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Issue 17 - Glasgow's warm beating heart

Scotland Magazine Issue 17
November 2004

 

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Glasgow's warm beating heart

Dominic Roskrow champions Scotland's second city

Many months ago, in one of my first editorials for this magazine, I compared the relevant merits of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and concluded that while I loved them both, Edinburgh would get the edge if I was forced to choose one over the other.

But in recent months I have spent a great deal of time in Glasgow, and slowly and surely its charms have seduced me – to the point that it’s taken my personal number one spot. The two cities are very different, of course. But in terms of personality, Glasgow is the affable and bloke at the end of the bar, a touch gruff at first, but a constant source of entertainment and the perfect company for the evening.

Glasgow is gritty, energetic, lived in, very Scottish. It has a beating heart like no other city in Britain.

If Edinburgh’s history stretches back through kings and castles, Glasgow’s is about industry and endeavour. It has the better football teams, the better bars and the better modern music.

Recently my other magazine, Whisky Magazine, staged a major two day event in George Square, right in the heart of the city. We were welcomed with open arms by the city. Its leaders held a civic reception for us and we sensed that the city felt a genuine pride in the fact that it had been chosen for the world’s greatest celebration of whisky.

Glasgow is an industrial city typical of northern Britain but with two distinctions – its transportation systems represented by the docks and the large rail network; and the celebrated architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

And it can point to a history just as important as that of Edinburgh, if not more so. The Clyde, its banks in the main silent now, were the source of some of the greatest ships ever built and the starting point for journeys that took Scots to all corners of the world.

Scotland’s impact on the industrial world is massively out of proportion to its size, and while political events in Edinburgh and indirectly from the south might have forced Scots to seek a life away from their homeland, Glasgow’s proud workforce provided the means for many to do so.

It isn’t sexy to travel down the brown waters of the Clyde on The Pride of the Clyde ferry, but if industrial history is important to you, then there is a romance, albeit a poignant and somewhat bittersweet one.

And at Braehead, the massive shopping complex where the ferry ends up, there is a superb museum called Clydebuilt, which I have written about on page 44. If people matter to you, and the lives of our labour force mean more than just statistics in someone’s production calculations, then it’s a moving experience.

On the message board when we went there was a letter from a six-year-old, who had picked her favourite part of the museum. It was a model of one particular ship, “because my granddaddy helped build it.”

The great days of Scottish industrialism have gone for ever, of course. But they are as much part of Scottish history as the palaces and country houses that tourists flock to each year. Indeed, it’s thanks to the endeavours of those in Glasgow that many of those properties existed in the first place and have been maintained to the present day. That should never be forgotten.