Hey you… up in the sky…

In the period after the Second World War, Glasgow faced a crisis (well, it faced a few) with respect to housing and a solution to the shortage was found in multi-storey tower blocks. The 1960s and early 1970s saw Glasgow rise upwards in a major way, making Glasgow the leading high rise city in the UK. The problem was, the planning wasn’t carried out as extensively as it could have been and as for the design and construction, it certainly wasn’t the proudest moment in the history of Glasgow.

Many of the high rise flats deteriorated badly (and quickly) and unfortunately, it seemed that crime and deprivation went hand in hand with some of the flats. It is important to not be too critical of the high-rise flats, they were a solution to a big problem and many people will have great memories of their time in the high-rise flats. Life is what you make it and while it is possible to look back and criticise these flats for many people, it made them what they are today.

View North to the Campsie Hills from the Red Road Flats -  © Get Around Glasgow

View North to the Campsie Hills from the Red Road Flats - © Get Around Glasgow

That’s why it is important to remember the lessons from the high-rise flats when thinking about future housing solutions but to also celebrate a very Glasgow way of life for many people.

It also seems that there is hope for some of the existing Glasgow high-rise flats in the future of the city. At the last check, the 22 storey tower block at Ibroxholm Oval appears to have been given a stay of execution. £7m will be ploughed into the project which will see one of the towers remain while the other two are demolished to free up further land for renovation projects. It is hoped that just under 100 one and two bedroom flats will be created in this new project.

Looking down from the Red Road Flats -  © Get Around Glasgow Photography

Looking down from the Red Road Flats - © Get Around Glasgow Photography

Any discussion about high rise flats in Glasgow will inevitably lead to the Red Row flats being talked about. It was hoped that 4,700 people would be housed in the block of flats which would reach 25 and 31 storeys. The initial days of the flats were bright, bringing about a notable rise in living conditions for the new residents but it didn’t take long until problems set in.

I'm a Skyscraper Wean T-Shirt - © Get Around Glasgow T-Shirts

I'm a Skyscraper Wean T-Shirt - © Get Around Glasgow T-Shirts

The flats were constructed between 1964 and 1969 but by the mid-70s, the depression in the city was having an impact and the quality of life in the flats started to dip. There were problems across Glasgow at this time but when you have that many people contained in such a small space, the problems are likely to be exacerbated, which sped up the demise of the flats and happy living. In the 1980s, a large number of improvements started to take place in the Red Road flats with intercoms and around the clock concierge services helping to reduce the crime rates in the area.

Scottish Secretary Willie Ross and his wife at the opening of the Red Road flats.

Scottish Secretary Willie Ross and his wife at the opening of the Red Road flats.

The flats are still going strong and house many of the refugees who come to the city.

The exterior of the Red Road flats in Glasgow -  © Get Around Glasgow Photography

The exterior of the Red Road flats in Glasgow - © Get Around Glasgow Photography

The lighter side of life in the high rise flats was shown perfectly in The Jeely Piece Song, and you can enjoy the song below and also check out the lyrics in case you are not completely au fait with the description of living in the sky.

 

The Jeely Piece Song by Adam McNaughton:

I’m a sky scraper wean, I live on the ninteenth floor
But I’m no goin’ oot tae play any more.
‘Cause since we moved to oor new house I’m wastin’ away
For I’m getting one meal less every day.

Chorus:
Oh ye canna fling pieces oot a twenty story flat
Seven hundred hungry weans will testify to that
If it’s butter, cheese or jeely, if the bread is plain or pan
The odds against it reaching us is ninety-nine to one

On the first day my Maw flung oot a daud o’ hovis broon
It came skitin’ oot the windae and went up instead o’ doon
Noo ev’ry twenty seven hours it comes back into sight
Cause my piece went intae orbit and became a satellite

On the next day my Maw flung me oot a piece again
It went up and hit a pilot in a fast, low flying plane
He scrapped it off his goggles, shouting through the intercom
The Clydeside Reds have got me wi’ a breid ‘n jelly bomb

On the third day my Maw tho’t she would try another throw
The Salvation Army band was standin’ doon below
‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ was the tune they should’ve played
But the Oompah man was playing piece ‘n marmalade

We’ve wrote awa’ to Oxfam to try an’ get some aid
We all joined together and have formed the Piece Brigade
We’re gonna march to London tae demand our civil rights
Like nae more hooses over piece flinging height