-Mercat Cross

The Scotland Guide
© David Williams


1930, Edith Burnet Hughes (née Burnet)

The Mercat Cross stands at the south-eastern corner of Glasgow Cross. Market crosses like this are found all over Scotland to mark the places where markets were legally held and this example represents one removed from Glasgow Cross in 1659. A town`s cross was often its symbolic centre as markets and other communal events took place beside it and the absence of such an important monument must have caused a bit of a dent in civic pride. The new cross was paid for by Dr William Black and his wife and its inauguration on 24 April 1930 was a day of great pomp and ceremony. The next day`s Glasgow Herald reported that:

Probably not since 1649 when Charles II was proclaimed King to the accompaniment of a carillon from the city bells, has the Mercat Cross been the centre of such striking ceremonial… The gold, scarlet, and blue robes of the Lyon King of Arms and his heralds and pursuivants struck a note of brilliance, and stood out in bold relief against the black and ermine gowns of the Lord Provost and Magistrates… That pomp and circumstance, those gorgeous robes, the royal greeting, the arresting sound of the trumpets, the whole magnificent pageant, belonged not to that day alone, but to centuries of that past life which has made us a great nation.

The structure is in the form of an octagonal tower with the cross (which is topped by a heraldic unicorn holding a shield) rising high above it. On the tower`s western side a plaque declares that this is The Mercat Cross of Glasgow, built in the year of grace 1929. Above that is the coat of arms of the city with its motto Let Glasgow flourish.

This article is based on the guidebook "The Glasgow Guide".

The present Mercat Cross is a copy of one which stood here up to the mid-seventeenth century.

The crown of the Tolbooth Steeple stands behind the cross.

On the tower`s eastern side there is a badge (with a thistle and a St Andrew`s Cross) and the Latin phrase Nemo me impune lacessit (`No-one provokes me with impunity`). This is the motto of Scotland and can be translated as `Wha daur meddle wi` me` in Scots. Above that is an unidentified coat of arms (with a lion, a knight`s head and a shield on which is a St Andrew`s Cross) and a Latin phrase.

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