Glasgow & West Scotland

Commonwealth casualties added to Squinty Bridge memorial

Brian Carey on the Clyde Arc
Image caption Artist Brian Carey adds Commonwealth casualties to his installation

For the past 18 months there have been a series of multi-coloured crosses attached to the railings of Glasgow's Clyde Arc - known locally as the Squinty Bridge.

Each one commemorates a member of British services killed in Afghanistan since 2001.

They're the work of East Ayrshire artist Brian Carey and he's just renewed the crosses.

To mark the start of the Commonwealth Games in the city, he's adding crosses to honour all the fatalities from forces of the Commonwealth.

"Hopefully some of the visitors from the Commonwealth countries will take the time to come over and look at the work, and think of the ones from their country that have died in the conflict", he told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme.

Image caption The crosses are attached to railings on the bridge

I first saw the installation when it first went up, some 18 months ago.

I was struck by the relentlessness of it all, as you walked past cross after cross after cross - reading the names, and a brief description of how each person died.

"IED (improvised explosive device) blast" ... "IED blast" ... "IED blast" ... "shot" ... "vehicle accident" ... "IED blast".

"I used to just put crosses out, with the individual's name on", Brian Carey explained, "But people didn't really connect what it was, so I started adding the area where the person had been killed and how the individual had died.

"I think it brings it home. It makes a more powerful artwork."

Image caption The crosses are colour coded

He's faced opposition from both sides of the debate about the conflict.

Some accuse him of glorifying soldiers, and ask why he isn't listing civilians who've been killed.

But some on the other side suspect him of having an anti-war agenda.

But Brian Carey relishes the reaction his work provokes.

"Quite often forces' family want me to email individual photographs of their son's cross," he says.

"I get every type of reaction from the general public. Cursing, swearing, I've had people spitting at me while I've been putting the work out.

"Current service, Royal Marines, teenagers, you name it, with lumps in their throat ready to break down in front of the work."

Image caption The crosses have been on display for about 18 months

The Glasgow installation isn't the only one.

Brian Carey has put his crosses in parks in Glasgow, on Howford bridge near his home, and around Fort William.

He'd like to take them to the other parts of the UK, and even to New York. But no-one will give him permission.

"It's the work no-one is willing to put their name to authorising", he says.

So instead, he operates on the edge of the law. Without permission, but hoping people will understand, and tolerate, what he's doing.

Though some crosses he'd left near Ben Nevis were taken down, after a member of the public complained they were very upsetting.

Brian's response to that? "They're supposed to be."

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