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Thread: The Glasgow Culture

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    The Glasgow Culture

    I happen to live in Glasgow, having moved up here three years ago and thought I'd write something about the culture up here.

    Glasgow is the biggest city in Scotland, with 1,171,390 people living in the Greater Glasgow Urban Area according to the 2001 census. (Wikipedia) At its peak, Glasgow was the Second City of the Empire and a major port:

    In its subsequent industrial era, Glasgow produced textiles, engineered goods and steel, which were exported. The opening of the Monkland Canal in 1791, facilitated access to the Iron-ore and Coal mines in Lanarkshire. After extensive engineering projects to dredge and deepen the Clyde, Shipbuilding became a major industry on the upper stretches of the river, building many famous ships including the Cunard liners RMS Lusitania, RMS Aquitania, RMS Queen Mary, RMS Queen Elizabeth, RMS Queen Elizabeth 2, and the Royal Yacht Britannia. Glasgow's population had surpassed that of Edinburgh by 1821. By the end of the 19th century the city was known as the "Second City of the Empire" and was producing most of the ships and locomotives in the world. During this period, the construction of many of the city's greatest architectural masterpieces and most ambitious civic projects were being funded by its wealth.
    Due to the upheaval in Ireland - the Potato Famine & later the Civil War, economic decline - Glasgow experienced huge waves of immigrants, from the south of Ireland but particularly from Ulster. This transformed the city, and the immigrant Catholic population caused resentment amongst the native, mainly Protestant, Scottish people. Naturally demand for housing increased dramatically and thus rent went up and the quality of the housing deteriorated - flats were divided up into warrens. In addition wages were driven down as the immigrant population sought work and thus the seeds of sectarianism were sown.

    The Labour issue and the fact that many residential areas of Glasgow became slums, was perhaps the catalyst for Red Clydeside:

    Red Clydeside is a term used to describe the era of political radicalism that characterised the city of Glasgow in Scotland, and urban areas around the city on the banks of the River Clyde such as Clydebank, Greenock and Paisley. The history of Red Clydeside is a significant part of the history of the labour movement in the United Kingdom as a whole, and in Scotland in particular.

    ...Of all the problems in early 20th-century Glasgow, housing was perhaps the most prominent. The housing problem had many guises: the condition of buildings was often poor, overcrowding was rampant, and sanitation was non-existent. And to make matters worse, the housing was frequently situated near rank-smelling, dirty and noisy industries. In this context, the drastic rent increases of 1915 proved massively unpopular.

    ...The activities of the left continued after the end of the war. The campaign for a 40-hour week and improved conditions for the workers took hold of organised labour. On January 31, 1919, a massive rally organised by the trade unions took place on George Square in the centre of Glasgow. It has been estimated that as many as 90,000 were present, and the Red Flag was raised in the centre of the crowd. Massive brawls between the police and demonstrators took place, with a police tram being overturned after the Riot Act was read.

    Tanks and soldiers from England

    The Liberal government panicked, fearing a possible threat to order or even a Bolshevik-style insurrection. It was only 14 months since the Russian Revolution, and the German Revolution was in progress in January 1919. Troops based in the city's Maryhill barracks were locked inside their post, with English troops and tanks sent into the city to control unrest and extinguish any revolution that should break out. No Scottish troops were deployed, with the government fearing that fellow Scots, soldiers or otherwise, would go over to the workers' side if a revolutionary situation developed in Glasgow. English troops were transported from England and stationed in Glasgow specifically to combat this possible scenario.

    Razor Gangs

    With the depression, sectarianism and slum environment came a gangs culture, documented in the book No Mean City:

    Glasgow, and Glaswegians, have always had a terrible reputation for being violent. Say to anyone in the world, "I'm from Glasgow", and a look of apprehension appeared on their face as if they expected an immediate "dust up". I suppose books like No Mean City and massive headlines about Bible John and Peter Manuel played a part in the perception of the City. Not to mention the infamous Razor Gangs who terrorised the citizens, although, by and large, the gangs tended to aim their weapons at the members of other gangs. Still, in their philosophical nature, Glaswegians could make jokes about them. As they stroked their victims face with their razor they could be heard to say, "Can yer Maw sew? Get her tae stitch that!", or "I hope you know how to get to the Royal Infirmary."
    I can confirm this culture is still alive and well, a trip to a pub in parts of the south side of the city confirms this, as many of the patrons have facial scars inflicted no doubt by the knife.

    The Old Firm

    Glasgow's sectarian divide has been maintained by its two biggest football clubs, known collectively as The Old Firm. Celtic were founded by a Catholic monk, established as a charity to raise funds for the impoverished Irish community. The Republican dissident James Connelly laid the 'first sods of shamrock' at Celtic Park and they soon began to dominate Scottish football.

    Thus when Rangers began to challenge their success they were supported by masses of Scottish Protestants, who often travelled from Ayrshire and Lanarkshire to support them, despite having their own local football clubs. Northern Irishmen have also adopted the two and both clubs have a massive following in Ulster with thousands travelling to watch them.

    Here's a video clip of Rangers (my adopted Scottish club) supporters at Celtic Park:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yP_bwunNDj0

    Due to political correctness, some songs sung by both the Old Firm have been outlawed - any song containing the word Fenian and songs that glorify terrorism. In the 1970s the government was actually worried that 'the troubles' would spread across the water.

    The West of Scotland has strong links with Northern Ireland today and the annual Orange Parade attracts literally thousands. Republican marches are also held - particularly one in rememberance of Bobby Sands, who even I will concede was a very brave and dedicated man, starving himself to death in protest of the treatment of Catholics at the age of 27. He was also elected an MP.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nq__uclTS8s - Orange Parade, Glasgow. This is seriously worth a look. I believe the Telegraph referred to it as the last non-commercial folk festival in Europe.

    Glasgow again faced decline in the 1970s and especially the 1980s and today has huge 'schemes' in which one wouldn't be wise to wander. However it has a unique and interesting culture.

    Here are some websites that are worth seeing, please note however, they may contain profane language:

    www.glasgowsurvival.co.uk - about Glasgow's Ned (underclass) culture
    www.bloodbus.com - a Glasgow bus driver's blog

    and here's a humorous video parodying the life of a Glasgow Ned:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scNLfr1EP08

    Here are a few that show footage of Ned culture:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67d95...elated&search= - includes an English car being vandalised

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phuwX...elated&search= - pictures of Glasgow Neds

    I must add that Glasgow is a thriving, prosperous city, but one is never far away from the underclass...

  2. #2
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    Here's a video of the nicer side of Glasgow, to balance things out. It is accompanied by the tune Highland Cathedral on the bagpipes, which is one of my favourites:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QG7xk...elated&search=

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    Good ol Glasgow, my great-grandfather migrated from there in the 20s after working in the docks and was a raging alcoholic from what I've heard.

    It's one of the places I'd love to visit one day, I'm envious.

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    Here's an interesting story about Glasgow as it is seen from an Irishman from Northern Ireland:

    I recently visited Glasgow, a place where there is a sectarian divide,a place not too dissimilar to Belfast. The reason for my visit being, a friend of my wife was having health problems and like most women, my wife thinks that she can resolve the problems of the world, so, to Glasgow we had to go.

    As we were travelling over to Scotland on the ferry, my wife informed me that her friend Bridie's husband John is a Protestant and a Rangers supporter, though why she felt it would make any difference to me, I don't know, because as I have said before, I was born a Protestant, a republican one, but a Protestant never the less.

    On arrival in Scotland, the first thing that happened was, I was stopped by Special Branch and asked for identification and after being detained for threequarters of an hour( the shortest time I have ever been detained by any police force), supposedly, while they authenticated my identification,( they were actually searching my car) I was allowed to carry on my journey to Glasgow.

    Bridie, my wife's friend, stays in Dennistoun in the East End of Glasgow, which incidentally, is where Parkhead, the home of Celtic Football Club is situated and as I discovered later, a public house called the Loudon Bar.

    So, after what felt like a lifetime of driving around in circles (we got lost about five times), we finally arrived at Bridie's and were met and greeted by Bridie and her husband, John, at the mouth of the close (the opening to a three storied tenement building) where they stay.

    Bridie looked an awful lot different from when I knew her as an eighteen year old in West Belfast back in the seventies, at the outset of the Troubles. Then she was, Bridie Gallagher, a raven haired, rosy cheeked, Irish beauty, who always had an opinion about everything and who according to her, was never wrong. Now, she looked like a frail old woman who was obviously seriously unwell, and who, as I listened to her talking, had developed a half Irish, half Glasgow accent, but I suppose if you live somewhere for thirty years you do pick up some of the colloquialisms.

    John, actually looked more Irish than I do, with his bright red hair and face to match, I thought he looked like the epitomy of what an American film producer would think any Irishman should look like, but John wasn't Irish, he was Scottish and as I was to discover later, very proud of that fact.

    After the usual introductions, John said to me "Awright big yin, rey tell me yer wan ae us", so not knowing to what he was referring, I smiled politely and nodded. To which, he then replied, "Efter ye get a tightener, we'll leave the wimmin tae talk awe that wimmin's shite an' a'll take ye tae a right good boozer, ye'll like it there, nae Taigs allowed".
    Continues...

    http://www.phoblacht.net/johnpatneil.html

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    My maternal grandparents were from Glasgow. Most of their ancestors were from Ireland, however. They came to the United States after being raised and living there for some time. I plan on going to Glasgow soon.

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