YOU MAY have spotted them in Glasgow, or Greenock or in any of the larger towns and cities of Scotland.

Unusually lovely, out-of-the-ordinary lamp-posts, with decorative flourishes and historic detail, crop up here and there amongst the more municipal, boring ones.

These intriguing lamps – some are attached to buildings, rather than mounted on posts – are a reminder of an old Scottish tradition, as Barbara Neilson of Glasgow City Archives explains.

“As the Lord Provost had no official residence in Glasgow, it became a tradition to place a pair of lamp posts at their personal residence,” she says.

“This tradition used to be observed throughout Scotland and originated from the practice of lighting lamps at the homes of bailies, or civic officials.

“The gas-lit lamps bore the burgh or city coat of arms and highlighted where people could find the bailies if they needed them.”

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During the twentieth century, the gas-lit lamps were replaced with electric ones, and could be installed above tenement doors or on flats.

“Some of these lamps can still be found throughout the city including pairs on Danes Drive in Scotstoun and Churchill Drive in Broomhill,” she says.

Glasgow Times:

The placing of the Provost’s Lamps in Greenock in May 1974 was quite an occasion.

Our sister title The Greenock Telegraph, reported: “The lamps were installed outside the Bank Street home of Greenock’s new Provost, Mrs Elizabeth Martin, the first woman to occupy the civic seat and the town’s last Provost, as the title was to disappear the following May because of local government reorganisation.”

A report from the Ardrossan Herald in October 1890 recorded: “At a Kilwinning Commissioners’ meeting it was proposed to place two lamps before Provost Wylie’s house, but the Provost declined the honour, as he said that there were other places needing more light,” said the article.

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While many libraries remain closed, Barbara and her colleagues, senior archivist Irene O’Brien, Michael Gallagher, Lynsey Green and Nerys Tunnicliffe, have launched Ask the Archivist, a fantastic new campaign which gives people the chance to ask the team questions about the city collections. More details are available on the Glasgow City Archives Facebook page.

The city’s long list of Lord Provosts stretches from the very first one in 1450, John Stewart, to the present incumbent, Philip Braat.

Glasgow Times:

Barbara explains: “The LP of Glasgow was (and still is) an ambassadorial role which encompasses many duties, including promoting the city internationally, hosting Royal visits and conferring the Freedom of the City on notable individuals, such as Nelson Mandela and Billy Connolly.

“As the principal civic representative for the city, the LP is also often the face of Glasgow during times of turmoil.”

Glasgow Times:

Sir Patrick Dollan, who was LP from 1938 until 1941, was the first person from an Irish Catholic background to hold the position and former teacher Dame Jean Roberts was the first female, in 1960.

Since Dame Jean, only four more women have held the title – Susan Baird from 1988 to 1992, Liz Cameron from 2003 to 2007, Sadie Docherty from 2012 to 2017 and Eva Bolander, from 2017 to 2019.