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Statues vital to giving Glasgow a square citizens can be proud of

I HAVE just seen the plans for Glasgow's George Square displayed in the Lighthouse ("Final designs for George Square revamp go on show", The Herald, January 9, and Letters, January 11, 12 &14).

They appeared universally ill thought-out, inappropriate and inadequate.

Some included a border of trees and statues on one side, and this might be fine if it was on both sides. The statues are of great importance in the context of the history and architecture of the square, they need to be seen from a distance, then approached and walked around to see the handsome details of character, costume and composition (not stuck in a theme-park-type niche). Two of them – the splendid equestrian bronzes – lead in to the square and guide one to what should be green and pleasant spaces for meeting, walking and resting: the column is an important landmark, central to the whole spatial concept of the square.

Some of the suggested additions, such as the shelter and arched niches, actually concealed magnificent architecture (as well as being remarkably crudely designed) and also restricted access to the square. Access and seating have been neglected in the plans, with an amount of water that was causing some merriment when I was at the Lighthouse: there was a feeling that Glasgow on a wet day had quite enough water features, without more blowing around from rubbish-attracting water features. Tartan and druidical stones in the flower beds seem particularly inept and unsuited to a great city.

We need good all-weather tiling underfoot, some shelters (not in Hobbit mushroom or bus shelter style), more seats and all the statues (more would be good too). Then we will still – and always – have a city square that Glaswegians will be proud of, and even the Americans will see as the equal of their great cities – as great as Philadelphia, not taken over by zombies.

Margaret MacDonald,

School of Culture and Creative Arts,

University of Glasgow.

I MUST put forward a case for the retention of the statue of Robert Burns in the square.

In Burns, Scotland has an iconic individual with a worldwide standing. It is right that his statue should have pride of place in the main square of Scotland's largest city. As H V Morton, writing in 1929 said, Burns is "a warm living force; he is part of the daily life. I think of him whenever I see a kettle steaming gently against a Scottish fireside; he has sung his way into all the lovely common things of life- Burns is not a tradition; he is a living force. Scotland spoke in every word he uttered." And this from an Englishman.

Burns's connections with Glasgow may not be as well publicised as those with Edinburgh, but he is known to have visited the city on five occasions between 1787 and 1791 as well as having a number of asssociations with Glasgow. It was in Glasgow he wrote one of his famous letters to Clarinda (Nancy McLehose).

The statue cost £2000 and was financed by a public subscription of 40,000 Glaswegians paying one shilling each. It was the work of George Edwin Ewing, the most successful sculptor of his generation in Scotland, and when the statue was unveiled on January 25, 1877, a crowd of more than 30,000 spectators attended, a public holiday having been declared for the occasion.

Surely in the past 135 years we have not descended culturally to a level that would have 40,000 of our forebears turning in their graves.

Jim Leslie,

President,

Kilbryde Burns Club,

72 Sutherland Way,

East Kilbride.

I WAS born and brought up in Glasgow so it is interesting to hear of the proposal to redesign George Square, the focal centre of the Merchant City. I recall walking in Madeira along the levadas, those tunnels and channels carved to carry water from one side of the island where the rain falls to the dry side where people lived and cultivated the ground. A memorial in the island's capital rightly commemorates the work of the engineers who created this key economic asset, but does not mention the African slaves who actually did the work. I felt this was an indecent omission.

The economic wealth that created the Merchant City through trade in sugar, tobacco and the like was also built on the backs of many thousands of African slaves, even though slavery was always illegal within Scotland. Among the features of George Square are statues of distinguished Scots, commemorating their achievements. Surely, in a redesigned George Square, it is time there was a memorial to these slaves acknowledging both their suffering and contribution. After all, many of their direct descendants now live among us as fellow citizens or will represent countries injured by slavery at our forthcoming Commonwealth Games.

R Drennan Watson,

Brig o Lead,

Forbes,

Alford.

I DO not agree that the statues in the square should be replaced by those representing people born in the city ("Wagons circling round the square", The Herald, January 12). Glasgow is a great UK and European city and was once known as the second city of the empire. It is entirely proper that Glasgow should honour people of national importance. If one were to follow your writer Catriona Stewart's logic, a large proportion of the statues in London would have to go, including Nelson's column.

R. Murray,

28 Maxwell Drive, Glasgow.

SOME friends and I recently visited the excellent but temporary George Wyllie exhibition at the Mitchell Library.

Surely the work of this most original, talented and amusing artist deserves a permanent home.

Perhaps with a bit of re-design and by moving the works of lesser artists out of the Gallery of Modern Art, a George Wyllie gallery could be created.

Stuart Neville,

23 Lilac Avenue,

Clydebank.

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