City of the Dead

Reading time: 2 mins

Back, bedraggled and very very damp. However us Scots are made of hardier stuff and didn’t let a few gallons of water put us off (not sure about the two Italian tourists though), so after a nice dinner of mince and tatties at Cafe Gandolfi, the McLean family (sadly minus Louise who has hurt her ankle) headed up the hill to the Necropolis.

I should point out that it had been raining lightly all day and about two minutes into the evening it got heavier and stayed like that for the next hour or so. Typical. I’d post some photos but I’ve just found out that my photography skills are somewhat lacking when it comes to taking photos in torrential rain, in fading to pitch black light, and when I’m trying to keep my camera from getting soaked. Oh well.

Ronnie Scott was our tour guide, and considering he’s just handed in a thesis on the place, not to mention written a book about it, it’s simpler to just assume that he knows more about the Necropolis and it’s history than most people have forgotten. Of course knowledge is only part of what’s required to lead a guided walk and I’m happy to report that he’s also a very good speaker with a nice laidback attitude and no end of crap jokes to keep you groaning.

The tour itself took us on a short circuit of some key areas of the Necropolis, it’s far too big to cover in the hour and 15 mins we had, and Ronnie gave us both a historical, sociological and humourous insight into a variety of the tombs, gravestones and markers. As it was part of the architectural festival he concentrated a lot on the physical appearance of the cemetery, the difference between roman and greek obelisks (romans used plinths, greeks come straight up from the ground), the significance of urns and laurel wreaths and so on, but such is his breadth of knowledge you were also given short history lessons on who was, and wasn’t, buried under which plot.

For example, take John Knox. Despite the large memorial statue of him that sits at the peak of the Necropolis (and which faces Ibrox and has it’s back to Celtic Park, coincidence?) is actually buried under what is now a car park in Edinburgh. Never knew that.

I could go on at length, and get many more facts wrong, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting tour, despite the rain. Thankfully the Friends of the Necropolis organise tours throughout the year, so I’ll be keeping my eye on their website for any more. I’m sure it will be a lovely place to explore on a crisp winter’s day, lord knows the photos would be better than this, this, this or this.

If you are ever in Glasgow I’d recommend that you pick up a copy of Ronnie’s book as it will guide you round the best bits of the Necropolis, and even if you don’t fancy the walk, it’s still an excellent read.

Useful Links:
Friends of the Necropolis
Photos of the Necropolis
More photos of the Necropolis
Glasgow Sculpture
Hidden Glasgow