THE TWO SONGS that follow illustrate vividly the contrasting perspectives on life in Glasgow before the slum clearances at the close of World II. Nostalgia for that period is certainly strong among Glasgow people. This can be accounted for in many ways but primarily, I think, in the death of the communal spirit which followed the destruction of the old tenement communities. Life in the far-flung housing schemes took on a harrowing quality which the Council and its planners, in their zest to sweep the city clean of the unmanageable poor, lacked the imagination to foresee. Although McLean’s song was written in opposition to McNaughton’s, they are in fact complementary: each a truthful enough evocation of the period. If McNaughton’s has a tenderer hue, this may be because he lays more stress on childhood experiences, whereas McLean’s is more redolent of the grown-up world. On its own, neither is the whole story, but there is a lot of good fun in each.
It ought to be mentioned that a bastardised version of McNaughton’s lines seems to have gained some currency due to Prince Charles’ inimitable rendering on the opening day of Glasgow’s Garden Festival. ‘Soady scones’, needless to say, were seldom ‘soddy’.
Oh where is the Glasgow where I used tae stey,
The white wally closes done up wi’ pipe cley;
Where ye knew every neighbour frae first floor tae third,
And tae keep your door locked was considered absurd.
Do you know the folk staying next door tae you?
And where is the wee shop where I used tae buy
A quarter o’ totties, a tupenny pie,
A bag o’ broken biscuits an’ three totty scones,
An’ the wumman aye asked, “How’s your maw getting on?”
Can your big supermarket give service like that?
And where is the wean that once played in the street,
Wi’ a jorrie, a peerie, a gird wi’ a cleek?
Can he still cadge a hudgie an’ dreep aff a dyke,
Or is writing on walls noo the wan thing he likes?
Can he tell Chickie Mellie frae Hunch, Cuddy, Hunch?
And where is the tram-car that once did the ton
Up the Great Western Road on the old Yoker run?
The conductress aye knew how tae deal wi’ a nyaff -
“If ye’re gaun, then get oan, if ye’re no, then get aff!”
Are they ony like her on the buses the day?
And where is the chip shop that I knew sae well,
The wee corner cafe where they used tae sell
Hot peas and brae an’ MacCallums an’ pokes
An’ ye knew they were Tallies the minute they spoke:
“Dae ye want-a-da raspberry ower yer ice-cream?”
Oh where is the Glasgow that I used tae know,
Big Wullie, wee Shooey, the steamie, the Co.,
The shilpet wee bauchle, the glaiket big dreep,
The ba’ on the slates, an’ yer gas in a peep?
If ye scrape the veneer aff, are these things still there?
Where is the Glasgow I used to know?
The tenement buildings that let in the snow,
Through the cracks in the plaster the cold wind did blow.
And the water we washed in was fifty below.
We read by the gaslight, we had nae T.V.,
Hot porridge for breakfast, cold porridge for tea,
And some weans had rickets and some had T.B.
Aye, that’s what the Glasgow of old means to me.
Noo the neighbours complained if we played wi’ a ba’,
Or hunch-cuddy-hunch against somebody’s wa’,
If we played kick-the-can we’d tae watch for the law,
And the polis made sure we did sweet bugger a’.
And we huddled together to keep warm in bed,
We had nae sheets or blankets, just auld coats instead,
And a big balaclava to cover your head,
“And God, but it’s cold” was the only prayer said.
Noo there’s some say that tenement living was swell,
That’s the wally-close toffs who had doors wi’ a bell,
Two rooms and a kitchen and a bathroom as well,
While the rest of us lived in a single-end hell.
So wipe aff that smile when you talk o’ the days,
Ye lived in the Gorbals or Cowcaddens ways,
Remember the rats and the mice ye once chased,
For tenement living was a bloody disgrace.