Minutes of an Ordinary Meeting of the Old Glasgow Club

Held at Adelaides, 209 Bath Street

On Thursday 10th September 2015 at 7.30pm





Mr Stuart Little (President)


Mr Little welcomed members and visitors to his first ordinary meeting as President and the first meeting of the new session.

Fired drill procedures and housekeeping rules were explained and all mobile phones were requested to be silent or off. Mr Little unveiled an impressive new plaque with a state of the art Old Glasgow Club logo.

Mr Little told us that the Club had received terribly sad news over the Summer. George Kerr, a long standing and much valued member of the OGC  and who had also given talks to the Club had died on August 6th. The Club were well represented at Dunnottar Crematorium.


There were apologies from John McKnight, Jane Collie, Ian Frame, Alison Sannachan, Petrina Cairns, Jim O'Kane and Grace McKay.


The Minutes of an Ordinary Meeting held on March 12th were proposed by Joyce McNae and seconded by Anna Forrest. There were no amendments or matters arising.

The Minutes of an Ordinary Meeting held on April 9th were proposed by Anne White and seconded by Ian Henderson. There were no amendments or matters arising.

President's Report

There was no report as this is Mr Little's first meeting as President.

Secretary's Report

Mrs McNae welcomed everyone to the meeting on this beautiful sunny night and hoped that the good weather would continue.

Mrs Mcnae reminded members, who hadn't already done so, to pick up their Membership Cards tonight. The cards have a list of this years speakers along with contact names and numbers, should you wish to get in touch with the Directors.

Mrs McNae also asked if members could take some syllabus leaflets and distribute them to work colleagues, friends and at your local library or club.


Mrs McNae then proceeded to tell us what was happening in Glasgow over the coming weeks.

BBC Proms in the Park - taking place at Glasgow Green on Saturday 12th September @ 7.15pm.

Doors Open Day, Glasgow's Best Heritage Festival - from the 14th to 20th September. There is a full programme of walks and talks with more than 100 buildings open for anyone to visit.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery - a new exhibition called "A Century of Style" opens on 25th September and runs until 14th February 2016. Tickets to this exhibition cost 5/3 and under 16s are free.

Information on Glasgow Museums can be found on glasgowlife.org.uk

People Make Glasgow  - have loads of information on events happening in and around Glasgow peoplemakeglasgow.com

What's On In Glasgow - another great website that has the latest news on attractions, local activities, theatre events and live music performances whatsonglasgow.co.uk


Stuart Little introduces Bob Marshall who is giving tonight's talk, "Govanhill - A Peoples's History". Bob is a Director of Govanhill Community Trust and was the gentleman who led us on our "Langside Heritage Walk" in the Summer. We know that we are in for an interesting and varied talk.

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight I am going to talk about Govanhill and Crosshill, a district that I know quite well. It's also a district that gets quite a lot of press, not all of it good.

"Govanhill (the hill above "little Govan") started as a few cottages and a coal mine near Bankhall St (Cathcart Road and Calder St). This settlement in the 1700s was called 'Fireworks'. William Dixon, an incomer from Northumberland, owned the mine and bought up most of the surrounding land, and in 1839 his son, William Dixon Jnr. built the famous Govan Ironworks nearby - known as Dixon's Blazes because of the flames from the furnaces lighting up the sky day and night. By the 1870s the Dixons began to lay out the area and sell it off for tenement housing - much of it of good quality, with inside toilets and insisting on wide streets".

William Dixon 3rd was the main developer of Govanhill / Crosshill, setting out the streets in a grid pattern. The housing was a step up from the Gorbals. They became solid working class and middle class neighbourhoods growing from a few hundred to over 10,000 by 1901. The closer you got to Queens Park, the more middle class the housing became.

"Dixon's Blazes and nearby Dubs (Queens Park Railway Works) at Polmadie became major local employers with over 1000 men each, including Lithuanian and Irish. The initial migrants to the area were the skilled English workers employed by the Dixons (row of cottages called "Lower English" built specifically for them). "But the majority of Govanhill incomers were Highland and Lowland Scots who went on to establish churches and open shops to service the community".

The Dixon family sponsored Dixon Halls, one of the most interesting buildings in the area as it had two separate entrances. Govanhill round the back and Crosshill at the front.

There were many other interesting buildings, Women's Samaritans Hospital (now offices), the famous Govanhill Baths, Carnegie Library. And one that we don't have any more is Queens Park United Free Church on Langside Avenue. Designed by Alexander Greek Thomson, completed in 1869 and bombed by a German warplane in March 1943.

What I really want to talk about tonight is a peoples history of Govanhill, which became the reception place for migrants when Gorbals was demolished. The Canadian author, Doug Saunders wrote very well about migrants in his book "Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History is Reshaping Our World".

"Many people have been involved in creating the Govanhill Peoples History".  We have 300 to 400 hours of people talking and being interviewed about when they were children, going to the Steamie, the Cinema, School. This is available as the "Govanhill Listening Trail" which also has a guide and a map. There is a history timeline and lots of images, all on our website, govanhillpeopleshistory.com

After the English was the Scots, Highlanders etc. The Scots were the supervisors, then the Lithuanians and then the Irish, who got the rubbish jobs.

"Although the first big Irish migration to Glasgow was in the 1840s, in Govanhill it grew from a few hundred in the 1870s to 4000 by 1911 and peaked at 6000 and has left many marks such as the magnificent Holy Cross Church, 5 or 6 Irish pubs and a lively cultural scene".

"Four times a week you can still get the bus from Calder Street direct to Gweedore and all the other villages in West Donegal". I was in a shop in Donegal and the man knew more about Govanhill than I did. Do be careful if you go on that bus, there can often be a coffin going back.

"Italians began migrating in late 1800s due to lack of work and landlord exploitation. At first they set up barrows selling a 'poco poco' (small amount) of sweets, then ice cream and moved on to set up cafes and chips shops (thus a 'poke' o' chips). Glaswegians had a name for everybody and so the raspberry sauce on your ice cream became "Tally sauce".

If you go back to Barga, Tuscany in August there is an annual Scottish fish and chip festival. Many of the families came from here and go back every Summer.

From the 1880s onwards many Jews fled persecution from the Russian Empire and came to Glasgow. Not always intentionally. There were boats that came from Riga to Leith. The people crossed over to Glasgow, thinking they were ticketed to New York. Indeed, some of them thought it was New York.

"Charles Frank was one of these Jews. He married Miriam Liptez, and first settled in the Gorbals but moved to Dixon Avenue. Their daughter, Hannah Frank was brought up there, declaring at an early age that she wanted to be an artist.

She created distinctive black and white drawings, such as "Flight" reflecting her awareness of the fate of Jewish peoople (all 8000 of the Jews in Vilkomer, her father's home town were massacred in 1941). She later produced sculptures and wrote poetry and said she wanted her art to "leave footprints on the sands of time". She died in 2008 aged 100".

"Jews from Eastern Europe settled in Glasgow as hawkers, tailors and shopkeepers, moving from Gorbals to Govanhill/ Crosshill and then farther south, reaching a population of 10000 or so. They have also moved up the social scale leaving more footprints in the law, academia, business and the arts".

"In 1914, after the invasion by Germany, about 8000 Belgian refugees arrived in Glasgow. Many of them were taken and housed by Govanhill families. Horse meat was a favourite dish and soon 'horse butchers' to cater for this were set up". This would remind them of home. "Towards the end of WW1 the Belgians gifted a memorial tree in nearby Queens Park thanking the people of Glasgow".

"in the 1950s Glasgow Corporation was short of transport staff. They advertised in India and Pakistan and by 1960s Glasgow had about 500 drivers and conductors from Asia. Many operated out of Larkfield Depot in Govanhill and settled locally with many of their compatriots who had also arrived in the city. One of them, Bashir Ahmad, from Punjab, a bus conductor, was eventually elected to the Holyrood Parliament as Scotland's first Asian MSP".

Around 30% of Govanhills population is Asian at present.

A pattern that has emerged with a lot of migrants is that for the first two generations they run family businesses together. Then, by the third generation most migrants have become fully integrated with the wider community, moving onto different careers and jobs while still retaining strong family and cultural ties.

Struggle has always been a major issue, in fact up until 1970 Glasgow City Council wanted to demolish most of the area.

When I first started working in planning in 1973, I was shown a secret map of all the areas GCC planned to demolish. There were red lines drawn around the areas that they planned to do this to. It was kept a secret because the people that lived in these areas weren't to know.

"Govanhill has a strong history of people fighting for better housing, community and working conditions. Govanhill Housing Association which was established in 1974, was one of the first locally run housing bodies in Glasgow set up to improve tenement flats in the face of Glasgow's wholesale demolition. So much of Govanhill still has an intact Victorian urban landscape. But, poor housing and environmental conditions are still major issues in parts of Govanhill, and still need to be addressed. One of the big and ongoing struggles by the community has been to fully restore the Govanhill Baths, closed by Glasgow City Council against local wishes in 2001".

Indeed, there were riots in the street when people got wind of this news and Glasgow City Council didn't get away with it. Eventually, it was agreed that the Community could take it over for 1.

The most recent major group of migrants is Roma, a very distinct population and not to be confused with Romanians.

"Since 2004 Govanhill has been the main point of arrival for Roma, often from specific villages such as Pavloce in

Eastern Slovakia". The main attraction is work. During the Communist era, almost all Romas had a job but post Communism it became increasingly difficult for them to obtain work. One of the reasons being that they were poorly educated.

"All migrant groups bring over their families and then tell their friends to come and begin to form a little home from home, before spreading out across the city. Standing about chatting at the street corner on a cold Glasgow day may not be ideal - but it is what people do at home, and as yet there is no Roma Community Centre".

Many Roma don't speak English and have little or no education or skills. Roma children did not always go to schools in the countries where they have previously lived so this has been a bit of a struggle to get them to go here. Things are starting to change now and the children are attending primary school and going on to secondary school and we're starting to see integration. Full praise has to go to the schools themselves, they are doing a great job.

"Roma (meaning 'men' or 'people'), like the other migrants to Govanhill in the past have come for a better life, to work, get a better education and often to escape discrimination. There are now about 4000 Roma and are the biggest single minority ethnic group in Europe, with a 1000 year old language (Romani)".

I think Govanhill is a fascinating area, lots of students, young people moving in, artists, hipsters, quite a mixture. There's new cafes opening, Urban Guerrilla gardening in the back courts. And, another really exciting thing is the "Big Noise", the project where every single child will learn to play a musical instrument.

I would like to conclude with this picture of everybody and talk about the future. I would urge you to walk around, amongst a great mixture of people. It's a fun and vibrant area that's not without it's difficulties.

In terms of where we are going in Govanhill it is important to look back what has happened to the groups that have moved on.

As the Scottish psychiatrist, Robert David Laing said, "we live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing".

Q  Yes, Robert, could you tell us how many nationalities are living in Govanhill ?

A  That's a difficult one. I know that in Anette Street Primary School there are 60 different languages spoken and roughly     about 45 in St Pauls.

Q  Not so long ago you heard about a lot of troubles in Govanhill, fights ?

A  Certainly in terms of fights it has calmed down. There were some territory issues with Govanhill Park with an ethnic     element to it but I think that is gone. The schools have made a big difference. There was a huge meeting in Holyrood     School on Monday night regarding housing and overcrowding issues. Landlords will be bought out and Housing     Association will take over with the intention of making bigger and cleaner houses. There's a great deal of hope now     and it feels a lot better than 2 or 3 years ago.

Q You didn't mention anything about the swimming baths ?

A  I talked about it closing. If you look at our website you will hear a lot of people talking about it, their memories, Turkish     Baths, ladies pool etc. The National Theatre of Scotland filled up one of the smaller pools for their production of    "Lifeguard" in 2012. We all had to watch it while wearing swimsuits.

Q  Do you think Govanhill is stuck in this cycle of immigration ?

A  It's like London, some areas are exclusively stuck with unsuitable housing etc or it can become gentrified with people     buying houses. Definitely people are buying housing because the housing is relatively less expensive than other areas     of Glasgow. This in turn attracts different businesses like cafes, shops etc. The reason that people come to Govanhill     is that a huge amount of them are let and it's not unusual to see a queue of people wanting to rent. The landlords are     pretty unscrupulous. It's understandable that migrant groups like to stick together for the first generation or so, having     a shared language and traditions.

Vote of Thanks

Bob Crawford said that it was a great pleasure for him to propose the vote of thanks on behalf of the Club. A welcome to Govanhill and a very warm welcome was given by Bob Marshall to Govanhill. It brought back a lot of memories as I remember walking along Butterbiggins Road to go visiting. It's almost like the United Nations now with so many nationalities in the one area. Bob is a man that knows Glasgow very well and has done a lot of research and work. On behalf of the Club I'd like to thank him for sharing that knowledge with us tonight.


Stuart Little reminds us of the change of date for October's Ordinary Meeting to the 15th October. "The talk is about the mint, I thought at first it was Glickman's mint but was told it is about the Glasgow Mint".

Brian Henderson, past President of the Club tells us that he is leading his walking tour "trip back in time"  around Old Kinning Park and Plantation again this year for Glasgow's Doors Open Day. It's on Saturday 19th September at 11am, lasting approx 1 1/2 hours. Meeting outside Kinning Park Subway Station and must be pre-booked. Details can be found on glasgowdoorsopenday.com

Next Directors Meeting - Thursday  1st October 2015

Next Ordinary Meeting  - Thursday 15th October 2015

Stuart Little said that it had been a pleasure to welcome everyone along tonight and to please tell our friends about the Club. He wished everyone a safe home.

                                                                                                                                            Shona Crozer

                                                                                                                                            Recording Secretary