Scottie's Photo Diary

- Glasgow Christmas Decorations 2011

I never go anywhere in Scotland without my camera and I take photographs wherever I go. Sometimes I go somewhere specifically to take photographs with a view to adding another page to the Rampant Scotland site. On other occasions I just see something that makes an attractive picture or else it's another graphic to add to the library to perhaps use on a future occasion. This is a selection of the photographs I took in the centre of Glasgow in December 2011, showing in particular the Christmas lights there, with a commentary on each one.

I usually go along to the centre of Glasgow in the early evening to take pictures of the Christmas lights. But this year, I had the opportunity to go along in the afternoon to take some shots in daylight. Although it was chilly, there were some bright spells of sunshine - before the rain came on again! The Ferris wheel was missing in George Square last year and this year's appeared to be a more modern machine with new gondolas.

There were long queues for the Ferris wheel and to keep those waiting entertained (and to drum up extra business perhaps), these "Christmas Trees" were wandering around and happily posing for photos. I presume the "lumberjack" was part of the entertainment!

Lit up at night, the Ferris wheel looked even more impressive, towering over the nearby skating rink and the helter skelter - I understand that in the US, they are sometimes called a "tornado slide". The Ferris wheel in Edinburgh (beside the Scott Monument) was a similar size but looked less impressive at night since it was not lit up like this one.

Due to the perspective in this photo, the Ferris wheel looks smaller than the central column with the statue of Sir Walter Scott on top. While the monument to Scott in Edinburgh is far more impressive, the Glasgow one was completed 7 years before the one in the Capital.

The various entertainments in George Square have to fit round the permanent statues in the square - in addition to the tall column supporting the statue of Sir Walter Scott there are another eleven statues of eminent figures of the 19th century. Robert Peel (1788 – 1850) was a UK Prime Minister. While Home Secretary, he helped create the modern concept of the police force, leading to officers being known as "Bobbies" and/or "Peelers".

The skating rink seems to get smaller each year, while the stalls selling food and drink get larger! The rink can have a serious problem when it rains heavily (as it often does in the west of Scotland). The biggest difficulty is that anyone falling on the ice after rain gets very wet!

At one time, the Christmas tree in George Square used to be the main attraction but over the years it has almost been crowded out by all the other items of entertainment. Even so, the tree and Santa's sleigh and reindeer beside it are a great backdrop for many photos, particularly of wide-eyed children brought along by their parents. Early in 2012, there was an unusually strong wind (over 80mph recorded near Glasgow and over 100mph in other parts of Central Scotland) and this Christmas tree was flattened!

The former main Post Office building on George Square closed in 1995 and about five years later, a property developer bought it. He gutted the building and created upscale apartments in part of the building. But plans to convert the rest of the building into a five-star hotel didn't happen, partly because it was more profitable at that time to use the facade as a giant advertising hoarding. Eventually the City Council, fed up with the scaffolding and lack of progress in the main civic square in the city, lost patience and took over the refurbishment. The work was eventually finished nearly two years ago, with two extra floors on top of the original building - and this is what it looks like at night.

The equivalent Nativity scene in St Andrew Square in Edinburgh is a modest affair of carved wood that is open to the elements. This one in George Square is encased in glass and has been used for a number of years now.

Santa's sleigh and reindeer have been a feature of the Christmas lights in George Square for many years but they looked as though they had been spruced up this year.

Glasgow City Chambers (roughly equivalent to "City Hall") is a magnificent building both during the day and at night. It was opened by Queen Victoria in 1888 on only her second visit to the city. When she had visited 39 years earlier, she disliked the city so much that she said that she would prefer not to return! The inside of the City Chambers is even more impressive and opulent with marble staircases and mosaic ceilings. For more on the inside of the City Chambers, see Places to Visit - Glasgow City Chambers.

Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) is housed in the centre of Glasgow in a building originally built as an elegant, Grecian-style mansion for an 18th century tobacco merchant who had made his fortune in America. The building was subsequently redesigned by David Hamilton as a Royal Exchange for Glasgow merchants. Before becoming the gallery of modern art, it was used as a public library.

The impressive "Ceiling of Light" above Royal Exchange Square is created by thousands of lights strung between the buildings. Unlike the Christmas lights which are just for the festive season, this display will brighten the winter nights through until March.

The Tron Steeple is all that is left of the original St Mary's Kirk that was burnt to the ground in 1793. At ground level there are gothic arches cut into the steeple's base when the City architect wished to widen the carriageway. Behind the Steeple, the later Adam-designed church has been superbly remodelled as the Tron Theatre and café/bar.

Glasgow Cross used to be regarded as the centre of the city and towering over the area was the Tolbooth (so called because it was originally a booth or stall where tolls and taxes were collected). The Tolbooth was a kind of combined town hall and prison when it was originally built in 1636. When the town council moved from the Tolbooth by the end of the 1700s, it became a famous hotel and the terminus for the stagecoaches, including those to Edinburgh and London. All that remains of Glasgow's Tolbooth today is its seven-storey, 126 feet high steeple. Nowadays, the traffic which now streams through this junction of five roads, has to swerve round the building as it stands there like an ancient traffic policeman.

When I first came across this giant reindeer in Argyle Street I immediately thought that someone must have decided to make sure it was the biggest reindeer in the city!

Buchanan Street, seen here, is full of up-market shops. House of Fraser was founded by Hugh Fraser and a partner in 1849 as a small drapery shop on the corner of Argyle Street and Buchanan Street and has remained in various stores in Buchanan Street ever since.

Princes Square, off Buchanan Street, was originally built in 1842. It used to be surrounded by business chambers, a stable and coach-houses. In the 20th century, Buchanan Street always had a reputation for up-market shops, so it was not surprising that when the stables were eventually demolished (in 1986/87), the court should be given a splendid roof and the buildings around the square converted with great imagination to galleried, specialist shops.

The peacock sculpture on the roof is impressive in day time but at night is a bit overshadowed by the Christmas lighting on the frontage of the building!

When I was young (admittedly, that was a long time ago) there were far fewer Christmas displays in the centre of Glasgow, but many of the stores would create huge displays in their front windows which attracted a lot of attention. In recent years, few stores put on such special displays, presumably on cost-saving grounds. So it is only smaller outlets such as this one in Buchanan street that use a bit of imagination and combine a sales pitch with a festive theme.

The South Portland Street pedestrian suspension bridge was created across the river Clyde to link Clyde Street on the north bank to Carlton Place on the south. The bridge opened in 1853, replacing an earlier wooden one.

Like some of the other locations in the city, the illuminations on the bridge are not specifically set up for Christmas - but the bright red colour certainly adds to the festive atmosphere!

Note that there's also a slide show of these and other pictures on YouTube at Glasgow City Centre Christmas Lights 2011.

If you want to read the other Diary entries going back to 2009, there is an Index page.

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

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