Glasgow: Tenement House, St. Mungo Museum, Cathedral, Necropolis, Tennent’s Brewery
August 4, 2019
Today, I visited Tenement House, the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, the Glasgow Cathedral, the Necropolis, and Tennent’s Brewery.
This being my last day in Glasgow during this trip, I’ll start with a note that I couldn’t fit in anywhere else while here. Glasgow’s signalized intersections are pedestrian-hostile. There. I said it.
True, the intersections do have buttons to call for a pedestrian crossing signal. But the buttons aren’t always where you’d expect to find them. (I don’t think it’s just because I’m not from around here that their locations were not intuitive to me. Their positions at intersections were inconsistent for no apparent physical reason.)
But that wasn’t the main problem. The problem was, when you press the button, it takes, on average, approximately between forever and eternity to get a walk signal. From observation, as best I can tell, the standard operating practice here is to press the button out of respect for the button. But then cross whenever there is no oncoming traffic, whether you have a crossing signal or not.
I think the reason people don’t wait for the signal is that the life expectancy in Scotland is 77.0 years for males and 81.1 years for females. (I looked it up.) It would be a shame to spend the rest of your life waiting for a walk signal.
As I learned when visiting Gladstone’s Land in Edinburgh, “tenement” doesn’t mean “slum” in Scotland as it tends to connote in North America. It’s basically just an apartment building. This particular tenement in Glasgow is in what looks like a nice, middle class area.
What makes this tenement special is that Miss Agnes Toward, who died in 1975, lived there. Miss Toward (she never married and she lived most of her days before “Ms.” came into common use) was not a particularly notable person.
Her tenement flat is worthy of study and of tourist visits because she made almost no changes to it or its everyday contents during the last few decades she had the apartment. It’s frozen in the 1930s.
Agnes Toward didn’t live there for the last ten years of her life because she was too sick. The flat stood empty for that time. When the National Trust of Scotland bought it in 1982 from a niece of Miss Toward, they found a bottle of plumb jam that was made in 1929. There were also a lot of old medicines and toiletries still there.
The flat had electricity when the trust bought it. However, Miss Toward, traditionalist that she seemed to be, didn’t have it installed until 1960.
The route I followed from Tenement House to my next destination, St. Mongo Museum of Religious Life and Art, took me along one of the shopping streets I mentioned in the post about my first day in Glasgow. It was the street sporting fewer international brand names than the other one.
Today, I entered the long pedestrianized portion of the street on the opposite end from where I started the other day. That first day, I did not walk the full length of the street. So the first few blocks today were new to me.
Near the start of the pedestrianized zone, I spotted another TARDIS. (If you read “another” and thought, “What? Another? He hasn’t mentioned anything about a TARDIS yet. I definitely would have remembered a TARDIS,” then you didn’t read yesterday’s post. I spotted a TARDIS just outside the Botanical Gardens yesterday.)
It must be astronomically rare to spot a second TARDIS in the same city just a day after seeing the first. This truly has been an extraordinarily special trip.
But, wait. There’s more.
Today, I walked the full length of that shopping street. Near the end I entered the first day, I spotted the object pictured to the left. Is there such a thing as a red TARDIS? I thought they only came in blue. Maybe that’s why I didn’t notice it the first day. I wasn’t expecting a red TARDIS. Or maybe it wasn’t at that point in time and space when I passed there before.
Then again, considering it’s red, maybe it wasn’t a real TARDIS at all. There ought to be a law against trying to fool people with a fake TARDIS.
But, wait. There’s still more.
Just before I got to the St. Mongo Museum, darned if I didn’t spot yet another TARDIS. It was just across the street from the museum. How can that be?
Glasgow is lousy with TARDISs. (What’s the plural of TARDIS? TARDISs? TARDISes? TARDI?)
Everyone knows Toronto is the center of the universe. It’s common knowledge. But Glasgow must be a nexus of space and time.
Although, come to think of it, knowing the nature of a TARDIS, it’s possible that they were all the same TARDIS. It might have traveled through space and time to land in each location just before I passed there. That’s probably it.
St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art
The title of this museum says it all. Well, almost all.
Another section looked at religious life and customs in many religions, including one small display on North American First Nations’ religion.
The exhibits in another room explored religion in Scotland specifically.
A final room discussed angels and presented common representations of them. This room included a still of the “angels” from the original TV series Charlie’s Angels. I kid you not. I put a picture of it below.
Most of the major modern religions were represented in the museum—Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhism, and maybe one or two I forgot.
The art also included old-time religion. For example, there was a bust of Hermes, son of the Greek god Zeus. (I think Zeus’ son later added an accent to his name to make it look more chic and earned his daily bread by making high-end fashion, fragrances and leather products. I could be wrong about that.)
Just outside the entry/exit, the museum offered a zen garden for visitors to contemplate.
A question the museum didn’t answer, but that drilled through to the core of my brain was, St. Mungo? Really? Mungo is a saint’s name? You’re kidding.
When I was in Edinburgh, I mocked their St. Giles. I take it all back. Mungo has Giles beat when it comes to names that don’t sound saintly to me.
Another question I had, although there were no staff around to answer it, was this: Was the 1970s rock group Mungo Jerry named after St. Mongo or was St. Mongo named after the rock group, or was there no connection at all?
(Update: At my next stop, the Glasgow Cathedral, I learned that St. Mongo is Glasgow’s saint. He died around 620. So if there’s any connection at all, Mongo Jerry is named after the saint.)
Wait. I’ve figured it out. I don’t l know how it took so long for the answer to come to me. All the TARDISs I saw should have given it away immediately.
Back in the 1970s, one of the members of the group Mongo Jerry—or maybe the whole group—got hold of a TARDIS, traveled back to 500-something and asked the soon-to-be parents of the baby who would become St. Mongo to name him Mongo as a publicity stunt for the group. It’s the only answer.
According to Rick Steves’ Great Britain tour book, the Glasgow Cathedral used to be known as “the Pink Church” because of the colour of its walls. There is no reason whatsoever to call it that now.
Today, after centuries’ accumulation of grime, particularly from the industrial revolution, the palette of its exterior walls ranges from dark grey to pitch black. The interior walls are fairly grey too. I imagine that’s to be expected from an uncleaned building that, according to the cathedral’s web site, was dedicated in 1136 and consecrated in 1197.
Again according to Steves, it remains near-black and pitch black due to fears that cleaning would damage the structure’s integrity.
In my opinion, the cathedral is very handsome inside and out, but not spectacular. The stained glass windows are attractive, but they’re comparatively recent additions, mostly dating from the 19th century. And at least one was from the 20th century.
Lower Church. Tomb of St. Mungo?
Stairs on either side of the sanctuary led down to the lower church. The sign pictured to the left was affixed to one of the sets of stairs. I post it here primarily for the benefit of one specific regular reader of this blog. You know who you are.
I subsequently learned that Robert Blackadder was an archbishop who lived from 1483 to 1508. Sometime during that time he commissioned the construction of the south aisle in the lower church. Hence, the Blackadder Aisle.
In the lower church, there is an altar that is allegedly over the tomb of St. Mongo but there’s some dispute as to whether he is really entombed there.
The Glasgow Necropolis is built up the sides and on the top of a hill behind the Glasgow Cathedral. I believe it’s the tallest hill in Glasgow.
As I walked up, the engravings on the gravestones and tomb monuments that I looked at showed dates of death mostly in the 19th century. However, I read only a very small number of them, so I don’t know if that was representative.
Being the tallest hill, there are good views of Glasgow and the surrounding area. I say “good,” not “great,” not because of the vantage point. If there was a great view, that’d be the place to see it. However, to my eye, Glasgow doesn’t have much of a skyline. And the surrounding hills are pretty, but not spectacular. To my tastes, Glasgow is a city best experienced close up, not viewed from a distance.
To end the sightseeing portion of my day in Glasgow, I went on a tour of Tennent’s Brewery.
Tennent is a big deal in Scottish beer making. And they’ve been at it for a long time. Robert Tennent started brewing beer there in 1556. A series of subsequent Tennent generations, also called Robert (couldn’t they think of another name for their children?) in turn took over the operations from the previous Tennents.
Eventually a Tennent with another first name (I forget what it was), a brother of one of the Roberts, took over. According to the timeline printed on a wall in the room where the tour started, no one with the last name of Tennent has run the brewery for quite some time.
Apropos of nothing, the Tennent produced its first lager in 1885.
The brewery spreads over 18 acres and a number of buildings. It produces, in the unlikely event that my memory serves, about seven million pints of beer a week. In addition to beer sold in casks to establishments, the brewery can fill and cap 1,000 bottles and 2,000 cans every minute in its very highly automated operation.
Because it was a Sunday when I visited, the lines weren’t running. But a video of the bottling and canning processes looked amazing.
The price of admission included a pint of Tennent’s unpasteurized beer. Apart from the brewery bar, there are only five places where you can taste it because unpasteurized beer will keep for only up to ten days without going flat.
I very rarely drink beer, so don’t ask me for a review of Tennent’s unpasteurized beer. All I’ll say is that, despite not being much of a beer drinker, at all, I thought it was not bad. And it gave me a buzz, but that’s probably because I’m a cheap drunk.
And another thing
Wow! You read all the way to the end of this post. Thanks. (I wonder if anyone will, in fact, read this far.)
Below, I posted my usual collection of pictures that didn’t fit into the above categories. They are mostly wall murals that I unexpectedly (unexpectedly except for one, that is) came across. The one the wall mural that I expected to find where it indeed was bears singling out. It’s the one that’s not below, but rather to the left.
According to Rick Steves’ Great Britain tour book, that’s a modern-day representation of St. Mungo painted by the artist Smug. I don’t know what he has to be smug about, but there you go.
Oh, wait. As I was about to drop the remaining photos into the gallery below I remembered there was another one I wanted to point out. It’s the one to the right. Now, there’s something I didn’t expect to see in Glasgow. And I just stumbled unto it. A Tim Hortons. In Glasgow. Huh.
Any non-Canadians reading this won’t get the significance. Tim Hortons is an iconic Canadian donut/coffee chain. I hate their coffee and don’t go into them in Canada. I didn’t go into this one either. But still, there it is. (Please don’t tell anyone that I don’t patronize Tim Hortons. That’s considered by some people to be just cause to have my Canadian passport confiscated. I want my passport. I like to travel.)