Sunday, January 23, 2011

City of Glasgow Coat-of-Arms

What with Burns' Night this coming Tuesday my mind has turned to Bonnie Scotland and all things 'albannach' (Scottish in Scotch Gaelic).

Last week I was waiting for Nick outside a pub called the Wheatsheaf on Rathbone Place (Oxford St), just across the road from where we was working and where my friend Hele used to work part-time all those years ago when we were engineering students at Imperial. I noticed that the windows of this mock-tudor watering hole had stained glass windows, featuring, what it transpired were, the arms of various Scottish cities.

The shield for Glasgow (meaning 'Green Hollow' in Middle gaelic) fascinated me the most. Here above is my interpretation. Heraldically it is described as follows;
Argent; on a mount in base Vert, an oak tree Proper, the stem at the base thereof surmounted by a salmon on its back, also Proper, with a signet ring in its mouth Or; on the top of the tree a redbreast and in the sinister fess point an ancient hand bell, both also Proper.
(Argent means silver or white, Or means gold or yellow, Vert is green and Proper means painted as it appears in life).

A popular rhyme in the city describes the coat-of-arms

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

Glasgow's Coat of Arms dates back to 1866 when the Lord Lyon first granted the city its patent. The emblems depicted within the armorial bearings go back much further in history, representing legendary incidents in the life of the city's founder and patron saint, St Kentigern, or as he was more affectionately known, St Mungo, meaning "the dear one".

The Bell is believed to represent the one given to St Mungo by the Pope. Until the 16th century St Mungo's Bell played an important role in the life of the city, tolled regularly as a reminder to the inhabitants to pray for his soul. A replacement was purchased in 1641 and now lies in the People's Palace. Inscribed on it is the city's motto: "Lord let Glasgow flourish through the preaching of thy word and praising thy name." - often shortened to: "Let Glasgow Flourish". The fate of the original bell is unknown.

The Tree - although depicted as an oak - represents the hazel branch which the young St Mungo miraculously set alight when the holy fire of the monastery at Culross was mischievously extinguished by the other boys.

The Bird represents a robin brought back to life by the young saint after St Serf's disciples had accidentally killed it and blamed Mungo.

The Fish refers to the story of Queen Langeoreth, whose husband King Rydderach Hael, suspected her of infidelity. Knowing she had given her gold wedding ring to her lover, King Hael took the ring from the knight as he slept and threw it into the River Clyde. Challenging her to produce the ring, Langeoreth sought help from the knight who, through his confession to St Mungo, was instructed by the saint to take a salmon from the river. To the king's amazement, the ring was discovered in the salmon's mouth. A great story, but a pretty hazy moral. Cuckolding your husband's fine so long as you've a saint on hand to cover your tracks!


Duncan said...

What a fantastic coat of arms. Heading to bonny Scotland next month, do you have a coat of arms for Edinburgh or North Berwick?

Also a big thanks for the screen print, it now resides in the hall way where it can greet everyone.
Was an early birthday present to myself. Still brings a smile to the face everytime I pass it. My eldest daughter (10) wanted to know why is that man trumping from the back of his head.

Thanks again.

Michael said...

Dear Mr Bommer,

My daughter is doing a project on the history of Glasgow for her P5 project and wanted you to know that yours is the best version of the coat of arms that she's seen. She also wanted to thank you for explaining what all the parts meant.



Paul Bommer said...

Thank you so much Michael. I'm delighted that you and your daughter like it, that has made my day. Thanks again, Paul B