Help us keep GDODF a free event – text DOORSOPEN to 70085 to donate £5.
Texts cost £5 plus one standard rate message.
MY HISTORIC NEIGHBOURHOOD
My Historic Neighbouhood is programme of creative activities celebrating the heritage on the doorssteps of neighbouhoods around Glasgow.
In Calton, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Barras Market.
In Govan we are documenting world class heritage.
In Sighthill we are investigating the little known ‘Radical Wars’.
Across the city and culminating in Anderston we are uncovering the city’s unique roller-skating heritage.
This programme is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and made possible by National Lottery players.
100 Years of The Barras Market
In 1921, the story goes, an astute businesswoman by the name of Margaret ‘Maggie’ McIver created a safe place for people to trade from their barrows in Calton, in the east end of Glasgow. Over the next 50 years, what started as a minimal outdoor trading post for a few locals would become the world-famous Barras market. More than a shopping centre, the market was a thriving entertainment hub, a meeting place, the beating and banter-filled heart of the Glaswegian community.
The market was not Maggie’s only enduring idea. In 1934, after the usual venue for her hawker’s Christmas party was fully booked, she opened the Barrowland Ballroom. Some say this decision was made to ensure a space for celebration for the market traders. Others are more inclined to believe that Maggie had spied there was a pretty penny to be made and moved to capitalise on the dancing craze of the era! Whatever the motive, and despite a disastrous fire in the late fifties, the Barrowland Ballroom is now legendary. Starting life as a hall for tea dances, in more recent history the ballroom has played host to bands such as Simple Minds, David Bowie, and The Clash and is considered one of the best live music venues in the world.
For the market itself, the heyday was the 50s, 60s, 70s and into the 80s with many market traders becoming staples of the Barras experience over that period. The Towel Man and the Snake Oil Man were familiar faces known for their unique and entertaining sales pitches, for tall tales, and risky deals. Having come from humble beginnings, by the time she died in 1958, Maggie was a multi-millionaire and known to all as the Barras Queen. The crowds may have thinned, but the legend and memory remain thick in the air.
The Barras Market is famous the world over, and is close the heart of many a Glaswegian. This film captures some of the project and it’s efforts to document the memories of local people in the 100th anniversary year of the Barras.
Rest assured, the Barras has ‘Everything you need from a needle to an anchor!’
Memories of the Market
Barras Memories beautifully weaves archive footage with recordings of interviews with women from Calton, and dramatic performances by members of the Citizens Theatre WAC Ensemble.
Directed by David Hayman Jr, produced by Glasgow Building Preservation Trust in partnership with Witsherface and Citizens Theatre.
Barras Market Heritage Talk
Local historian Peter Mortimer charts the history of the Barras Market, from Irish immigration and the humble beginning of the Maggie McIver, to the opening of the Barrowland Ballroom and the heyday of the Market in the 50s and 60s.
Thanks to Herald and Times, for use of their archive images.
We were just discussing some war-cries in the Barras, and one of them that you would maybe say to the customer if they were buying something electrical, you would say to them, ‘Listen pal, everything works in the Barras, pause, it’s when you get it home it’s broken!’
And they’d still buy it, as I’d always say, and it’s not a very strong guarantee, ‘You get a one week guarantee.’
We also used to have the ‘No quibble’ guarantee, that was when they came back, I’d say, ‘Listen pal we’re not quibbling, you’re not getting the guarantee!’ Just kidding on!
We never sell dodgy stuff, we do test it, if it’s electrical. We’ve actually moved on, a long time ago, from electrical stuff, I don’t like selling it.
One of the local lingerie traders, Lucky Knickers Josie, she used to shout, ‘They’re your lucky knickers!’ Or ,’They’re your American knickers, one Yank and they’re off!’
She’s still living, she’s ninety-six, I think she is – she traded here for years – Josie Fairfield, known as ‘Lucky Knickers’. The last big traders down [the other end of the market] there were Josie Fairfield – Lucky Knickers – Peter Ferguson granted her a free pitch for ever and ever, because he owned all those buildings that the Pigeon Perfect art project is in just now, but Peter’s long gone and Joise’s ninety-six.
But the last person to try and charge her money for putting her stall there, she told him to ‘F-off! Who do you think you’re talking to?!’ That was going back a number of years ago – maybe eight, nine, ten years ago – the last time she traded here, so she would have been eighty odds when she told them to F-off!
The Barras was so much part of my life. Just two minutes from there was where my granny lived. And when I was a wee girl, I would be there every Saturday, and my dad would go to the football and my granny would look after us. And when I got fed up, I would just walk down and I would wander about the Barras, and that’s from when I was about eight.
You would get arrested for letting a child do that nowadays – wandering about the Barras by their-self!
And the only danger that was spoken about was, ‘Look out for yer purse. Watch your money.’ Because you were likely to get your pocket picked, that was the main danger.
All I would have had was some money in my hand for sweeties, cause I was bored up at my granny’s.
It was like that for all children then – there wasn’t any danger, there wasn’t any problem.
You just walked out and could walk about the Barras, safely.
People would know you. And when I was taken round by my auntie, she would take me round to all the relatives with the shops and the stalls, and that was great because you would get fruit, bananas, apples, and then people would give you money.
So you would make a big collection of money from all the folk that would say, ‘Aw, there’s a penny for you hen.’
One of my memories is around about June 1979, I had just had my show of presents on the Friday night at my mammy’s house. Afterwards the youngsters – all the rest of us, about twenty to twenty-five, all went out over to our local pub, the Dalriada, and we went round with the potty that’s full of salt, and the bride had to kiss all the working men.
But you were given silver – put in the potty – and you left with a packet, an absolute packet!
I’m sure I got something like thirty pounds, because the men in the East End knew the custom, they knew what it was.
We came back up the road – as you did, singing all the street songs, and jumped over the potty, back and forward for luck, while your pals sang all the songs, back up to your mum’s with the lids from the pots that they’d been hitting with spoons to make a racket.
And that’s why the lids never fitted a pot again!
Your mammy had all these odd-shaped lids that didn’t fit the pots, so maybe there’s something in the expression, ‘Maybe not every pot has a lid that fits’! [Laughter]
The following Sunday, I came down to the Barras and all the market traders – the men shouting, throngs of people, you were in amongst them, it was warm because you were coorying in with them.
Anyway I needed a ninety drop by ninety curtains for the new house – I was marrying a lad from Drumchapel who already had a council house – we moved out there, and I got fibreglass curtains, kinda cream, off-white – I’m sure we called them winter-white, because it wasn’y all white – which might have been know as ‘dirty-white!’ [laughter].
So it was a winter-white, with a pattern of autumn colours through it.
And I gave the man some notes, but mainly it was the silver from the potty, and that was full of salt. So then he knew, and began shouting: ‘Here’s a new bride! Look her money’s full of salt!’
My mum, Eileen Brady worked in the Barras at the weekends, during the 1970s – it was before I was married. She had a stall selling clothes.
She worked at Christmas Eve as well, and that was until after midnight!
People would run down around midnight, on Christmas Eve, to get their last presents.
Lots of people had only got their pay that day, so they would still be buying things late that day.
So my mammy would still be there selling until after midnight.
My young brother had a car, so he would go down and pick her up late at night.
We were a family of six, so some of us would be helping with the Christmas dinner.
My mammy did all the cooking – I cannae kid on that we did it all – my mum did!
My daughter, Marie, worked in the Barras in the nineties – only on Saturdays.
It started out on Sundays, but the reason Marie started at the age of fourteen working in the Barras, was that she didn’t want to go to Chapel.
So she just went and got a job on the Sunday and then she didn’t have to go to Chapel!
Then, when they started doing an evening mass, a vigil mass in chapels, Marie started working on a Saturday. So she could’ny make it to the evening mass either.
So that’s why she started working at the Barras when she was fourteen, not to get cash, but to get out of going to chapel!
On 30th of April 2022 we held a community consultation event at The Pipe Factory. At the event we screened the Barras Memories film created by the Citizens Theatre WAC Ensemble and we exhibited the photography and some of the stories that had been shared at the December event. We also exhibited the sonic sculpture created by Adam Stearns and St Mungo’s academy.
As part of the community consultation we shared the long list of phrases that had been suggested by the community so far and invited folks to vote for their favourite. The community was also invited to suggest new phrases. We had an exhibition of mock ups of some graphic design ideas of what the phrases could look like on the pavement and so they could try out their own designs. We had pavement chalks on hand for anyone who felt inspired. Maps of the Barras were available so people could mark where specific phrases should go.
At the unveiling in August, Peter Mortimer gave a short heritage talk to the hundred or so people that came along. Gavin Mitchell shared some personal stories of the market and Alison Thewliss spoke on the importance of the market.
Sounds Like a Bargain
‘Sounds Like a Bargain’ is a sonic art installation inspired by the Barras Market and created in collaboration between sound artist Adam Stearns, and music technology pupils from St Mungo’s Academy.
The aim of this project was to introduce a new generation of young people to the Barras market through the medium of sound. During workshops facilitated by Adam Stearns, pupils were invited to take part in a soundwalk of the Barras and were welcomed inside the Barras Market to make field recordings.
In addition, the pupils were given a heritage talk providing them with a history of the Barras Market and were also introduced to microcontroller based physical computing, which was used to create a kinetic sonic sculpture made from objects bought at the market.
Every object that can be purchased from the Barras has a story to tell – and every visit to the Barras is a story in and of itself. Through capturing sonic signatures of the Barras Market – the street seller yelling ‘cigarettes tobacco’, the sound of the antiquated penny arcade machine drawers as they squeak, or the Glaswegian accents of the many merchants – this installation provides a snapshot into this unique cultural landmark.
The artwork comprises five objects purchased from the Barras market – a Russian Jerry can, a WW1 artillery shell, a ceramic dish, a glass vase, and a metal bell. Each object has a solenoid attached to it, which is programmed by an Arduino microcontroller. When struck by the solenoids, these objects provide a rhythmical accompaniment to field recordings of the Barras Market, which play over loudspeakers. As the sculpture starts to come alive, the sounds these objects create begin to resemble the ‘beating heart’ of the Barras.
World Class Heritage
Govan has a strong local identity and a popular historical narrative that has penetrated public consciousness. It is best known for its global contributions to shipbuilding and marine engineering in the 19th and early 20th centuries. From a negative perspective, Govan has recently come to be identified by sociologists and policy-makers as a definitive model for the socio-economic decline in post-Industrial Britain. Yet despite this setback, its community has demonstrated remarkable resilience and pride, sustaining itself through wide-ranging local initiatives and piloting new approaches to urban renewal.
Clearly, Govan’s cultural heritage is deeper, richer, and more complex than the popular narratives suggest. Long before it came to prominence in connection with shipbuilding, Govan was at the heart of the major political, religious and artistic hub of Strathclyde, a Celtic kingdom that flourished during the 9th -11th centuries. Archaeological evidence indicates an even earlier origin, with a Christian community present in Govan by the 6th century. This makes the Churchyard one of the oldest gathering places in continuous use in Britain. The most impressive evidence of this early period of greatness is a large and diverse collection of sculpture known as the Govan Stones.
We partnered with Govan Heritage Trust to deliver a fun programme of activity engaging with local people.
The Govan heritage volunteers worked alongside a team of facilitators, highlighting case studies of Scotland’s existing world heritage sites to encourage our local community to consider and make the case for Govan’s own world-class heritage story.
To celebrate Govan as a remarkable place of global importance, Govanites from Loop Theatre, St Saviour’s Primary and Riverside Primary, were supported to create their own digital content – spreading the word about Govan’s past, present and bright future.
Micro films were made about a range of topics, from cooking shows and news reports, to fashion and Viking battles! Check them out below.
Across the City:
Skate the City
In the late 19th and early 20th century, the role of women was firmly in the domestic sphere, and young women spent much of their time preparing for family life. Sport and recreational pursuits were opening up to middle-class women; however, these opportunities were largely limited to ‘ladylike’ non-contact sports less likely to result in injury, and individualistic sports were discouraged. As the early 1900s craze in roller skating swept the nation, photographs show some young women had taken to the rink – a radical departure from the social norms and sanctioned activities associated with this period.
This project shone a light on roller-skating as a critical missing component of Scottish sporting heritage, specifically in Glasgow. Our study examines the roots of roller skating and its links with Edwardian ice skating, charting roller-mania from the 1870s right up to more recent heritage.
Images of former Glasgow Skating Rinks. Credit: Chris Doaks.
During lockdown a group of young women found community by learning how to roller-skate. Seeing the city from a new angle, they began exploring, seeking out new places to skate. With a campaign underway for a new outdoor skatepark underneath the M8, they began looking at indoor options for smaller groups from their community and became interested in heritage buildings.
Filmed as a short documentary, skating group were invited to visit some historic roller skating sites and share their experience of skating.
The project ended with a skate party at the Barrowland Ballroom, at which Skate the City was screened.
Using the map below you will be able to find all the skating spots we discovered during the project, from rinks to skate shops, from 1870 right up to the present day!
Skate the City Timeline
The Radical Wars
The Martyrs’ Monument in Sighthill Cemetery was erected to commemorate the 1820 Scottish Uprising and the executed Radicals, Andrew Hardie and John Baird, who lie beneath. Unlike the Manchester Peterloo Massacre which is taught in schools and has been made into a major film, the story of the Scottish Radical Wars remains virtually unknown, even to those who live nearby.
The economic downturn following the Napoleonic Wars coupled with increasing mechanisation in the textile industry hit many of the small weaving villages around the city hard. With little sympathy or support from a government already aggressively opposed to notions of democracy, and nervous of new ideas percolating from revolutionary France and America, a confrontation seemed inevitable.
Local weavers and artisans in the villages of Anderston, Calton, Bridgeton, Tollcross, and Dalmarnock organised themselves into radical societies and discussed armed insurrection. Following several years of unrest and protests, 60,000 workers from Glasgow, Paisley, and Lanarkshire came out in a General Strike on April 1st, 1820 and their leaders proclaimed a republic. A few days later Andrew Hardie and John Baird led an armed band from Royston to Bonnymuir where they fought – and lost – a battle with soldiers. 88 men were tried for high treason in secret courts. In the last beheadings in the UK, Baird and Hardie were executed in Stirling. James Wilson was executed on Glasgow Green.
In 1847 the Glasgow Radicals gained permission to remove the remains of Hardie and Baird to Sighthill Cemetery (then owned by a supporter) and to erect a memorial.
While many of their demands, such as fair pay, better working conditions, and universal male suffrage, are now taken for granted, the Radical Movement laid the foundations for the modern labour movement and working-class rights.
We partnered with Culture Junction to engage young people from Sighthill on the history of the Radical Wars. With support from the 1820 Society, Culture Junction designed a programme using drama, storytelling, discussion and art activities to explore local history in full day workshops with primary school pupils from St Roch’s Primary, St Stephen’s and St Kevin’s Primary, Royston Primary and Haghill Park Primary Schools.
A teaching resource has been created that gives a timeline of key events from the Radial Wars, drama activities for the classroom and links for further learning.
My Historic Neighbourhood: Roundup Film
All film material on this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)