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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Travel - Glasgow

( Originally Published 1920 )



Glasgow has a population of about half a million, and dates from a Culdee cell built by St. Mungo about the year 560. It is chiefly on the north side of the river Clyde, which runs through the city, and is about three miles in length from Fast to West, and two miles in width, if we estimate the compact portions. The suburbs, however stretch much farther in every direction. Its principal business street, Argyle, and its continuation, Trongate street, are well built, as is indeed all the business hart of the city. The building material used is a light colored sandstone easily polished and carved, and it has a fine and substantial appearance. St. George's Square, containing the Postoffice, Bank of Scotland, and several hotels, was the place I first visited. It contains monuments to Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Sir Walter Scott, Sir Robert Peel, Sir John Moore, Lord Clyde, James Watt, Robert Burns, and David Livingstone.

In Glasgow, a great deal may be seen by riding on the outside of the "tram cars" (street cars). The intelligent people you ride with are able and very willing to afford any desired information in regard to all matters of local interest.

The cathedral, founded in 1136, is built on the reputed site of St. Mungo's cell on the highest ground in the city. It affords one of the finest views of the valley of the Clyde, and I could not help admiring the good taste exhibited by the saint in securing such an eligible location for his cell. Entering the cathedral I was impressed with its great sire, the massive style of architecture, and the magnificence of its windows, which are said to contain the most brilliant display of stained glass to be found in Great Britian. There are over eighty of these windows, and at least half of them are thirty feet high, each giving a Bible story in beautiful colored pictures from designs by eminent artists. The cathedral is over three hundred feet long and about sixty feet wide, and owing to its immense size the greater part of it is unoccupied. It was, of course, before the Reformation used for Catholic worship, but is now used by the Estab lished Church of Scotland. The great crypt is one hundred and twenty-five feet long and was formerly used for religious worship and is spoken of as "one of the finest specimens of architecture in (.real Britain." I found it difficult however in the "dim religious light" which is permitted to enter through its windows to take in its fine points. It was used for burial purposes, and contained the tombs and monuments of many prelates and high dignitaries of the church, but at the Reformation these, being regarded as "signs of idolatry," were destroyed by the fanatics of the day. The effigy of a single bishop, lacking a head, however, is about all that remains of these works of art.

On a high hill in the rear of the cathedral rises the Necropolis, a cemetery for Glasgow's honored dead. The hill side is terraced in winding walks rising above each other to the summit, and its elegant and costly monuments are so crowded the appearance is rather that of an immense marble factory than a cemetery; indeed from below you see nothing but granite and marble. Among its monuments are those of Dr. Dick, Sheridan Knowles and Motherwell, the poet. There is also near the summit a fine Corinthian shaft and statue to John Knox, and on the shaft is this inscription : "When laid in the ground, the regent said, `There lieth he who never feared the face of man, who was often threatened with dab and dagger, yet hath ended his days in peace and honor."' Some of the more imposing and gaudy monuments are of those who merely "made money" in Glasgow, but this defect and misfortune may be observed in cemeteries in all countries.

The university is an immense structure, and though occupied for some time is hardly completed yet. I shall not at tempt to describe it. I visited the celebrated Hunterian Museum in a hart of the building, filled with objects of interest in science, arts and literature, also the library containing 300,000 volumes. I came away with an overpowering sense of the vast amount of knowledge unattainable, and of the multitude of books that will never be read. One of the finest buildings in Glasgow is the Royal Exchange, costing a quarter of a million dollars, in front of which stands a fine equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington. The Royal Bank, Mechanics' Institution, some of the hotels and nearly all the churches are fine buildings. The Queen's Park and Kelvin Park are handsomely laid out and well kept. In Kelvin Park I had the great pleasure of hearing an open-air concert by the band of the 71st Highlanders. From three to five thousand persons, mostly of the middle and poorer classes, were in attendance. The music was very fine, especially the Scottish airs. At intervals during the performance, four pipers armed with that instrument of torture, the bag-pipes, with drone, promenaded through the crowd to the great delight of young Scotland.

While the streets of Glasgow during business hours present a busy appearance, being almost as crowded as Chicago or New York, the crowds move much more slowly than in American cities-indeed nobody seems to be in a great hurry about anything. The stores are not open till nine o'clock, and then the blinds are removed as if it were more a matter of habit than with any expectation of immediate results. At six o'clock the stores are closed, which in this latitude at this time of the year is full three hours before dark Great good taste is displayed in the arrangement of goods in the windows. The grocery stores, where one would least expect it, are especially noticeable in this regard. The liquor shops are numerous and do not seem to lack customers. I have been amused in reading the street signs to find "Bread Factory," "Leather Emporium," "Millinery Ware-rooms," etc., but most surprised at finding a "Boot and Shoe repairing factory." I find, however, that I am in a land of cheapness. "Black your boots for a penny ! "Carry your luggage for a penny !" were some of the street sounds I heard, and when my traveling companion left his measure for a black cloth coat, (ready the next day at the same hour) price two pounds two shillings, about $10.15, I felt as if it would be a good thing to buy a stock of clothing in Scotland. The coat looks well and is as the owner says, "good enough to preach in."

Being in the land of Burns, in company with a Methodist minister from Louisiana, and the chaplain of a New England reform school, I took an early train to visit the poet's birthplace. A finer day could hardly be imagined. The sun's rays were softened by a slight haze, and the air was mild yet bracing. Our destination by rail was the town of Ayr, forty miles distant. In four miles we pass Crookton Castle, now in ruins; once inhabited by Mary Queen of Scots. Three miles farther is the city of Paisley with 50,000 population, and noted for its shawls and cotton thread. A short distance from Paisley is the Oak of Elderslie, under which William Wallace hid from the English forces. At Kilwinning junction is seen the ruins of an old Priory, the founders of which are said to have introduced Free-masonry into Scotland. We next reach the town of Irvine, well built, with a population of 8,000. Burns lived here once, and here Robert Bruce surrendered to the English army under Percy. A short distance from Irvine we pass the Castle of Dundonald, and soon reach the village of Troon, a watering place on the lower Clyde. On reaching Ayr, we declined the offer of a good carriage at a moderate price, preferring to make the further pil-grimage of two and a half miles on foot. The road was excellent, and our way lay through verdant fields and well kept grounds.

We soon reached the venerable building where the poet was born. It is a very low one-story stone cottage with thatched roof, and consists simply of. a " but and ben, or room and kitchen. The bed stands in an alcove off the kitchen, and a large card suspended over it warns visitors not to "jump into the bed," just as if anybody would think of catching the divine afflatus in that way ! The kitchen is unaltered ; the old fire-place with its internal arrangements, and the griddle on which the "scones" and oat cake were baked, are still preserved. The old clock, made in Ayr, still stands in the kitchen. Burns. candlestick, and a manuscript copy of his poems in the author's hand-writing are also exhibited. The room adjoining is, after the manner of such places, used as a salesroom for mementoes of Burns, made mostly from wood cut on the banks of the Doon I was very thankful that the kitchen had been spared from such desecration.

About half a mile from Burns' cottage, we reach "Alloway's auld haunted Kirk The building is roofless and fast go ing to decay. There is a bell cote on the gable, and the old bell yet remains. We looked through the front window as Tam had done, and saw, not a witches dance but a collection of shovels and an old wheelbarrow almost covered with rank weeds. It required unquestioning faith in the poet to suppose that the little church afforded room for more than one such dancer as " Cutty-sark," and when she "lap and flang," his satanic majesty, who played the bagpipes on that occasion, must have been content to occupy a corner. The fact that he practises on the bagpipes is a significant one, and as such, I commend it to theologians. While quarreling about fire and brimstone, have they ever carefully considered the possibilities of an eternity of bagpipes ! In view of such a contingency, might it not be prudent for the "Liberals" " to accept, as a compromise, the orthodox arrangement?

Among the places described by Burns, on the road from Ayr to the Doon, is the well

"whare Mungo's mither hang'd hersel."

It is within a few rods of Kirk Alloway, and though but mentioned by the poet as one of the places that Tam passed on his midnight ride, is fenced in and exhibited for a small admission fee !-an arrangement worthy of Niagara Falls,

We continued on to the bridge of Doon, about fifty rods from the kirk, and where Tam's ride culminated in the peculiar disaster to his mare. It is a high, narrow, and inconvenient structure, its center being occupied by a row of posts, permitting only travellers on foot to pass. Sitting above its keystone we recited and laughed over the incidents narrated in " Tam O'Sllanter," the best known, and most popular of Burns' poems. The Doon is a small stream, and from the loveliness of its scenery, is well entitled to the name given it by Burns, "Bonny Doon." I descended to the water's edge, picked a few pebbles from the bed of the stream, and had a leisurely stroll

"Among the bonny winding banks

where Doon rins wimplin clear."

On the banks of the Doon and not far from the bridge is Burns' Monument, erected in 1820 It is a circular structure, in the Grecian style, and about sixty feet high. The grounds cover about two acres, and are finely kept. In a grotto near the monument, are the original and justly celebrated figures of Tam O'Shanter and Souter Johnny, in freestone, by the sculptor Them. Every detail of garb, even to patches and shoe-strings appears, and the perfect abandon of the pair, as they sit with filled mugs, enjoying their toddy, and pledging each other, cannot be described. In a circular room in the monument is a fine marble bust of the poet by Park, and a number of very interesting relics -Nanse Tinnock's " quaich or beer measure ; rings containing Burns' hair; the wedding ring of his "bonnie Jean," & c. But that which was to me of most interest was the Bible presented by Burns to his beloved Highland Mary.

Mary was a servant in the house of Col. Montgomery, and Burns' attachment for her seems to have been the strongest and purest of his life. He was engaged to be married to her, but previous to their wedding Mary determined to pay a visit to her friends in another part of Scot land. On a May Sunday morning, each standing on a different side of a small stream, they bathed their hands in the water, and, holding a Bible between them, swore eternal constancy They never met again, as Mary was taken ill on her journey and died. It was on the anniversary of her death he wrote what is considered the noblest of all his to Mary in Heaven.

The Bible I have mentioned as in the museum of the monument, is the one used at parting. On the inside of the cover is, written by Burns and signed with his Masonic Mark, "And ye shall not swear by my'name falsely am the Lord " To the fly leaf has been pinned a long lock of Mary's golden hair.

Returning towards Ayr, we spent an hour in the burial ground of Kirk Alloway. The old tombstones are numerous, and the inscriptions quaint.

We walked back to Ayr. It is a seaport on the lower Clyde, and has 18,000 inhabitants The weekly auction sale of stock was in progress, and while we looked on, a large number of sheep were sold, mostly ewes of medium size, the price averaging $7 to $8 each. Some of the yards contained the celebrated Ayrshire breed of cattle, but I saw none sold. bring " market day," the streets were full of Scotch farmers and laborers and their families. The streets are paved and wonderfully clean, and quite as much used by those on foot, as the sidewalkes and were largely occupied by gossipers. It seemed as if everybody was out doors and glad to see everybody else, making frequent adjournments to the whiskey shops a matter of course, as drinking seems almost universal in Scotland.

The bridges remain as when Burns wrote his poem of the " Twa Brigs." The old one looks ancient, is narrow, and used for pedestrians only.

Recalling some of his poems among the scenes where they were written, one cannot help admiring Burns' wonderful genius as shown in his truthfulness to nature. His muse did not sing of Alpine hills or coral strands, of plumed knights or ladies fair, of gorgeous palaces or kingly pageants. The gently flowing Doon the ruined mouse's nest, the wounded hare, the daisy uprooted by his plowshare, and the familiar scenes of every-day peasant life, were his themes, and have made his name immortal. The versifier who imagines he could do wonders, if only a subject worthy of his pen presented itself, may study with profit the writ ings of Burns. The " unco guid " have found it difficult to see any merit in him, and it must be admitted that his failings did not lean to virtue's side. Although a lover of the social glass, he was never a drunkard, indeed no more intemperate than the minister or elder of the period. The immorality of his poems, judged by our modern standards, is undeniable ; and yet was not a matter of remark among the religionists of his time. It was his heresy and irreverance they complained of. The Calvinists of his day could ill brook his "Holy Willie's Prayer."

Nor did the church at Mauchline care to have "Willie's" morals so pointedly assailed in the same poem, as he was a prominent elder, although he died in the ditch, in a drunken debauch, some years later. The religion of the time consisted largely of a rigid and austere theology, and hair-splitting, and heresy hunting were favorite pursuits. Burns wielded a free lance, and while deprecating his own weakness and inconsistency, struck heavy blows at the formalism and lack of good morals in the church.

Had Burns been better appreciated by his generation, it is possible his course of life might have been different, and English literature enriched with many other products of his wonderful genius. Petted and feted by the Scottish aristocracy as a new wonder, only to be abandoned for the next novelty, a hopeless struggle with poverty crushed his proud spirit, till, at the early age of 37, death released him from the contest. It is but just to the English government to say that they had bestowed on him an office in the excise-with the munificent salary of $350 a year. A noble mausoleum rises above his grave, and expensive monuments have been erected to his memory, the cost of one of which would have relieved the living Burns from many sorrows.

Our own Whittier, purest of men and poets, has I think happily and justly estimated the character and writings of Burns, and I close this record of a day spent at his birthplace and among the scenes he loved, by giving it to the reader.



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