Glasgow – Scotland’s modern metropolis!

Doulton_Fountain Often when thinking of Scotland, outsiders only think of two places; the romantic wilds of the Scottish Highlands, or the winding alleys and friendly bustle of the nation’s capital in Edinburgh. But Scotland has more than one city, and in fact Edinburgh is not even its largest! That honour goes to Glasgow, an ancient settlement which has revamped and modernised over and over throughout the centuries to become the third largest city in the whole of the United Kingdom, and the Scottish centre for a wealth of industrial, artistic, and cultural touchstones. Join us in today’s blog to learn more about this impressive 21st century metropolis, and gain a deeper respect for the people who live and work there.

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Like many Scottish towns and cities, the area which is now Glasgow has been inhabited by humans since time immemorial – quite literally! Evidence suggests that for millennia, prehistoric human hunters and fishermen settled along the banks of the River Clyde. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Roman settlements were also establisUniversity Of Glasgowhed, and the Antonine Wall was built in this area – supposedly to demark the limits of “Caledonia”, as the Romans referred to the region of Scotland. The Roman plan didn’t exactly work of course, but some remnants of the Antonine Wall can still be seen in Glasgow to this very day!

The official founding of Glasgow was achieved by the early Christian Saint Mungo, in the 6th century. The establishment of his church at Molendinar Burn, where Glasgow Cathedral stands in the present-day, paved the way for Glasgow to develop as a religious centre and, by the 12th century, become a real place of power in the hierarchy of Scottish settlements. Following on from this, in the 15th century, Glasgow University was established, and Glasgow’s position was cemented; with a reputation for supporting religion, academia, and of course trade. For throughout all of these other changes, one thing remained a constant; the River Clyde.

The Clyde truly has been the lifeblood of Glasgow, and indeed its influence stretched far across Scotland. Famed for its influence over the Industrial Revolution in Scotland, with the Glasgow Clyde shipyards being known and respected worldwide, the river has actually been of huge importance for much longer than a scant couple of hundred years. From pre-historic times when simple fishermen gleaned their catch from its banks to support their families, to a trading port for all manner of exotic imports and essential exports, to allowing access to the Scottish interior across its broad waters and impressive length, the Clyde has seen it all. Facing to the west, and the Americas, the Clyde also became a hub for Scottish emigrants in the 17th and 18th centuries, and many visiting Scottish-Americans enjoy visiting the historic parts of the city to imagine the places their ancestors may have been in the absence of being able to track down their true ancestral clan lands.

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By the 19th century, Glasgow was a shining jewel in the crown of the British Empire. Known as the Second City of the Empire (after London, of course), it by this point had a wealth of gorgeous architecture, firmly established trade and industrial businesses, libraries, colleges and universities, parks, museums, galleries, and churches – in short everything a modern and successful city could ever wish for. But this wasn’t to last forever. Following the Great Depression of the 1930’s, Glasgow’s decline was temporarily halted by the outbreak of WWII, as it invigorated the shipyards by providing much needed business building warships. However, this came at a heavy price, and Glasgow’s Clydeside region was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe throughout much of the war, destroying many of the cities buildings, inflicting death, injury or homelessness on thousands of Glaswegian residents. After the war, the shipyards went quiet again and continued their slow decline, and by the 1960’s it seemed as though Glasgow’s proud history was drawing to a sad end, with derelict structures covering huge swathes of the dockyards and city proper, and many impoverished Glaswegians being forced to live in crumbling tenement buildings, certain regions of the city began to suffer from a sometimes unfairly rough reputation.

However, already the proud and innovative Glaswegian people had set a plan to rejuvenate and reinvent their city once more. The Bruce Report, published by Glasgow Corporation Engineer Robert Bruce in 1945, was followed almost to the letter (only being changed to allow for some beloved older buildings which had weathered the war to be saved), and the city was transformed over the course of thirty years. The 1970s and 1980s seemed like a dark time for many Glaswegians as their city struggled to find a new purpose once it became clear that shipbuilding and trade could no longer sustain it, but all the while new and better housing was built, a new transport system was established, and many residents were helped to move out of the over-crowded city centre to make way for new businesses and service based industries to come in.

Mitchell_LibraryOver the thirty years since the completion of Glasgow’s biggest makeover yet, the economy and reputation of the city has once again soared. New modern architecture has been welcomed and buildings such as the Clyde Auditorium and Glasgow Science Centre sit happily alongside the medieval Glasgow Cathedral, surviving Victorian tenements (themselves revamped and improved), and stunning Mackintosh buildings such as the Glasgow School of Art. From religion, to academics, to hard-nosed business and industry, the Glaswegian people have once again risen to a challenge to their very identity, and now Glasgow is considered one of the most artistic and cultured places in Scotland, not to mention being a hub for athletes of all kinds. Famous of course for the Old Firm, Rangers and Celtic football teams, Glasgow has also recently hosted football events for the 2012 London Olympics, and then rose to the occasion only a few short months ago by hosting the entire XX Commonwealth Games, a huge success in showcasing not only the greatest Scottish athletes of the moment, but also Glasgow itself and showing everything the city and Scotland has to offer.

Artistically, Glasgow is now considered the very heart of the Scottish contemporary music industry, with scores of venues and recording studios throughout the city, as well as boasting the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland which attracts students of all kinds of music and related subjects, and is the countries busiest performing arts venue. The Glasgow School of Art which was mentioned briefly before, is also an internationally famous establishment of higher learning and counts amongst its dozens of celebrity alumni Peter Capaldi, Robbie Coltrane and Liz Lochhead to name but a few!

Visitors to Glasgow are sure to enjoy any number of aspects of the city, from exploring its multi-faceted past and following the story of the indomitable Glaswegian spirit, to enjoying a vibrant and modern culture of music, theatre, fine restaurants and amazing architecture – not to mention the huge variety of festivals throughout each year covering topics such as comedy, fashion, visual arts, jazz, contemporary music, pipers, Scottish culture and homecoming and much more. Once again a Scottish jewel to show all we are capable of achieving, Glasgow is a truly modern metropolis, a cosmopolitan city rejoicing in its forward looking attitude while honouring its links to the past, and doing it all it can to continue to rise and succeed.



One Response to Glasgow – Scotland’s modern metropolis!

  • Elizabeth Bremner says:

    I am proud to call myself a Glaswegian and my heart will always be in Scotland. I have lived in America for over 40yrs and Glasgow will always be my home.

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