"Having long been possessed with an ardent desire to see the Distilleries of Scotland...", Alfred Barnard, 1885

"O Thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch drink", from Scotch Drink, by Robert Burns

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Rumblings from the Cask - Dram 1

My first observations of life on the edges of the distillery tour:

After visiting Port Dundas and Dundashill distilleries I retraced my weary steps back to George Square. This is the main civic square in the city and Glasgow City Chambers stand on its east side. As you wander this pride of the city you will notice the statues to the great and good of Scottish history. However, over time, these black monuments have become ‘guano’ capped. Seagulls are the main culprit, the kamikaze pigeons no doubt contribute too.

These flying rats of the sky rotate like a holding pattern over an airport, each taking its turn to land and ‘drop off’. Or like a game of musical statues; whenever the strangled tones of ‘Caledonia’, currently being mangled by the drunk on the park bench, are halted for a swig of Buckie, the seagulls fight for the statues and wait until the singin’ starts again before taking to the air.

Robert Burns in George Square
Maybe it was deaf, or maybe the other birds hadn’t explained the rules to the gull on top of Robert Burns’ statue as I stood, patiently, muttering, for a full ten minutes, waiting to take a picture of this snow capped memorial to one of my heroes.

I consider giving the drunk a kick to wake him up and try another song to get my stationary gull, almost statuesque itself, to move on. Actually I consider shooting the gull with me old fowling piece but the Glesga Polis don’t take too kindly to that kind of behaviour in their town square (naebody move, thurs been a murrrderrr).

While waiting for the chance of a photograph I caught myself, not for the first time in my life, rewriting Burn’s poetry in my head. I wondered what eulogy he might have penned to the seagull if it were actually him up there on the plinth:

Tae a seagull
Wee, feathery, flyin’, shiterous, birdie;
Oh what a mess is in thy turdy;
Get aff ma heid!

Maybes no!

Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott
The main statue in George Square is of Sir Walter Scott. Burns and Scott sadly never got this close for long in life. Burns died prematurely at the age of 37 when Scott was 25 and just beginning his literary career. They met very briefly only once before, when Scott was 15 and Burns was in Edinburgh. One wonders what impact they may have had on each other's writing had their lives overlapped for longer.

Of the other statues, William Gladstone stands stoically upright, liberaly trying to ignore the metaphorical political statements the gulls were dropping on him. A young Queen Victoria, imperious in the way she was during her long reign, bestride her horse in defiance of the onslaught. James Watt just bows his head in shame. He is credited with developing the steam engine yet now looks in need of a good steam clean himself. I wonder if Glasgow Cleansing Department have a schedule for cleaning these statues, or is it a never ending task like painting the Forth Bridge used to be, or have they just given up and decided that white statues would look better?

I shall make enquires and update you on guanogate in due course.