Scottish Bonnet

Poised and proud, the Duke of Wellington sat astride horseback.  Behind him, an impressive edifice, a monument to the arts.   Completing the tableau, his bonnet; a hat, a peaked tam-o’-shanter, a crown awarded by his Scottish hosts.

_72d6230-800Yep, it’s a traffic cone.

Located on one side of the Royal Exchange Square in Glasgow, the statue stood quietly with honor for most of 140 years.  Then, one fateful night in the early 80s, the Duke’s new helmet appeared.  The back story is unknown. Most folks figure it was a university student, likely fortified with liquid courage, doing it on a dare.

The Glasgow city council, appalled by the lack of decorum, had the traffic cone removed. This solved the problem for a few days but the die was cast.  Inspired by the pointed precedent, a mysterious haberdasher struck again, and once again the Duke found himself directing traffic.

And so it went. The council had the cone removed. The Coneheads struck back.  Back and forth, each group asserting itself time after time, year after year.

Finally, in 2013, the council had had enough.  They proposed rebuilding the pedestal, doubling its height to 6 feet, to make it more difficult to give Wellington a hot orange Scottish bonnet.

This did not go over well.  Within 24 hours, a ‘Keep the Cone’ Facebook page had accumulated over 72,000 fans who united in opposition to the council’s plans.  By this time, the gag was so well established the locals felt Wellington’s odd hat was not vandalism, but rather a tongue-in-cheek representation of Glasgow’s culture.  They’d rather have a laugh than spend a pile of Scottish pounds on something only the council wanted.

It didn’t hurt that the Duke had become a bigger tourist attraction wearing his orange headpiece than he ever was as yet another statue honoring yet another historical figure.  It seemed the tourists would rather have a laugh too.  The council recanted, and Wellington officially gained his status as not only an honored leader of the British army, but as the leader of the Coneheads.

 * * * * *

The observant among you have noted I’ve been absent for six weeks or so.  This was not because of anything awful or life-changing, I just needed a break from blogging.  Hopefully, there are still a few followers out there who will pick up the thread where we left off.  And maybe, if I’m lucky, even a few new ones, willing to start the new year with a new adventure.

Where were we, anyway?

Ah yes.  We’d just finished our tour of Ireland, ending in Belfast,  and heading off to the ferry to take us to Scotland._72d6153-800

Our first stop was to be Glasgow, but en route we passed this forlorn ruin, another monument to an earlier day, also reduced in grandeur.

As for Glasgow proper, we didn’t do that much. We wandered across the Royal Exchange Square, a town square taking a full city block, replete with statues and brick.  Across the square from Wellington and his well-trafficked headgear was the city council chambers, an impressive building both inside and out.  No wonder they got their knickers in a snit when someone was less than respectful to a British nabob. Could they be next?

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Glasgow City Chambers, with a war memorial in front.
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Marble staircase in city chambers building
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Chandelier in city chambers foyer

I mentioned the edifice behind Wellington was a monument to the arts. Specifically, a Museum of Modern Art, making Wellington’s new look all the more apt. As we had time to kill, and museums in Scotland and Ireland tend to be free (donations gladly accepted, nudge nudge wink wink), we entered the museum for a look-see.

I freely admit I’m not a great fan of modern art. Abstractionism often leaves me scratching my head.  (And I’ll thank you to forget I said that, someday when I post abstract macro photos.)  Other things seem like the “artist” just gathered up stuff they had lying around, threw it in a heap, and called it a masterpiece of personal expression.  Strangely enough, patrons, perhaps reminiscent of their own bedrooms, flock in to agree.

Despite my indifference, I got to see one of Warhal’s collection of Campbell’s Soup can paintings, so I can now say I’m hip with the scene.

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The layout was interesting.  It had a central open oval atrium running all the way up to a skylight, with doors on each floor radiating to individual display rooms.

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Domed Skylight, Museum of Modern Art
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Looking down through the atrium

While there were a few odds and ends that were interesting, overall neither my wife nor I were all that entranced.   So we wandered off into greater Glasgow to ogle the shops, the crowds they drew, and the occasional piece of art.

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The Ultimate Garden Lady

And so began our Scottish experience, from dour castle ruins to artistic expression that put bees in the bonnet of the Glasgow City Council.

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39 thoughts on “Scottish Bonnet

  1. Funny how a simple traffic cone can stir up so much civic pride and turn an everyday statue into a must-see tourist attraction. I hope the New Year is full of more of your great photos and entertaining descriptions.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Mick. I’m hoping to be fairly regular for a while as I have a fair number of potential stories in the queue, but on the other hand I’ve noticed my posting rate is falling off since I started. It’ll be interesting to see how 2019 works out.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really like the first pic. It makes me think of documentaries I’ve watched about the ruins in Greece and how the Acropolis had color in it’s day. Then they would show computerized versions of what it may have looked like. Hope you had a happy holiday season! Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Some great shots — I really like the chandelier with the mosaic behind it, and the vertigo-inducing one, looking down the atrium, and the old-time-looking view of the castle ruins.
    I guess the traffic cone thing is an alternative to removing statues, it’s not as if the Duke was revered by all, or was a Scotsman. I just looked him up, to see if he had any ties to Glasgow, and found his snooty comment, when they allowed more people to vote in elections for Parliament: “I never saw so many shocking bad hats in my life”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I guess it’s karma that the Duke ended up with a shocking bad hat. I’d agree that the Scots still don’t have a great love for the English, especially of that and earlier eras. I suspect if the statue was William Wallace they’d make midnight raids to clean off the bird poop rather than put a silly hat on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Enjoyed this visit to Glasgow, Dave, and especially the curious story of the Duke’s conehead. You are a good writer, and your story was a pleasure to read. Welcome back, glad you returned with more great stories to share.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gay Julian

    Happy New Year Mr and Mrs Ply. Good to see you back. Glasgow had a rough industrial past so it is nice seeing the focus now on its cultural side. Lovely photos. I have a nice jacket as a souvenir of Glasgow. One to keep out the rain and cold! Look forward to your next item.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gay. Happy New Year. Sounds like you had better luck shopping than me – I picked up a T-shirt in a kilt shop; I think they should stick to kilts. The shirt has shrunk on washing so much only Priscilla can wear it.

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  6. I have to say I kind of like the cone too. Nothing wrong with injecting a little humor into our art and historical monuments, I think. (And if a painting of a can of soup can be art, then why not a traffic cone?) Welcome back to the blogging world, Dave, and I look forward to reading more about your trip to Scotland!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Welcome back, Dave. It’s good to take a nice long break every once in a while. I love the traffic cone crown. Much more creative than most modern art, of which I’m not a fan, either. I feel as though my intelligence is a little insulted when I look at it. Scotland is one of my favorite places. I never made i5 to Glasgow during my visits, so I enjoyed your account. Happy 2019! Hope the year brings you many new adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Curt. I actually shot that one with my cell phone, with an extra wide angle attachment. It does kinda draw you in, doesn’t it? I think everything improves when it has a sense of humor, assuming it’s not a mean spirited one.

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  8. I have to disagree with you on modern art, and post-modern, or whatever. I may not like it all, but I love the challenges it often presents and I’m a huge fan of abstraction and minimalism. That being said, I like the skylight photo more than the Warhol one. 🙂 And maybe the “Keep the Cone” story goes to show that we need to keep reinventing life, through art or high-jinks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As an MFA, I wouldn’t expect anything less from you. I’ve generally found the “real” artists I’ve known see the world from the intuitive side of the fence first, and the sensory second. That might help with the abstractions; to feel something about a piece setting the stage before trying to make sense of it. I tend to swing from the sensory side first and the intuitive side second, probably a byproduct of spending all those years trying to make sense of computers. I don’t think either approach is right or wrong, just different strokes for different folks.

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    1. Sounds like an idea for a band called British Traffic: with small traffic cones for horns or beat box, augmented with various car horns, different sized traffic signs for percussion, and a street corner traffic cop for vocals. Rap style I suppose. (I’m old-fashioned, I don’t really consider rap to be music, just poetry with a beat.)

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  9. Welcome back! It’s healthy to take long breaks from blogging. 🙂
    I enjoyed your earlier posts on Ireland and I wish we could go there someday. Humour balances the heavier moments of travel. Not seeing much in our travels though. I wasn’t a fan of abstract or modern art. But there are some really cool artists out there and I’m learning to appreciate their art.
    Here’s to 2019 and new adventures!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I suppose it is good to take a mini-sabbatical now and then. The danger is not starting up again – blogs take work. Artists are an odd breed. I’m ok with saying that because A: a few of them really are off the charts strange, and B: it could be argued that I’m an artist too.

      Happy 2019!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh, that traffic cone made me laugh out loud! These are stunning pictures–thanks for sharing! And I know what you mean about modern art–I wrote a bit about my experience with that a couple of weeks ago:-) I just don’t get some of it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually shot those with my cell phone, with a little wide angle attachment. I thought the whole interior of the city council building was impressive. Unfortunately, I had limited access there and missed some nice angles.

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