Monday, 10 December 2012

Glasgow Necropolis

Glasgow's Necropolis started life as a park - Fir Park - where the people of Glasgow took the air amongst newly planted fir trees in the first quarter of the 19th century, a time of increasing industrialisation, immigrants flooding in from the countryside and Highlands, the Napoleonic Wars, war with America, and the radical rising. In 1825, a statue of John Knox was placed at the top of the park, glowering over Glasgow Cathedral on the flat land on the other side of the Molendinar Burn.

Knox Statue:


But the population of Glasgow was increasing at a rate today seen in Chinese cities, and there was a need for new cemeteries. Glasgow's fathers met in 1828 and decided on the Fir Park as their own Necropolis, modelled on Paris' Père Lachaise. The Parisian cemetery had led the way, and a number of cities now wanted something similar - a parkland cemetery on a hill, full of grand monuments, open to all denominations.  The first burial was not even a Christian -  Joseph Levi, buried in 1832, was a Jewish jeweller.

Necropolis monuments:




The design started at the end of the reign of George IV, but the Necropolis became synonymous with the early Victorian age, as Glasgow's population expanded massively, and the Necropolis grew to 37 acres. It now holds 50,000 graves and 3,500 monuments - smaller by a factor of five than Glasgow's Southern Necropolis, but given its central location on a hill, far more prominent. The monuments in the Necropolis were designed to be seen.

Celtic Crosses:


There are other interesting graveyards in Scotland - Greyfriars or Canongate kirk in Edinburgh, Iona's Reilig Oran - but none so ambitiously flash as the Necropolis. "Glasgow's a bit like Nashville," said Billy Connolly in his World Tour of Scotland, "it doesn't care much for the living, but it really looks after the dead." The Necropolis is ideal for photography, the view changing with every other step.

Homes of the living, homes of the dead:


One of the little known stories of the Necropolis is of the family of roe deer, who arrived via routes mysterious to this green oasis in the centre of the city. Unfortunately for the deer, they were featured in a TV programme a few years back, and this raised profile brought their end as some locals hunted them with dogs. Roe deer have been sighted again in the last year, however.

Glasgow Cathedral: 


I remember visiting an uncle in Glasgow's Royal Infirmary, the view from the window being of Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis. What better place to contemplate mortality than the Royal Infirmary, looking out over the decaying old heart of Glasgow. The Necropolis featured in Alistair Gray's Lanark, as well as my friends' band The Plimptons video Ocean Colour Resurrection...

2 comments:

blueskyscotland said...

Some good, unusual angle photos and history there.Wandering around the hill on past visits what struck me was the sheer number of massive headstones of obviously famous people in their day I,d never heard of just 100 years later.Poets,actors,household names from that time.
Made me understand how fickle and deceptive even great fame in your own lifetime can be.
Will JK Rowling be well known in 100 years time.Maybe,due to the films, but have you heard of Andre Norton? She was a 1960s/70s version but she's not so well known now only 40 years later.
Unusual video setting.

Robert Craig said...

Don't know about JK. I suspect the boy wizard will still be known in 100 years, and more for the sales stats than the actual stories. But who knows? What's for sure is knowledge of most contemporary celebrities like Justin Bieber, Simon Cowell, Jackie Bird, Jonathan Dimbleby, and every footballer bar a fraction will die along with us.

Talking of forgotten fame, old history books often give the lives of ministers of the kirk a lot of space - people who, almost without exception, we've never heard of today.