Every time I’m in the Gorbals, there’s always something different. I used to go regularly to the Citz and on my way to and from the Subway, I used to pass a tower block that was levelled a year or so ago. There is always new housing springing up somewhere as the city tries its best to reinvent the Gorbals. To set the tone, as I waited to cross Eglinton Street onto Cumberland Street, I looked at another new housing block being put up on the corner. To the left as I walked along were new-ish housing while to the right the railway arches housed garages and industrial premises. At the junction of Gorbals Street, Pollokshaws Road and Cathcart Road, there was another railway bridge and more arches, the remnants of an old railway station now all walled up. Just down the road one of those arches bears a mural depicting the Gorbals Vampire, put there in 2016 by the Citizens Theatre working with the Scottish Power Foundation.
Cumberland Street isn’t continuous and at the first split, at Laurieston Road, the buildings turn all modern. Indeed many of them are award-winning. I had just done the Sauchiehall Street walk and the Saltire Society had also accorded flats along there. The streets had a bit of litter but otherwise they were in good nick. I soon came to the first of various public artworks that are scattered through the Gorbals, Girl With A Rucksack by Kenny Hunter, a girl standing wearing a rucksack and clutching a book, apparently symbolic of the ebb and flow of people going in and out of the Gorbals over the years, the area often home to migrants from the Highlands, Ireland and parts beyond, then and now. Another of those migrants, Oscar Marzaroli, was a photographer and one of his more famous photographs is reenacted further along Cumberland Street in the form of statues of three boys trying on high heels, created by sculptor Liz Peden. The silver of the high heels is still shiny after a decade. I like Marzaroli’s work, which is reminiscent of Joan Eardley’s Townhead paintings, and captures the city and the Gorbals in particular in an earlier time.
I soon came to the St. Francis Centre, an old Catholic church now a community centre operated by Glasgow Life. Just beside it was a garden I hadn’t seen before, with letters on the railings declaring it to be the Coolest Garden. Cool it certainly was with a curved seating area and planters, as well as little quotes on the sides of the planters from old Glasgow songs and rhymes, including ‘Ye Canny Shove Yer Granny Aff A Bus’ and ‘Murder Murder Polis’, which is certainly one Glaswegians, and folk across the country, use as an exclamation. I just swear, normally. The St. Francis Centre is a massive building, dominating that end of Cumberland Street. It seems to be quite important in the community and is well-used for events. I’ve been to courses there and it’s nice inside too. I walked on as far as the Southern Necropolis, at which point the walk ended.
I had been planning this walk for months and it didn’t disappoint, a neat microcosm of what Glasgow is, the rough and the smooth, all the loose ends of the city in one place, with the added smell of fish and chips along the way. There’s always something different here, always something special in a place that might put some folk off. The Gorbals has a rep, of course it does, but it has many things going for it too, even if you might have to dodge vampires.
Sources and further reading –
Clyde Waterfront, 2008, ‘New sculpture for Gorbals’, available at http://www.clydewaterfront.com/our-journey/news-archive/2008/new-sculpture-for-gorbals
Evening Times, 17th November 2016, ‘Teenager Ella unveils marvellous mural of Glasgow legend’, available at http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/14910861.Teenager_Ella_unveils_marvellous_mural_of_Glasgow_legend/
The Scotsman, 23rd June 2004, ‘Sculptor’s girl is right at home in Gorbals’ , available at https://www.scotsman.com/news/sculptor-s-girl-is-right-at-home-in-gorbals-1-536346
My inspiration to visit the Gorbals Vampire mural came from reading the Wednesday’s Child blog. Many thanks to them for the idea.
I would also encourage folk to explore the Gorbals Heritage Trail booklet produced by the excellent Glasgow Women’s Library.
This is the eighteenth Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. I also wrote here recently about Cathcart Road, which is nearby.