Glasgow, which literally means “Dear Green Place” is the major city in Scotland, though not the capital. That distinction belongs to Edinburgh. I am a Glaswegian, or resident of Glasgow, born in an area called Pollok on the south side of the city. The city of Glasgow is divided in to the four main areas of North, South, East and West and it is common to speak of yourself as belonging to one of those general areas. I personally am a southsider. Glasgow is a city with a population around 1.5 million people and is made of many neighbourhoods which differ in size and in class.
Perhaps the most famous area in Glasgow is what is known as “The Gorbals”, an area on the south side just over the River Clyde. The Gorbals has always had the reputation as a place of violence but in reality, it used to be a very neighbourly place, filled with down to earth people who lacked materially. Yes, there were street gangs who would fight with each other, but generally, the people of the Gorbals were relatively safe and could leave their doors unlocked without fear of theft. Fact is, most had nothing worth stealing.
Unfortunately, as time moved on, the Gorbals became a haven for drug addicts and from the 1970s onward, it was not a safe place to be. Many of the old tenement buildings were torn down to be replaced by high-rise tower blocks and other modern apartment housing that turned the place into a ghetto. People were living with dampness in their homes, living a life of poverty and surrounded by a drug culture that justifiably gave the Gorbals a bad name. In recent years, there has been a regeneration within the area and many of the tower blocks have been demolished. New homes have been built with some being sold to buyers from outside the area and others being rented to Gorbals residents who were once cooped up in high flats.
The Gorbals is a popular area to live now, one reason being that it is almost within a stone’s throw of the city centre. A short walk across one of the bridges spanning the River Clyde and you are in town. While the Gorbals has benefited from regeneration, other parts of the city have gone to ruin and it is common to drive through areas that are now dilapidated and with deserted tenement buildings. Areas on the East End of Glasgow have become rundown and are in need of the same kind of regeneration experienced in the Gorbals.
In contrast, there are many neighbourhoods that are fairly affluent, places like Milngavie (pronounced Mil-Guy), Newton Mearns and Newlands. It is common in Glasgow to drive past poor, rundown areas and then to find yourself in an affluent area within minutes. Glasgow still has many of its tenement buildings which are more than 100 years old, some are in a terrible condition while others are beautifully renovated and maintained. One of the problems Glasgow now faces, like many other cities, is the influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe. Why is this a problem? It has led to a situation where once proud areas have now become ghettos where local people will not walk at night.
Some areas now resemble the dilapidated, empty locations dotted around the city, the difference being that in this case, people are living here. The streets are littered with household junk and the tenement closes are beyond dirty. One area in Govanhill on the south side of the city is almost totally populated by people from Slovakia, Poland and other countries and has unfortunately resulted in a ramshackle, rundown neighbourhood. Having lived in the Govanhill area since the late 1960s and with family who still live there, I have seen the terrible demise of this once bustling, friendly neighbourhood.
Glasgow still has much to offer, but it is no longer the “dear green place” it once was. Many places are now no-go areas and it is sad to see how some localities have been destroyed. Like any city, there are some good and some bad neighbourhoods. As a lifelong resident of Glasgow, I would have to say that my overall feeling is that Glasgow, in many instances, is an embarrassment to its citizens.