In what city can you find a famous statue with a traffic cone on its head?
In the city of Glasgow, that question has long posed a dilemma. For decades now, a traffic cone has been placed on Carlo Marochetti’s equestrian statue of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, which stands on Royal Exchange Square in the city centre.
The prank has become a part of local culture and is credited with symbolising the city’s sense of humour which refuses to take famous historical figures too seriously. However, the practice has been criticized by the council and police who consider it to be an act of vandalism.
It started to appear mysteriously in the 1980s and while it’s not known when the first student or drunken reveller began ad-libbing a cone on the Duke’s head, a number of people have claimed it to be a longstanding tradition.
For a time, the city council tried to discourage the prank by introducing a plan to increase the height of the Duke’s plinth in an attempt to stop pranksters from climbing the statue. However, this was soon abandoned after an outcry from the public.
The cone is now an unofficial trademark and t-shirts, mugs and other merchandise showing the image can do a roaring trade online. Last year the Duke’s traffic cone was given a Ukrainian makeover to show solidarity with those in war-torn Ukraine. And earlier this year the statue’s cone was replaced by a specially-made yellow and blue one.