built with reinforced concrete and clad in glass mosaic like the Institute of Virology.

I also read that the taller building was supposed to be twelve storeys, but Prof Pontecorvo objected to sharing space with other departments, and a compromise was eventually reached, seven storeys still in view, for the moment.

The Department of Virology building’s view is blocked by the narrowness of the street, and it’s usual to take pics from either size, looking along Church Street.

In this case, I was curious to see how my photo-stitching software would handle a set of images taken while standing across the road from this building

It also managed to catch a fair part of the Pontecorvo Building, on the right, which is interesting as it shows that the north face of this building has quite a few windows. If you look at the other side, it looks as if it has very few.

No idea if there was a reason for this.

Click for bigger.

Glasgow University Department of Virology

Glasgow University Department of Virology

This is the more usual view.

University of Glasgow Department of Virology and Pontecorvo

University of Glasgow Department of Virology and Pontecorvo

I even managed a pic from the other side, as noted, few windows.

I’m including this since earlier pics I thought were in here have disappeared.

Dumbarton Road Pontecorvo

Dumbarton Road Pontecorvo

As you can see, the older, adjacent historic building (Anderson College, B listed) is staying.

A modern one, with concrete and rebar, is already going.

Dumbarton Road Demolition

Dumbarton Road Demolition

In the few days since the above pic was taken, this concrete lump has been wrapped in scaffolding and a big plastic bag, to keep the dust down while it is pulverised.

On reflection, I think I should have used this wider pic above, instead of the crop, so…

Pontecorvo context

Pontecorvo context

21/04/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Lost, photography | , , , , | Leave a comment

Memorial Chapel organ edits

After looking at the shots I took (quickly) of the organ loft of the Memorial Chapel organ mentioned earlier, I decided to play with them, mainly because I hadn’t even been able to see the loft thanks to the blinding glare from the high intensity lights fitted around the aisle.

Since I was carrying the compact, the shots suffered more from this than the dSLR, which is generally less susceptible to flare and glare (provided I remember to fit the short zoom).

This first shot is actually a better view than seen with the naked eye which, for me at least, was almost blinded by the direct glare and light from the white discharge light. I should add that there is a second identical light only a few metres to the left, obscured by the ceiling light hanging in front of it.

These lights may provide loads of illumination for the aisle (see the webcam), but are useless otherwise, blinding any attempts to look at the ceiling or organ, and wasting energy in these environmentally aware days.

Interestingly rebuilt in 2005, while it retained a number of the original 1927 parts, sufficient changes mean that it is described online as ‘virtually a new organ’.

It even has a tremolo, which can be clearly heard during some recitals.

Glasgow University Memorial Chapel Organ Loft Original

Organ Loft Original

I wouldn’t normally edit such a poor shot, but in this case, since I have nothing else (and couldn’t even see the loft by eye), I decided to apply some corrections. While the settings can be raised to recover detail, the problem is that areas which don’t need correction get the same treatment, and the result looks terrible as completely unnatural looking features are created.

However, in this case I think it was justified, as it revealed that the loft features the actual organ pipes, open to the aisle, and not hidden behind a decorative façade of ‘false’ pipes.

This also becomes obvious during recitals, where individual voices can be heard particularly clearly. Something not found if they are behind any sort f decoration.

Glasgow University Memorial Chapel Organ Loft Edit

Organ Loft Edit

While waiting for things to get underway, I thought I’d try an alternative view, from my raised position in the stalls.

Sadly, while this (almost) raised my viewpoint above the offending bright discharge lights – it brought new lighting problems.

The chapel’s original lighting, suspended from the ceiling, just happened to land in the ‘wrong’ place. Oh well.

Glasgow University Memorial Chapel Organ Loft Original 2

Organ Loft Original 2

Since I’d sold my soul and edited one image I normally wouldn’t have, I thought I might as well try another.

Same problem, with an unnatural end result.

On the other had, it does bring a little more detail.

Glasgow Memorial Chapel Organ Loft Edit 2

Organ Loft Edit 2

Now that I know the problems, and the dates of more recitals due in the coming weeks, I might make this one of the ‘mission’, and try to beat the glare effects of all those nasty lights, and get a better shot one day.

Not all failure

Having given the ‘bad news’, I can give some ‘good news’.

As I noted in the first post, this chapel interior is a feast for anyone who likes to take detail images, and has many features.

I noted one tourist arrive, and after staring at all the goodies on show for a while, started taking pics of them, and might still be there!

On this occasion I just stopped for one extra shot, taken as the Sun shone in through one of the windows, and landed on one of the carvings.

A few minutes either side of this moment, and it wouldn’t have happened.

Glasgow University Memorial Chapel Angel

Glasgow University Memorial Chapel Angel

For anyone who may suggest I’ve ignored the Memorial Chapel itself, and its history, I’m afraid that’s not the case.

There are accounts online, and as I learnt more about this building I decided I couldn’t really do any better.

And there is quite a lot to cover.

I was surprised once I’d gone through it all.

I’m also surprised there isn’t more signage directing visitors to it either – there really is nothing dedicated to the chapel, not even at its entrance or the stairs leading to the doors – just the name as it appears on the general signs directing people around the grounds.

Finally, I tried a shot of one the Chapel’s suspended lighting fixtures.

This is OK, but the extreme variation in illumination means it would have to be more carefully exposed.

In reality, the central, internally illuminated, lightbox appears relatively darker than the suspended lights surrounding it. It also has the appearance of a colder (or bluer) light than the others, which appear to be warm white.

Glasgow University Memorial Chapel lighting

Memorial Chapel lighting

Just one more thing (didn’t even try to take a pic)…

The stained glass in this building is stunning, and I have to say it is fortunate it is safe within a controlled perimeter, as opposed some Glasgow back street where it would have to be protected behind wire mesh guards, screens, and grilles.

It must be some of the largest, most complex, and intricate work I’ve ever seen, and should not be missed.

You can’t get close to it, which I found a little odd, being more used to visiting smaller venues featuring such work, and being able to get much closer to the detail.

18/04/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

Found a new webcam – University Memorial Chapel

Found an intriguing webcam at Glasgow University, installed in the University Memorial Chapel.

It seems to be live 24/7, although there nothing to see when it’s dark and the lights are off (no IR or low light).

Visitors are also alerted to its presence and constant operation (which includes audio too) by signs, which offer them the option to contact the admin and have these turned off during their visit.

Chapel webcam

Although I’ve wandered around most of the university’s grounds, around the building, and even into a few of them, I hadn’t realised this was the chapel building, or that it was open for wanderers to wander into – there are no public signs outside.

I only discovered this when attending one of the occasional lunchtime organ concerts, which are usually free.

I grabbed a few quick pics as this was the first time I’d seen the place.

The interior is frustrating to view, as there are a number of VERY high intensity lights around the aisle (they look like outdoor discharge lamps), located not far above head height, producing a lot of glare and making it almost impossible to see the ceiling or organ loft. I almost went to try to find someone and ask if they could be switched off, which would be more useful than having the webcam turned off.

This view avoids them (they are off to either side) and looks towards the webcam.

There’s a lot of interesting detail to see there, and it needs a visit to show it.

Glasgow University Memorial Chapel Interior

Memorial Chapel Interior

The rear of the building is easy, as seen from the quadrangle.

Memorial Chapel Rear West Quadrangle

Memorial Chapel Rear West Quadrangle

The facade and entrance, not so easy due to their size and limited space (and the odd tree branch).

Glasgow University Memorial Chapel Entrance

Memorial Chapel Entrance

I tried a quick stitch to get more in shot, but forgot some basic rule for this, so the result was not good on this occasion, and will need another try one day, without all the mistakes. This hardly added anything, and introduced a lot of ‘nasties’ – but taught me a little more, so was not all bad.

Memorial Chapel stitch

Memorial Chapel stitch

18/04/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Rotten weather may not be all bad – kept me away from Glasgow Uni

I was a bit sad to see the weatherfolk had been spot on once again, and their forecast of cold and rainy weather today was accurate.

I’d been up before 7 am, and then it was howling a near gale as well, but this at least had calmed down within a couple of hours, and the trees were no longer bending over.

I might have been at Glasgow University again (for the galleries/museums) but for that weather, and had been there a few days ago, when I spotted a Maserati (they are very popular in China, and apparently with Chinese here) while I was having a seat on the wall across from the main entrance, as it was a reasonably nice day.

It was too quick for a decent pic – but at least a dSLR is ‘always on’, unlike a compact, so my only problem was lifting it fast enough, and zooming (oh, and standing up, as I’d been enjoying the sun).

Glasgow Uni Maserati

Glasgow Uni Maserati


Had I headed that way today, there would not have been so much fun to be had.

As you’ll see from the news pics, the action was taking place at the Main Gate, seen above, where I was sitting.

I might have been evacuated!

University of Glasgow buildings evacuated over suspect package

Thankfully, the latest updates suggest it was a false alarm, and the suspect package contained promotional items.


I’d grabbed another quick pic only a few metres away, a reminder of the autopsy benches I’d come across on the grassy area nearby.

It was interesting to see the students were happy to sit on them, and enjoy a break, and their lunch in the sun.

I wonder if they realise what the benches are modelled after?

Autopsy Lunch Benches

Autopsy Lunch Benches

I’m almost surprised to see this, given the way some people have hysterics about quite innocent connections to objects.

06/03/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Are Glasgow’s bike thieves using social media to ‘protect’ themselves?

I just read an interesting article about bike theft in Glasgow, around Glasgow University in particular – relevant since I’ve chained up there quite a few times recently.

This article seems to suggest that the criminals involved in such thefts are not only actively targeting the area, but are ALSO organises, AND are responsible for vandalising vehicles as a sideline.

On Tuesday morning, Councillor Ken Andrew asked police: “Is it true that cycle gangs are back and targeting Hillhead?

“On the same night as bikes going missing, cars are being damaged and bus shelters vandalised.

“Is it fair to assume it is the same group of youths causing these problems?”

Sergeant Gillespie replied: “I think it is fair to say it is the same people involved in these crimes. We are working hard to try and suppress them.

Fears raised bike thieves targeting Glasgow University and Hillhead community


This was the line that really caught my eye in this article…

Chairman councillor Ken Andrew added: “One of the things which has been circling social media is that we cannot take a picture of someone stealing a bike. Is there any truth in this?”

Sergeant Gillespie replied: “There is nothing to stop you from taking a picture although we would suggest that members of the public don’t make themselves an obvious target.

I found that question to be almost unbelievable, but then recalled reading somewhere that, today, many people get their news and information from ‘social media’, which I also found almost unbelievable.

I say that as someone who has ZERO trust in ‘social media’, but sadly also realises how stupid people are (recall I just did some post about people having to be warned not to leave their cars unoccupied and idling while defrosting).

For a moment, I wondered how such a statement about not taking a picture of someone stealing a bike would get on to ‘social media’ in the first place.

I guess the answer is really kind of obvious…

The thieves themselves would post this, and work to make sure it is circulated amongst users of ‘social media’.

Which is kind of ironic, since many of them are so dumb they video their own criminal activities, and then post this online while boasting to their mates (and thankfully helping police identify and catch them).

It embarrassing to think that so many people have forsaken reliable sources of information in favour of something as moronic as ‘social media’ (by which they probably mean Facecrook).

It seems we really are witnessing the death of ‘Common Sense’.

60 bikes – £30,000 – will this man go to jail?

Real Bike Thief

Real Bike Thief


While not EXACTLY the same issue, I was intrigued to see YouTube (does it fall under ‘social media’?) announce a change in acceptable content which it will allow to be posted…

YouTube vows to recommend fewer conspiracy theory videos

What’s interesting about this is that it echoes my own view on these things, where the nuts behind those various theories only seem to have the word ‘Right’ in their vocabulary, while being selectively blind to the word that should always accompany it – ‘Responsibility’.

They just like the first one, and have no comprehension of the second.

25/01/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Today, I learned something new – there’s a Glasgow Uni accent (and a Strathclyde Uni Glasgow Patter aid)

Sometimes I get a REAL surprise, especially when I see an article about something in Glasgow which I’ve NEVER heard of, come across before, or ever heard anyone else mention in conversation.

Such was my reaction when I read a news article which informed me that not only was there a ‘Glasgow Uni accent’, but that it apparently ‘drives half the city up the wall’.

Well THAT was a surprise!

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that anyone in possession of a Glasgow University matric card speaks, well, a certain way.

Okay, so not everyone who ends up in the hallowed halls of Glasgow’s oldest university ends up speaking like landed gentry – but it has to be said, a high number of students end up with “that accent”.

And it happens to drive some Glaswegians up the wall.

In fact, if hipster bashing is the sport then that ‘Glasgow Uni’ accent is the ball.

The Glasgow Uni accent – and why it drives half the city up the wall

The only thing I can think of is that this story is about what we, or my family and friends in the east end of Glasgow used to refer to as ‘Kelvinside’.

Unfortunately, I can’t write that word the same way it was pronounced when it was raised in conversation.

Maybe somebody out there knows better.

I’d also almost completely forgotten about it, until I read the article about the Glasgow Uni accent.



Meanwhile, over at Strathclyde University

They’ve published a little online guide to the Glasgow Patter, to help new arrivals make sense  of some of the words they’ll never heard at home, but will have to get used to.

Glasgow Patter (Glaswegian) (pdf file)

Strathclyde University Glasgow Patter

Strathclyde University Glasgow Patter

08/01/2019 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Under Bute Hall

There’s a Gothic arched area below Glasgow University’s Bute Hall.

I’m not sure of the correct name, or if it simply has more than one, but I have seen it also referred to as cloisters, and the undercroft.

I haven’t been there for years, although I have made one or two trips to the adjacent Hunterian Museum, this is so awkward for me to get to, I generally don’t have time to go sightseeing, or play.

I didn’t even realise I’d forgotten all about the Hunterian Art Gallery too, and it’s just across the road!

I was at the museum recently, and had time to spare, so had a quick wander, and made it to the arches.

Funny thing, I immediately recalled seeing pics of the lights wrapped around the columns some time ago, and thinking “Well, I won’t be seeing those firsthand”.

Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong.

I’ve not only seen them, I got my own pic too.

I hope the pic looks reasonably natural – for reasons best known to itself, the camera insisted on shooting this as if the illumination was cold white, although it was clearly warm white to the eye.

I had to manually edit the colour balance to restore the colour of the lights, and the sandstone, which looked more like the soot stained tenements of Victorian Glasgow in the original shot.

Cloisters Under Bute Hall

Cloisters Under Bute Hall


25/11/2018 Posted by | photography | , | Leave a comment

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