Monday, January 30, 2006


A soviet of workers' deputies! That's what Marxist John McLean tried to get Glasgow's Trades Council to turn itself into, back at the time of the Russian Revolution.

Glasgow is like St Petersburg. I like St Petersburg and I like Glasgow, in spite of St Petersburg's reputation for crime and Glasgow's reputation for most things.

Glasgow was the second most important city in the Empire. And it is as grand as Russia's former capital.

And it has the famous football team: Queens Park!

Daniel Defoe called Glasgow, "one of the cleanest, most beautiful and best-built cities in Great Britain." How true!

It's wrong to say that Glaswegians are tough and narrow and mean. When there's an Orange Parade or its Catholic equivalent, you may see a few hard sectarian faces, but most Glasgow buddies are warm and friendly. Some look gorgeous in an Italian sort of way. Many are secretly very romantic. Only a few Glaswegians carry Uzi sub machine guns.

Glasgow has had a little bit of violence in the past, but mainly in the rougher quarters to the east, and the general public would not normally be involved.

The News of the World (4/3/01) gave a list of some characters:

"Arthur Thompson Senior: known as The Godfather, dominated Scottish crime scene for 30 years until death in 1993 aged 62. Survived numerous assassination attempts. Had links with Kray and Richardson gangs.

"Arthur Thompson Junior: Known as Arty and Fatboy, murdered in 1991 aged 31 while on leave from jail for drug dealing. Ferris later cleared of killing.

"Thomas McGraw, aged 48, The Licensee flits between plush Glasgow villa and Tenerife. Had interests in taxis and ice cream vans, but now interested in construction industry. Cleared in major drugs trial in 1998.

"Tam Bagan: aged 45, serving 12 years for bungled security van hijack. Survived death threats after alleging seven Strathclyde detectives were on payroll of the Licensee...

"Paul Ferris: aged 37, served seven years in Durham's Frankland Prison for gun-running.... etc. (One of Arthur Thompson's daughters died of a heroin overdose; Arthur Thompson's son Billy Thompson was left brain damaged after being kicked and stamped on the head)

Glasgow has more saints than sinners.

Take Tom Allan. In 1962 Tom Allan opened what later became known as the Tom Allan Centre at 23 Elmbank Street, as a centre for helping alcoholics, drug addicts and outcasts.

The regeneration of Glasgow began in the 1980's with the GLASGOW'S MILES BETTER campaign.

In 1990 Glasgow was chosen as the 1990 EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE. Glasgow is not all tower blocks and motorways!

Glasgow, of course, has top class restaurants, shops and nightlife; much of it around the centre : Buchanan St, Argyle St, Jamaica St...... BUT it is also a city of art and architecture and parks. And street markets and charity shops.

Places to shop include: THE BARRAS: 1/4 mile East of Glasgow Cross you will find this world famous market. Saturday and Sunday 9am to 5pm. Wednesday to Friday 10am to 4pm. Cafes, buskers and everything you need to equip an expedition to the Amazon. The Barrowland Ballr oom has associations with the serial killer Bible John. (You can read about Bible John and Glasgow crime life in Ian Rankin's thriller "Black and Blue") Since the early 1990's many Glasgow sex workers have been murdered. This makes Glasgow unique in Britain. Edinburgh has saunas, Glasgow has street walkers. Research suggests 92% of Glasgow prostitutes inject drugs and 85% have hepatitis C (which can lead to death from cancer or cirrhosis of the liver). One third are said to be homeless.

GALLERY OF MODERN ART CAFE: Queen St. If you like the vibrant, Van-Gogh-like works of Adrian Wiszniewsky, you'll love this place.You also get a great view of Glasgow.

THE PEOPLE'S PALACE on GLASGOW GREEN: (museum closed Tuesday) This cosy little museum, on Glasgow Green, records the history of the city, including its shipbuilding past, its links with America including the import of tobacco and sugar, and its music hall past. You can see Billy Connoly's big banana boots! But use your camera on the former carpet factory on the green; it's a copy of the Doge's Palace in Venice.

GLASGOW GREEN used to be common pasture. This was where anyone could park their coos. Glasgow Green was also where huge crowds would gather to witness public hangings, carried out here between 1814 and 1865. In 1965 a huge crowd gathered here to await news of the execution, at Barlinnie Prison, of mass murderer Peter Manuel. Glasgow Green has also, in the past, been the site of gang fights.

THE CATHEDRAL & NECROPOLIS: make sure to take your camera to the big graveyard the NECROPOLIS on the hill. It's world class in terms of Victorian views and it's modelled on the famous Pere Lachaise ceme tery in paris. The cathedral is medieval/gothic and survived the Reformation! lookout for the Blackadder Aisle. (Open April-Sept, Mon-Sat 9am to 6.30, Sun 2pm to 6.30)

THE HUNTERIAN ART GALLERY, 82 Hillhead St, (Mon-Sat 9.30am-5pm) has paintings by Chardin, Pisarro, Sisley and Whistler. I love Sisley.

The SCOTLAND STREET SCHOOL, 225 Scotland St., (open 10-5, Sunday2-5) designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, is worth a visit with your camera. This building makes me think of Egypt or maybe a child's castle. Inside is a museum of Scottish education: view a Victorian classroom etc. The classroom for 1891 contains a dunce's cap. Kids can borrow old toys to play with. And what I like best of all are the old films showing children's games.

GLASGOW SCHOOL OF ART, designed by Mackintosh : 167 Renfrew St, (Mon to Frid 9.30-5, Sat 10-12) Built in 1845 this was the first building in Europe to belong to the 'Modern Movement'. Note the towers and big glass bay windows. Mackintosh's work is in fact a wonderful mixture of the modern with the Celtic and medieval.

GLASGOW WILLOW TEAROOM: 217 sauchiehall St. A Mackintosh building. Serves light meals and tea. Delightful. Lovely funiture.

ALEXANDER 'GREEK' THOMSON'S architectural works can be seen at Great Western terrace, the St Vincent St Church and the Egyptian Halls in Union St. THE UNDERGROUND : this is a clean and modern way to travel. I can remember when it smelt of ozone and looked as if it was made of wood.

THE BOTANIC GARDENS, 730 Great Western Road, (Underground: Hillhead) with its tree ferns and glasshouses is the sort of places where spies meet. (The nuclear sub base at Faslane is not so far away).

THE GORBALS : Don't forget to see where the famous inner city slums used to be. Read "No Mean City" by A McArthur and H Kingsley Long to find out about the pre-war underworld. "Dancing was then, in 1921, and still is, the most popular sport in Glasgow's slumland.... Outside the Rose Street pub there were only two couples dancing, a young man and his girl and two other girls waltzing together...." 'No Mean City', which tells the story of a Gorbal's gang leader, unfairly seems to suggest that many of Glasgow's poor were violent drunks with no morals. In fact Glasgow's poorer areas used to be packed full of churches and in the past produced many Boys Brigade and Scout troops, saintly nurses, respected teachers, hard working ship workers...

FILMS about Glasgow include Peter Mullan's black comedy ORPHANS. In this film you observe the Glasgow friendliness turn to menace and then violence. But it is comedy.

TENEMENT HOUSE: 145 Buccleuch St (open 1 March to 31 Oct. 2pm-5pm) This is a typical late Victorian tenement, occupied by a relatively well-off family. Worth a visit to see the bed, furniture, curtains....Don't expect a working class residence.

The modern 'slums' are the huge housing estates like CASTLEMILK. Castlemilk is (or was) the biggest housing estate in Europe. I remember it as having no amenities ot her than a few shops with boarded up windows. EASTERHOUSE is like Castlemilk but worse? Male unemployment used to be 60%. BLACKHILL: is worse than Easterhouse.

THE CLYDE : Take your camera along the famous River Clyde. This is when it gets like St Petersburg. And when you reach the sea it's better than Barcelona. Shipbuilding was once Glasgow's biggest industry and even today you may find old Clyde-built ships in faraway parts of Asia and Africa. In 1914 Glasgow (and the Clyde) was the biggest producer of ships in the world. Many workers came from IRELAND and from the HIGHLANDS to get jobs in the shipyards.

THE WAVERLEY is the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world! Cruise along the gorgeous Clyde coast. Start at Anderston Quay. If the sun is shining, a cruise to the island of Bute or to Dunoon will be more romantic and heavenly than any cruise in the Caribbean. Accordion music, seagulls, steep purple mountains, bonny lassies...

FOOTBALL! Glasgow has many fine teams. But, a wee warning: "Match-related murders after Old Firm games appear to have become accepted in Scotland," according to former senior sports writer Tom Lappin.

1995- a 16 year old schoolboy had his throat cut in London Road, following a celtic match.

1997- a 19 year old Celtic fan was stabbed near Ibrox after an Old Firm match.

1998- Three men were stabbed by a 17 year old Rangers fan.

1999- a 16 year old Celtic fan died after being stabbed by 2 Rangers fans in bankhall St after an Old Firm match.

1999- a man was stabbed by his neighbour when he was seen to be wearing a Celtic top.

2001- a Celtic fan was stabbed in Forbes St after an Old Firm match.

Watch what colour you are wearing.


1 comment:

scott davidson said...

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.