Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

James Keith Gorrie – ‘the nicest man in Glasgow’

There’s a lot of pics of items which can be found in Kelvingrove, but the vast majority are of the same subjects.

While I wouldn’t suggest there’s anything wrong with that, it is also true to say that there are many items I’ve never seen anyone take, or share, a picture of.

Case in point, the display pictured below.

James Keith Gorrie Kelvingrove

James Keith Gorrie Kelvingrove


March 17, 2018 Posted by | military, Naval, photography, World War II | | Leave a comment

Bennie Railplane display – Kelvingrove

Digging into the ‘cold weather archive’ again, I came across the display for Bennie’s Railplane which can be found in Kelvingrove.

The panel (click for bigger) gives enough details for anyone who is unfamiliar, but that’s not what I have in mind.

Bennie Railplane Description Kelvingrove

Bennie Railplane Description Kelvingrove

The idea was good enough in itself, and if we look overseas then a number of monorails can be found which have succeeded.

But the missing aspect was proper consideration of the engineering and costs – had Bennie been in business with someone who had reeled him in, and ensured the system had been approached in a way that addressed its flaws, then the outcome could have been different.

Using a propeller to drive a land craft was not a good idea, but would have seemed like a good idea by following speedy aviation and streamlining ideas which were popular concepts, and innovation would attract funding. In reality, the losses of a propeller driven carriage, and resultant high fuel consumption would have ruined the operating economics, and demanded a change to some sort of mechanical drive (like other systems of the day).

Then there was the hugely impractical suspended track, intended to be built over existing railways.

However, an honest look at its complexity, and the amount of material consumed compared to the rail tracks which would lie below should soon reveal the dubious wisdom of that part of the system too. There probably wasn’t much that could have been done then to reduce that, barring a complete redesign of the structure, and with the steel and construction methods of the day, there would have been problems.

There’s another aspect – that test track only has one line. Two would really have been needed to provide a realistic service in both directions. Or there would have to have been some way of shuffling railplanes back and forth, and around one another on a single track. Given how often single track trains crashed in those days due to signalling errors, can you imagine how long it would have been until the first truly high-speed collision occurred if that had been tried?

I guess the lack of any subsequent projects along the same lines (unless we count the Hyperloop, which is yet to become a reality anywhere) is as good an indication as any that Bennie may have had an idea, but that while it looked good, it couldn’t deliver.

March 12, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , | Leave a comment

The secret hidden in Kelvingrove’s baluster

Having gone from days, to weeks, to years, and now (thankfully), at last, to mere months between visits to Kelvingrove, I’m slowly getting back into the habit of looking for things I’ve missed. Seriously – this is tough when you can’t simply drop in during any weekend.

Case in point – the balusters on the front and rear stairways between the floors. I can’t believe it has taken me so many years to remember to stop and look closely at these, such is my general haste to get between the floors these days.

But I did remember recently, and was well rewarded for my efforts.

I imagine few people stop to look at these, or even notice them.

Incidentally, for those unfamiliar, baluster is the name of the vertical spindle between the handrail and (in this case) the tread.

I noticed the top of each baluster was a carved figure, but never stopped long enough to see what they actually were.

As you will see from the pics below, they are taken from Glasgow’s coat of arms, depicting three of the four elements – I couldn’t find ‘The tree that never grew’, which seems to be missing for some reason, or is perhaps elsewhere. I might ask one day.

This is the view down one of the stairwells – not the most brightly lit of places, hence the less than perfect pics.

Kelvingrove Stairwell

Kelvingrove Stairwell

Definitely no tree there.

But here are details of the other three elements of our coat of arms:

The Bird That Never Flew

The Bird That Never Flew


The Bell That Never Rang

The Bell That Never Rang


The Fish That Never Swam

The Fish That Never Swam

In the Life of Saint Mungo, he performed four miracles in Glasgow. The following verse is used to remember Mungo’s four miracles:

Here is the bird that never flew
Here is the tree that never grew
Here is the bell that never rang
Here is the fish that never swam

The verses refer to the following:

  • The Bird — Mungo restored life to a robin, which had been tamed by St Serf, but had been killed by some of his classmates, jealous of Mungo as he was favoured by St Serf.
  • The Tree — Mungo had been left in charge of a fire in St Serf’s monastery, but he fell asleep and the fire went out. Taking a hazel branch, he prayed over it and restarted the fire.
  • The Bell — the bell is thought to have been brought by Mungo from Rome. It was said to have been used in services and to mourn the deceased. The original bell no longer exists, and a replacement, created in the 1640s, is now on display in Glasgow, in the People’s Palace on Glasgow Green. There was an earlier bell – in 1450, John Stewart, first Lord Provost of Glasgow, left an endowment for a “St Mungo’s Bell”, to be made and tolled throughout the city so that the citizens would pray for his soul. Still being rung in 1578, an entry in the City Treasurer’s accounts shows two shillings (10 p) “for one tong to St Mungowis Bell.”
  • The Fish — refers to the story about Queen Languoreth of Strathclyde who was suspected of infidelity by her husband. King Riderch demanded to see her ring, which he claimed she had given to her lover. In reality the King had thrown it into the River Clyde. Faced with execution she appealed for help to Mungo, who ordered a messenger to catch a fish in the river. On opening the fish, the ring was miraculously found inside, which allowed the Queen to clear her name.


September 6, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Kelvingrove – the wide view

I’ve been meaning to get this shot together for ages, but just never found the time.

It’s not that it could take a lot of time to create, but more that I hadn’t tried one as big or wide as this before, as it was intended to capture almost 180° horizontally and vertically. While it would have been nice to also have a flattened view, I can only afford free software, so can only combine pics taken from a point. I did try to trick the software once, by taking flat shots across a subject, but it just laughed at me, and could not work out how to find and match the edges of the images to be stitched together.

This eventually came out reasonably well, being a combination of almost 50 images, each being more than 10 MB.

I’m not sure how the top came to be so far off centre – I thought I was standing on the centreline (guess not).

There’s ghosting of people since the place was busy, and although this reduced size version of the full stitch doesn’t show it, I really had too much overlap between each image. With fewer images, I usually can’t see the join or any overlap effects. With lots of overlap, the software probably can’t combine the areas without leaving at least some evidence.

It’s funny, as I’ve done the same with views of the Winter Gardens at the People’s Palace, where a fairly ordinary wide-angle lens can catch enough of the view from the balcony to make the effort of stitching multiple images more or less pointless.

But pointing the same lens at this view inside Kelvingrove?

Almost not worth the effort… unless you stand back and frame the view through pillars. But then you’re not going to get the full side-to-side and floor to ceiling view, like this:

Kelvingrove Pano Stitch

Kelvingrove Pano Stitch

Looking at this final effort, I noticed that it demonstrates one of the seldom mentioned advantages of digital over film.

This image shows an exposure range I (as a poor amateur) would never have been able to capture or show using film, as it shows detail in the shadowy dark end of the view, where the organ can be seen, while still showing bright detail in the illuminated lights, and the individual glazing frames within the upper windows, which had the bright sky behind.

And this is without any deliberate post-processing to enhance selected detail.

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | 4 Comments

Billy Connolly Dixon Street mural – Vettriano original (almost)

Although I’d read about the originals of the murals made to Celebrate Sir Billy Connolly’s 75th being exhibited, with my memory any clue as to where they were going soon evaporated.

So it was a nice surprise to trip over one of them, the one by Jack Vettriano, as I wandered through Kelvingrove recently.

Only thing was… I was wrong, and it seems the original in question is actually in the People’s Palace, and this is only a study, per the label:

Vettriano Study Label

Vettriano Study Label

We can still compare the little yin to the big yin…

Vettriano Mural Original

Vettriano Mural Original Study


Billy Connolly Mural Dixon Street

Dixon Street

There’s an irritating shadow cast along the top edge of the study, but the real problem with reproducing this image lies in the very ‘warm’ lighting used in Kelvingrove. Not visible to the eye, it produces a very warm image.

While I corrected for this, and it looks fine seen on its own, I think it still looks a little too ‘warm’ when seen in close proximity to the larger mural, obviously shot out of doors and under natural light.

It’s a while since I made it into the People’s Palace, so this means I’ll have to wander along there sometime soon, to get a look at the real original.

August 30, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kelvingrove is on fire. You can save ONE item. What do you grab?

I’ve seen this hypothetical ‘Fire’ question posed by others, and while wandering through Kelvingrove on one of my now rare visits (I used to be able to drop in at almost any time) found the same dilemma arose as I considered the time that now grows between my subsequent visits.

Given that most of my long-standing favourites are impractical candidates as they are simply too large or too heavy to lift and run with, I was beginning to think I’d posed a question with no single answer, then I realised I was looking at it.

It’s a long time since I first saw Regina Cordium. In fact, I was at (secondary) school, and the reason I noticed it was because of a remarkable similarity to a girl I sometimes saw there (I should add not in my year). But I would emphasise that it was purely a ‘similarity’, yet so striking it made this one of my favourite exhibits, and I reckon I’ve been lucky as it’s also one that is a permanent exhibit, and does not disappear as part of the museum rotation of the more than 1 million artefacts it holds.

Even luckier, this image was used on a large poster to publicise an exhibition some years (got that), and on the cover of an accompanying book (yup, got that too).

Another feature that struck me back in the day was how timeless the painting was, and I really did have to look twice when I looked at the plaque which was once fixed to the frame, and discovered it was painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1866. Granted I was ‘young and stupid’ at the time, but if I’d been asked to make a guess, I’d have been utterly and completely wrong as I’d probably have had a stab at a 20th century date. I’m probably a bit of a perfectionist too, and the execution of the brushwork and detail is also worthy of note. While I enjoy impressionism, I’m much more likely to be drawn to what is now referred to as photo-realism.

So, that’s my choice, and if you ever see someone running through flames at Kelvingrove (sounds like a good name for an exhibition!) with Alexa Wilding – that will be me.

Regina Cordium

Regina Cordium

I’m guessing it’s been reframed since I first saw it, and the gilded plaque would seem to be long gone, replaced by this stylish, two-tone, printed card:

Regina Cordium Label

Regina Cordium Label

August 29, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Relief model of Glasgow spotted at Kelvingrove

This was a bit of a recent surprise (for me at least) and was, unfortunately, tripped over in the midst of a rather wet day of heavy showers when I couldn’t dress appropriately for such things.

Spotting it depends on which road you take to Kelvingrove, and this is not my usual path, so I might never have seen it. Thanks to the weather, I couldn’t really stop for a closer look, so it was really just a case of grabbing some pics to make sure I remember it in future.

Glasgow Model Outside Kelvingrove

Glasgow Model Outside Kelvingrove

Thanks to the falling rain, I couldn’t make out the description on the plaque at the foot, and this also made pics almost unreadable too, so I’ll have to get back some day (or track it down online).

The actual features of the model are impossible to see in the above pic, so here’s a closer look at the top:

Glasgow Model Outside Kelvingrove Detail

Glasgow Model Outside Kelvingrove Detail

I hope it IS Glasgow, since I’ve just assumed this.

Given the sparse nature of the city, it has to be based on early maps, which I’d guess from around 1800 (very roughly) but would have to dig out some of my old history books to more certain or accurate about.

August 26, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, Maps, photography | , | Leave a comment

Eye see not every picture turns out as expected

I doubt many who have only ever used digital cameras have any REAL appreciation of the ‘smarts’ built into their little ‘Point and Shoot’ marvels, especially camera phones, which I regularly see taking pics under circumstances I would have struggles to record a black and white images, let alone a reasonably rendered colour version (doubt anyone remembers, but colour film could suffer colour shifts under various circumstances).

My own ‘proper’ camera has various corrections built-in, which can be commanded to apply themselves to the recorded image, and correct for distortion, too bright, too dark, and who know what other ‘problem’ areas before the final image is recorded. These work well, and although I kept the previous model of the camera which has none of these, I stay with the new one, and have its predecessor as an emergency backup (although the chances of needing it are slim).


It’s easy to forget what’s happening, and make a casual mistake.

The pic below is one example, and worth remembering the lesson it contains.

While one might recover underexposed pixels – OVEREXPOSED pixels are gone for good.

It’s a simple fact that dark areas of pics are not usually 0% and can be amplified and recovered to at least some degree – but when an area is 100% saturated white then there’s nothing left to recover. While backlighting is seldom a problem thanks to digital exposure control, an overexposed 100% saturated white area is STILL lost, and can’t be recovered, at least not meaningfully.

Case in point, this pic of an illuminated optician’s sign rescued from Glasgow and cleverly displayed in Kelvingrove.

I passed the arch, and stepped back to grab a pic in passing, without thinking – oops!

While the human eye can cope, even a good digital sensor can’t see the same – and we have a decent background, but most of the eyes in the glasses are burnt out by overexposure. What can be recovered is of little use.

Still, it’s nice to see there are still some shots that need a little SKILL to capture – and I will have to remember this the next time I manage a visit.

I’ll be honest and say that even though I am used to spotting scenes where the human eye can catch the extremes of exposure that a camera can’t, this one didn’t really look like one, so I was at least a little surprised to find the ‘fail’ when I got home and reviewed the day’s collection – but the illusion is probably down the museum favouring lower light levels to reduce damage to the exhibits from bright light.

The challenge has been issued – capture this with BOTH the background AND the eyes properly exposed.

Kelvingrove Opticians Sign

Kelvingrove Optician’s Sign

August 18, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

The replacement we need for Dali’s iconic work, Christ of St John of the Cross

It’s already well known that Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross is set to leave Kelvingrove and begin a series of world tours from September 2017 will see the painting go on loan to the Royal Academy of Arts in London, returning in summer 2018: Salvador Dali painting to leave Glasgow on loan

I don’t think I saw any mention of what will take its place, but I’m guessing a copy will take its place, to mitigate some of the disappointment visitors may suffer.


Given that Dali was the creator of the original, perhaps this find from the interwebs might suggest a possible alternative, which would also pay tribute, or ‘cat tax’ to our feline overlords:

Dali Melting Cat

Dali Melting Cat

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dali’s iconic work, Christ of St John of the Cross to go on tour

I have a vague recollection of Salvador Dali’s iconic work, Christ of St John of the Cross, going on tour some years ago, but have no notes or mentions of thus from the time, but also from my own less-than-perfect memory, I also seem to have a definite note that the news of the time carried a warning to visitors that they were not viewing the original painting, but a copy commissioned to ensure its absence was not too hard to bear. (I can’t dig up an online note to confirm this, but I doubt I could have imagined both memories. Maybe someone reading this can confirm.)

Purely as a work of art, it is a most impressive sight, and one I was surprised to learn was owned by Glasgow’s Kelvingrove.

(The embedded slideshow below is supposed to be WordPress compatible, but the buttons don’t seem to work – try the source.)

Painted in 1951 and purchased by the City of Glasgow in 1952, it has become one of the best-loved in the entire collection, amongst Glaswegians and visitors.​

Dali’s creation was one of the more controversial purchases made by Dr Tom Honeyman, then Director of Glasgow Museums. It is now widely recognised that Dr Honeyman made a very astute decision. Not only did he secure the painting for less than the catalogue price, that price included the copyright, giving Glasgow a never-ending source of revenue from its investment

However, the painting was not well-received by everyone – students from Glasgow School of Art argued that the money could have been used to purchase work from Glaswegian or Scottish artists.

But, after going on display at Kelvingrove in 1952, the work attracted visitors in their droves as the gallery now attracts millions of visitors per year.

Sadly, the painting’s presence has not been without drama, and it has been damaged twice, most famously when the canvas was badly torn by a visitor wielding a sharp stone. Fortunately, the skilled conservators at Kelvingrove were able to repair the painting and the damage is barely visible.


September 2017 will see the painting go on loan to the Royal Academy of Arts in London, returning in summer 2018.

Glaswegians, and anyone who visits Kelvingrove, might care to take note that while we can wander in for a look as often as we like, with our Scottish National Museums offering Free Admission – ONE visit to the RA will set visitors back a massive £15.50 (£14 if you withhold the donation).

The painting will be one of the star attractions of Dalí/Duchamp, opening on 7 October. The exhibition will then travel to The Dalí Museum in St Petersburg, Florida from February to May 2018.

I had a look at the Dalí Museum – tickets there are $24.

It will then go on loan to Auckland Castle in County Durham from autumn 2019 until spring 2020.

Via: Salvador Dali painting to leave Glasgow on loan

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , | Leave a comment

2018 marks 150th anniversary of Charles Rennie Mackintosh

It was nice to see early news of a temporary exhibition taking place in Kelvingrove during 2018 to mark the 150th anniversary of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

I always feel rather sorry for Mackintosh, in some ways

Largely ignored during his life, he only came to notice (along with others of his kind such as Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson) after his death, and then suffered the fate of many in Scotland, where his is mocked and devalued because he became famous and popular. (Note: Does not apply if you are that modern ‘waste of skin’ known as… a celebrity!)

Mackintosh and building

Mackintosh and building

It’s now well known that a number of their buildings have been lost, for various reasons, and that many that survive have advocates trying to save those that have become abandoned and derelict. Fortunately, many lesser known examples have survived in use, and are occupied by residents who know and love them, and actively preserve and restore them.

Glasgow Style

Glasgow Style designs and art works were created by teachers, students and graduates of The Glasgow School of Art in the period between about 1890 and 1920.

Said to be at the core of this movement were Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Margaret Macdonald, Frances Macdonald, and James Herbert McNair.

Exhibitions and Events

Glasgow Museums will commemorate the landmark of the Glasgow-born architect with a programme of events in 2018.

One of the highlights, according to curators, will be a temporary exhibition held at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

It will showcase works by Rennie Mackintosh and his contemporaries.

Many of the works will be on display for the first time in a generation, while others will be given their first public appearance.

The exhibition includes works by The Four: Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his future wife Margaret Macdonald, her younger sister Frances Macdonald and her future husband James Herbert McNair.

Alison Brown, curator with Glasgow Museums, said: “Charles Rennie Mackintosh is rightly celebrated around the world as one of the most creative figures of the 20th Century.

“He is regarded as the father of Glasgow Style, arguably Britain’s most important contribution to the international Art Nouveau movement.

Via: Exhibition to mark Mackintosh anniversary

There don’t seem to be any details on offer at the moment, so I will be watching for more news to appear, and post more then.

May 24, 2017 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | 2 Comments

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