Image from Glasgow Caledonian University Archives

The University Coat of Arms and

The University Coat of Arms and Motto

Glasgow Caledonian University came into being on 1 April 1993. It was the result of a merger of two Scottish Central Institutions - Glasgow Polytechnic and The Queen’s College, Glasgow. While these institutions both had their own Coat of Arms, it became necessary to create one that captured the ethos of the new University. Below is a brief summary of how this happened.

The motto "For the Common Weal" was penned by Miss Calder, Principal of The Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science and The Queen’s College, from 1963 until 1976. It was first used when the new Coat of Arms for The Queen’s College, Glasgow was introduced in 1975. When she was asked how she thought of the phrase, her reply was, "it just came to me one day when I was sitting at my desk." There was no mystery and no great deliberation over the motto and to this day it is the motto used by the University.

The current University Coat of Arms involved the work of Malcolm Lochhead, then senior lecturer in Consumer Studies. Malcolm was Head of Design at Queen’s College being employed by Miss Calder, starting in November 1975, and is a famous designer in his own right. He was trained at Glasgow School of Art and picked embroidery as his specialist subject; a subject he has excelled in. Most notable are his design involvements in the "Keeping Glasgow in Stitches" project during the European Year of Culture (1990),the "Twelve Embroidered Chairs" he completed (April 1996) for the office of the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and, the Altar Cloths (end 1996) at the Chapel Royal, Stirling Castle. When asked to comment on his design for the University Coat of Arms he provided the following -

At the time of the amalgamation of the two institutions and the formation of Glasgow Caledonian University, I was approached by the senior management to assist in the devising of the new Coat of Arms. As a result I had a number of meetings with the Lord Lyon King of Arms to discuss what was and was not possible in amalgamating two Coats of Arms. The Lord Lyon was interested in the Caledonian Oak Tree with robin which comes initially from Glasgow's Coat of Arms and the "chief" or top section which contained the Book of Knowledge. Both of these elements came from the arms of Glasgow Polytechnic. He also thought it appropriate to include the Saltire Ermine and the Crossed Keys (which unlock the Book of Knowledge) from the arms of the Queen's College, Glasgow. There is a small visual joke in the pages of the book in that the illuminated capital letters of the paragraphs are "G.C and U". It was felt that these elements best represented Scotland or Caledonia, Glasgow and the getting of knowledge. It was a relatively simple matter to combine the elements in a new Ensign Armorial. The Lord Lion pronounced it "handsome" and it was duly matriculated by him."

In the letters patent or official scroll of the institution the Ensign armorial is described as follows:

"Per chevron azure and Argent, Saltire ermine cantoned between in chief two keys in saltire wards uppermost and outwards or and in base issuant from a mound vert an Oak tree proper and on the top of the tree a red breast also proper, on a chief or a book expanded proper binding and fore edges gules, between two lions combatant sable armed and langued gules"

Translated: In a blue and silver shield is an ermine saltire with two gold keys pointing upwards and outwards in the upper lozenge. In the lower section is an oak tree growing from a mound, topped with a robin. Atop the shield is a gold band with an open book bound and edged in red between two fighting lions with red talons and tongues."