Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

La Pasionaria on the Clyde Walkway

I think I missed this for years, so have finally taken a decent pic and collected some notes.

I was more than a little surprised the first time I came across a pic of this statue, and couldn’t recall ever seeing it. To be fair to myself, in the past I seldom walked on that side of Clyde Street, let alone next to the river on the Clyde Walkway.

The statue, La Pasionaria (The Passion Flower”), is a tribute by the city of Glasgow (and the Labour Movement) to the British Volunteers of the International Brigade who fought in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-9. Their fight against fascism is embodied in the statue of Dolores Ibárruri (1895-1989), a heroine of their cause and a leader in the Spanish Republican and Communist movements. The sculpture was commissioned by the International Brigade Association of Scotland in 1974, and produced by the Liverpool based sculptor, Arthur Dooley. His fee of £3,000 was funded following an appeal to Trades Unionists and members of the Labour Movement in Scotland.

It stands about 9 ft (3 m) high, is made of painted fibreglass, and mounted on a rectangular plinth on a steel pedestal made from a vertical steel girder.

Find it near the south west corner of Clyde Street, facing the River Clyde from the Clyde Walkway, where it was erected on 5 December 1979.

Sad to say, the dirty world of Politics threatened the existence of the memorial, and it seems that it attracted hostile opposition from Glasgow’s Conservative Councillors, who vowed to demolish it whenever they unseated the city’s Labour administration. Despite my low opinion of certain aspects of this world, I do think things are better now, and such a threat would not be risked today – if only because of the effect of so-called ‘social media’, and the potential backlash.

The memorial’s construction led to further problems, such as under-funding and its weight. The latter led to a shortening of its girder pedestal before it could be transported from Liverpool. While the sculptor had intended to form the statue in bronze, this was not possible due to the cost.

Dooley reportedly had six attempts to perfect his design for the ‘gaunt, outstretched figure’ of Ibárruri, apparently living in poverty in his Liverpool workshop and staying in a working men’s hostel when in Glasgow.

Thanks to the Political nonsense noted above, the statue was erected without any public ceremony, in case those opposed to it caused some sort of embarrassing incident.

The sad story continues since the subject, Ibárruri, could not be invited to a non-existent unveiling, and the sculptor never saw his finished work, seemingly penniless and unable to afford the fare to Glasgow.

Via City of Sculpture: La Pasionara

BBC Archive article inspired the series ‘Coast’ La Pasionaria Memorial

Having been threatened with being torn down in demolition, it is now A Category B Listed Building in Glasgow, Glasgow Clyde Street, Statue of Dolores Ibarruri, La Pasionaria

See also 2009 restoration appeal article La Pasionaria: the fading icon

There are numerous articles online now, covering the sculpture’s history.

Not bad, given the threat to its existence and lack of ceremony.

Glasgow Clyde Walkway La Pasionaria

Glasgow Clyde Walkway La Pasionaria


June 18, 2018 Posted by | photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Billy Connolly Wire Mural – and follow-up to his 75th birthday murals

When (Sir) Billy Connolly was given a series of three giant murals spread around Glasgow city centre, I was (for once) quick of the mark and went off to collect a set of pics for myself.

More on that later – this post is really about another ‘mural’ I discovered while tracking down the three new works.

While I might describe this installation more as a sculpture than a mural, I have to yield to the description to be seen on the plaque that accompanies it, and shows I missed this 2011 event.

Billy Connolly Wire Mural Plaque

Billy Connolly Wire Mural Plaque

I’m not sure if I knew about it at the time, back then my chances of getting there for a look probably ranked in the region of ‘slim to nil’, so while I might have seen it announced in the news at the time, chances are it would have ‘Gone in one ear, and out the other’.

But, I did find out about it, and exactly where to find it, and even managed to get there and grab a pic.

My collection is compete!

Billy Connolly Wire Mural

Billy Connolly Wire Mural

Although the plaque seems to fail to mention it, one of the reasons this installation was placed here is because Billy Connolly was born in Dover Street, Anderston – but that was demolished in the 1970s, so they couldn’t really put it there.

75th Birthday mural updates

While the birthday murals created in 2017 remain unchanged, I noticed that they had received small descriptive plaques.

Well, to be accurate the Gallowgate and Old Wynd murals have plaques, but I couldn’t find one for the Vettriano creation in Dixon Street.

See the pics here: (Sir) Billy Connolly’s 75th birthday murals got some plaques


June 6, 2018 Posted by | photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Stone faces in Baillieston Road

Don’t really know why I’ve never pointed a camera at these three characters before, I’ve both seen and passed them often enough.

Collecting something else, I decided today was their day, and grabbed a couple of shots as I walked past.



I’d never even really looked at them, but they obviously all of different faces, each quite different, and if modelled on actual faces, probably would also be recognisable.

There’s no lettering, and I’m guessing there’s a fourth face hidden away on the side that can’t be seen.

That ‘flaw’ alone is enough to make it clear the carving is not an original part of the house where it lies now.

I wonder what its story is, and where was originally located?

March 11, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

Sculpture at The Forge

I’d forgotten about this pic, taken originally as a test when evaluating a new lens.

Having had it drummed into my head that fixed lenses are so much better than zooms, the idea was to audition a 35 mm standard lens to see the difference compared to my usual zooms.

Frankly, at least for handheld working outside a studio… fixed lenses are a disaster. Something I can state after a few days of misery after trying to live with such things.

All of a sudden everywhere shrinks, and you can’t stand far enough back from anything to get it fitted into the frame.

By the same token, anything in the distance is suddenly too far away to reach.

Possibly the most irritating thing revealed by this is that the arrival of well-developed zoom designs in recent years, sensors that exceed the resolution of most lenses, and signal processing and editing that makes ‘wet’ darkroom processing look archaic, means that going fixed is really just masochism.

While there’s nothing wrong with this sculpture pic, I couldn’t get it all in frame, or would have odd geometry and distortion from tilting the lens.

With my usual zoom, I could quickly have stood at the right distance to avoid tilting the camera and introducing unnecessary distortion.

And I haven’t even touched on the lack of vibration reduction or anti-shake with many fixed lenses.

Memory fade has set in already, but I think there is an explanation of the story behind this sculpture nearby, but I haven’t been nearby since that day, so haven’t managed any reminders to help my memory along.

Forge Sculpture

Forge Sculpture

Bonus test pic

This was another pic that sealed the fate of the fixed lens.

I tried taking a pic of a single windowed shop front, and below you can see as much as could capture with a ‘standard’ lens, with my back against a car parked next to the kerb.

Not even close, I’d have to go stand in traffic to capture something that I regularly photograph either from the pavement in front, or more usually by zooming in from the opposite side of the road – all in perfect safety.

Shop Window

Shop Window (almost)

I found another downside – the fast lens means it tends to work at wide aperture in low light, which means narrow depth of field, unless care is taken to control that before taking the shot. And there’s more. Without vibration reduction, stopping down the aperture leads to camera shake risk.

Often cited as a disadvantage by ‘armchair experts’, the smaller maximum aperture of most zooms means these problems can usually be forgotten, and take care of themselves.

February 1, 2018 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

George Square memorial lions in profile, as promised

I did promise to include these fine carvings in profile, after an attempt to capture them looking down their noses at everyone failed to come off as expected.

The loss of perspective and flattening of their full 3D glory was completely lost in the static image, even though I managed to take if from the desired location.

Looking back at the lions in that post, it actually looks better than I thought, maybe because I still had the ‘real’ view fresh in my head.

Whatever, here is that promised profile view, with the pair looking at one another (never going to happen in the real world) and can be clicked for a larger version.

Memorial Lions Profile

Memorial Lions Profile (Click for bigger)

January 23, 2018 Posted by | council, photography, World War I, World War II | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gorbals surprise

While I don’t walk through the Gorbals frequently, I do wander there often enough to have a regular route  –  and that can be a mistake.

In this case, I always veer north towards the city and the river, so always miss some new flats built there some years back.

After all, there’s never anything interesting in new flats, is there?

In this case it seems there is, and I’ve been missing the chance to catch sight of the items seen below.

The Gatekeeper

This is a head on view of The Gatekeeper.

The Gatekeeper

The Gatekeeper

Without knowing that name to begin with, it took me a while to track down any background – I may be able to access many online records purely by lat/lon (or grid ref), but that doesn’t work for new stuff.

However, I now know this installation was created by Dan Dubovitz and Matt Baker, a group known as Heisenberg.

And that it was unveiled in 2002. I wouldn’t have noticed that them – being far too diverted by my own issues.

But, I should have wandered past in more recent years. Steering clear of the main roads for back streets is obviously not always a good idea.

As far as I can see, the suspended sculpture was cast in bronze, and hangs over a framed and illuminated picture. I’ve also read that there is a small crypt in the foundations below. That is said to have been filled with the ashes from a bonfire held by Heisenberg, where locals burnt things they wanted to leave behind from the old Gorbals in a kind of private ritual.

The Gatekeeper

The Gatekeeper

It has gone on to gain the title of ‘The Angel with the Bleeding Hand’.

This follows the formation of a crack in one of the figure’s hands, which has allowed rainwater to penetrate, and formed a reddish-brown trail on the surface.

As seen in context.

The Gatekeeper

The Gatekeeper

The Gatekeeper is meant to represent the Gorbals being on the cusp between demolition and reconstruction.

Accompanying are The Attendants, meant to represent “an emotional response to the diasporal flux of people through the area over the past 200 years”.

The Attendants

One of 12 ‘Attendants’, aluminium figures overseeing entrances into the flats.

Gorbals Attendant

Gorbals Attendant

I’d like to revisit this on a better day.

These pics were just taken by chance on a grey autumnal day, and while some poking and prodding in processing saw vastly improvement, I’d like to see better as the dull day revealed little detail.

The ‘context’ shot in particular.

A great example of not being able to avoid tipping the camera, and having converging verticals mixed with Caneither horizontal nor vertical alignment of an architectural view.

As can be seen, aligning the one true vertical (the chain suspending the sculpture) throws the rest off, and aligning the rest offends the eye as it means the chain takes on a silly non-vertical angle. The effect of applying perspective corrections was even worse.

December 3, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Looking down their noses and judging us since… forever! (You know who)

I was going to use these pics later in the week, but since it’s National Cat Day I suppose I should move a little faster.

‘Judgemental cat’ seems to appear more often in shared images these days, and while I was sitting in George Square recently, I noticed I was in line with one of the lions, and it was looking down on me, did not seem to be particularly impressed.

I wandered over and grabbed a pic of the pair, but the flattened perspective of images loses the effect when these are seen from a similar perspective for real, in normal 3D. Their long noses and downward gaze are just lost in the flattened perspective of a 2D image.

I suspect something similar happens with the ‘new’ Rolls Royce. For me, at least, this car makes a terrible model, and ever since the current body style and nose appeared, I’ve thought it looks terrible in pics. Seen for real, again to me, it’s almost a completely different car/shape as the shape takes on its proper 3D view. I find the effect somewhat unsettling, but it has taught me to be careful.

The long noses and gaze of the lions don’t make it through the 2D conversion in a flat pic.

Pity, this aspect looked a lot more impressive in the flesh… er… stone.

I guess some sort of off-centre view which catches their profile as well is what is needed, so I will have to revisit this view one day.

Until then…

George Square North Lion

George Square North Lion


George Square South Lion

George Square South Lion

Maybe it’s just me, but Judgemental (black) Cat from the Interwebs seems to look alarmingly similar.

Judgemental Cat

Judgemental Cat

October 29, 2017 Posted by | council, photography, World War I, World War II | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Another Commonwealth Shames Legacy failure – sculptures nobody’s heard of

Having lived through the ridiculous months of disruption prior to 2014’s Commonwealth Shames nonsense (was all that really just for few DAYS of events?), and still see plenty of land that was razed to make way for… sorry, I have no idea, not to mention a WHOLE CARE HOME in Dalmarnock that still seems to be standing empty to this day, I tripped over another LEGACY FAILURE recently.

Passing the fire station in Polmadie’s Calder Street I spotted a cute sculpture beside the ‘staff’ entrance.

Commonwealth Discus Sculpture

Commonwealth Discus Sculpture

I expected it to related to the firefighters, but when I looked closer was amazed to find it was not, but was actually number 8 of 11, with the remainder scattered somewhere around Glasgow.

The plaque gives no details of the collection, their locations, or even where to find out about them.

Commonwealth Legacy Sculpture Plaque

Commonwealth Legacy Sculpture Plaque

As someone who had no interest in the nonsense, this collection is a dreadful failure and waste.

These should have been highlighted years ago, to make sure that people like me (NOT interested in the Shames) would have been made aware of this collection.

It’s a shame, as the sculpture actually looks quite good, and I’d like to see the rest of the collection.

Sadly, it’s lost as just another mess left behind that useless waste. Well, probably not useless if you were one of the lucky folk that picked up some of the £300 million+ squandered on it. (Let’s not forget the thousands of mugs volunteers who helped keep the cost down).

Glasgow faces up to reality of a divided Commonwealth Games legacy

I’ve found one sculpture for you…

See if you can go find the rest now.


They’re a secret, even online a simple search only brought up ONE reference – it gave only the background, a pic of the first one at Cowcaddens, and not as much a list identifying the rest.

Since I don’t want to be seen as kicking the concept of the statues or those responsible for their creation (I am, however, quite happy to be seen as mocking the Commonwealth Shames), here’s the intro:

Community fire stations across Glasgow will be home to lasting symbols of the 2014 Commonwealth Games thanks to the on-going partnership between the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), the Scottish Prisons Service and Glasgow Life.

A series of sculptures created by prisoners at HMP Barlinnie will be installed in each of the city’s 11 stations, with the first officially unveiled Monday (16 June) at Cowcaddens.

SFRS offered the use of the city’s fire stations after Glasgow Life and HMP Barlinnie ran into difficulty when attempting to find suitable sites to place the then-planned sculptures.

So, all you have to do now is go find a list of the city’s 11 fire stations.

Nice one by the firefighters – pity they seem to have received little recognition or publicity for their efforts.

October 22, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Fort William sculpture will recall the Ford Model T climb of Ben Nevis

One of the things which has always intrigued me is an event I am reminded of whenever I open a number of the books I have collected regarding the history of motoring in Scotland – the time a Model T was driven to the top of Ben Nevis.

The stunt took place in 1911 (repeated in 1928) and was carried out by Henry Alexander Jr, the son of Scotland’s first Ford dealer, who drove the Model T up and down the mountain as a publicity stunt to show the superiority of the mass-produced American car in comparison to hand-crafted British cars.

The attempt was not simply a case of turning up at the foot of mountain one day, and heading for summit, but was carefully prepared for.

It took six weeks to prepare the route for the challenge, with workers laying a timber path along the route to the summit, and five days to complete the trip, during which the car would frequently sink axle-deep into the boggy ground and have to be pulled out by rope. It seems that some obstacles were dynamited to clear them from the path. A newspaper report from the time said that one wrong turn of the wheel could have resulted in a fall that would have destroyed the car and killed the driver.

See film of the climb: Lost film of Ford Model T on Ben Nevis found

The 5-minute film is not embeddable, but can be seen here, on the BFI site: Motoring Ben Nevis 1911

It’s intriguing to note that, contrary to modern expectations where large tyres (or even tracks) are used to reduce loading and sinking into soft ground, the Model T’s skinny wheels and tyres actually worked with the car’s high ground clearance by allowing it to sink into muddy or soft rutted ground and gain traction at the bottom of the rut, where the ground was still relatively firm, as it not been churned up.

Back in 2015, an organisation called Ben Nevis Bronze Ford Committee began raising £86,000 to pay for a full-size bronze sculpture of the 1911 Model T, to be installed in Fort William.

Funding is now in place to have the sculpture made in Edinburgh, cast at the Powderhall Bronze Foundry, and installed in Fort William’s Cameron Square next May.

Via: Ben Nevis Ford Model T sculpture to be made

The actual climb took place between May 9 and 13 of 1911 – with plenty of snow still in evidence.

Ben Nevis Model T

Ben Nevis Model T – pic via BBC News

July 22, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Seldom seen sculpture hidden in back street

I came across a building (which I can’t describe in this post, but will do later) in an area of Glasgow that is now quite isolated, but was originally selected as it gave necessary access and space for its purpose.

Today, changes to the surrounding area mean that the poor old head has to be scratched for a moment or two, just to work out how to get to the building when looking at it from the nearest main road – well I did, since the spot is not one I’m not too familiar with, and it’s also on the opposite side of the road from what could be referred to as the ‘busy city centre’, and that road can be a busy one to cross if you have no real reason. I usually don’t.

On the plus side, I found they had at least provided a path through some trees and bushes, so it’s not necessary to follow the road, or go hiking.

Pic below is detail of the sculpture mentioned, clipped from a larger pic.

Do you recognise it?

I’ll add another detail from the building tomorrow. Incidentally, it’s now abandoned and derelict, and I see is also now considered to be ‘At Risk’.

Glasgow Sculpture X

Glasgow Sculpture X

July 10, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

The almost anonymous sculpture on Downiebrae Road off Dalmarnock Road

While it may not be the most impressive piece of sculpture to be found in the area, it is still a shame that it is almost completely missable from the main road (Dalmarnock Road) which passes only a few metres away as it crosses the Clyde at Dalmarnock Bridge.

I’ve passed it many time, and the sin is that this is exactly what I do almost every time… PASS IT!

I forget where it is, but there is a small plaque describing it, but even that story has vanished from my head.

I did have a look online for some more details, but without a proper name, I didn’t have any luck. It seems to have been missed by most other folk as well

For the moment, I do have this rather sorry view of the setting, taken one evening when the illumination caught my attention – not so much for its eye-catching splendour, but for the fact that only TWO of the six ground-based lights were working.

It will be a while before I’m here when it gets dark early enough for me to catch it lit again, but maybe now that this is one of the entrance roads (it was the only one until the new footbridge was finally built and opened recently) to Cunningar Woodland Park, maybe it will get some love, and its lighting will be upgraded, or just maintained.

I’m just sticking this less than acceptable view here since it’s all I’ve really got (that I can find), and its existence and need to be bettered should help to serve as a reminder for me to collect something better in future.

Downiebrae Road Sculptures at Night

Downiebrae Road Sculptures at Night

June 10, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

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