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Journey back to childhood; SCOTLAND'S STORIES OF HOME.


I lived three stairs up in a tenement in the Gorbals. The children played in droves on the big white asphalt paving of Hospital Street; ball games, skipping ropes, peeries and spinning tops, etc.

With a spare bit of wood and an old skate boys would make bogeys. Old sheets and blankets created the stage for back court concerts. It was great fun.

There were no televisions or computers in those days. Life was out in the street and it was difficult to get kids to come in for bed.

The number of shops open on a Sunday in the Gorbals was remarkable – haberdashery stores, bakers; all open for trade, nestled in the sandstone of the tenements.

In the 1930s there were over 1000 shops and many pubs, cinemas and other places of entertainment.

And there was entertainment in the street. Men would set up musical instruments and sing and tap dance, the strong man would attempt to balance a wheel on his chin.

There was great excitement when the rag and bone man came. We got a balloon and cracker and these were magical toys to us.

There were many horses and carts in the street; the bread van with Archie the horse, who was fed sulphur and treacle and had a shiny coat. Men had to look after their horses in those days.

The streets were never dark, there was always a flame–coloured sky illuminated by the glow from Dixon Blazes ironworks which lit up the whole area.

"Hinging" out the window was a favourite pastime. Windows fronting the street gave interaction with the wider community and could lessen loneliness. We would "hing" out the window watching for Dad coming up the street from the pub. If he staggered we knew it would be Gaelic songs and the sword dance with two pokers.

Relatives lived in the same street or area. Neighbours and friends also helped in emergencies. It was like one big family.

The check key was in the doors or hung on a bit of string behind the letterbox but doors were never locked. Despite the poverty in economic terms, the Gorbals was rich in community spirit.

I visited the Gorbals in 1990. I stood staring at the Hospital Street sign. I surveyed the gap–sites around me and realised that was all that was left of the old, friendly neighbourhood. Most of the old familiar landmarks had gone.

Only the shell of Greek Thomson's Caledonia Road church and James B Salmon's 11 listed tenement building remained.

The bombs of war did little to demolish the spirit of the community at the heart of old Gorbals but modern man has achieved what war could not do. It has been razed to the ground, not only the sandstone tenements, but the heart has been torn out and thrown on the rubble which lies in the wake of progress.

Multi–storeys dominate large parts of the Gorbals. The shopping precinct set apart from the residents already falling into disrepair, with peeling paint and grilles at the shop windows declaring their isolation against the human forces. Roads going nowhere. Heaps of rubbish lying about in wasteland.

In 1990, the Gorbals looked surreal. Architecturally drawn into the Gorbals are the large expanses of green grass. The children's play area lies defenceless against the threat of surrounding motorways of hurtling cars and shuddering juggernauts.

Looking out from the top of the towers, a panorama vista of the distant beauty meets your eyes.

But drop your eyes to the ground below and you return to everyday living. Ironically that view acoss the river to the thriving town centre and the developing docklands makes worse the loneliness and isolation and the lack of community spirit.

In 1990 residents were continually decanting out of the Gorbals. In 1990, there were about 10,000 residents. In Old Gorbals there were 90,000 residents.

Old Gorbals gave me the basis of my personality and coping with life. In 1990 I learned there is going to be a bright future for the Gorbals. It will be reborn.

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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 27, 2014
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