A WEAPON worthy of James Bond, ‘robot horse’ armour and a seventeenth century pistol found in a Glasgow river are just some of the fascinating items held in the city’s arms and armour collection.

Curator Ralph Moffat is giving online visitors a chance to see behind the scenes of Glasgow Museums Resource Centre as part of Digital Doors Open Day this month.

The annual festival - organised by Glasgow Building Preservation Trust - has moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to Ralph’s talk and a delve into the painting store with Dr Jo Meacock on September 15, viewers will have the chance to peek into Pod 17, the new textiles store at the centre, on September 18, and see Emily Malcolm revealing more about the city’s transport and technology collections on September 16.

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Glasgow museums, with the exception of Kelvingrove and Riverside which have now re-opened (you must book a free ticket online in advance of your visit) remain closed but events like Digital Doors Open Day – discover more at glasgowdoorsopendays.org - mean you can still explore the city’s fantastic collections.

Glasgow Times:

The arms and armour collection consists of around 7200 objects and 3000 manuscripts, from Scotland and across Europe.

“The heart and soul of our collection is the RL Scott Library, an extensive archive donated to the people of the city by Robert Lyons Scott, of the famous Greenock shipbuilding company,” says Ralph.

One of Ralph’s favourites is an intriguing ‘combination weapon’ which has a 007 gadget feel to it.

Glasgow Times:

“It is an axe, dating back to the late sixteenth century,” he explains. “However, hold it the wrong way and you are in danger of shooting yourself. Hidden inside is a gun – it is a real oddity. The craftsmanship is beautiful.”

Another highlight is a German manuscript, written and illustrated by fightmaster Gregor Erhart in 1533.

Ralph explains: “This is incredibly rare, because of these wonderful drawings.”

Glasgow Times:

He adds, smiling:”It does show that not only would men have had to know how to shop someone’s head off, they would have been expected to play the lute, or be talented artists, at the same time – real Renaissance men.”

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An odd piece of horse armour, which looks strangely robotic, is an interesting find, says Ralph.

Glasgow Times:

“This is a shaffron, dating to 1535, and it is beautifully decorated – each of those ridges would have been hammered in, for example, and the style would reflect the fashions of the time,” he adds.

“It would have been quite scary to have a horse wearing something like this bearing down on you in battle.”

Other items in the collection include a jousting helmet from around 1600.

“Note the holes in one side – this was to prevent a lance from catching it,” says Ralph. “There is not much evidence of jousting in Glasgow, but as tournaments tended to be staged in the grounds of Royal palaces or castles, and there were several castles here, it could have happened.”

Glasgow Times:

Another of Ralph’s favourite items is a Glasgow-made pistol, dating back to around the 1620s. It was donated to the collection after being discovered in the River Kelvin.

“It has the initials of a Glasgow gunmaker, called John Currie, on it,” says Ralph. “It is incredibly good – you can see the detail in the design.

“It is not the most fancy of weapons – it is a little rough and ready – but you can see from the belt strap that it was worn outside clothing. It was meant to be seen.”

Glasgow Times:

While no-one knows exactly who it belonged to, Ralph believes it could have been one of the drovers who would have brought their cattle through Glasgow along Byres Road.

“They would have carried pistols, as they would have had to defend their livestock,” says Ralph. “It is extraordinary - almost certainly the oldest Glasgow-made gun in existence.”