Last Friday I decided to attend the closing of the St. Mungo Festival at the City of Glasgow College, where Brother Antony is the Catholic chaplain. Apart from himself, nobody else in the college seemed to know very much about it and, just before 4 p.m., when it was due to begin, there was a snow blizzard blowing outside and the college website was reporting that the college was closed and that all the staff had been sent home. Brother Antony suggested that he would go along and check it out while I continued to work in the office, and he would phone me to let me know what was happening. When he arrived at the college he was told that there was no one inside except the janitor, but he went in anyway, only to find a table set with food and drink, and a few people gathered waiting for the event. He phoned me and suggested that I should come in by the back entrance to the college, the blizzard having by then eased a little. When I got to the back entrance there was a lady coming out who informed me that the college was closed and that there was no one there except the janitor. Of course, I knew better, and I went in to find everything as Brother Antony had reported. Between the weather and the confusion there were very few people there, just a few staff members, a handful of students who, in noble student tradition, seemed to be there for the free food and drink, and then those of us who were genuinely interested in St. Mungo.
As it turned out, I thoroughly enjoyed it. In the college there are three visual interpretations relating to St Mungo, and the closing event was an opportunity to see and find out more about them. The first was a sculpture that some people will remember used to sit at the bottom of Buchanan Street called “The Spirit of St. Kentigern”. It was loved and hated in equal measure at the time, but few people really knew what it was meant to be. It was eventually removed and placed in storage, but was now rescued, restored, installed on an impressive new plinth, and placed at one of the college entrances. The second piece, called St. Mungo’s Cave, reminded me of a labyrinth. It was a wooden construction that represented the skyline St. Mungo would have seen on his journey from his birthplace of Culross in Fife, to what later became Glasgow, the city that he founded on the banks of the Clyde by the Molendinar Burn. The final piece, which we didn’t actually get to see, except as a projected image, was a more traditional statue of St. Mungo being carved in Portland stone, which will eventually find a home in the garden area next to the college, visible from Cathedral Street.
The presentation of these pieces was nicely and simply done, condensed because of the bad weather and the smallness of the group, and was rounded off by one of our St. Mungo’s musicians, Vincent Mellon, playing and singing his own composition, Molendinar Song, which he had also sung at the 12 noon Mass the Sunday before, at the celebration of the Feast of St. Mungo, along with another of his compositions, Let Glasgow Flourish.
In the course of the evening I got talking to a few people including a lovely lady who lectured in the hairdressing department at the college. Once we had solved the problems of the world she told me that I would be a welcome visitor to the hairdressing department at any time. I was delighted with this but when I told it to Brother Antony he just laughed and asked what good would that be to me. He said the same to my new friend who simply said that she could give the top of my head a nice polish. I might just give that a try some day.
I’m sure Vincent, who could tell you every place in this great city where the famous Glasgow Coat of Arms can be found, won’t mind me ending with the chorus of Let Glasgow Flourish:
Let Glasgow flourish by God’s word and the praising of His name;
To be a light to all the world, and throughout the world the same.