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Politics

A strong radical tradition existed in the area since the Radical Upheavals in the fist part of the 19th century. Radicals throughout Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales had been fired with the ideals of Revolutionary France. Thrushgrove Estate was owned by a radical businessman called James Turner, who had a tobacconist shop in High St. near the university. The grounds of Thrushgrove contained a mansion and a cottage and ran from Castle St to around Garnock St. These grounds were the scene of the biggest radical gathering ever seen in the British Isles, in October 1816. This gathering had been banned by the City Magistrates but Thrushgrove was just outside the city limits. However the 42nd Regiment was on stand-by as the Magistrates felt “treason was in the air”. His Majesty’s ministers were reported to be in a state of great alarm. Resolutions at the meeting were said to be mild and reasonable. They sought a redress of grievances in the House of Commons.

The Lord Provost had said if the meeting was held on Glasgow Green, it would be at the Radical’s peril. The Magistrates would call out the 42nd Regiment and with their bayonets keep them at bay. They were also denied use of the Trades House, Glassford St.

Sanny Roger, East end radical weaver and poet (who incidentally wrote ‘The Muckin’ o Geordie’s Byre’) penned the following verse amid the ferment going on in the city at the time:

“Vile sooty rabble what d’ye mean
by raisin’ a’ this dreadful din
do you no ken what horrid sin
ye are committing
by haudin’ up your crafts sae thin
for sig a meeting?

Vile black-nebs! Doomed through life to drudge
and howk amang your native sludge
wha’ is’t gives you the fight to judge
o’ siccan matters
that ye maun grumble, grunt an’ grudge
at us, your betters?

Base rads! Who’s ignorance surpasses
the dull stupidity of asses
think ye the privileged classe
care aught aboot ye?
If only mair ye daur to fash us
by George! We’ll shoot ye!

We’ve wealth o’ sodgers in the town
to keep sic ragamuffins doun
and gin ye dinna settle soon
by a’ that’s guid!
we’ll gar the common sewers rin
wi’ your base bluid.

Tak, therefore, this kind admonition
recant, repent, be a’ submission
and, as a proof that your contrition
is frae’ the heart
in Gude’s name burn that vile petition
before ye part.”

It was during the emergency James Turner came forward and offered the radicals the use of the fields of Thrushgrove. It is believed upwards of 40,000 attended the meeting, which lasted from 12 to 4pm. Order prevailed throughout. James Turner was later charged with high treason and imprisoned in the Bridewell. However he was freed and lived as a highly respected citizen, dying in the West end of the city around 1887. In 1832 a memorial to the radical weavers John Baird and Andrew Hardie, who were executed after the Battle of Bonnymuir, was erected in James Turner’s grounds at Thrushgrove, Garngad. This forms part of the present monument at Sighthill Cemetery.

The Radical Movement was strong around the Townhead area and there was a branch of the Radical Union in Castle St. William Flanagan, a weaver from Dobbie’s Loan was a delegate from this branch and took part in the 1820 Radical Uprising at Bonnymuir. The youngest participant at Bonnymuir was Andrew White, a bookbinder, who was deported to Australia. He later returned and died in the Royal Infirmary in 1872 (White was a member of one of the unions that preceded my own union: the Graphical, Print and Paper Workers Union). Many of the immigrants who came to west central Scotland would be familiar with the Chartist and Radical movements. Most of the Irish who came to Garngad came from the Northern counties where prior to the foundation of the Orange Order, radical Presbyterians had found common cause with dispossessed Catholics. Jews and Poles and Lithuanians arrived, fleeing Czarist Pogroms and oppression. Highlanders would be familiar with the Land League Battles. All these became a factor in the growth of left wing politics in Glasgow and central Scotland. So, in a way, in a short period, politics became even more radicalised with the emergence of leaders like John McLean, Willie Gallagher, John Wheatley and Jimmy Maxton. McLean’s forbears came from (?) and Willie Gallagher was of Irish origin on his father’s side. John Wheatley was born in Bonmahon, County Waterford, Ireland. He came to Scotland as a child and was reared in a miner’s row at Braehead, a village that lay between Bargeddie and Baillieston. He became M.P. for Shettleston and was Minister of Health in the first Labour government. He and Maxton were I.L.P. men and did not claim to be Marxists like McLean and Gallagher. All four had their differences but held each other in high respect.

For a long time the Irish immigrants, in Garngad, like other parts of the city remained more interested in the Irish home rule issue. There were many differences of opinion among the Irish in the Garngad as elsewhere on issues like the Easter Rising; support for World War One, etc. There was a Sinn Fein hall in Castle St and a branch of Cumann A’Main (the woman’s section of the Republican movement). There was also a strong Hibernian movement and there was no love lost between the Republicans and the Hibs, as the Hibs had supported John Redmond, who supported enlisting in World War One, on the basis that Ireland would be granted home rule.

The Hibernian Hall was opened in Garngad Rd in 19 (?) by Joseph Devlin, a controversial populist figure, who was Irish Nationalist M.P. for West Belfast. The official name for this hall was ‘The Joseph Devlin Memorial Hall’ but was always known as ‘The Hibs’. Some years ago it was sold by the A.O.H. (the Ancient Order of Hibernians) to St Roch’s Parish and it became known as ‘Royston Social Club’. Latterly, the club has been in private hands and was recently burned down.

However, Wheatley was mainly responsible for switching the Irish allegiances to Labour and after the earlier rebellion and the period of the Irish Civil War, most of the Irish and those of Irish origin involved themselves in Scottish politics, particularly in the Labour and Trade Union movement. Jimmy Maxton, later M.P. for Bridgeton lived at Garngad Square from (?)

Vincent Flynn (1909 -1991) was born in Garngad Avenue (now James Nisbet St). he rose to become General Secretary of the Print Union SOGAT, now part of my own union. Vincent was one of the most respected figures in the Trade Union movement. He and his wife Ann were part of the Glasgow Workers Theatre Group which met in premises at the corner of High ST and George St (now an art shop).

A number of Garngad people were members of this group including Marian Robertson, James Carrol, Chic Dinning and Jimmy Sutherland. Marian lived for much of her life in Earlston Avenue and at Sighthill. She worked in the printing trade and was one of my predecessors as branch president. A life-long Communist, Marian was named as Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year.

After retiring from the printing trade, Marian served as secretary of Royston Pensioners Action Group and as secretary and founder of the Retired Members section of my own union.

James Carrol fought in the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, the monumental fight against fascism that preceded the 2nd World War, (he was also a founder member of Scottish CND). It is said that more men from Glasgow fought in the International Brigade than from any other city. A number of Garngad men joined the anti – Franco forces, including James’ pal Chic Dinning, Willie McLean, Winnial McLean and Charlie ‘Cheeky’ McCaig. Jock Shields died in the conflict. James Sutherland was one of the original pioneers of Scottish television and also did a bit of acting. Chic Dinning’s widow, the late Helen, told me that on one occasion James was at a grand dinner, seated next to some hyphenated colonel. This bloke looks at Sutherland and said:

“What school did you go to Sutherland?”
Jimmy replied: “Rosemount”
The hyphenated twit replied “Rosemount, Oxford or Rosemount, Cambridge?”
Jimmy riposted with “Rosemount, Garngad”.

This theatre group played a major part in bringing the great Paul Robeson. They were one of the groups that helped form Glasgow Unity Theatre which led to the foundation of the Citizen’s Theatre.

In more recent years Pat Kelly, who came from Roystonhill, served as President of the STUC. Pat was a member of the General Council for the STUC for many years and representing PTC, the Civil Service Union. Phil McGarry from Provanmill is Scottish Organiser for RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Union) and a member of STUC’s General Council. John Reidford, a member of the FBU (Fire Brigade’s Union) was for many years secretary of Glasgow Trades Council.

 

Read about Provanmill and Blackhill
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Read about Garngad characters (Mick McLaughlan by Michael Keenan)
Read about entertainment in the area
Read about sports in the area
Read about schools in the area
Read about churches and religion in the area
Read the 'Farewell to Garngad'
Read about a poet from 'Little Ireland'
Read the conclusion by writer James Friel

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