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For other uses, see Glasgow (disambiguation)

Glasgow is Scotland's largest city, located on the River Clyde in West Central Scotland.

It is also one of 32 unitary council areas in Scotland, officially known as the City of Glasgow and, like many west of Scotland councils is effectively a Labour fiefdom, having been run by the party for well over 30 years. Glasgow had a population of 577,869 at the time of the 2001 census, while approximately 1.8 million people live in the city's metropolitan area. The name comes from the Brythonic glas cu (compare modern Gaelic Glaschu), meaning green hollow, and usually romantically translated as "the dear green place". It was until the 1970's popularly referred to as "Glesca" by Glaswegians themselves, however in more recent times the original dialect seems to be diminishing.


Coat of arms

The coat of arms shows Glasgow's patron saint, Saint Kentigern also known as Saint Mungo, and includes four emblems - the bird, tree, bell, and fish. The emblems represent miracles Saint Mungo was supposed to have performed. The motto of the city is "Let Glasgow Flourish" and this is part of the arms. The motto is derived from Saint Mungo's original sermon: "Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the word and the praising of thy name". The original version is inscribed on a bell made in 1637 which states "Lord let Glasgow flovrichse throvgh the preaching of thy word and praising thy name"

Children are taught to remember the arms using the following verse:

Here's the bird that never flew
Here's the tree that never grew
Here's the bell that never rang
Here's the fish that never swam

The motto was more recently remembered by a song of the same name by 'Hue and Cry', a popular musical group of Glasgow origin. (D.Hill)


Founding of the city

Glasgow had hosted communities for centuries before Christ, with the River Clyde providing a natural location for fishing. The Romans later built outposts in the area and, to keep Roman Britannia separate from the Celtic and Pictish Caledonia, constructed the Antonine Wall, remains of which can still be seen in Glasgow today.

Glasgow itself was founded by the Christian missionary Saint Mungo (also known as Saint Kentigern) in the 6th century. He established a church on the Molendinar Burn, where the present cathedral stands, and in the following years Glasgow became a religious centre. The miracles that Saint Mungo performed now adorn the city's Coat of Arms.

George Square and Glasgow's City Chambers
George Square and Glasgow's City Chambers

The Cathedral city

The history of Glasgow is vague until the creation of the cathedral in Glasgow. By the 12th century Glasgow had been granted the status of what can now be called a city and was the seat of the Bishops and Archbishops of Glasgow.

In 1451 the University of Glasgow was founded by Papal decree. By the start of the 16th century, Glasgow had become an important religious and academic city.

Trade and the Industrial Revolution

By the 16th century, the city's trades and craftsmen had begun to wield significant power, at the expense of the church. Glasgow became an ideal trading centre - the Clyde provided an ideal location for the movement of goods throughout the world through ships. The city was also a gateway to Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland, and natural resources could be moved around the world through the city's docks.

Scotland's position as near the centre of the British Empire allowed Glasgow to become a focal point of trading with the colonies. The easy access to the Atlantic allowed the importation of American tobacco which was then resold onto Europe. Trade with the Caribbean allowed sugar to be imported into the country.

The de-silting of the River in the 1770s allowed bigger ships to move further down the river, thus laying the foundations for industry and shipbuilding in Glasgow during the 19th century.

The abundance of coal and iron in Lanarkshire allowed Glasgow to become an industrial city - eventually being termed 'The Second City of the Empire'. Cotton factories and textiles became a large employer in Glasgow.

Immigration also expanded the Glasgow workforce allowing cheap labour. People from the Highlands, Ireland, and other European countries emigrated to Glasgow, attracted by its growing economic importance. The arrival of Catholic Irish created religious tensions with Glaswegian Protestants. This has persisted to the present day and is manifest in the intense rivalry between the football teams Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic (see Religious Rivalry below).

Industrial improvement allowed Glasgow to become a major base for ship- and train- building.

Trading allowed great wealth to be generated for some in the city. The merchants constructed spectacular building and monuments, which can still be seen in the city today. Furthermore they reinvested their money into industrial development to help Glasgow grow further. In 1893 the burgh was constituted as the County of the City of Glasgow. Glasgow became one of the richest cities in the world and parks, museums and libraries were all set up during this period.

Decline of industry and the post-war period

After the First World War, serious economic hardship occurred in the world, and Glasgow did not escape this. Although ships and trains were still being built on the Clyde, cheap labour abroad reduced the competitiveness of Glasgow's industries. By the 1960s Glasgow had gone into economic decline. The major shipbuilders on the Clyde began to close down, but not before building one of their last great ships -Cunard's 'Queen Elizabeth 2' (actually built in Clydebank). By the turn of the millennium, only two shipyards remained on the Clyde, both of them relying on Government defence contracts to remain in business.

The 1970s and early 1980s were dark periods in the city, as steelworks, coal mines, engine factories and other heavy industries went bust. This led to mass unemployment and epidemic levels of urban decay. The ruthless policies of successive Conservative governments in London had little sympathy for Glasgow's plight and the city continued to slide downhill. Since the mid-80s however, the city has slowly undergone a painful rebirth - a "financial district" made up from a raft of swish new office buildings has sprung up in the western end of the city centre, and this has become home to many well-known banks, consultancy firms, I.T. firms, legal practices, and insurance companies. In the suburbs, numerous leisure and retail developments have been built on the former sites of factories and heavy industries. Critics argue however, that the sustainability of such new developments is fragile, owing to their dependence on the service sector, rather than manufacturing.

Modern Glasgow

In the 1990s Glasgow has rebuilt itself and tried to move away from the industries that it was once famous for. It was awarded the European City of Culture in 1990, which was followed by the award of City of Architecture and Design in 1999. It was also the European Capital of Sport in 2003.

Glasgow is the capital of new music in Scotland, and has many venues and clubs which promote new bands & DJs etc such as the Barfly, and the famous King Tut's Wah Wah Hut. Additionally, it is home to some of the most well known and respected artists in the UK, with bands such as Snow Patrol, Franz Ferdinand etc., as well as a few of pop’s most prized.

Redevelopment of residential areas, combined with the increased cultural activities, have contributed to a better environment in Glasgow. With this the City Council has been successful in attracting tourists, conferences as well as major sporting events to the city. Public housing, previously administered by the Glasgow City Council, was transferred to the not-for-profit Glasgow Housing Association in 2003. This affected some 80,000 properties and created Britain's largest social landlord in an innovative tenant-led organisation.

The local police force is Strathclyde Police Force . Its area covers Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, Dunbartonshire and Argyll & Bute. Established in 1975, the force serves 2.2 million people and replaced the local county constabularies and the City of Glasgow Police, the UK's first police force.

Art and architecture

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art
Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art
The Glasgow Science Centre
The Glasgow Science Centre

Unlike Edinburgh, very little of medieval Glasgow remains, the two main landmarks from this period being confined to the 14th century Provand's Lordship and Glasgow Cathedral. The vast majority of the city as it is seen today dates from the 19th century, and as a result, Glasgow has an impressive heritage of Victorian architecture; examples of which include the Glasgow City Chambers, the main building of the University of Glasgow, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, and the Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, being outstanding examples. Another architect who has had a great and enduring impact on the city's appearance was Alexander Thomson, who produced a distinctive architecture based on fundamentalist classicism that gave him the nickname "Greek". He was described as a "quiet, stay-at-home Victorian behind whose buttoned-up facade there seethed a kind of stylistic corsair who plundered the past for the greater glory of the present".

The buildings reflect the wealth and self confidence of the residents of the "second city of the Empire". There is even a building facing Glasgow Green, originally Templeton's carpet factory, which was designed as a replica of the Doge's Palace in Venice. It doesn't look out of place in Glasgow. The wealth came from the industries that developed from the Industrial Revolution. The shipyards, marine engineering, steel making, and heavy industry all contributed to the growth of the city. At one time the expression "Clyde-built" was synonymous with quality and engineering excellence.

Of course, there was another side to the picture. The beautiful buildings were built with red or gold sandstone but after a few years those colours had disappeared under a pervasive black layer of soot and pollutants from the furnaces. There were other buildings. Tenements were built to house the workers who migrated from Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, the islands and the country areas to feed the insatiable need for labour. The tenements were often overcrowded and insanitary, and many developed into the infamous Glasgow slums, the Gorbals area being one of the most infamous.

In recent years many of these buildings have been cleaned and restored to their original appearance. Others were demolished to make way for large, barrack-like housing estates, and high-rise flats. The latter were built in large numbers during the 1960s and early 1970s, and indeed, Glasgow has a higher concentration of high-rise buildings than any other city in the UK. The Red Road flats in the north of the city, at 32 storeys were for many years the highest residential buildings in Europe.

Many people feel that this has been less than successful as many of the "schemes" were heartless dormitories well away from the centre of the city with no amenities, and which split up long established community relationships ("deserts wi' windies", as Billy Connolly put it). Many of the high-rise developments were poorly designed, cheaply built and became a magnet for crime. Over time many have become as bad as the slum areas that they replaced. Today the city council has begun a programme of demolishing the high-rises which are in most need of disposal.

Modern buildings in Glasgow include the Glasgow Science Centre and the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Along the banks of the Clyde is the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre, and shopping centres include the Buchanan Galleries, the glass pyramid of the St Enoch Centre, and the upmarket Princes Square.

While the concrete high-rise housing edifices of the 1960s attracted little endorsement from architectural critics, Glasgow has taken the seemingly retrograde step of relaxing its height restrictions on city centre buildings. In the new millennium, plans for 30 and 40-story office towers have been proposed in the city's financial district. Plush new housing developments are also taking place along the Clyde; the "Glasgow Harbour" project is an attempt to emulate London's Docklands area, with new houses and office developments rising from the ashes of the former shipyards.


The city is blessed with amenities which cover a wide range of cultural activities, from curling to opera and from football to art appreciation.

Glasgow boasts a fine selection of museums that include those devoted to transport, religion, and modern art. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has an excellent collection of paintings including many old masters, French Impressionists etc. The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, by the University of Glasgow, has the best collection of Whistler paintings in the world. The Burrell Collection is an eclectic collection of art and antiquities donated to the city by William Burrell. It is housed in a museum situated in the Pollok Country Park. The People's Palace museum reflects the history of the city and its people, focussing on the working class of Glasgow.

The Gallery of Modern Art is situated on Royal Exchange Square , just off George Square.

Glasgow's museums include:

The Mitchell Library is the largest public reference library in Europe.

Scotland's leading cultural institutions, Scottish Opera and The Royal Scottish National Orchestra are based here and the city also has a longstanding and lively popular music scene based around venues such as The Barrowlands and King Tut's Wah Wah Hut.

Glasgow has a number of theatres offering everything from Shakespearean tragedy to side-splitting comedy.

  • Pavilion Theatre
  • Royal Concert Hall
  • Citizens Theatre
  • King's Theatre Glasgow
  • Tron Theatre
  • Theatre Royal

Glasgow has a number of parks and open spaces that give the city places to "breathe". Among these are:

The city was host to the two Great Exhibitions of 1881 and 1901. More recently it was European Capital of Culture 1990, National City of Sport 1995-1999, UK City of Architecture and Design 1999 and European Capital of Sport 2003.


Glasgow has a proud sporting history, with the world's first international football match being held at the West of Scotland Cricket Club's Hamilton Crescent ground in the Partick area of Glasgow. The match, held in 1872, was between Scotland and England; the game resulted in a 0-0 draw.

Glasgow is home to Scotland's largest football stadiums: Celtic Park (60,832 seats); Ibrox Stadium (50,411 seats); and Hampden Park (52,670 seats), which is Scotland's national football stadium. Glasgow has three professional football clubs: Rangers and Celtic, which together make the Old Firm; and Partick Thistle; A fourth club, Queens Park, is an amateur club that plays in the Scottish professional league system. It used to have two other professional clubs in the late 20th century: Clyde, who moved to Cumbernauld, and Third Lanark, who went bankrupt.

The history of football in the city, as well as the status of the Old Firm, has made Glasgow a famous footballing city throughout the world, and football competitions attract many visitors to the city throughout the year. The stadia also have attracted the European football governing body UEFA to hold the final of the prestigious Champions League competition at Hampden Park three times, most recently in 2002. Glasgow itself is where the Scottish Football Association, the national governing body, and the Scottish Football Museum are located.

There are major international sporting arenas, such as Kelvin Hall (which has held many international contests) and Scotstoun Sports Centres. In 2003 the National Academy for Badminton was completed in Scotstoun. In 2003 Glasgow was also given the title of European Capital of Sport.

There are also smaller sporting facilities in Glasgow. There is an abundance of small outdoor football pitches, as well as golf clubs and artificial ski slopes. Between 1998 and 2004,the Scottish Claymores American football team played some or all of their home games each season at Hampden and the venue also hosted World Bowl XI .

Religious rivalry

See also the main article: Religious rivalry in Glasgow

Some sectarian rivalry still exists in certain sectors of the population, largely as a result of mass immigration to the city from Ireland in the 19th Century. The large majority of Catholics are of Irish origin, although a few came from the Highlands and Lithuania. Some Northern Irish Protestants have also migrated to Glasgow, bringing the culture and traditions of that community, there was a significant influx among shipyard workers just before the First World War. Nowadays this is largely limited to the sporting rivalry between the supporters of Celtic and Rangers, which has an underlying religious basis for some people. Practically all Rangers supporters are nominally Protestant, while the largest majority of Celtic supporters are nominally Catholic.


Glasgow is famous for supporting socialist ideas. As mentioned above, the city has been controlled by the Labour party for 30 years, but its socialist roots are far-reaching, from the city's days as a working-class dominated industrial powerhouse. In the 1920s and 1930s the city's strikes and revolutionary fever caused serious alarm at Westminster, with one uprising causing tanks to be sent on to the city's streets. Later, strikes at the shipyards gave rise to the Red Clydeside tag. During the 1930s, Glasgow was the main base of the Independent Labour Party. Towards the end of the 20th century it became a centre of struggle against the poll tax, and then the main base of the Scottish Socialist Party.


Glasgow currently has the largest number of citizens under the poverty line in the UK, and the divide between the city's wealthy areas and their nearby deprived neighbours can be startling.

This poverty is associated with ill-health, and Glasgow has some of the worst incidences of heart disease and cancer in Scotland, which as a whole has the worst levels in Western Europe. As of October 2004, statistics released[1] by the Office for National Statistics show that the life expectancy at birth for males in the city of Glasgow was 69.1 years in 2001-2003, the lowest in the United Kingdom. Female life expectancy at birth for the same period was 76.4 years, also the lowest in the UK. Eight out of ten local authorities with the lowest male life expectancy at birth in 2001-2003 were in Scotland. The figures for Glasgow during 1991-1993 were 68.2 years for males and 75.0 for females. The lower life expectancy is often attributed to the native diet, which has high levels of fat and salt and low levels of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Many social initiatives aimed at reversing the situation, including free fruit and free access to sport centres for schoolchildren, are being put in place.


Glasgow people have a unique sense of humour, and strong loyalty to their own city. The Glasgow Patter is a brand of local humorous Scots dialect which is hilarious to those who understand it, usually only natives of the city.

Billy Connolly has done a lot to make Glaswegian humour known to the rest of the world but, inevitably, it loses something in translation. In fact Glaswegian is a rich and vital living dialect which gives a true reflection of the city with all its virtues and vices. It is more than an alternative pronunciation; words also change their meaning, e.g. "away" can mean "leaving" as in A'm awa, an instruction to stop being a nuisance as in awa wi ye, or drunk/demented as in he's awa wi it. Canna means "can't", canny means "careful". Pieces refers to "sandwiches". Ginger refers to any form of carbonated soft drink. Then there are words that appear to have no obvious relationship to standard English, words like coupon which means "face"; historically derived from to punch a ticket coupon.

The TV series Chewin' the Fat and Rab C. Nesbitt capture the humour of the Glaswegian patois and sensibilities.

Glaswegians, who retain their own patois insults for their fellow Scots, are sometimes disparagingly known, particularly among people from Edinburgh, as "weegies" (common), "keelies" or "soap dodgers". (Rivalry between Scotland's main towns can appear intense but is seldom significant. Scots from the Scottish Highlands and the Western Isles are known as "teuchters" by the keelies.)


Glasgow is also a major education centre with four Universities within ten miles of the city centre, universities such as the ancient University of Glasgow (which has one of the highest ratios of students who continue living at home), the redbrick University of Strathclyde and the concrete Glasgow Caledonian University, teacher training colleges, teaching hospitals, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow School of Art, and 10 further education colleges.


Glasgow is also home to large sections of the Scottish national media. It hosts:




A number of major Scottish newspapers are published in the city:

  • The Daily Record and Sunday Mail - Scotland's best-selling tabloid, based at Anderston Quay
  • The Herald - Scotland's best-selling broadsheet
  • The Sunday Herald - its five-year-old sister title
  • The Evening Times - an evening tabloid distributed in the west of Scotland

As well as Scottish editions of:

Local Newspapers are:

  • The Glaswegian - Predominantly serving the North end of Glasgow
  • Local News for Southsiders - The Southside of Glasgow and the Govan area.
  • The Glasgow East News - The East End of the City
  • The West End Courier - Partick, West-End and the Northwest outskirts.


See also the main article: Transport in Glasgow


Glasgow has two main airports; Glasgow International Airport (GLA), is the larger of the two and handles the majority of Glasgow's air traffic, including shuttle flights to and from London and the rest of the UK, and transatlantic links to Chicago and New York. Glasgow Prestwick International Airport in Ayrshire (PIK), is located 29 miles south west of the city, and caters mainly for charter flights, low-cost airlines, and freight traffic.


The city has two main line railway stations. Queen Street Station, located on the northern periphery of the city centre connects Glasgow to the North of Scotland, and Edinburgh. Central Station, located on Argyle Street is the northern terminus of the West Coast Main Line, and connects Glasgow with the South, and is the rail gateway to England.

There is also a suburban above ground rail system, centred on Central Station for the City south of the Clyde, the Ayrshire coast, and ferry ports on the Clyde. Queen Street Station is for links with Edinburgh and the east coast of Scotland and west to and north to the Highlands on the famous West Highland Line.

Major roads

The city is linked to the rest of the country by the following main roads.

The Glasgow Subway

See also the main article: Glasgow Subway

Glasgow is one of only three UK metropolitan areas that has an underground metro system; the others being London and Tyne and Wear. The Glasgow Subway was built in 1896 and substantially modernised in 1977. It has a single circular route. This, taken together with the orange-coloured paintwork of the carriages, has led to it being known as "The Clockwork Orange".

Urban transport

The largest bus operators in the City are:

Full bus, train and ferry information is available from Traveline Scotland

Suburbs and surrounding district

The City of Glasgow outgrew its borders; many areas officially within surrounding Local Authority Areas are therefore considered part of the city.

See: List of places in Glasgow, Scotland

Famous Glaswegians

See: List of famous glaswegians

Twinned cities

Glasgow has been twinned with various cities around the world including:

See also

External links

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