The name Garngad is said to derive from the Gaelic word Garn
meaning rough ground. The Gad Burn on old maps ran from High
Balornuck Farm to the old Barnhill Poorhouse (now a housing
estate), prior to joining the historic Molendinar. Although
many residents claim Garngad to mean the Garden of God, it
is also known as The Good and the Bad. The name
of St Roch or Rocue or Rollox has been associated with this
area for nearly 500 years.
Saint Roch was born in Montpellier, France in 1295. Whilst
on a pilgrimage to Rome, he visited a hospital which cared
for victims of the Plague. He was reputed to have cured many
patients by prayer and by tracing the sign of the cross on
their foreheads. His reputation followed him to Rome, where
he was held responsible for further cures from the Plague.
After his death he was canonised in recognition of these miraculous
cures. It was widely believed that by building a church in
his name, a town might be spared the worst effects of the
Plague. Those who died form the disease were often buried
in a cemetery beside the Church of Roch. In 1506 a Church
of St Roche was built was built close to Garngad, the site
is thought to be between what would later be Glebe St and
Castle St. The adjoining cemetery, probably for Plague victims,
may have been between what became Kennedy St and Tennant St.
St Rollox is a corruption of St Rochs Loch.
The name Rollox was given to Tennants Chemical Works;
the original Royston Primary School, the local Co-operative
Society, the Parliamentary Constituency and a Denniston Bowling
Club as well as St Rollox Church. The name St Roch was given
to St Rochs Church, St Rochs Primary and Secondary
schools, St Rochs Junior Football Club and indeed to
the late Carlo Barsottis fish and chip shop in Millburn
In 1942 a campaign led by Mr. McGrath, headmaster of St Rochs
Advanced (now Secondary) school, resulted in a change of name
to Royston. Overnight Garngad Rd, Garngad Hill
and Garngad Square became Royston Rd, Roystonhill and Royston
Square. Part of James Nisbet St was called Garngad Avenue
and the entire street was renamed James Nisbet St. The campaign
was opposed by Co. Jean Mann and others. The name Royston
is simply an abbreviation of the nearby district of Robroyston.
The late Glasgow writer Jack House said that this area was
a favourite haunt of Rob Roy, the Highland rogue, and that
he often visited an old tavern near where the Cander Vaults
now stands, when in the area. However the old name is still
widely used. Garngad, a few hundred yards north of the 12th
century cathedral and the original university was often known
a Little Ireland. Many Irish navvies had worked
at the digging of the Monkland Canal which was opened in 1790.
These men also worked at the building of the first Scottish
railway, Glasgow to Garnkirk (near Stepps), the Glasgow terminal
being St Rollox (Townhead). The Co. Donegal writer Patrick
McGill, who had worked as a navvy himself described these
men as the desired army of labour. Many of them
eventually settled in the city, as tenement districts sprung
up in districts like Garngad, Gorbals, Calton and elsewhere.
The Monkland Canal Basin was at the foot of Garngadhill at
Castle St. This canal linked up with the Forth and Clyde Canal,
nearby at Port Dundas.
The much older Townhead district had grown around the Cathedral
and the University, to the North, South and West. The top
end of Castle St was known as the Howgate (or Howgate St)
and Garngadhill was known as High Garngad Rd.
or Old Road to Provanmill. A road existed here
prior to 1600. The Howgate, then just outside the Glasgow
city limits, was the scene of public hangings from at least
early in the 16th century until 1781. The exact spot of the
executions was believed to be just behind the old Carlton
cinema at the corner of Garngadhill and Castle St. The most
famous of those executed at the Howgatehead were the covenanting
martyrs, James Nisbet, a farmer from Louden Parish in Ayrshire,
and James Lawson and Alexander Wood, who were executed in
1684. A stone was erected to The Townhead Martyrs
in 1818 and it was renewed as part of a fountain in 1862.
This was removed with the building of the Carlton cinema and
the memorial stones were incorporated in the cinema walls.
When the cinema was demolished during the destruction of the
old Townhead, the stones were re-located in the M8 motorway
walls near where Townhead Library once stood. They are now
in the Martyrs Church, Townhead and Martyr Street was
named in their memory. The old Martyrs Stone
was placed in the Southwest corner of the old tenement at
60 Garngadhill (now demolished). It is said that the old stone
was then built into the property of Mr. Alex Stewart at 50/52
Garngadhill near the old canal bridge. James Nisbet is also
commemorated by the street that bears his name and there is
a monument in his memory in Newmilns Churchyard in Newmilns,
Ayrshire in his native parish.
The opening of the Monkland Canal in 1775, the giant St Rollox
chemical works in 1800 and the Glasgow Garnkirk railway
in 1831 ensured that the entire pave of the district would
The Tennant family had built the St Rollox chemical works
on the North bank of the canal, near where Sighthill housing
scheme now stands. This was the largest chemical complex in
Europe and was founded by Charles Tennant. He had been a radical
weaver who supported the great Reform movement and his forbears
were lowly farmers and millers from Glenconner, Ayrshire.
He was a friend of Robert Burns, who immortalised him in verse
as the Wabster (weaver) Charlie. By the time of his death
in 1838 he was said to be among the richest men in the land.
It was said that he still retained his radical views and rejected
a knighthood. The rise of the Tennant family was a classic
product of the Industrial Revolution. The family built the
original St Rollox School near the works at Springburn Rd.
The school later moved to Garngad Rd. In my youth the school
was known as Donald school after a much-respected
head master, and is now Royston Primary. The family are also
recalled in the name of Glenconner Park, the site of an old
coup, which was gifted to the people of Garngad. Charles St
bears the name of Charles Tennant.
The following poem, recited by Hugh Aitken Dow at a St Rollox
school reunion in 1875 illustrates the change brought to a
once peaceful scene by the chemical works known by
many locals as Dantes Inferno!
A busy, noisy, clamrous
where trees, nor flowers nor fields are seen
where men by day and night are wrought
and holy calm hath rarely been.
Where fragrant zephyrs never blow
but smutty is its atmosphere.
When rains fall dense and winds are low
Its sulphrous elements appear.
When winds blow south, a cloud by day
it may at once be seen and felt
for smarting eyes then own its sway
through muffled noises then tis smelt.
There fiery pillars, gleam at night
from hooded chimneys, towring high
and cast their vivid, forkd flames bright
up to the troubled murky sky.
Thus fiery cross like, shineth clear
the cupolas of Charles Street
answering to McAndrews near
while Hamiltons the call repeat.
There Vulcans strokes would fail
the Glasgow ironworks polka blows
his lurid fires would pace and din
fore Tennants countless furnace glows.
The ironworks mentioned would be the St Rollox Malleable
Iron Works, situated near the top of Villiers St at Charles
The Glasgow Malleable Iron Works were situated in the area
covered by St Rochs Secondary School and Gadshill St.
A famous pottery, the Caledonian, existed at 43 Garngadhill
on the north side of the hill, from 1800 till 1879. The first
skilled potters came from Staffordshire, England, and formed
the nucleus of the workforce. Thus there was a building in
Garngadhill referred to as the English Building. Many of the
products of the famous Delftfield Pottery were also made here.
The railway workers in Springburn were to make that neighbouring
district the railway workshop of the world.
The history of St Rollox School (Royston Primary) recalls
that in the mid-nineteenth century most of the houses east
of the potteries on Garngadhill were self-contained, enjoying
a delightful amenity from the smoile and noise of the city.
The works now plentifully scattered there (in 1875) had not
existed then. The road at Garngadhills eastern extremity
(Millburn St) leading south to the canal, and then known locally
as the Jaw-banes, from the circumstances of a
skeleton of a whales jaw forming a curious ornament
of one of the gardens there. This was a retired and
genteel locality, in which were situated some private residences,
all having their own walled gardens. The exception was the
tenement at Townmill Rd. at the White Brig Pub. The
canal Bridge here was known officially as Robertsons
Bridge but was always called the White Brig, (in my
youth the White Brig Pub was known locally as Watery
Willies). Beyond that, there were gardens, orchards
and arable fields until the mill was reached (this was Townmill,
which like Provan Mill was on the banks of the Molindar River).
The Town Mill was erected by the Burgesses in 1446 as permission
had been given by Bishop Cameron of Glasgow Cathedral in return
for the donation of two pounds of wax per year to the keeper
of the lights around St Mungos Tomb at the Cathedral.
Beside the Town Mill was the Pump Well, the water of which
was very pure and cold and was consequently held in high repute
by the residents of the district. A walk to this well was
an essential part of Sundays duty.
Some of the residents mentioned above would be at Bellevue
Place, known locally as The Avenue. These cottages
existed until the mid 1950s and still resembled a Sylvan
scene among the tenements. The self-contained houses on or
off Millburn St would be Hillhouse and Millburn House. Hillhouse
was occupied by various families over the years.
The McCauley family lived there in the 1920s
30s as did the Strang family. William Strang was a local
publican whose premises lay at Millburn St and Garngadhill.
The pub was later owned by the Coffield family and that corner
was always known as Strangs or Coffields
Corner. William Strang was one of St Rochs F.C.'s early
benefactors and was made honorary President of St Rochs
F.C. Hillhouse was latterly owned in the 1950s by the
Catanni family in the late 1940s, early 1950s.
After the Catanni family vacated the house it was split into
apartments. The last big house to go was the house occupied
by the Chaplain to St Josephs Home. The convent, church
and house were vacated by The Little Sisters of the
Poor when they moved to their new premises nearby at
Robroyston. There were several large estates in the area prior
to the changes wrought by industrialisation. Thrushgrove stretched
from Castle St to Garnock St. Thrushgroves owner was
James Turner, a well-known radical whose name was given to
Turner St Bright St, Cobden St and Villiers St were all named
after men who shared Turners radical views.
Mount Pleasant ran from Garnock to Glen St (now Brodick St
beside St Rochs Primary School). The last occupiers
of Mount Pleasant were the McKay family. Alex McKay had a
haulage business and was largely responsible for building
St Rochs F.C.s first ground at Millburn Park.
Mount Pleasant was originally a dairy farm. Rosebank Estate
ran from Glen St to Darnick St at Germiston. Parts of Mount
Pleasant and Rosebank became a coup, the site of the present
football pitches at Glenconner Park.
Blochairn Estate, on the south side of Garngad Rd was owned
by the church prior to the Reformation and was later acquired
by the Hamilton family. The Dreghorn family built Blochairn
House around 1765. This area would later house Blochairn Steel
Works and is near to the present day Fruitmarket. In this
area too Provan Gasworks opened in 19 (?) and tenement streets
called Tower, River and Siemens were built to house the steelworkers.
These streets lay on the east side of Blochairn Rd beyond
the Budgie Bar. This little area was always known
as The Budgin and later The Budgie
and there has been no clear reason given for the name. There
were a lot of people from Inishonen Peninsula, in County Donegal
in the area at one time. There is a place near Buncrana, in
Inishonen, that is known as The Budgin and I believe
this is where the name has its derivation. In 1924 Tower St
was renamed Lewis St at a time when because of duplication
and other burghs joining Glasgow there were several streets
with the same name. There was also a street, to the west side
of Blochairn Rd called Hannay St.
A private mental asylum existed on Garngadhill to the west
of Townhead Parish Church with its famous spire.
Rosemount Estate was bought by John Alston, a Glasgow merchant,
at the end of the American War of Independence and was composed
of beautiful grounds and orchards. Alston was responsible
for the development of the first blind asylum, in Castle St.
The Royal Infirmary incorporates part of the site. It is interesting
to note that the only statue of Jesus Christ on public view
is still to be seen near the infirmary clock. The statue depicts
Christ tending to a blind child. Millburn Estate stretched
from Garngadhill to Alexandria Parade. Other notable properties
in the area were Cloverbank House, Sandmill Cottage and Dunolly
By the 1860s such idyllic scenes as depicted in the
History of St Rollox School were already becoming a memory,
recalled only by beautiful street names, and the character
of the area would be forever altered. On the south side of
Garngad Rd the tenements of Middleton Place and Gourley Place
had appeared and Thrushgroves green fields had been
replaced by the tenements of Turner, Villiers, Cobden and
Bright Streets. Brabys Works near the Blind Tunnel
at Germiston and the Tharsis Copper and Sulphur Works were
all established in the area and there were coal pits at nearby
Robroyston and Hogganfield. As in the rest of west central
Scotland, thousands poured in to take their places in these
dark satanic mills. The main group of incomers to the Garngad
district came from Ireland, mainly from the nine Ulster counties.
Many came to Glasgow in the wake of the dreadfulI Irish famine
and many others came from Ireland well into the twentieth
century. Others came from the Highlands where savage policies
operated by often absent landlords had driven the people out
to make way for sheep. As names like Barsotti, Barkas, Capanni,
Lurinski, Kaminski, Pierotti, Pisacane and the romantic sounding
Romeo suggest, some came from further afield. Despite the
potentially explosive nature of this mix, this did provide
the rich racial mix which makes the Glaswegian of today what
he or she is, and has greatly contributed to the warmth and
humour to be found in the city. There is surely a lesson to
be learned in the present day when so many asylum seekers
from lands abroad are in our midst seeking refuge. Never forget
many of our own ancestors were in a similar situation. Most
of those from Ireland and the Highlands came from a rural
background, and had to adapt to work in steelworks, mines
and factories. Such was the influence of those that came to
Garngad from Ireland, the writer and broadcaster Jack House,
an expert on the lore of Glasgow, could write in the 1950s
that there was a distinctive Garngad accent. As soon
as he or she opened their mouth, I knew they came from the
Garngad. Half-Irish, half-polite they used to say. Houses
own father was well-known to Garngad people as he was chief
accountant in Blochairn steelworks. The tenements that were
literally thrown up to house the incomers were built with
little thought for hygiene, with no bathrooms and one outside
toilet serving perhaps upwards of thirty human beings. The
much loved red Clydeside M.P. Jimmy Maxton, who lived for
a time at 65 Garngad Square (from 1919 to 1922), moving from
the area after the death of his wife.
Garngad Square was one of the earliest council housing schemes
in the country. The, as now, it is a neat, tidy area with
well-kept houses. Maxton was later to refer in Parliament
to the older houses in the Garngad-Townhead area as being
among the worst slums in Europe. The T.B. statistics were
horrific and life was a hard struggle for ordinary people.
However, there was and is a strong community spirit in the
about Provanmill and Blackhill
about Garngad characters (Mick McLaughlan by Michael Keenan)
about politics in the area
about entertainment in the area
about sports in the area
about schools in the area
about churches and religion in the area
the 'Farewell to Garngad'
about a poet from 'Little Ireland'
the conclusion by writer James Friel
to history index page
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