We lived above the Park Bar pub on Maitland Street, Cowcaddens, Glasgow, when I was a boy. In fact, I was born there, in that apartment (in the kitchen). All our family on my mum’s side lived in the Cowcaddens, and had done for generations.
That changed in the 1960s when this historic part of the city was demolished as part of a twofold postwar planning policy.
First, there was a ‘slum clearance’ programme across the city, with 29 ‘Comprehensive Development Areas’ identified for demolition. People would mostly be moved to one of four newly-built peripheral estates, which in our family’s case meant Easterhouse.
Second, the city centre land was needed for a local version of the major modern initiative of the times, the great marker of progress and potential prosperity: urban motorway construction. For Glasgow this is the M8 that still runs through the heart of the city.
Personally, I think of these twin events as class cleansing, and environmental disaster via car worship. It was truly an authentic Scottish experience of the 1960s. Our family took the hint and with a very few years were betraying the nation and moving to England.
Here is a piece of family history captured in a long-lost newspaper cutting about one small part of that sanctioned destruction of community. I found it, the only photocopy there seems to be, folded in an overlooked file in a drawer in my study two days ago.
There was a (now apparently lost) report of this story in another Glasgow paper too, with a photo of me displaying my legs in plaster. Ah the poor wee crippled wean, that’s terrible so it is. I remember that dressing gown, always thought it too formal. My big sister was cross as I think she was at Sunday school maybe and missed both sets of journalists and photographers.
In later years, from our safe English home, we would laugh that it said ‘blonde-haired Mrs McKay, 29′ (she was blonde, and lovely; we were laughing at what I now know as the stereotypical gender media representation).