Posts for Tag : Lanark Closes

Lanark’s Closes – Astronomy, Magic, Superstitions and Alchemical Brews

The illustrations for Lanark’s Closes house a veritable ark, with two dogs, two magpies, a cat, lion, unicorn, horse, several chickens and an elephant! But I wanted to add some less obvious details too.

Astronomy – The drawing for Hunter’s Close shows a telescope pointing at Orion’s Belt. David Hunter was not only the first person to install electrical lighting in his shop in Lanark but an enthusiastic astronomer he was commissioned by the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh to make a telescope.

Locating Orion’s Belt is the easiest way to find Orion, the hunter. I chose Orion as a pointer to Lanark’s coat of arms with its two hunting dogs when the Forests of Lanark were Royal hunting grounds.

Orion’s Belt is also known in British folklore as Jacob’s Rod, Peter’s Staff, The Golden Yard-arm, The Ell, the Yard Wand, Our Lady’s Wand, the Magi, the Three King’s, the Three Mary’s or simply the Three Stars.

Magic – The dandelion clock in each drawing symbolises wishes and hopes for the future. Who hasn’t blown on a dandelion clock and made a wish? I believe in the power of positive thinking and positive intentions. Mind magic! We create our own reality with our thinking. Or as Einstein famously said “The most important decision is life is to decide whether it is a friendly or hostile Universe!”

The saying ‘If Wishes Were Horses’ was first recorded in by James Carmichael by Tinto in the 1700’s. In several drawings a magpie holds a single seed, the seed of a good idea is indeed magical.

Alchemical Brews – Brewery Close led to Gilroy’s, The Brewers. I decided to add the formula for brewing, or how to make a potion, to the drawing in the hope that it might interest someone. Brewed dandelions are an incredible medicine for lots of things too! For those who like a more simple brew, the kettle’s on in Ritchie’s Close!

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Superstition. Two magpies for joy appear in every drawing. Does anyone else say ‘Good morning Mr Magpie’ if they see a solitary magpie to counter ‘one for sorrow?’

The spider that appears in the window of McKenzies Close is not only a reference to the weaving industry but a money spider, creating abundance! One dead magpie lies on the floor, symbolising the demise of this once huge industry in Lanark.

Lucky horse shoes appear in the image for Duncan’s Close, which is also a reference to Riding the Marches every year during Lanimer week in order to retain Lanark’s Royal Burgh status. Duncan’s Close housed both smiths and stone masons. One dog has a paw on a March Stone showing the importance of the symbolic stone.

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Close Encounters opens today at 10am at the Tolbooth Lanark. The twelve original drawings for the street history panels are for sale alongside drawings of the backs of the Closes by Ronnie Cruwys.

Buns and Pies – More Waffle on Creating a Series of Illustrations

The commissioners had wanted a different type of art for the panels that were going to adorn the town – serious, proper art! I would have to hope that Lanark, which always seems a good humoured and chilled-out kind of town, would respond to a bit of quirky humour instead. It’s odd being second choice artist when you think the original choice of artist was better qualified for the job too. That very human odd couple, ego and self doubt, would have to leave the room before getting on with the job!

Veitch’s Close had been home to a popular baker.  I had already established my supporting cast of characters, (blog here) so warm Scotch pies and begging dogs for the next illustration. The dogs, that reoccur throughout the series, are taken from Lanark’s 600 year old heraldic coat of arms. I reckoned they must be hungry! 

The drawing is set in the 50’s when men wore flat caps and women scarves. After a year of lockdown hair – bring back the scarf! 

In the original drawing I messed up the spelling of the word ‘Scotch!’ Working in pen and ink, this is a disaster as it means redrawing the whole thing. Lovely Jenny at Lanarkshire Print House came to the rescue and deleted the clumsy word on photoshop, then posted out a print so I could rewrite ‘Scotch’ for the artwork to be printed onto the panels. Thank you Jenny!

My favourite bit in the drawing is the dog sniffing a chicken poking out of a women’s string bag. 

Hopefully the drawing gives a sense of gossip and chat as people queue for their buns and pies. Nothing much has changed has it? We’re still prepared to queue for a warm Scotch pie!

Close Encounters opens on the 26th of April at The Tolbooth Lanark. All twelve original artworks for the Lanark Closes street art panels are available to buy alongside Ronnie Cruwys’s beautiful and atmospheric paintings of the backs of the Closes.

Time Passages

Medieval Lanark – a walled town

The Tolbooth on the left. Notice the thatched Medieval cottage to the left of that

I love the idea of time travel – finding portals that allow you to travel into a history that’s still alive through fragments in the environment. Clues like echoes or ghosts of souls that trod before us. 

Lanark has twelve remaining Medieval public waythrough ‘time passages’ in the form of Closes (covered alleyways) from the High Street, then the King’s Highway.

Two years ago I visited 5 local primary schools and did a ‘town planning’ art project with the children. The children were asked how Lanark could be a better place. Classroom teachers then developed the ideas with the children which led to a wonderful exhibition at The Tolbooth.

Linking ideas of art, history, landscape, street design, architecture, environment, play, nature, gardens and community…  the children worked individually and in groups and came up with BRILLIANT ideas.

Seriously, I think children should have more of a say in the decisions that go on in the community. Their ideas were both creative and imaginative as well as thoughtful and loving, showing a high level of concern for others and the environment. 

One simple recurring theme was that Lanark’s Closes were dark and scary. Since then the Closes have been sympathetically painted in a light colour and lighting has been installed. During lockdown I was commissioned by Discover Lanark to illustrate the history. The panels were put up in town a month ago. 

Bull’s close, where the town’s community bull was kept! The Tolbooth is at the white building at the bottom of the high st

Each panel has information about the history, and ‘underground’ type map and an illustration that I hope is a ‘time passage’ in itself. Hopefully children will no longer find the closes scary but find humour and a history treasure trail in the drawings.

The more I looked the more I found. If you look at the entrance of Bernard’s Wynd, the entrance is set back to the level of the original Medieval wall. The higgledy piggledy Medieval town was later straightened out with buildings required to be built forward into a straight line.

Interesting to note how the Tolbooth still sticks out. Perhaps it was too important at the time to be changed. I believe it was council rooms then! Although looking at the thatched buildings in the old postcard it looks as though there may have been a close running in that direction that was built over when straightening occurred. Just noticing that now looking at the postcard in the context of the closes. More clues! Love it!

The line of the enclosed Medieval building at Bernard’s Wynd continues through the inside of The Horse and Jockey pub next door. Will definitely need to go and check that out when doors open.

At the back of Bernards Wynd are stone remnants of two arched Medieval windows, the house where William Wallace is believed to have stayed while in Lanark.

The Tolbooth is opening with Close Encounters on 26th April to celebrate Lanark’s historic past.

Exhibited will be 12 beautiful atmospheric paintings depicting the backs of the Closes by restoration architect turned painter, Ronnie Cruwys of Drawing the Street and the 12 original illustrations for the street panels. Plus historic photographs will be shown on the screen.

All original artwork is for sale – twenty four opportunities to invest in a little bit of Lanark’s history!

Ronnie and I look forward to seeing you there. 

Thanks for reading

Kirsten

www.kirstenharrisart.com

See all the close images below poster…

A Closer Look – A Photo Document of Lanark’s Closes

There’s so much history on the doorstep.

Not long after lockdown eased I decided it would be fun to take my eighty something mother, who had been shielding, on a tour of Lanark. She has only recently moved to the area. We decided to make a doorstep adventure.

Having once lived in York, I told mum that Lanark’s Closes are like York’s Shambles. Lanark’s Closes go back to the Medieval era too, so it seemed a reasonable if exaggerated comparison. Lanark’s Closes unlike York or Edinburgh’s Medieval narrow streets have been largely neglected. More buildings are scheduled to be knocked down to be turned into car parking or are in a perilous state!

One Sunday morning we had our first outing for months. It was an interesting walk. I took photos. We had a lovely morning looking for history by walking up and down the Closes, first one side of Lanark High street, and then the other.

Some Closes, I learned afterwards, are adopted way-throughs by the Council, others not. Other old alleys are now hidden behind locked doors to the High Street, so inaccessible.

Nowadays Lanark’s Closes seem to mainly lead to carparks. In the past they would have led to workshops and industries including breweries, skin works, rope makers, boot and shoe makers, public houses and more. So much history erased! But the evidence of activity and life through the centuries is still there if you take a closer look.

That evening I shared a few photos on my Facebook page and was amazed by the response including The Tolbooth Lanark asking to exhibit the images.

‘A Closer Look’ is this walk. My mother features on the poster for the Tolbooth exhibition, much to her amusement.

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All photographs Copyright Kirsten Harris
Prints available on request

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk