Constance Ann very kindly asked, in a comment on my previous post, if I would tell the story of the Glasgow Coat of Arms. In fact it has four stories attached to its four elements: the tree, the bird, the fish and the bell. You can see these four elements in the lampposts near Glasgow Cathedral:
In the past, Glaswegian schoolchildren were taught a rhyme to help them remember their city’s coat of arms:
There’s the tree that never grew;
There’s the bird that never flew;
There’s the fish that never swam;
There’s the bell that never rang.
What are the stories behind these mysterious lines? They all go back to an early Christian saint in this part of the world, St. Mungo. He lived in the late 6th century, and was also known as St. Kentigern.
The tree that never grew: St. Mungo was in charge of making sure that the fire at St. Serf’s monastery didn’t go out. Alas, he fell asleep and the fire went out. He went to get a branch of a tree, and through his fervent prayers, caused it to burst into flame, so he could rekindle the fire.
The bird that never flew: St. Mungo brought back to life a robin that was a favoured pet of his tutor St. Serf.
The bell that never rang: By most accounts this is a bell that John Stewart, the first Lord Provost of Glasgow, had made in 1450, called “St. Mungo’s Bell”. It was to remind the citizens of the city to pray for his soul.
The fish that never swam: This is a Scottish/Celtic version of a European folktale. In this version, King Hydderch Hael gave a ring to his Queen, Langoureth. She in turn gave it to a knight she favoured. The King discovered the ring, and threw it into the River Clyde. He then demanded that Queen Langoureth produce the ring, to prove her faithfulness, under pain of death. She asked for it from the knight, who no longer had it. He went to St. Mungo and appealed for help. St. Mungo told one of his monks to go fishing and bring him the first fish he caught. This was a salmon, with the King’s ring in its mouth. And thus Queen Langoureth’s life was saved.
The city’s Coat of Arms, along with its motto “Let Glasgow Flourish” (also attributed to St. Mungo) are found everywhere you go in the city. I shall have to collect some examples to show you in another post.