Monday, 8 March 2010


Two of my favourite subjects at school were geography and history, along with maths, they were also among a select few classes that I was any good at. So it was a sad day at the end of my second year of my secondary school education that I had to choose between the two. Had I had my way I would have continued both and dropped French which I was beyond hopeless at, instead I chose to continue geography where my French lessons allowed me to enjoy the geography class trips to Switzerland and France. I can't remember exactly if it did or not but the chance to go on at least one of those trips may well have had a bearing on my decision, certainly I know I had no interest in going on the history trips to Auschwitz or Flanders both of which the thought of visiting these places, even today, makes my spine shudder.

I do know that at that age I wanted to learn about the world and if I was lucky enough get to see as much of it as I could but I also had an appreciation for history. I find it ironic now that I am getting to see some of the world from this side of the pond that I am missing some of the history that I took for granted that I previously had on my doorstep. I always loved visiting new places and learning the history behind it all and had an appreciation for the old buildings, gardens and stories when I lived in Scotland but I didn't realise until I moved to America how lucky it was that I had that amount of preserved history just a short drive away. The USA of course has its history too, but with it being such a huge country in comparison to Scotland and being much younger too its not so easy to enjoy what history there is to offer. It's especially difficult to enjoy history in this part of the country because anything that's not owned by the Mormon Church tends to last 30, 40 or 50 years before being demolished and rebuilt or made way for something new.

I was looking back on my old hard disk of photographic images that I brought with me from Scotland and remembered day trips that were just about an hour or two's drive away. One such trip was the Necropolis, Glasgow's version of the Pere Lachais Cemetery in Paris. Its the burial ground of the uber-rich of a country whose main population probably would have little thought about what sort of casket or headstone they might want because they were so poor that getting by from day to day was what occupied their thoughts.

 This tomb makes me thinks more of Morocco or Moorish Spain than Glasgow

In some cases even those who weren't buried there had a monument designed by one of the best Scottish architects of the day and placed in the cemetery looking down on the city just because they could. The ultimate pompous act of a dying inflated ego?

I find it remarkable that people would want to make such a statement about themselves after they are gone when surely contributing the money to say a hospital wing could do so much more good. Of course its easy for me to say that, as I am unlikely to have the kind of money lying around that could make such a contribution after I have kicked the bucket.

As much as I find it crazy that people would spend so much money on covering a few bones I also find it an amazingly beautiful if a somewhat strange legacy to leave behind for a city.


Some Chilean Woman said...

Wow, that looks a lot like State Street, downtown Salt Lake. Ha ha.

PurestGreen said...

Your banner photo is startling and powerful.

I was thinking about this subject on the way home, as I looked up at the stone buildings and smiled. Both the USA and Canada are dominated by their landscapes. It makes you feel very small. In Europe, all these stone buildings give a sense of human permanence. I know that in Canada, humans are like dots in the wild. Even the cities are pushed at by the mountains or sea or stretches of tundra. Buildings made out of wood decay and are lost, as if they were never there.

You miss the history here, as I would if I moved back to Canada. And I miss that blissful sense of almost being erased by the sheer size of the landscape. Thus, natures balances itself.

LarryLilly said...

Knowing history is to learn about perspective. Lack of historical knowledge will soon teach us of arrogance.

And yes, cemeteries represent the continuation of mans futile attempts of self grandeur.