Who Said What About Glasgow,
fondly known as Glesga?


Glasgow the Grand, photo by NANCY LYON



Have you been to Glasgow and seen a civilization entirely unspoiled by religion?
......Eric Gill, Letter to Geoffrey Keynes, 30 October, 1919



Glasgow smears the land right down to the town of Ayr and to Lanark in the center. It would not be so bad if it were a prosperous smearing, but everywhere the landscape is sad with industrial installations of an old-fashioned type that already collect nostalgia like cobwebs, and with the hideous hutments of the men who once migrated from Scotland's and Ireland's farms to earn high wages as Victorian factory workers.
One day this will be a zone for the collector, who will wander around the disused coal tips and the rusty cranes and the sightless mills and find the same kind of poetry here that former ages dug out of the ruins of Baalbek and ghost towns of the Wild West. But as yet the rot has not gone quite far enough for tears.
...SCOTLAND: THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE, © Donald Cowie, 1973 by A.S. Barnes and Company, Cranbury, NJ and London: Thomas Yoseloff Ltd., London ISBN 0-498-01169-0



The curses of Glasgow are, itch, punch, cotton, and metaphysics.
......Sydney Smith, Letter to Sir George Philips, September 1838



Glasgow plays the part of Chicago to Edinburgh's Boston. Glasgow is a city of the glad hand and the smack on the back; Edinburgh is a city of silence until birth or brains open the social circle. In Glasgow a man is innocent until he is found guilty; in Edinburgh a man is guilty until he is found innocent. Glasgow is willing to believe the best of an unknown quantity; Edinburgh, like all aristocracies, the worst! Glasgow is a mighty and an inspiring story. She is Scotland's anchor to reality.
......©H.V. Morton, In Search of Scotland, 1929



If you reeled into Edinburgh belching they would pull the drapes and leave you alone in the broad, bleak street. Your same behavior in Glasgow might introduce you to several uproarious parties at once.
.....SCOTLAND: THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE, © Donald Cowie, 1973 by A.S. Barnes and Company, Cranbury, NJ and London: Thomas Yoseloff Ltd., London ISBN 0-498-01169-0



This is wrote at a place which I shall ever hold in contempt as being filled with a set of unmannerly, low-bred, narrow-minded wretches; the place itself, however, is really pretty.
......David Boswell, Letter to James Boswell, Glasgow, 30 October 1767



...Draw thy fierce streams of blinding ore,
Smite on thy thousand anvils, roar
Down to the harbour bars;
Smoulder in smoky sunsets, flare
On rainy nights, when street and square
Lie empty to the stars.
From terrace proud to alley base
I know thee as my mother's face.

.....from: GLASGOW, by Alexander Smith (1830-1867)



That's the thing about Glasgow. It has all this newfound prosperity and polish, but right at the very edge of things there is always this sense of grit and menace, which I find oddly exhilarating. You can wander through the streets on a weekend night...and never know when you turn a corner whether you are going to bump into a group of tony revelers in dinner jackets or a passel of idle young yobbos who might decide to fall upon you and carve their initials in your forehead for purposes of passing amusement. Gives the place a certain tang.
.....NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND, An Affectionate Portrait of Britain by BILL BRYSON, William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York, ©1995 by Bill Bryson, ISBN 0-688-14725-9



Glasgow fine streets, fires enormous, houses hot, same smell as Edinburgh, the look of manufacture and abomination. Travelled all night, and on rolling over a bridge near Gretna Green into England all of us inside passengers gave three cheers.
.....Benjamin Robert Haydon, Diary, December 1820




There is a much difference between an Glasgow and an Edinburgh man as between a Hottentot and an Eskimo.Glasgow men quickly became intoxicated and excitable. And sentimental. Their favorite local songs were those which expressed their real love for a dirty, untidy, uproarious old town...the Glasgow slums produced a majority of kind-hearted human beings, the kind who would succour a stranger or share a last crust with a hated neighbor.
.....SCOTLAND: THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE, © Donald Cowie, 1973 by A.S. Barnes and Company, Cranbury, NJ and London: Thomas Yoseloff Ltd., London ISBN 0-498-01169-0




'Heaven seems vera little improvement on Glesga,' a good Glasgow man is said to have murmured, after death, to a friend who had predeceased him.
'Man, this is no Heaven,' the other replied.
......©C.E. Montague, The Right Place, 1924



The Glasgow man is downright, unpolished, direct, and immediate. He may seem to compare in that respect with the Aberdonian, but
in him there is none of that queer Teutonic reserve, which is so apt to affect human intercourse with the native of Buchan. That he is a mighty man with his hands the world knows and acknowledges; that he is nearer the poet than his brothers in the other cities is less obvious, but equally true.
He has the 'furious' quality of the Scot in its most extreme form. He can be terribly dangerous in revolt and as terribly strong in defence of his own conception of order. He hates pretence, ceremonial, form - and is at the same time capable of the most abysmal sentimentality. He is grave - and one of the world's most devastating humorists.
......©George Blake, The Heart of Scotland, 1934




I remember when I first came to Glasgow in 1973...and being profoundly stunned at how suffocatingly dark and soot-blackened the city was. I had never seen a place so chocked and grubby...Even the local accent seemed born of clinkers and grit...And there were no tourists-none at all...
In the subsequent years Glasgow has gone through a glitterying and celebrated transformation...Suddenly the world began cautiously to come to Glasgow and thereupon discovered to its delight that this was a city densely endowed with splendid museums, lively pubs, world-class orchestras, and no fewer than seventy parks, more than any other city of its size in Europe.
...Among the city's many treasures, none shines brighter...than the incomparable Burrell Collection...I hastened there now by taxi, for it is a long way out.
"D'ye nae a lang roon?" said the driver as we sped along a motorway toward Pollok Park.
"I'm sorry," I said for I don't speak Glaswegian.
"D'ye dack ma fanny?"
I hate it when this happens--when a person from Glasgow speaks to me.
"I'm so sorry," I said and floundered for an excuse. "My ears are very bad."
"Aye, ye nae hae doon a lang roon," he said, which I gathered meant, "I'm going to take you a very long way around and look at you frequently in mirror with these menacing eyes so that you'll begin to wonder if perhaps I'm taking you to a disused wharf where I will beat you up and take your money," but he said nothing further and delivered me to the Burrell without incident."
.....NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND, An Affectionate Portrait of Britain by BILL BRYSON, William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York, ©1995 by Bill Bryson, ISBN 0-688-14725-9


Where have I seen a human being looking .
As Glasgow looks this gin-clear evening - with face and fingers
A cadaverous blue, hand-clasp slimy and cold
As that of a corpse, finger-nails grown immensely long
As they do in a grave, little white eyes, and hardly
Any face at all? Cold, lightning-like, unpleasant light, and blue.
Like having one's cold-spots intoxicated with mescal. .
Looking down a street the houses seem
Long pointed teeth like a ferret's over the slit Of a crooked unspeakable smile, like the Thracian woman's
When Thales fell in the well, a hag
Whose soul-gelding ugliness would chill
To eternal chastity a cantharidized satyr;
And the smell reminds me of the odeur de souris Of Balzac's Cousin Pons.
All the strength seems To leave my body as I look, and a deadly Grey weariness falls over my thoughts like dust.
A terrible shadow descends like dust over my thoughts,
Almost like reading a Glasgow Herald leader,
Or any of our Anglo-Scottish daily papers..
......©Hugh MacDiarmid, Glasgow, from Lucky Poet, 1943



And without fear of contradiction I will venture to say
You are the second grandest city in Scotland at the present day
...... William Topaz McGonagall, 'Glasgow', Poetic Gems, 1890



We've still got the grafting kinship, banter and urban ingenuity it once took to build Glasgow into the Second City of the Empire...It's what comes from generations of social deprivation, the working class socialist lifeblood that bubbled harshly in the roasting collieries, filtered its way from the dark, smog-ridden Clyde and motivated the entire City towards its historical regeneration. To have gone through everything we've gone through and still be able to laugh it all off, is the Glasgow Patter all over!
.....Scott Docherty

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