Nicola Sturgeon condemns theft of ‘iconic’ sculptures from her constituency
Two of the three bronze sculptures from The Gorbals Boys – which Nicola Sturgeon said “represent a real connection to Glasgow’s history and culture” – were stolen sometime before Monday morning.
The sculpture, which featured three young lads trying on their mothers’ shoes, was created by local resident Liz Peden and unveiled by the First Minister in 2008.
Based on an image (shown below) captured by the famed Scots photographer Oscar Marzaroli in the 1960s, the three bronze figures each wore shoes of chrome.
A police probe has been launched after two of the figures disappeared from their place in the Gorbals’ Queen Elizabeth Gardens, outside the St Francis Community Centre.
“One of them looks like it’s been fairly cleanly cut off at the ankles, the other looks like one of the ankles has presented a problem because it’s got a steel rod through it,” Anthony ÓDoibhailein, a Gorbals resident, told The National.
“It looks like they’ve had to manipulate it off so it must have been a wee bit harder work than they anticipated. At that point I imagine they made too much noise and somebody must have seen something, somebody must have heard something, because they never took the third one.”
A cordon was erected around the missing two statues after the theft was first reported by The National on Monday morning.
ÓDoibhailein said that many Gorbals residents had been noticing the theft when he went past on Monday morning.
“[The sculptures] have got a resonance with most people in the area,” he said.
“It’s a wee bit of a connection back to the more recent history, the tenement lifestyle, the innocence of youth. I think people are quite fond of them. They’ve become a wee bit of a marker for people.
“The fact that they’ve not been abused by anyone – until they were stolen just now – I think people see them as being part of the area.”
The First Minister also said the loss of the sculptures would impact on the community in the Gorbals, which is in her Glasgow Southside constituency.
She told The National: “It is deeply disappointing to see two of the three iconic Gorbals Boys bronze sculptures so horribly vandalised.
“I was lucky enough to unveil the statues a number of years ago, and I know how proud our community is of Liz Peden’s creation – which also represents a real connection to Glasgow’s history and culture.
“Whilst Police Scotland investigate the matter, I know that everyone in the community will support the return, as soon as possible, of the Gorbals Boys sculptures to where they belong.”
A spokesperson for the New Gorbals Housing Association said they were “extremely disappointed” to learn of the theft, and confirmed that staff reported it to the police.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 11.25am on Monday, 6 February, 2023, officers received a report of the theft of a sculpture from Cumberland Street, Glasgow. Enquiries are ongoing.”
Three young local lads – Lee Barton, Joe Ridge, and Nicky Giblin – were used by Peden as models for the sculptures.
Marzaroli’s original subjects had been unknown before fresh attention was cast on the image by the artwork.
Ian Docherty then came forward as one of the three kids from the picture, telling The Herald he did not realise he had been photographed by Marzaroli until he was in his thirties and his mother bought a postcard of the print from Kelvingrove Museum.
He told The Herald in 2008: “We used to live in Kidson Street next to the shop that is in the photograph. I remember it well. We just made use of what we had then. Those were the best days.”
Presciently, he added: “I am over the moon with what has happened here. I feel like putting an alarm on the statue to protect it or setting up a watchtower.”