The Gaels who made Glasgow to be celebrated in city

The history of the Gaelic community in Glasgow and the impact Highlanders made on the city is being explored in a new exhibition.

Extract from the minute book of the Glasgow Gaelic Book, founded in 1870, that is now on show at the Mitchell Library. PIC: SNS.
Extract from the minute book of the Glasgow Gaelic Book, founded in 1870, that is now on show at the Mitchell Library. PIC: SNS.

Glasgow City Archives has mounted the show, called Glasgow Gaels, to celebrate the history of the community from the late 18th Century onwards.

It is being staged to coincide with the Mod, the festival of Gaelic language and culture, which is returning to the city next week after an absence of more than 30 years.

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    A recent history of the Gaelic community in Glasgow suggested that Glasgow and its surrounding areas were predominately Gaelic speaking in the `11th and 12th Centuries.

    From the late 18th Century, social upheaval, including the Clearances, drove thousands of Highlanders into the city to seek work.

    Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life, said: "Over the years many have sought to set up life in Glasgow and we are proud of our record of welcoming people from across Scotland and across the world. The Gaels contributed so much to our city and have played a huge part in making Glasgow the wonderful place it is today."

    Established in 1780, this club was an important forum where members could speak Gaelic. Interestingly the rules of the club are written in both English and Gaelic, this represents one of the rare instances in the collection where the records are not written only in English.

    Also on show are copies of the architectural plans for St Columba’s Church in St Vincent Street, arguably the most well-known of all Glasgow’s Gaelic churches which became known as The Highland Cathedral. It is now the only church on the Scottish mainland to offer its main service in Gaelic.

    The 1945 Survey of Gaelic Speakers in Glasgow Corporation Schools is also on show.

    Despite a significant number of Gaels living in the city, children could not learn, or be taught in, Gaelic at school following the 1872 (Scotland) Education Act.Amid concern the language would be lost without intervention, Glasgow Corporation undertook a survey of every single school in its system to confirm how many Gaelic speakers attended and what the demand for studying Gaelic was.

    A number of schools had a strong concentration of Gaelic speakers, including Bellahouston Senior Secondary and Woodside Senior Secondary. In 1947 they became the first schools to offer Gaelic as an extra subject on their curriculum and started a process that has led to the provision of Gaelic-medium education in the city.

    Traditionally, Gaelic speaking communities set up in Partick and Govan with communities also settling in Kingston, Paisley and Clydebank.

    Typically, new arrivals in the city would be sponsored by those who had already made the move from the Highlands and helped with accommodation and job hunting.

    The 1881 Census put the Gaelic speaking community of the city at over 11,000 people rising to a peak of around 18,500 in 1901.

    Glasgow City Council said the city now had more than 10 per cent of Scotland's Gaelic speakers, the largest number outside the Western Isles,

    Editor’s Notes


    · Images of Barbara Neilson archivist with Glasgow City Archives showing off some of the display highlights as they were placed into the cases in the Mitchell Library today are available from SNS first use free provided the full and correct credit is used, T: 0141 221 3602

    The Mitchell Library

    · The Mitchell Library is one of Europe’s largest public libraries with over one million items of stock and is the hub of a city-wide information service. With its distinctive green dome, the building has been one of the city’s iconic landmarks since it opened in 1911 and is also home to the City Archives, The Mitchell Theatre, Digital Maker Space, Let’s talk area, exhibition hall and café bar. The library is located at North Street, Glasgow, G3 7DN. Opening hours are Monday - Thursday 9am to 8pm, Friday and Saturday 9am to 5pm and closed on Sundays.