There are two sides to Glasgow. Cop26 will show only one of them | Ian Jack

There are two sides to Glasgow. Cop26 will show only one of them | Ian Jack

The glossy optimism of the location is a sleight of hand. Old Glasgow has been left to decay

Sailing up the Clyde was once how most travellers from abroad reached Glasgow, as well as those from Ireland, the Hebrides and the peninsulas of Argyll. Passenger liners came right up the river to within a mile of the city centre from New York and Boston and imperial cities where Scottish influence was particularly marked: Calcutta, Rangoon, Halifax, Montreal. As late as the 1960s, a traveller could step ashore in Glasgow having embarked in Dublin, Belfast or Bombay, though by that time the bigger transatlantic ships were ferrying their passengers ashore in the deeper water off Greenock, 25 miles downstream.

This trade contracted slowly in the last 50 years of the last century, and then suddenly it vanished. Other port cities have been similarly deserted, but perhaps in none of them, even New York, did the loss feel so confounding. Glasgow, after all, had seen a steamship long before it saw a steam locomotive; the first commercially successful steamboat in Europe began operating on the Clyde in 1812, beaten only to a global first (so Glasgow patriots reckoned) by the sharp practice of an American who had stolen the idea and put it to work on the Hudson. Today, the last vessel to perpetuate this two-centuries-old tradition is the elegant paddle steamer Waverley, built in 1947, which sails to and from Glasgow for two or three months every summer and whose near-miraculous survival is a testament to the love that Britain affords old machines.

Continue reading…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.