NEW book sheds light on the bizarre tales of some of Scotland’s most famous statues.
On A Pedestal tells the story of how author Roger Lytollis traveled the country to discover the impact of great monuments on today’s society.
But statues have become a touchy subject since the monument to 17th century slave trader Edward Colston was removed from its plinth and dumped in Bristol Harbor in 2020 as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Head Writer MATT BENDORIS talks to Roger about changing attitudes towards those cast in stone and whether they should continue to despise us for eternity.
The STATUES commemorate the great and the good – but author Roger Lytollis feels Glasgow is missing a trick by NOT honoring two of his greatest comics.
Roger saw how a beachside statue of Eric Morecambe injected millions into the town from which the comic took its stage name.
But a planning dispute means a statue of Billy Connolly and Chic Murray has been packed in a warehouse for 10 years.
The Eric Morecambe statue, which was unveiled in 1999 by the Queen in the seaside town of Lancashire, the late comedian – who was born John Eric Bartholomew – was called when he launched his career.
The monument by sculptor Graham Ibbeson is believed to be worth Â£ 1million a year to the local economy.
Roger, 51, of Carlisle, said: âWhen I visited Morecambe there were lines of people waiting to have their picture taken with Eric, joining him in his Bring Me Sunshine dance. Statues like this can boost a local economy, and they also put a smile on faces. It was nice to see people so happy as they posed for pictures.
And that’s why Roger believes the Murray and Connolly statue should be unveiled to the public as soon as possible after an ongoing planning glitch kept their bronze artwork in a cold storage warehouse for a decade.
He said: âThe statue was commissioned by Colin Beattie, owner of Glasgow’s Ãran MÃ³r bar and theater, and was cast in bronze in 2011.
âColin wants to erect it off site, but it has spent a decade in storage because it still doesn’t have a building permit.
“I’m sure Chic and Billy would be a big draw, especially since they’re positioned on a swing that would allow people to sit between them.”
The musicians are generally a hit with selfie-loving tourists, with the Liverpool Beatles statue being a fan favorite. But it’s not just the superstars who prove popular attractions.
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Roger also visited Greyfriars Bobby’s Bronze – the 19th century Skye Burrow that kept its owner’s death for 14 years – which was made into a ’60s Disney movie.
But controversy surrounds the story, which is believed to be a 150-year-old marketing hoax. Visitors have even been accused of damaging the monument by rubbing their noses for good luck.
He says, âAlthough touching the nose seems harmless, it wears out the patina and can damage the bronze underneath.
“Many statues around the world have been damaged by people rubbing them for good luck – so it doesn’t look very lucky for the statues.”
But Roger’s favorite is the Duke of Wellington in Glasgow city center, who has become a cult tourist attraction due to the traffic cone placed on the 19th-century statesman.
OOR WULLIE STATUE MAKES YOU SMILE
He says, âIt’s my favorite because it’s been picked up by people. Glasgowians have taken control of the narrative, deciding what it looks like and what it represents – essentially to show that the city doesn’t take itself too seriously, or isn’t authoritative.
âBut I also love the statues that show how things have changed since the days of kings, dukes and generals on horseback.
âCaptain Mainwaring of Papa’s Army in Thetford, Norfolk, and Desperate Dan, Minnie the Minx and Oor Wullie in Dundee.
âThey just make you smile, and there’s a lot to be said for that. “
And while he has “sympathy” for the protesters in Colston, he is not in favor of dismantling the statues.
He said: âSociety is less deferential now and deciding who should get a statue has become more democratic.
âBefore, there were only the rich and the powerful. If you weren’t a rich white man or Queen Victoria, you didn’t stand a chance. Perhaps the best way to deal with the statues of slave traders and other people who exploited people in different ways is to not take the statues down.
“Instead, don’t clean them – and let the pigeons give their verdict.”
* On A Pedestal is released on November 4, published by Little Brown.
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