Glasgow – No Mean City

St George's Square

Glasgow - No Mean City

No Mean City is a novel written by Alexander McArthur and H. Kingsley Long and is about the razor gangs of the Gorbals, a notorious working-class district on the south side of the River Clyde. It was set in the inter-war years and did nothing to change people’s perception of Glasgow’s tough reputation, one in which the stereotype is likely to be a heavy drinking sectarian football fanatic who might well have worked as a welder in a Govan shipyard and spent his Saturday nights trying to drink Sauchiehall Street dry.

Glasgow’s tough reputation stems from the days when it was the ‘Second City of the Empire’. The industrialization of Glasgow produced shipyards, factories and slums, and although there are plenty of examples of some fine Victorian classical architecture, I don’t think that even the staunchest Glaswegian would say that they live in a beautiful city – but beauty is only skin deep. Scratch below the surface and you’ll find that there’s a lot more to Glasgow than you might have realised.

How the Clyde used to look (

For a start, the River Clyde is much cleaner now. The shipyards have all but gone and heavy industry along the riverbank is giving way to a collection of modern buildings that suggest the city is looking forward to a much brighter future after a period of stagnation and desolation.

If you’re a night owl, the theatres, concert halls, pubs and restaurants are legendary, and the city is always buzzing on a night-time. Mind you, holding the bar up with a ‘Weegie’ singing “I belong to Glasgow” in a back street pub somewhere might have been the norm a while back, but these days you are just as likely to be rubbing shoulders with an office worker at a wine bar in the Merchant City having a pre-theatre meal.

For those who like a bit of retail therapy you are definitely in for a treat (so I’ve been told) because the city is widely regarded as offering some of the best shopping facilities outside of London, but if you prefer to keep your money in your pocket you might also like to know that there is a host of great free museums and art galleries to occupy your time instead.

The Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art in Royal Exchange Square

There is still more work to be done though, especially where the perennial problem of housing is concerned. Slums that blighted places like The Gorbals have largely gone now, but they were replaced, particularly during the 1960s and 70s by estates on the city’s fringes and high-rise flats. They might have improved living standards to some extent, but were far from idea, and even these are now being demolished.

Norfolk Court Flats in the Gorbals (n0w demolished)

Glasgow, it has to be said, isn’t just an urban jungle because there are plenty of open spaces – and don’t forget, Loch Lomond is only just over half an hour away from the city centre.

Above all though, it’s the Glaswegians themselves that make the city what it is. Forget about their tough reputation because where tourists are concerned this is No Mean City. They are some of the friendliest and warmest people you’ll meet anywhere, and if you can decipher what they’re saying you’ll also find that they have a great sense of humour too.

I may be a sassenach from south of the border and certainly don’t know the city inside out, but in future posts I hope to convince you why Glasgow should be an essential stop on any tour of Scotland – and by the way, whatever stories you may have heard elsewhere, Glaswegians are definitely not mean where buying a round of drinks is concerned. Trust me, I know.

The River Clyde today

19 thoughts on “Glasgow – No Mean City

  1. Toonsarah

    I’ve been to Glasgow a few times but always linked to work and with limited time to look around. I’m looking forward to seeing more of it through your eyes 🙂

  2. starship VT

    Malcolm, I like the way you’ve shown the character of Glasgow both past and present. The photo of Norfolk Court Flats in the Gorbals looks so similar to public housing projects in the “edgy” city of Camden, NJ (where I worked for over 27 yrs.) and which was also known shipbuilding at one time (New York Shipbuilding Co. located there (1899 – 1968)). In the early ’80s we spent one night in Glasgow but didn’t see much — wondering if the tour company thought it was a bit too edgy even then.

    1. Easymalc Post author

      Thanks Sylvia. I suppose it’s never going to be easy for places like Glasgow and Camden NJ to shake off their old images, but if they can incorporate their past history into a modern world, then they could well have more going for them than places that didn’t have much history at all.

  3. Fergy.

    Hello again Malc,

    for some odd reason I still cannot answer here via WordPress.

    I am with you on Glasgow, I love it there. As you know I like “edgy” and, whilst it is much gentrified, it still has a little something about it. The first time I was there was about ’79 / ’80 and ended up in Possilpark which was a bit edgy even for me, it was a hellhole and I say that as one who was living and working in Belfast at the height of the Troubles at the time. Look it up on Google.

    This is another brilliantly researched and photographed piece, you really are getting busy on the blogging front as, I suspect, are many people. I wonder if that will ease of as lock-down rolls back a bit.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Easymalc Post author

      Thanks again for taking a look Fergy. I’m not sure why you’re having trouble answering on here. You’re not the first and I doubt you’ll be the last, but it doesn’t seem to affect the occasional smart arse who thinks they’ve managed to catch me out.

      I’m certainly not familiar with Possilpark, but it sounded grim to say the least.

      As for blogging, I cooled off for a while but I’m beginning to get my mojo back where that’s concerned. Your kind comments certainly help. Thanks mate.

    1. Easymalc Post author

      We agree again then Luisa 🙂 I like Glasgow for different reasons. You’ll have to let me know what you like about it the most.

  4. Francisco Bravo Cabrera

    Well, it’s on my list Malc and your post has made it more intriguing. Great photography indeed! A most interesting and informative article, as usual, Malc. Top of the line. Hope you’re enjoying your weekend, fine weather in València today! All the best,

    1. Easymalc Post author

      I reckon that you would like Glasgow Francesc. As you can imagine it doesn’t have a problem with too many tourists, but in a way that’s what makes it appealing. Thanks as always for your kind comments F. I really do appreciate them.

      It’s wall to wall sunshine again here as well today. Enjoy the rest of your weekend 🙂

  5. Alli Templeton

    Well, this has changed a few preconceptions I had about the city. I’ve been to Edinburgh and loved it (although it was many moons ago), but haven’t made to to Glasgow yet, but perhaps I’ll make sure we do visit next time we’re north of the border – especially if there might be a drink in it for me! I always thought the Gorbals was a strange name for a city district, but I hadn’t even known it was a dodgy one. A great taste of things to come, Malc. 🙂

    1. Easymalc Post author

      It’s still a bit rough around the edges, but I don’t mind that. Hopefully I’ll be filling in a few gaps to enlighten you a bit more. Thanks for taking a look Alli.

  6. Nemorino

    I’ve never been to Glasgow, and look forward to reading more about it in your coming posts.
    (But I visited Edinburgh a couple times when one of my sons was a student there.)

    1. Easymalc Post author

      Edinburgh has always been a bigger attraction than Glasgow, but the open-top bus tours are idea for somewhere like this if you don’t want to spend too much time here. Thanks for taking a look Don


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