‘I Belong to Glasgow’ is an old 20’s music hall song and although I’ve never lived in the city, I worked for Glasgow City Council for over 14 years and still shop and socialise there so I feel a strong connection to the place. This might explain my love for the city and desire to explore its past by going on my second heritage walk organised by the fantastic Glasgow Women’s Library.
The sun was shining yesterday on one of the best days in August and me and my good pal Anne met the others at Glasgow Cross. We then headed down the Saltmarket with our excellent tour guides to discover how industrious and resourceful these Glaswegian women had to be to survive.
I’ve been to Glasgow Green many times but I’d never stopped to take in the details on the monuments round the park. One of our first points of interest was the Temperance Fountain commemorating early campaigners. Women were very active in the Radical founding Temperance Society as they had the most to gain from a teetotal household.
Still in Glasgow Green, we stood at the foot of Nelson’s Column to learn that in 1917 the Women’s Peace Crusade rallied 14,000 women in a demonstration. It was hard to imagine that the same spot was the venue for a passionate anti-war protest when the park was mobbed with folk queuing at the ice-cream van and others taking advantage of a “taps aff” day.
Years ago, even up until the 70’s, the sunshine would’ve meant that women would’ve used the clothes poles for drying their washing. The Victorian poles are still there as a reminder of the Green’s history as an area to wash and dry clothes since 1450.
On the edge of the Green is the former Templeton Carpet Factory. Modelled on the Doge’s Palace in Venice, this unique building was home to a world renowned carpet factory until the 1950’s but is now a business centre. I’ve been into the West Brewery within the building several times (strictly for research purposes) but I’ve never noticed the Templeton Gate which is near the entrance. This was made to commemorate 29 women who were killed during the construction.
Hearing stories of strong women makes me want to capture their spirit in my writing. The working class doesn’t always have an authentic voice in literature and these tales of women like ‘Battling’ Betty McAllister make me want to highlight the history of these courageous women. I never thought historical fiction was a genre that interested me as a writer but watch this space…
The tour continues through the east end with constant reminders of how life has improved for women who no longer need to fight for the vote and work under dire factory conditions. If the women of the East End of Glasgow had their own theme tune, then it would be ‘Sisters are doin’ it for themselves’ by Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox.