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  • Welcome To Govanhill

    Govanhill is a place where both Scots and many others from across the world have found a home, created a community and contributed to Glasgow life. Govanhill, along with adjacent Crosshill, continues this unique role today. We invite you to discover our story and add your own.

    Explore our History
    Discover the Listening Trail

    A Workers' Suburb

    Govanhill was laid out in the scond half of the 19C along quidelines set down by the Dixon landowners. The four story tenements were mainly of good quality for the time, many, but not all, with toilets and later bathroooms. Churches, community buildings such as the library and shops, cinemas and dance halls followed. There was one small park – Govanhill Park.


    So it became a place for skilled and semi-killed workers, many working close by in places such as Queens Park Railway works near Polmadie.

    Queen’s Park itself was already developed by the 1860s as a place of relief from the smoke, grime and overcrowdedness of Victorian Glasgow and the grander tenement flats of Crosshill and some villas were built to the north of the park – so that by 1900 the two places had merged.



    Most incomers were Scots- moving to Glasgow from surrounding areas and also the Highlands.

    But even in the early days small numbers from elsewhere could be found. Nearby Larkfield was a group of cottages called the “Lower English Buildings” because they accommmodated iron workers specially brought in from England to work in the nearby foundry (see engraving below)


    Much of the area remains as it was built, although there have also been many changes and houses have been improved.

    The stories and memories we have colleceted do not go as far back as the 19C – but they are of a time not that long ago when the houses, shops, baths, cinemas, work and life were not that different from the early Govanhill. They will give you a flavour of what life was like in this busy and lively community. To listen to them go to “Interviews” on the Menu Bar  to hear them





    Irish Migration to Glasgow

    “The fact that Glasgow and Central Scotland was to become the workshop of the Empire was in no small measure due to that huge reservoir of labour which arrived from Ireland. Without that special breed of readily mobile and accommodating worker, the new harbours, canals, railways .. would not have been competed on the same scale. Without them Glasgow would never have become the city we know today” (from John Burrowes :The Irish -the remarkable saga of a Nation and City)

    The catholic population of Glasgow in 1805 was only 450 (with 1 priest) In 1845 it was about 100,000 (1/3 of the total).

    Numbers increased during the  famine years of 1846-1847. On the SS Londonderry ferrying to Greenock and the Broomielaw from Derry and Belfast 33,000 arrived in Glasgow in a 12 week period in 1847. Travel to Glasgow was cheaper than America- less than 5 pence on deck. 

    Irish Protestants were coming over as well. It is hard to know numbers as religion was not recorded, but estimated to be over 40% of total.

    “Scotland wasn’t just accepting an inundation of immigrants, it was taking in nation, together with all its hang-up, its problems”

    Both Catholics and Protestants had come looking for work but they did not leave behind their sentiments for each other

    Initial setttlement was in Gorbals and East End. As well as employment as navies- construction workers, railways, canals, forth bridge etc, many were coalminers (it is estimated that 25% of coalminers in the Glasgow area were Irish)

    As well in Govanhill there were mines at Toryglen and Polmadie. Some of the bigger pits belonged to William Dixon and Company. They owned 5 mines in Blantyre and 50% of those employed in mines 2 and 3 were Irish. Condition were bad. A mine disaster there in 1877 killed 207.

    The Dixons owned the Govan Iron Works, much better known as the famous Dioxn Blazes – “a 24 hours a day nightmare inferno of iron making and one of the most awful establishment in the entire city for its noise and noisome stench, situated right in the heart of Glasgow’s most densly populated residential district”

    From the mid 19thc as houses began to be built in Govanhill many Irish moved from Gorbals into the area, and newcomers from Ireland also setted here.


    "The Menace of the Irish Race"

    By mid 19th century living conditions in Glasgow became the worst in Europe. There was massive building and overcrowding with jerrybuilt tenements, single ends, shared outside WCs, and destitution. The majority of the slum residents were Irish or Highland Scots.

    “The more of them that came, the more there was to dislike about them. Not only were they mainly Catholic and coming to a Protestant  city but they would be taking jobs away from Glaswegians” (John Burrowes, “The Irish”). Bosses could pick and choose more than they could before. There was more labour on the market and it was cheap”. Wages were depressed. This has a familer ring in today’s Britain, where the migrants themselves become scapegoated.

    The Irish were seen as drunks and bringing disease- “was not it bad enough having all these inebriated Glaswegians without swelling their ranks with Irish ones as well” as one local commentator put it. Poverty and poor housing were in fact the main casues of the higher mortality rates.

    There was also growing resentment by Scottish establishment. As late as 1922 the Church of Scotland produced a report entitled “The Menace of the Irish race to our Scottish nationality ” (In fact if meant Catholic Irish – not Protestant). It stated that 25-35 % of population of west scotland was Catholic and as the catholic birth rate was higher (not factually correct  by then) and ethnic and protestant Scots  were emigrating, so the Scots would be displaced in central Scotland by Irish. There was a parallel campaign for repatriation. The Church of Scotland did not apologise for this report until 2003.


    The Parish of Holy Cross

    holycross (1)In 1882 a chapel of ease was started in Daisy Street and was served from St John’s (Gorbals). A dual purpose building, for school and chapel was erected. This was followed by a mission in Crosshill with a school role of more than 100 and Mass at 11am in the chapel on Sundays. By 1886 the congregation of Crosshill had increased sufficiently for Holy Cross to become and independent mission. In 1891 Devon Villa, a large mansion house at 104 Albert Road, was purchased for £1850 to be used as a presbytery. By 1900 as new new school was opened with a roll of 270 and the parish congregation was 2263.

    After public fundraising a new Chruch, Holy Cross, design by Pugin, was opened in Dixon Avenue in November 1911. Long before 11.30am, when High Mass was due to be sung, every seat was occupied.

    To control numbers and preserve the standard of dignity
    required, tickets were issued at the cost of ten and five shillings each – a substantial sum then. It made a useful contribution to the reduction of the debt. Pairsh number continued to increase, stabalising at about 6000 in the 1970s.

    The pressure was relieved in 1966 when the Majestic Cinema in Inglefield Street was obtained for the sum of £8000 and a new parish of church of Our Lady of Consolation etablished, rejoining Holy Cross in 2004.

    The Church was designed by Pugin and Pugin in the Italianate style, with extensive use of marble inside. It is well worth a visit.




    From Donegal- go and make a life for yourself

    70% of all those of Irish ancestry in Glasgow can trace it back to Donegal. There were regular boats and a later buses from all the little villages such a Gweedore.

    “Many’s the time I travelled on the boat going back to Glasgow, on a cattle boat…there was was always that smell of cattle on the boats. It got pretty packed at times, pretty rough ..and the cattle cattle used to get sick.  I used to get sick myself and be walking about for two or three days, thinking I was still, on the boat, ye know” (Mr Kearney, Derry Boat)

    People left because there was not enough of a living on the land and life was poor  “It was a one-roomed cottage – thatched roof, peat fire, black pot, candlelight,rain coming in the door, smoke coming down the chimney, a sort of constant battle between either being soaked to death on the doorstep or smoked to death inside” (George Jackson)

    “They were encouraged to go and make a life for themselves, because there was nothing there except the land and, when you have ten children, there’s not enough to give them a piece of land, so they have to go” (Lorraine MacIintosh)

    But there was work in Glasgow, often seasonal, but then people came over and settled. “I was working in a slipper factory in Eglinton Street, I got married and I kept on working. I worked in a meat factory and in a factory making skirts and blouses. Then I was on the buses and in the schools” (Rose McGeady)

    It was like a home from home -“We had so many neighbours and friends who were here, that coming into Glasgow, especially the parishes in the was like coming home  because there was a strong Gaeltacht in Glasgow in 1950 when I came here (Patrick Roarty)

    “As you’d be walking down the street, you’d hear people speaking Irish … Irish Culture was very strong then. There was a lot going on, sometimes there’d be five ceilidhs on a Sunday night here in Glasgow, and a band for each one. Most of the musicians were Irish, but there were people raised here playing Irish music too” (Fearagail MacSuibhne)

    Irish Pubs (and some others)
    • at the Victoria bar

    at the Victoria bar

    Italian Migration to Scotland

    Extracts from

    The Scots- Italians, Recollections of an Immigrant (Joe Pieri)

    Most migrants to Scotland are from the Barga area in Tuscany (plus areas south of Rome such as Filignano and Piccinisco).

    Many left at end of the 19th century because they were exploited by large landowners. Most of the land above Barga was owned by an absentee landlord, Pietro Bertacchi, who let out parcels of his estate to tenant crofters and their families. Rent was not in cash but 50% of everything produced (ie sharecroppers known a mezzadri : mezzo = half). It was impossible to make a living.

    Early immigrants were mainly itinerant vendors and labourers. Most had no trade before they cane. Orginally those from Tuscany sold “figurini”- plaster stutue /models, then “arrotini” – knife grinders

    Carlo Gatti in London started making ice cream. One of Gatti’s street vendor Giulini (from Barga)  moved to Glasgow and set up 3 cafes and ran scores of ice cream carts and brought in workers, mainly from the south of Rome

    The ice cream barrows were often stationed at the entrance to public parks and later they opened cafes, fish and chip shops and retaurants. The Queens Cafe in Victoria Road was run  by the Iaconnelli family, now Genesi) and the Bluebird was at the Pollokshaws gate (now site of Simla Pinks). The Bungalow in Victoria Road is still run by the Veracchia family (Listen to the extract about the Bungalow in the Listening Trail). By 1905 there wer over 300 ice cream shops in Glasgow.

    The first immigrants to settle sent for relations and friends to join them. If they opened a new business they would seek workers from their own region or village. Persons from their own cultural background and language were easier to deal with  (and more trusted). Primo Marchi (also from Barga)- franchised out his fish and chip shops and brought in workers from Barga

    “The history of the Italians in Scotland is a story of what can be achieved by people of lowly and underpriveleged beginnings, with little or no education, and with nothing to reply on except their own inner strength and determination  to survive and prosper, so as to provide for their families a future which they could not hope for in the land of their birth. It is also a story of how immigrants can enrich and bring a new dimension and flavour to the customs and culture of their adopted land”


    "Dirty Wee Tally"

    Life was not easy in the early days for Italians in Glasgow. The first generation families often made their children work in the shops , taking them our of school at 14. They spoke Italian at home, but had to create new words for which they had no equivalent -Il Panbrocco (pawnbroker) and Loffaro (loafer/layabout). All this made integration difficult

    Joe Pieri remembers the abuse and fights as a boy on the way to his southside school –  “dirty wee tally”.

    There was oposition to the cafes. Ice cream shops/cafes opened on a Sunday and this was criticized by the Protestant establishment  as “corrupting the young” and there were attempts to shut them down.The underlying  theme was that they were owned by “aliens” and had no place in British society. Fortunately most Glaswegians ignored this.

    A dark period arrived in 1940 when Italy declared war. There was rioting in Glasgow against Italian shops and cafes- nearly all had their windows broken, and they were looted. The many who had still Italian citizenship were interned in camps, splitting families. Some were sent to camps or to Canada. The Arandora Star was a prison ship and was torpedoed in July 1940.  446 Italians were killed

    To the modern generation of Scots the “Tallies” are no longer associated with fish and chips and  ice cream – but are accepted as being an integral part of Scottish society and are recognised as having contributed much to our culture and business life.

    As an example Nicola Bernadetti was chosen to play at the openinig of Holyrood and at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Closing Cermony.









    Chianti with your fish'n'chips

    Extracts from Mike McDowell -The Guardian July 2010)

    What you might not expect is for a Tuscan town of 10,000 people to dedicate two or three weeks of every year to fish and chips. And yet it really does happen – in Barga, northern Tuscany. Beginning around the end of July, the Sagra del Pesce e Patate is billed as a celebration of “traditional Scottish fish’n’chips”.

    Each day around 500 people sit down to a deep-fried dinner at trestle tables on the sports field. During the festival they munch their way through about a tonne of chips – and even more fish. There’s a huge vat of tomato salad if you feel the need to cut through the grease, and of course, gallons of chianti with which to wash it all down.

    Barga prides itself on being “the most Scottish place in Italyand you really do hear Italians speaking English with a Scottish accent.

    Barga’s current most famous “son” is the singer-songwriter Paulo Nutini whose family, naturally, owns a fish and chip shop in Paisley, opened by his Barghese great-grandfather.

    Over the years, there has been a great deal of coming and going between Barga and Scotland, with those still in Scotland homesick for the vineyards and olive groves, and those who’ve returned to Tuscany apparently homesick for deep-fried food. And so they hold a fish and chip festival.

    The food is served on paper plates with plastic knives and forks and, of course, sachets of tomato ketchup. We enjoyed our fish and chips to the inimitable sound of bagpipes, and I was told that, on certain days, one or two of the fryers may be older gentlemen in kilts. All that was missing was the malt vinegar – we had to make do with a wedge of lemon.



















    Jewish Migration

    Jewish migration to Scotland in significant numbers did not really get under way until the 1890s- rising to 7000 by 1900 and 12,00 by 1914

    Most were from what is now Poland and Lithuania, controlled by Russia, and pushed out by poverty and  (often violent) discrimination.

    Glasgow was a staging post on the  way to  America- but many stayed on. Family links remained but were cut in 1918 by the Bolshevik revolution

    Gorbals was a main settlement area and occupations were tailoring and hawking and the main language Yididish. But soon, with education and hard work, many set up other businesses and professions. As people prospered they moved to Govanhill  and eventually farther out.  Allison St had many Jewish delis and other shops, contributing to the life of the area

    A Jewish community grew in the Crosshill and Govanhill area from the start of the 20th Century. There was a Govanhill Chevra (prayer group) as early as 1901 and services were later held in a shop in Langside Road, then in Cromwell Road. Langside Hebrew Congregation opened its new synagogue in Niddrie Road in 1927.


    Crosshill Hebrew Congregation first held High Holy Day services in Dixon Halls, later met in a house at 61 Dixon Avenue, and then in Belleisle Street (1961-1986). The congregation was led for most of its history by Rabbi Moshe Dovid Dryan.

    ‘…A recent influx of Jews into the Crosshill district has led to the formation of still another Hebrew congregation, and new synagogue premises were opened only this week for the festival services. The new synagogue, which seats over a hundred, is situated in Dixon Avenue, and was formerly the Home for the Aged and Needy Jews, which was opened in 1927. close by, in the Dixon Halls, the Rev. D Hoppenstein will also conduct special services…’

    Evening Times, 20 September 1933

    A Progressive Congregation was founded in 1931, meeting first in private houses, then at 90 Albert Road, and from 1950 at 306 Albert Drive.

    The Southside Jewish population is now completely integrated and has contributed much to Scottish life, but there are now only a few reminders in Govanhill such as the Langside Synagogue (interior above).

    The Bellisle St synagugue is now church but it had a spectacular original ceiling by the Glasgow artist and author Alistair Gray (this may still exist under the paintwork)

    Alistair Grey  Langside Synagogue



    "An Old Tin Can"

    Anti- Jewish prejudice was not uncommon in the early 20th century and right up to World War 2.

    Ralph Glasser in “Growing up in the Gorbals” recalls his school days (in some schools 50% or  more of the pupils were Jewish) – “At school persecution was relentless, being  called a Sheeny and Jesus Killer. The challenge was ‘are you a billy or a dan or an old tin can’- Jews were the tin cans to be kicked down the street by both local sectarian groups”

    “When I was 17 I saw a job advertisement for an insurance company. I was asked to come for an interview. At the end of the interview, which pleased them, he asked my religion. I said Jewish. And he said, ‘Oh we only employ our own. We are a family business. We would not employ Jews”  (Testimony of Harry Criven, Jewish Archive of Glasgow

    Jewish family


    A Glasgow Jewish     family around 1900





    But there was also co-operation between neighbours. Many a young Glagow lad or lass was employed as a “Shabbas goy” in Jewish households to perform services which are religiously forbidden to Jews on that day. The Shabbat goy’s duty is to extinguish the lighted candles or lamps on Friday night, and make a fire in the oven or stove on Sabbath mornings during the cold weather.




    Jewish Life in Govanhill

    There were Jewish delicatessens in Allison Street (such as Morrisons and Watermans), a kosher butcher (Godfreys) and the offices of the Glasgow Hebrew Burial Society.

    buriel society Opening of the Hebrew Burial Society in Allison St 

    Jewish children at Annette Street Primary School had withdrawal classes, and cheder classes also met at the school. Youth facilities at various times included the Bnei Akiva Bayit in Queen Mary Avenue (later the students’ Hillel House), JLGB  (Albert Road), Cubs and Scouts (Queens Drive). At one time there was a Jewish nursery in Queen Mary Avenue.

    Harvey Kaplan (curator of the Glasgow Jewish Archive Centre) remembers  ” Morrisons, I knew it well.  As a child, we lived in Westmoreland Street, round the corner from Allison Street, and it was a fairly Jewish area even in those days.  From memory:  Celia’s (Watermans) deli,  Mrs Shenkin (newsagent), Josephs (shoemaker), Burial Society offices, Godfrey the butcher, Bebes deli, Henry the fruiterer – all in Allison Street”.

    There were sufficient Jewish kids in Annette Street Primary for there to be 2 withdrawal classes (Mr Madisky was in charge) and a cheder, under Mrs Nellie Spiro.

    There was Crosshill Shul in Belleisle Street (Rabbi Dryan), Bnei Akiva in Queen Mary Avenue (later Hillel House for the students, also the kitchens for the schools kosher meals service),JLGB in Albert Road.

    “My great uncle, Myer Linderman, was the baker in Morrisons for many years and I remember the shop well”.

    We have found no photos as yet of the Jewish shops in Govanhill – but this is one in Gorbals 

    Alan Abrahams (now living in Israel) wites 

    “There were actually two Jewish grocer shops called Morrisons! One that went by the name Michael Morrison, was in Sinclair Drive, near Habonim and across the road from the Levingstone bookshop. The second was my parents’ shop in Allison Street called Morrisons’ Grocers Ltd. It was started by my grandmother, who changed from name from Katz to Morrison, her husband’s father’s name having been Morris. I think that Michael Morrison’s was the more fashionable of the two, but the two businesses cooperated – for example on the run-up to Pesach if they ran out of a certain commodity they would phone each other to see if the other had it, and I remember fairly frequent trips between the two in order to exchange merchandise. I don’t think I have a photo of the shop, and when my late parents came on Aliyah (1979) they sold it to a Pakistani” .







    Hannah Frank

    In the years preceding her death in 2008 Glasgow-born Jewish artist Hannah Frank saw a dramatic resurgence of interest in the art she produced over her 75 year career.

    Hannah was the first of four children born to Charles and Miriam Frank from Lithuania. He settled in Glasgow, married Miriam Lipetz – daughter of another immigrant family – and opened a camera shop in the Saltmarket on the day Hannah was born, august 23rd 1908.

    The family moved South to the smarter Govanhill area where they bought a substantial house in Dixon Avenue. She declared at an early age that she wanted to be an artist. She took evening classes at the Glasgow School of art. Hannah’s mother asked Baillie Drummond, a neighbour, to intervene in her application to the School of Art, as it was unusual for Jewish women to be accepted there at the time.

    Hannah began, in the 1920s, to produce her hallmark black and white drawings, many inspired by the Bible such as her Adam and Eve fleeing the Garden of Eden .

    HF Adam and eve

    She also wrote  poetry and later moved on to sculpture working with Benno Schotz at the Glasgow School of Art. Sydney Goodsir Smith, reviewing an exhibition at the RSA in 1965, wrote: “Hannah Frank’s voluptuous “Reclining Woman” is classical in her ease of pose and perfect calm, a lovely wee thing”

    Hannah and her husband Lionel lived most of their lives in Govanhill, but spent their last years in Westacres, a Jewish care home in Newton Mearns


    Hannah with “Pensive Head” 






    A Glasgow Shtetl

    The vast majoity of Glasgow Jews came from the Baltic countries of Lativa and Lithuania/ Poland which at the time were part of the Russian Empire. Since about 1800 most Jews in Russia were forecibly confined to this are known the Pale. Pogroms (persecution, often violent) increased and so many opted to leave.

    The destination was America- but a favoutie route was a boat to Leith – crossing Glasgow and on from there- but due to poverty and being cheated by the shipowners- many did to make it and stayed Later families would join them in Glasgow

    Many small townsin Lithuania and Latvia were 50% of more Jewish, known as Shtetls and Jewish cultural life flourished The language was Yiddish (derived mainly from German and written in Hebrew script)

    A Lithuanian Shtetl around 1900

    Below Here is an extract from “Life in Mariampole” (Lithuania) as remmbered by Albert Margowsky who left there aged 17

    At the entrance to an average home in Mariampole stood a kayle [barrel] filled with drinking water with a copper dipper on top, as well as an almer [cabinet that stores food] nearby. The almer contained ayngemakhtsn [preserves] with a warning: ―M‟zol dos nit darfn.” [―You should not get into it.‖] Next, situated in the kitchen was a koymen [chimney] and a plite [brick or earthen stove]. In winters and nights, below the kamen [brick fireplace used as an oven] sat a katukh [chicken coop] with eggs.A container for pots and pans was accessible. Located nearby werea shlof bank [folding bed] usually painted red. When the lid lifted, the bench interior became a bed with the straw tick mattress and pillow in the drawer below. There was also a table, a kerosene lamp, and a politse [shelf] for pots and pans. Next to the kitchen came the living room. Its walls were decorated with pictures and photographs of the mishpokhe [family]. The furniture consisted of a vant zeyger [wall clock] with weights hanging down and a chain to wind it up, a kushetke [sofa] which served both as a bed and hope chest, tables, chairs, wooden clothes closet and a kakhloyvn [tile oven]. The bedrooms were mostly side rooms: one shared by the parents with the infants and two others, one for girls and one for boys.The furniture was simple, plain and wooden and passed on from generation to generation. Some homes had a commode. Each home had a bookcase filled with books, mostly of a religious nature. The walls were either calcimined or covered with paper.A sheygen [woven runner] covered the floor. On Saturdays some families spread fine yellow sand on their floor lekoved shabes [to honor the Sabbath]. Homes were lit by kerosene lamps. The blitslomp [bright lamp] hung from the ceiling was lowered or raised by a pulley attached to a heavy weight on the bottom. The glass-bowl kerosene lamps and glass chimney lamps produced smoke and their wicks had to be trimmed continually.The smoke and soot needed to be wiped from inside the chimney.


    Street life in a Jewish district

    in E Europe and Govanhill  


    Familty life in a poorer Glasgow tenement around 1900  would not have been very different, so many newly arriving Jews would have felt at home.

    “Our first address was the Gorbals where Father had lodgings with distant relatives, and the Gorbals, somehow, was less intimidating than other parts of town, for it reminded me vaguely of Dvinsk. There were Yiddish posters on the hoardings, Hebrew lettering on the shops, Jewish names, Jewish faces, Jewish butchers, Jewish bakers with Jewish bread, and Jewish grocers with barrels of herring in the doorway. The herrings in particular brought a strong whiff of home. One heard Yiddish in the streets – more so, in fact, than English – and one encountered figures who would not have been out of place in Barovke” . (Chaim Bermont, born in Lithuania and moved to Latvia as a child and then Glasgow)




    Asian Immigration

    Originally most Indians who arrived in Glasgow in the early part of the 20th C were Lascar Seamen (crew member on merchant ships trading between Glasgow and Indian Ocean) and some stayed on. One, Abdul Salim, played for Celtic in 1936/7.  Some became hawkers with suitcases filled with goods such as jumpers, 2 dresses, 35 scarves). They would go round the suburbs and across Scotland and were called Johnny Pedlers (the first Jewish and Italians migrants did the same)

    The 1950s saw the beginning of the increase in numbers, especially from Punjab, partly due to the partition of that state between India and Pakistan and also because it has always been one of the most entrprenerial regions. They setteld mainly in Gorbals and sent for wives and families. Gradually suitcases gave way to small cars and vans and then some moved into wholesale business and retail. In 1970s when there were about 12,000 a survey asked Asians why they came to Glasgow and 81% said  “ for a better way of life”. Glasgow Corporation Buses also recruited Pakistanis /Indians as drivers and  conductors and increasingly the NHS needed qualified doctors. The number in Glasgow is around 30,000 and maybe 20-30% of Govanhill population is of Asian orgian

    There are three main religous groups – Sikhs, Hundus and Muslims. Gradually all moved to better houses in Govanhill as well as Pollokshields seting up shops, restaurants and take aways. Govanhill streets such as Allison Street and Cathcart Road  were transformed. The movement continues to the southern suburbs. The younger generation may continue to support the family business but are just as likely to be in other businesses, accountancy and other professions, the public sector or the arts.

    At the same time people from other parts of Asia arrived, especially China, and often opened shops and restaurants







































    Originally most Indians were  Lascar Seamen (crew member on merchant ships trading between Glasgow and Indian Ocean )

    Some staid on ( one , Abdul Salim, playing for Celtic  1936/7)

    Some became hawkers  with Suitcases filled with goods ( eg Mohammed Noor court case in 1922- suitcase had 24 jumpers, 2 dresses, 35 scarves)



    Origin areas

    Lahore, Faisalabad,, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Mirpur, Rawlpindi,, Multan, Sialkot










    Originally most Indians were  Lascar Seamen (crew member on merchant ships trading between Glasgow and Indian Ocean )

    Some staid on ( one , Abdul Salim, playing for Celtic  1936/7)

    Some became hawkers  with Suitcases filled with goods ( eg Mohammed Noor court case in 1922- suitcase had 24 jumpers, 2 dresses, 35 scarves)


    In 1950s more traders, especially from Punjab, and based in Gorbals

    Called “Johnny Pedlers” – about 250 in 1950s

    Formed a club in Oxford St

    ( cf Italians who were also pedlers)


    Began to send for wives and families any buy small house  eg in Gorbals

    Suitcase giving wa to small cars and vans

    Soem moved into wholesale business

    Numbers grew from 500 in 1953 to 3,000 by 1962 , 12,000 by mid 70s,. and  xx now


    A survey in 1970s asked why they came to Glasgow

    81% said “ for a better way of life”


    Origin areas

    Lahore, Faisalabad,, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Mirpur, Rawlpindi,, Multan, Sialkot


    Many set up small shops

    And capitalised on the dropping of  resale price maintenance in 1970s

    Including off- licences


    Glasgow Corporation Buses also recruited Pakistanis /Indians as drivers and  conductors


    Then moved into restaurant  and take away business


    (story of chicken tikka masala?)

    And adapting local food- nince nan  or mince burryani


    Cash and Carry

    Ali brother Castle food and liquor cash and carry on site of Dixon Blazes

    But many are suffering from late night supermarket opening



    Special part of Cathcart cemetery












































    Hard Times


    Life was not always easy for new Asian immigrants to Glasgow

    Pople arrived in Britain with expectations that they could earn a better living than they had at home in Punjab. But it was often very tough to begin with.  Mr Siddique who eventually settled in a cash and carry in Calder Street tells us he was unempleyed at first and so tried his hand as a door to door salesman, then as a bus driver, and wentt back to Pakisatn – but returned to give his children a better life.

    In 1960s Glasgow, it was quite common to see Pakistani men going up and down closes with suitcases full of things like shirts and blouses and socks. It was a hard way to make a living, particularly when you couldn’t speak the language very well. Sometimes they would leave a shirt or whatever ‘on approval,’ meaning they would give you it and you could pay for it next time they were round, or give it back.

    Mrs Ahmed first settled in Govanhill- ” There was first of all a language barrier. I didn’t know English at all, so it was really hard for me. Socialising wasn’t possible. It was really hard to  explain things. If I went out, I found it really hard to explain to the shopkeeper what I was looking for – why I was in the shop basically. The kind of vegetables you were used to, you didn’t get here at the time. They just weren’t available. There were one or two Asian shops in the Gorbals. So it’s quite a distance away. People didn’t have cars, so you would have to go on the bus. It was mostly the men folk who would go to get the groceries – halal meat, that wasn’t readily available at the time, and things like coriander you couldn’t get, so that was hard.”

    street portrait 6

    Zeeb Ahmed said ” Where they lived (in Punjab) it was an open space, and they were also living in an extended family, and so there would be people comingand going all the time. And then, when you came here you were living up a close. In your own house, within in your own four walls. So there was a feeling of being alone. And they didn’t have that in Punjab”

    But with hard work things improved and the next generation have reaped the benefits,


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    Punjabi Home

    The majority of Govanhill and Glasgow Asian have their family’s origin in Punjab. Punjab is the historic centre of the Sikh religion and community and Glasgow Sikhs have recently built a new Gurdwara in Albert Drive adjacent to Govanhill, reflecting Indian Sikh architecure. The Gurdwara contributes much to the local community including free meals, shared by residents of Govanhill and around of all backgrounds



    Areas around cities such as Lahore and Faisalabad and the districts of  northern Pakistan such as Sialkot are the main areas of Muslim immigrants.

    A typical street scene in a Punjabi village and a street scene in Govanhill 

    Two mosques have been created in Govanhill from converted churches and there are a number of madrasses (schools) eg in Albert Road. Fridays in Govanhill take on a different feel – many shops are closed for a time leaving some streets very quiet while Butterbiggings and Langside Roads near the mosques become crowed with worshipers- just like the towns in Punjab





    Govanhill Asian Gallery

    East European Connections

    The historical connections between Scotland and Eastern Europe are well established, mainly through trade. By the 17th C there were 40,000+ Scots settled in Poland/Lithuania with a whole district of Cracow set aside for them, and there is a part of Gdansk called Nowe Szkoty. Scots were also the main group of peddlers- hawkers selling all kinds of goods. The word “Szot” means both Scot and a busienss traveller.

    They were not always well received. Jews and Scots were frequently grouped together as people to tax and look down upon and the Scots were accused of undercuting local traders. “These people have, like a cencerous ulcer, grown and festered” said the Duke of Prussia. But they gradually integrated and became part of Polish society”


    By the 19th C the flow was the other way with a steady stream of Polish, Lithuanian and other East Europeans arriving to work in the coal mines and iron works. – and big increase as a result of WW2. In 2004 many new countries joined the EU and then began the migrations we know today.


    In Govanhill the concentration is of Roma from Slovakia and more recently Romania. This is a specific migrant group estimated at about 3,000, living mainly in the Westmoreland and Allison Street area where there are easliy accessible privately rented flats.



    For a Better Life

    The pattern of migration to Govanhill by Roma has been similar to that of of the Irish, Jewish, Italians and Asians with the “pioneers” settling in and friends and families joining them later. This also means that the links to the home country remain strong. The Slovak Roma are mainly from a collection of villages in the eastern part of the country, such a Pavlovce (street photos below). The Romanians from areas round Arad.



    Although work and a better life has been the main motive, the Roma, like the Jews from Russia a century before, were also escaping historic discrimination and racism. As a migrant to Govanhill from Pavlovce said

    We Roma have always been humiliated by non-Roma’ but now ‘Migration gave us a chance. I’m going up (dzˇav opre) (to the UK). . . . To earn money . . . What would I do here?! What else is left for us? Here there is nothing to do. (J Grill, 2012 )

    After the fall of communism many lost their jobs. Education levels were also low partly due to state discrimination. In eastern Slovakia Roma children have been routinely segregated into “special schools” with poor teaching.

    At school in Slovakia, Marcela Adamova’s pale skin and blue eyes qualified her for a seat at the front of the class with the white pupils – while Roma children were pushed to the back. Marcela recalls: “The other children would say, ‘You are white, you are like us, not like them.’ But they were wrong. I am Roma, they just didn’t know it.” .

    Roma in Romania were enslaved until the middle of the 19th Century and sent to concentration camps during 1939-45. It is estimated that up to half a million Roma across Europe were exterminated.

    Although the new life in Govanhill remains a struggle for many, it has offered a chance to find work and go to school on an equal basis with everybody else, like these children from  Annette Street Primary  .


    Formal community life is developing. There are a number of church organisations, a support group (Romano Lav) and each year now in April a celebration of International Roma Day (below) .



    On the Streets

    Here is an essay about street life in Govanhill by Jan Grill (The making of Roma/Gypsy migrants in post-industrial Scotland). He calls it Poundhill

    The main artery pulsing through the Poundhill ( GovanhIll) area today is Belhaven Street, (Allison St ) interconnecting the two major roads that delineate the borders of this urban space. It is on Belhaven Street thatmost business and social interaction take place. It offers a variety of ethnic fast-food outlets,greengrocers, confectioners, butcher shops, barbershops, non-stop convenience stores, betting shops, pawnbrokers and off-licences. As with other areas where large numbers of migrants live, here too there are several travel agencies fused with Western Union branchesand exchange offices.

    The Nelson pub (Neeson’s), usually filled with predominantly middle-aged and older white Scottish residents lies at one of the street’s corners. A diversity of smells and textures merges with the drifting aroma of kebab and of green groceries and animates the sensory experiences of passers-by. The street epitomizes the “cultural diversity” that is seen as one of the most distinctive features of Poundhill by its residents and by others. Traces of litter are scattered around, which all residents, regardless of their social and ethnocultural backgrounds, view as one of the major recurrent problems for Poundhill.

    Only one hundred meters down Belhaven Street, on the corners of crossing streets, many Roma migrants hang out and talk throughout the day and evening. Leaning against the iron rails many interrupt their errands or simply stop here for a short chat. The Roma migrantsmake small talk and tease each other but also circulate important knowledge and tips for daily survival strategies. They talk and shout across the street or limit themselves to observing and occasionally commenting on the folkpassing by. In a way, these meeting places serve as a substitute for doorsteps in rural Slovakia, where Roma habitually sit on benches, hangingout, chatting and visiting neighbors. Roma often said that they miss the ability to do this in Britain.

    This was especially true for youngermen and teenage boys as they consider it boring to stay at home in usually crowded housing. It is outside, on the streets, where their masculinity is negotiated in the company of their malepeers. This contrasts sharply with girls whose movement outside the home is more controlled. Girls who spend too much time outside or who hang out with groups of teenage boys are often criticized by other adult Roma on the grounds of having loose morals.The Roma sense and use of public space does not fit in easily with local practices and understandings. For Roma, spending time in the street is simply part of their daily habitual sociability,but it is also a practice that makes them highly distinctive in Poundhill.

    The aesthetics of this sociability stands out in the urban space because of the intensity of interactions, level of noise, and the large crowd of people assembling together. This practice differentiates the Romafrom other Eastern European migrants who only rarely appear to be visible on the streets.

    Clearly, some of the locals from more established white and South Asian residents find large numbers of Roma men crowding the streets an unwelcome and even intimidating sight. For example, one afternoon in August 2007, two short Scottish working-class lads were passing by a group of Roma migrants. Because of the jokes and intensive flow of conversation, most of the Roma migrants paid little attention to freeing the way for the passing guys. Making their way through the knot of people, the Scottish lads were apparently annoyed and intimidated by the number of Roma men and their incomprehensible language. Quietly commenting to each other, the Scottish youths turned annoyed looks toward the Roma crowd. Practically none of the migrants paid any special attention to the rancor ingrained in the look of the passing lads, but for some of the local Pound -hill people, these large and noisy gatherings of Roma migrants represent a symbolic encroachment upon the place and obstruction to the movement of long-standing residents within their own neighborhood. “They took over” was a phrase that I frequently overheard white Scots utter in their complaints about the Roma—and other migrant groups—on Poundhill streets.

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