Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Opulence And Deprivation, Two Sides Of The Capitalist Coin.

       It is easy to look around this capitalist lunatic asylum we live in, and find injustice and inequality, it’s everywhere. In all our cities and towns, there are areas of opulence and areas of deprivation, but it is supposed to be the same country. All our taxes, rates and other deductions from our incomes and purchases, are meant to go into the one pot and be shared out fairly among the whole. Yet in any city there will be glaring inequality.
     I was born in Garngad, one of Glasgow’s many festering slums, it was demolished and the area renamed Royston. We moved to the Springburn area still in the north of the city. In its day it was a railway town in its own right. The Hydepark Locomotive Works was a massive employer in the area, as was the “Caley”, St Rrollox Caledonian Railway Works. In its day it was said the the Hydepark works made around 80% of the world’s steam locomotives, and the “Caley” was the largest railway repair and maintenance yard in Europe. Across the road from that was Tennants Chemical Works, again claiming to be the largest in Europe, which spewed out its toxic filth over Garngad and Springburn. They all disappeared and Springburn died with them. They knocked most of Springburn down and built a dual carriageway. 
        As a boy I spent lots of time in the Springburn Public Park, a large park with football pitches, bowling greens, cricket pitch, boating pond and wildlife pond, lots of green space and winding paths. It was also home to a wonderful botanic garden where I would spend hours wandering its corridors amazed at the array of exotic trees, shrubs and plants. It was also a wonderful place to go on a cold day and get lost in that humid heat.
        But Springburn is in the north of the city, not the West End, so things started to just run down through lack of funding. With the heart of Springburn gone, the botanic gardens was emptied and left to rot, now all that remains is a large rusting structure, resembling the massive rib cage of some long dead dinosaur. It has a fence around it with warnings not to enter as it is dangerous. Well, this is the north of the city, the people there don’t need a botanic garden, they can visit the one in the West End. Springburn was also home a fine red sandstone Victorian building, called The Springburn Public Hall. It was the beating heart of the district, hosting all manner of events from dances to meetings, form clubrooms to boxing events. It to closed and was left until the shrubs started to cover its ledges, it was declared unsafe and was demolished. Another land mark in the north of the city that was demolished was the Garngadhill Church, its spire could be seen for miles around as it was on a high part of the city, a well know landmark. The city fathers decided that it should come down, but there was such opposition to this, not so much the church, but the spire. The council caved in and the church was demolished, the spire remains with a bit of a garden around it.
         Now back to that pot of taxes etc. that is supposed to be spent fairly among our communities. If we move to the West End of the city, There are still lots of Victorian buildings, churches are not demolished, but when they are no longer required by the funny folk who talk to their friend in the sky, they are redeveloped into a venue, a fancy restaurant, pub or a place for music, theatre, poetry etc. Despite Great Western Road at the top of Byres Road being a nightmare of traffic jams, I’ll bet there are no plans to knock down a slice of the West End to make a dual carriageway to help the flow of traffic.
         Opulence and deprivation live side by side in all of our cities and towns, they are two sides of the capitalist coin, a system of screw you, I’m all right Jack. If you are looking to see that pot of your contributions spread fairly and where they are most need, then you will have to stop running to the ballot box. You’ll have to take matters into your own hands and demolish this insanity that is ruining millions of lives on a daily basis, while a handful of parasites live on milk and honey. However, don’t expect the parasites who hold all that wealth and power, to relinquish it by reasoned persuasion alone.
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  1. In capitalism, the so-called progress lies in replacing a disaster, with another of greater proportions.

    Very interesting story of your experience, certainly similar, in some respects, to that of many people.

  2. The following poem, recited by Hugh Aitken Dow at a St Rollox school reunion in 1875 illustrates the change brought to a once peaceful scene by the chemical works – known by many locals as ‘Dante’s Inferno’!

    “A busy, noisy, clam’rous spot
    where trees, nor flowers nor fields are seen
    where men by day and night are wrought
    and holy calm hath rarely been.

    Where fragrant zephyrs never blow
    but smutty is its atmosphere.
    When rains fall dense and winds are low
    It’s sulphrous elements appear.

    When winds blow south, a cloud by day
    it may at once be seen and felt
    for smarting eyes then own its sway
    through muffled noises then ‘tis smelt.

    There fiery pillars, gleam at night
    from hooded chimneys, tow’ring high
    and cast their vivid, fork’d flames bright
    up to the troubled murky sky.

    Thus fiery cross like, shineth clear
    the cupolas of Charles Street
    answering to McAndrew’s near
    while Hamilton’s the call repeat.

    There Vulcan’s strokes would fail to match
    the Glasgow ironworks polka blows
    his lurid fires would pace and din
    ‘fore Tennants countless furnace glows.”

  3. Love the poem, thanks. I was born in a room and kitchen in 294 Charles Street, we lived there as a family of 6 for a number of years. Most of our relatives lived in various "single-ends" and "rooms and kitchens" in the area. All of course with the luxury of a shared outside toilet.

  4. Thanks for putting your memories down here. I don't suppose you ever knew a McDonald family at 294 Charles street? I just got hold of my uncle's birth cert and it says he (and my father) was born there: I'd always known they were from Garngadhill but never knew just where. They would've moved back to Ireland, though, by the mid 1929s.

  5. I left Garngad as a child and don't remember any of the family names of the area. I was born there in 1934, so they would have gone by that time. You are a generation too late, my parents would have been able to answer all your questions on the who and where of Garngad.