Weaving a new image for people of Calton

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IN GLASGOW'S east end there is a small area called the Calton. It has been included on many political agendas due to the level of poverty and drug abuse that is prevalent there. News reports of the decaying housing and devastating health issues have prompted promises of regeneration from all parties.

Yet people don't know how positively human and wonderful the place actually is. The history that surrounds the area is inspiring, and some of those fist-banging politicians would do well to recognise this.

I lived in the area, which sits snugly between Glasgow Green and the Gallowgate, for more than 15 years, and loved the place.

My daughter was born and raised in the Calton and, despite having lived most of her adult life in the fashionable west end of the city, she is intensely proud of her east-end roots.

The hard-working women of the Calton were a core influence for me. They set up drug support groups and childcare play schemes throughout the year.

I was in awe of them and they welcomed me in with open arms to their community when I became a mother.

I renamed our local pub The Weavers Inn after I had investigated the history of the district.

Just off the main London Road is an ancient graveyard. The gates are old and cranky, the trees are overgrown and the place is in a state of disrepair. Many of the headstones are scrawled with graffiti or have been knocked over.

But the most important thing about the graveyard is that the Calton Weavers who fought and died for better wages are buried there.

On 30 June, 1787, a meeting of the weavers was held on Glasgow Green. Their wages had dropped because of the increased importing of cheaper textiles from abroad and most of the workers decided to strike, although some weavers accepted the lower wages and carried on working.

This was a desperate situation for many of the people. To be without employment and wages resulted in them being evicted from their homes and seeing their families go hungry. Yet the striking weavers stood strong and took on the might of the authorities.

The dispute eventually came to a head on 3 September, 1787: violence erupted after the strikers tried to seize materials from the weavers who had carried on working despite the low wages.

The military were called in and a detachment of the 39th Regiment of Foot opened fire on the demonstrators.

The strike was broken.

Six of the men killed at the scene were considered martyrs and some of them were buried in the Calton Cemetery. The families of the men were so poor that they could not afford a headstone, although a century later a memorial was raised to commemorate their actions.

A group of local people are currently fighting to preserve the graveyard, to cherish the memory of the martyrs and also to educate the local youngsters in their historical roots.

But there are also plans by Glasgow City Council for parts of the Calton to change their postcode to the swanky city centre G1 code, to attract more lucrative investments.

The Calton doesn't need a facelift or postcode change, it needs support. Government officials and politicians should be investing in local housing and enriching the lives of the people who live in the Calton, instead of pouring money into the upmarket private housing expansions that skirt the fashionable side of the Glasgow Green.

The people of the Calton should value their rich socialist history. Caltonians need to recognise that some ground-breaking and talented people came from their streets; people such as the poet and songwriter Matt McGinn; the rock band Gun, who toured with the Rolling Stones, and Davie Bryce, who set up the innovative drug support group, Calton Athletic, to name but a few.

We need people to stop pointing the finger at what went wrong in the Calton and remember the people who fought for a better life there and died for that very privilege.

The very roots of Scottish socialism were nurtured in the streets where my daughter was born and that will stay with her for life.

If only those Calton Weavers were up for election this time, I know who I would vote for.

Walk like a warrior ... then trip

WHEN I was in London a couple of weeks ago, I wrote of my love for comfortable shoes.

The next week, I was walking down Bond Street when I suddenly fell, smacked the concrete with my palms and generally rolled about like Wee Jimmy Krankie falling out of a giant pantomime tree.

Lying there on the pavement, checking all over for broken bones, I realised that was the third time I had taken a tumble in the middle of the street since I arrived in London two weeks before.

The problem lay with my very trendy, very expensive trainers, which are advertised as encouraging you to "Walk Like a Masai Warrior" on the balls of your feet. This apparently helps reduce cellulite and improves your posture, but I just end up walking like Wibbly Wobbly the Wonky Warrior.

There is surely some irony in the fact that I wear the scientific footwear to reduce my cellulite, but I need the cellulite to cushion the falls when I topple over from wearing the trainers.

When you buy the shoes, they give you a video to demonstrate how to walk in them. I never bothered to watch the video; I have been walking since 1962...

Maybe I should just retrieve the bubble wrap the shoes came in and swathe myself in that - at least I wouldn't have scabby knees for a while.

The home front needs you, Harry

PRINCE Harry is causing a commotion. Seems our favourite ginger-haired prince is going to quit the army if he doesn't get a go at fighting on the front line in Iraq.

But a Household Cavalry source says that, if having the third in line to the throne in Iraq means a serious risk of British casualties, they will stop Harry from going.

Poor boy - after all that training, dressing up and drinking he will have to go home without seeing any action.

He is more than welcome to come to Glasgow on a Saturday night and work at one of our emergency out-patient wards; we could do with a big red-headed boy who wants to defend his people.

My baby Boris is a cut above Beckham

MY NEPHEW Shaun is ten years old this week. He is your average bike riding, shoe scuffing wee Glasgow boy.

When I went over for a visit at the weekend, he ran off with his pocket money and came back with his thick brown spiky hair matted in a silver white spray he had bought from the chemist.

I was shocked and burst out laughing as he looked like a baby Boris Johnson on a bike.

"It's cool and makes me look funky," he replied when I asked him why he had white hair.

I thought he looked mental and then I saw David Beckham's latest bleached white hair-do.

At least wee Shaun can wash his hair colour out.

• www.janeygodley.co.uk

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