MANY Glasgow Times readers have been bewildered by the recent decision to install two fancy lamp posts outside Lord Provost Jacqueline McLaren's West End home.

At a cost of £17,000 to the public purse, it has been criticised as a less-than-bright idea in the middle of budget cuts and an ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

However, the lamp posts are part of a Scottish tradition, which has all but died out except in some of the cities and bigger towns around the country.

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Glasgow Times:

As Lord Provosts in Glasgow and elsewhere have no official residences, it became commonplace to install a pair of ornate lamp posts, usually adorned with the city coat of arms, outside the incumbent’s home. They were either stand-alone lamps or erected on to the walls of buildings or above doorways.

The idea originated from the practice of lighting lamps at the homes of bailies or civic officials, long before the days of mobile phones, to highlight where people could find them in times of need. (In some places, these lamp posts are still referred to as ‘bailie lights’.)

In Edinburgh, the practice was for the LP to receive two lamp-posts, and one would be removed when he/she left office.

Originally gas-lit, the lamps were eventually replaced with electric ones.

In Glasgow, pairs remain on Danes Drive in Scotstoun and Churchill Drive in Broomhill. Lamp posts were also installed on Kingsley Avenue, where Sir Patrick Dolan once lived.

Glasgow Times:

In Greenock, the placing of the "Provost’s Lamps" in May 1974 outside the Bank Street home of new Provost Elizabeth Martin, was quite an occasion, as it marked simultaneously the first time a woman had occupied the position, and the town’s last ever Provost. The title was to disappear the following May because of local government reorganisation.

To commemorate the passing of Clydebank as a local government authority, Clydebank District Council uprooted the last Provost’s lamp post outside Councillor Malcolm Turner’s house and relocated it across from the town hall with a plaque recording the names of the provosts since 1886.

Not all Provosts get the special lamp posts – Philip Braat, for example, who held the position in Glasgow from 2020 to 2022, does not have any – and some actively refuse.

A report from the Ardrossan Herald in October 1890 stated that 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.”

Glasgow Times:

Glasgow’s long list of Lord Provosts stretches from the very first one in 1450, John Stewart, to the present incumbent, Jacqueline McLaren.

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, the LP is also often the face of Glasgow during times of turmoil.

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Research from Glasgow City Archives reveals 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 five more women have held the title – Susan Baird from 1988 to 1992, Liz Cameron from 2003 to 2007, Sadie Docherty from 2012 to 2017, Eva Bolander, from 2017 to 2019, and current LP Jacqueline Mclaren.

Glasgow's LP is not the first to encounter controversy surrounding lamp posts. In 2009, South Lanarkshire Provost Russell Clearie had to defend the installation of the Provost’s lamp post in his street in Cambuslang, at a cost of £3630, at a time when the local authority was making budget cuts

Provost Clearie told local newspapers the lamppost had been in the pipeline for two years, before the cuts were announced, and that his neighbours thought it brought a little extra prestige to the street.

At the time, the council explained that while a Provost was in post, the local authority covered the cost of the electricity as part of the street lighting network but after he or she moved on, it was up to the individual whether or not to pay to keep it illuminated.