Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
Langside Battlefield Memorial
Details:

Sculptor: James Young (fl. 1872-1936)
Architect: Alexander Skirving (fl. c. 1865-1916)
Builders: Morrison & Mason Ltd (fl. 1870-1921)
Location: Battle Place, Langside, Glasgow
Date executed: 1887-8


Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow

The Langside Battlefield Memorial stands on Langside Hill in the south side of Glasgow. Standing 16.3m high, it commemorates the site of the Battle of Langside and the defeat of Mary, Queen of Scots by the Regent Moray, in 1568, and was erected to coincide with the three-hundredth anniversary of her beheading in 1887. It is in the form of a Scotttish mercat cross.


Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow


The memorial was designed by Alexander Skirving and won a competition between twelve architects, each of whom had donated to its subscription fund and who were invited to participate 'for the sake of honour'. It comprises a column carved with spirrals of thistles, roses and fleur-de-lis, standing on a stepped pedestal with eagles seated at its upper corners. The column is surmounted by a lion resting its paw on a cannon ball, the Corinthian capital below it being formed by thistles instead of acanthus leaves.


Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow


Cannons, Claymores, bagpipes and other instruments of war are carved around the base of the column as reminders of the action, whilst heraldic shields around the lion's pedestal identify the battle's protagonists. The eagles at the corners are Roman in style and perform the same role as their ancient counterparts in symbolizing victory. Also derived from Classical architecture are the pedimented aedicules below the eagles, which contain the battle's name and date, as well as revealing the influence of Alexander 'Greek' Thomson , whose motifs Skirving would use repeatedly on his other projects.


Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow


The inscriptions within the aedicules record the dates of the battle and the menorial in raised letters: LANGSIDE / BATTLEFIELD / MEMORIAL / 13 MAY 1568. Also inscribed on the base is the architect's name, in insiced letters: ALEXANDER SKIRVING F.R.I.B.A. / ARCHITECT.

The carving was executed by James Young , the prolific architectural sculptor. Young was praised in the press for the quality of his work on the memorial and for '[doing] his part of the work without a penny profit'. Its construction was done by Morrison & Mason Ltd , who were currently building the City Chambers using the same Binnie sandstone.


Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow


The foundation stone was laid on 13 May 1887, and contained a number of objects commemorating the event, including its plans, a selection of newspapers and coins, and a copy of Sir Walter Scott's novel The Abbot (1820), which recounted the events surrounding the queen's abdication and her escape from Loch Leven in the months before the battle was fought.


Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow Langside Battlefield Memorial , Glasgow


The memorial was restored in 1988, by the Cathcart Society, as part of the city's Adopt a Monument' scheme. A plaque affixed to the pedestal by the society gives a fuller description of the battle and its circumstances:

THE BATTLE OF LANGSIDE WAS FOUGHT / ON THIS GROUND ON 13 MAY 1568 BETWEEN / THE FORCES OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS / AND THE REGENT MORAY, AND MARKED / THE QUEEN'S FINAL DEFEAT IN SCOTLAND / THIS MONUMENT WAS ERECTED IN 1887.



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