The Longest Street In Britain – Glasgow’s Duke BBC Documentary 2017

The streets we live in reveal the secret past beneath the skin of the present.

Here is our kitchen, which was the operating theater of the hospital.

There were families that didn’t have toilets. There was many a visit to the drains in the middle of the night.

Our memories are rendered in the bricks and mortar that surround us.

Just behind you there is where we all danced.

Our streets chart momentous social change, and the ebb and flow between enormous wealth and terrible poverty.

Pretty grim, isn’t it? Dirt, filth, stench everywhere.

They reveal the changes that have shaped all our lives, and make the story of our streets the story of us all.

It’s a nice view, isn’t it?

Duke Street, Glasgow. The longest street in Britain, running from the city center to the tenement blocks of the East End. But just 40 years ago, many of the buildings that lined this street were under threat.

What are you going to do about it?

Knock them down.

This is the story of how a group of neighbors took on the might of the Glasgow Corporation in a battle to save their homes.

We’re Eastenders. Forget your London Eastenders, we’re the Eastenders. And we will fight to the death for what we believe in.

Glasgow, at the dawn of the 20th century. The heyday for the second city of the British Empire. Its shipyards, textile mills and heavy industry have made it the powerhouse of the Victorian and Edwardian age. Thousands are flocking to the city in search of work.

Here on Duke Street, the road is lined with stone buildings, filled with small flats. Tenements, Glasgow’s solution for housing its Victorian workers close to their place of work.

In 1968, Harriet Stonboley moved into her tenement that runs to the south of Duke Street.

And this is where I used to live, 47 Bathgate Street. Three up, right at the top.

I felt I had to get away from all the gossip that was going on at the time. It was at that time, it wasn’t very common for women to leave their husbands and separate from their husbands, so I was in a very bad position at the time.

This brings back lots and lots of memories, when I used to have this twin pram. When you’re bringing the children up, you left the pram in the stair, you brought one up, put him in his cot, run back down and got the other one, and brought her up and put her in her cot, then you went down and you bumped the pram all the way up the three flights of stairs. So, it wasn’t easy when you had, especially a twin pram to do this with, because at the best of times, the stairs were always quite heavy to climb.

Even worse now, I find it. It wasn’t so bad when I was younger. But this is where I had to bump the pram right up to, this was my door here. But then there was two doors. There was one there and one over at the side.

The conditions for most people, I assume, was overcrowding. That was the biggest problem I think in the area, was overcrowding.

Harriet’s family of six was squeezed into a single room and kitchen, common at the time.

Such scenes as this are typical of the unsatisfactory conditions of thousands of people in Glasgow today.

So this is the little house I used to stay in with the children. This is the hall, and this was a toilet, and that, we didn’t have a bathroom, it was just all toilet. And in here was our sitting room. And we used the sitting room as a bedroom as well.

This couple came to my house one night. My sister’s friends, who were living in all big houses in England, nice big houses. First thing they asked when they seen the house, “Where are your bedrooms?” And I said, “Well I don’t have any bedrooms.” And they kind of stopped talking, looked at each other and went, “No bedrooms? How? How can you have a house without bedrooms? Where do you sleep?” So I showed them, we sleep in this couch that pulls down into a bed in the sitting room.

In here was a kitchen. And this was exactly the size of the kitchen. A alcove here. This wasn’t a door, or there was no facing on it, it was just a big alcove. And in here was two bunk beds, and a single pull-down bed that my oldest sons slept in.

They kept talking about it. Even when they went back home, they sent me back a letter and said how sorry they were for me, that I didn’t have a house with bedrooms. But it didn’t bother me, but it really upset this couple that I didn’t have any bedrooms in this house.

You were sleeping, you were eating, and you were cooking all in the one room, so it wasn’t an easy task, but we did it very well, as best we could anyway, so it was a very small house.

Harriet’s room and kitchen was just one of 1500 flats in an area now called Reidville. The map from 1884 reveals row upon row of newly built tenement blocks. They extend across 9 streets running south of Duke Street. It was a respectable working class neighborhood, and the people of the tenements made this street the bustling and thriving heart of the east end.

Duke street was always busy then because that’s where everybody done their shopping, so everybody on a Saturday afternoon was in Duke street, I mean it was always busy, bustly, having to walk sideways to get by people.

Duke street had everything you’d really wanted from hat shops to children’s shops, you know they had men’s shops, balls of wool shop.

There was masses, Curly’s, Henry Healy’s.

They had bakers, they had butchers.

Little Folk, it was more for the people with money, you’re in there if you had a lot of money. I shopped in Bobby’s for my children’s clothes because I couldn’t have afford to go anywhere else.

This one’s probably a good one, which kind of shows off the number 53 here, and that’s myself, my twin brother, my aunt June and my grandma and grandpa.

Paul Cowan came to live on Bathgate Street when he was 4 years old. His grandfather, John Butterly, had raised his family of three daughters just along the street from Harriet Stonboley and her family.

So how many of you’s lived here?

In this one flat? There would have been seven of us, my gran, my grandpa, my mum, my aunt and the three of us. That was my gran and grandpas bedroom, from memory. They were the only two in there, and everybody else was crammed into the other room. So, there was a bunk bed with myself and my twin brother and my older brother, and then there was a double bed which had my mum and my aunty June in it.

John and his wife were home movie enthusiasts. It’s a unique record of Duke Street’s tenement life, capturing family and neighbors in the closes and back courts in the late 1960s and 1970s.

We would hang about in here in the summers and stuff with [inaudible 00:08:39] It was just always a nice garden, always get my grandpa in the garden as well, and just try be round about him more than anything else.

And Paul appears in the film with his brothers. He’s here wearing a white top.

I loved living here, loved it. Absolutely loved it. The people were brilliant, it was a community, you lived with other families up the close or across the street. It was five or six families, all with kids the same age and we always ran about together.

There was always children out playing and people standing, talking at closes and it was a community street, I would say. Everybody seemed to know each other.

This is Prince, and this is Vicky, these are my twins. It was happy house.

A very good place.

A very happy house, even though it was overcrowded by…

We didn’t know any different at that time, we were all kids and it was just like one big playground to us.

That’s right, but I used to go to the window when they were out playing to call them up for dinner and things, and I used to shout at whoever it was that was out playing that… I used to shout “Dianne, come up for dinner’s ready. Vicky come up, dinner’s ready. Prince come up, dinner’s ready.”

So one of my friends used to think I had quite a lot of children and a dog.

In 1965, the Glasgow Herald reported that 40% of Glasgow’s housing stock still had no plumbed bath or shower, 20% had no inside toilet, 40% had no hot water supply. Ten years later, this lack of the most basic amenities was still the norm in Duke street.

When they went to school at first, and they were tiny little children, the wee-est children was at school, even the teachers thought I had only dressed them up because their big sister was going to school, but they were actually starting the school, and the teachers were all like “We’ve never had such small children.” But it ended up…

Dressed like a couple of midgets.

Glasgow town planners had historically linked poor housing to poor health, high infant mortality, rickets, malnutrition, typhus and cholera.

In the one room or single end of the poorer district, the height and weight of boys of 10 years was found to be 3′ 11″ and 52 pounds. In two room houses, 4′ 1″ and 56 pounds, and in three room houses 4′ 2″ and 59 pounds.

Glasgow Corporation were saying Harriet’s children were small because her flat was overcrowded.

I mean by the sink over at the window, that’s where we used to get bathed every Sunday night, that was our ritual wasn’t it. It used to be terrifying.

I didn’t think it was to you, but I did learn that later, they used to frightened sitting in the sink.

I was just terrified at people looking up and seeing little kids in the kitchen sink.

Getting washed.

But that’s how everybody done it.

That’s what it was like, yeah.

That’s what it was like.

Duke Street may have been overcrowded, but it wasn’t a slum. Evidence of its respectable, working class origins are still seen. The public baths were a gift to the local population from a wealthy benefactor.

Once a week, walk down this road with my pram with all the washing in it, and we came here to do the weekly wash.

Luxurious for their time, they boasted a Turkish bath, a gymnasium and a reading room. As well as the public baths and wash house, known as “The Steamie”.

But in that one main building was “The Steamie” was the most important thing. It was called “The Steamie” because everybody came here to do their washing, that didn’t have washing machines in them days, because it got you out for a wee while as well, and then you met people, and had a good blather as well, moaning about their husbands, which was the biggest thing, I think, to go on in The Steamie, was you talked about your life, the kids and your husbands. Just like they moaned about you when they were in the pub. We didn’t go in the pub. We went in the Steamie.

It was a nice place to come to, I liked The Steamie, it was good. My friend Ann Lowry always came with me. She had her pram and her wee-uns and me with my pram and my wee-uns, though I only used to bring one. One child still wasn’t at school, so Mario was the one I used to bring.

He doesn’t remember ever coming to The Steamie. He does say, “I think, mum, you put the washing in the pram and made me walk.” I said, “Probably, I did, son, because I only had one pram.”

The Whitevale baths and wash house finally closed its doors in 1988, unsafe and disused, it was partly demolished in 2012, but what remains is now listed.

If I win the lottery, I would buy this building, because I think it is a most lovely building going to waste, and I would convert it into something for our area. It would do benefit to the people of Reidville. I would definitely buy this building if I won money.

This fine Victorian building, made of marble, stone and brick, with it’s reading rooms and luxurious baths, was built for an area with aspirations, because at the time, there were high hopes for Duke street.

In 1891, one of the most extraordinary events was to play out along this street.

Monday, the 26th October, in the afternoon, three specially commissioned trains arrived just over here, bringing Buffalo Bill’s Wild West to [inaudible 00:14:56]

He brought with him several hundred horses. They brought one Texas Steer, four cows and a herd of 18 buffalo, which were all herded up the street. Now, obviously you don’t want a buffalo stampede on Duke street. I believe that the cowboys rode in a square around them, to keep the Buffalo moving.

Buffalo Bill moved onto the site of the previous year’s East End Exhibition, held at an old reform school just up the hill from Duke Street.

Well, that is a cobble of W. F. Cody, otherwise known as Buffalo Bill. You have the first show on the evening of Monday, the 16th of November, only played to 6000 people, so there were obviously tickets available. The time word got round, that first Saturday, they were turning people away.

The show played to a packed house over three months. More than 600000 people came to see Buffalo Bill and his Indians, more than the entire population of Glasgow.

Don’t fall into the misconception that these guys, these Indians, were just actors made up to look like Indians. These guys were the real deal. There was about 50 or so of them. The majority of them enlisted voluntarily, but 17 of them were prisoners of war from the trouble which erupted the previous winter. The government didn’t really know what to do with them, so Buffalo Bill came along and said, “Look, why don’t I take these guys to Europe.”

Because this was actually an old trick, going back to colonial times. If you have hostile Indians, you take them back East and say, “Look, the white man’s world, the world that will beseech you is massive. You can’t fight us.”

The people of Duke street came face to face with another world when they met real, live Native Americans.

The show was based up there, and of course, you’ll get the Indians, during their time off, they come promenading down and onto Duke Street. At first, it was obviously a very intimidating sight, a very novel sight, exotic sight for the local people. You didn’t have immigrants then, but all of a sudden, you have this encampment of Sioux Indians. It’s all a bit mad, but I think people got pretty blasé. They just became part of the scenery after a while.

Buffalo Bill had come to Duke Street because it was a center of a heaving metropolis. He was proved right, as thousands came every night to see his show. His wagon train finally departed Duke Street on the 27th of February, 1892.

This was a period of rapid expansion for the city, and the industrial working class. Laborers and artisans migrated from the highlands, and over from Ireland, to work in the shipyards, steelworks, and factories.

Glasgow was one of the fastest growing cities in the world. The population quadrupled between 1800 and 1850. Between 1850 and 1925, it quadrupled again, to peek at 1100000, twice the rate that London was expanding in the same period, and its housing strained under this relentless demand. In Duke Street, the tenements had all been built, and they were full to bursting.

In 1950, Glasgow was Britain’s most densely populated city. Its stone tenement had become a symbol for poverty, disease, crime and overcrowding on a daunting scale.

So, you’ve come to Glasgow, have you? Pretty grim, isn’t it? Dirt, filth, stench everywhere. And believe me, there are literally hundreds of back courts every bit as bad as this in Glasgow.

We were living in the slums, rat infested. I remember waking up on one day, watching rats climb out of my [inaudible 00:19:50] and rats trying to build cozies. I was feared to get my clothes right there, because of the big rats out there.

John [Mallen 00:19:55] was a child living in an area called the Gallagate to the South of Duke Street.

If you walked through the tenements in Glasgow, you walked in a maze, because you’re so small and the houses were so high. And it just seemed a corner after a corner.

As Britain moved into the post-War world with high hopes, the Glasgow Corporation was determined that something had to be done. Their approach was as radical as it proved controversial.

There’s Glasgow, 40000 acres, and this small patch represents 2000 acres. And on that is crammed 150000 of the city’s dwellings. That is half the dwellings on a 10th of the space.

But that’s ridiculous.

Of course it is.

What are you going to do about it?

Knock them down.

Slum dwellings, starting in the Gobels area, were compulsory purchased by Glasgow Corporation, and then razed to the ground to make way for their vision of the future.

Glasgow today takes a look into the tomorrow, as the corporation puts on an exhibition foreshadowing the proposed new inner core of the city. A scale model 100 full size, shows the bold outline of the Glasgow to be in sharp contrast to the city that was.

The Bruce Report, published in 1945, recommended the wholesale destruction of the center of Glasgow, and the rebuilding of an entire city from scratch over a period of 50 years. That way, Glasgow would transform into a healthy and beautiful city. Although later watered down, it did become the blueprint for the complete demolition of vast swaths of tenement slum housing. The aim was to rehouse a quarter of a million people living in central Glasgow, and move them out into new counselor states built on the rural edge of the city.

We moved here because there was me, my mother, my father, my brother and then my other brother. My mother was pregnant with my other brother, and we stayed in a one bedroom house. So, we had to move. And we got [inaudible 00:22:11]

John Mallen was eight when his family were moved out to Easter House. It was one of the largest of the newer states, or schemes.

I loved it. It was my happy memory, sitting in the back, building a fire, stay up until five in the morning. Used to [inaudible 00:22:29] and just set a fire on it. So, that was my hobbies, and they sort of were egg hunting and making friends and building dens and just being free. That’s what Easter House was about.

Sometimes it seems as if there are more removal vans seen in Glasgow than buses. At any rates, statistics show that every five to ten minutes, somebody, somewhere, is moving house.

Tens of thousands of people were shipped out of the city and into the schemes. Brand new, state of the art housing was waiting for them, set in green fields with the promise of fresh air, and a world away from the-

Dirt, filth, stench everywhere.

This was not a modern idea. The concept of a healthy life away from the dangerous, overcrowded city center had been tried before, and it had taken place on Duke Street.

This map allows us to go back 160 years, to 1843. Glasgow is in the grip of a typhus epidemic. A Glas region doctor, Robert Perry, attempts to explain the spread of disease by linking it to crime, poverty, and overcrowding. He draws a color-coded map of the city, and Duke Street appears on this map, part colored red, denoting high levels of disease.

But Perry’s map shows Duke Street to be a dividing line between factories to the south and the green fields and trees of the estate of James Denniston to the north, where there is no disease. Ten years later, his family would have a grand plan to create a new suburb of moral rectitude, clean living, God fearing, and alcohol free.

The idea for the garden suburb was a pet idea of his. [inaudible 00:24:42] He was a moral person, obviously, so concerned about the health and the welfare of society at all levels.

His son, Alexander, engaged one of the city’s finest architects, James Salmon, to plan a 200 acre estate of avenues, boulevards, and parks, and gave it the family name, Denniston.

This was the first street built, and the villas here, I think, were the first on the estate. They were then connected up, Craig Part was started, then the idea of connecting up with the various terraces was the next aspect.

I think one of the things that’s quite important to understand this as a terrace, in context to Denniston, is it was originally supposed to be terraces [inaudible 00:25:31], so we’ve actually got a complete one here.

John Tweed’s 1872 guide of Glasgow and the Clyde recommends the pleasant suburb to Denniston. It is well laid out and contains many fine villas and lodges.

This, I think, originally had some seven or eight mances in there. I know personally a few former ministers, and I think there’s still a minister living in just along there.

The mance, or vicarage, is now the home of the Rev. Barbara Quigly.

I think this mance was built by James Simon for a friend of his, so this has got kind of bells and whistles on it. It’s got the curved staircase, and the double arch there, which is, I think, rather stunning. But then, this is my house, so I love it.

It’s got a lovely sky light there. Throws a lot of light into what would be a dark space. But when the rain starts, it’s like river dance.

I love this room. It’s really, really great. It’s got all this fantastic ceiling and cornicing and frieze. And of course, having your own access to what is essentially a private garden means that you’ve got a beautiful view.

It explodes the myth of the image of the east end of Glasgow. It blows it wide open. It’s a hidden gem.

Denniston wanted to attract the professional classes to his utopian vision. Doctors, lawyers, and ministers. But as the east end of Glasgow’s industrial heartland grew, so did the factories and tenements, expanding along Duke Street. Denniston’s lower class neighbors were proving a little too close for comfort.

This is originally a gated community, and at one point, it seems to be some sort of sentinel post here, where it looks like it was manned. It’s also a various sort of arrangement, it was scalloped, and the posts have been moved, but that gives you an idea of exclusivity. This area has two main entrances, West Craigs and Craig Park were actually gated. You needed to have a reason to come in here.

Denniston’s dream had been to manufacture an idealized community for the professional classes. 100 years later, Glasgow Corporation had the same vision, but for its more impoverished citizens.


But by the late 1960s and early 70s, their imagined suburban utopia was a social experiment that had gone badly wrong.

40000 people live here. They have no public toilets, no banks, theaters or cinemas. There isn’t a dance hall in Easterhouse, or a restaurant, a community center, or even a place to collect the [inaudible 00:29:13].

A displaced population struggled with unemployment, gang culture, and crime became rampant.

No doubt, but the gangs were there, and you join the gang. When I go back to Easterhouse, I get stole, get cold, just by getting head by. People say that, and [inaudible 00:29:46] Even though I’m 50, I’m still checking for gangs. I loved the gangs. I loved it. I loved the gang fight, and I loved being part of a gang, and it was all about moving out your end. You couldn’t move out your end on Easterhouse. If you did go out of your way, you had to take [inaudible 00:30:04]

The very structure of an estate helps the gangs to enforce the strictest code of all: that boundary lines are sacred, and you cross them at your own risk. The playing field separates Drummy Land from the Den Toy territory. A road marks the dividing line between Pact Land and the Den Toy.

That was your territory, and you guarded that territory. It doesn’t matter where you been. Even if you were going to the dentist, if your dentist was in another part of Easterhouse, just say, “I got to go.” You had to take your pals with you. You couldn’t go about the place by yourself.

By 1975, over 120000 had been moved into the schemes, and 95000 homes had been demolished. But the corporation was running out of money. Despite this, it was still pressing ahead with demolishing the city’s tenements. Vast swaths of Glasgow were now a wasteland.

In 1975, the corporation’s bulldozers were heading for Duke Street. Irene McKinness was 19 when she settled into her tenement flat off Duke Street.

This was our first flat. This is where I got married into, above Duke Street, the top flat up there. We bought the house in November, 1966, and we moved in on the 9th of June, 1967, the day we got married. You weren’t allowed to stay with anyone, in my day, before that. So, we moved in on our wedding day.

It was two bedrooms and a inside toilet, and we were very posh, because there’s not a lot of people at that bought the houses, or bought the flats, and Tom and I were delighted. But unfortunately, we could only live in the living room and the bedroom because we couldn’t afford the furniture.

Duke Street was still a thriving and bustling street at this time. But nevertheless, its tenements were scheduled for demolition, or comprehensive redevelopment.

We got a notice through the door, public meeting called, Thompson Street School, this school here, for everybody, every tenent, or owner, to come and hear what this meeting was about. It would be something to your interest. This threat, big threat. I think they had that in big writing. Big threat.

Knock them down.

And Tom was all about they wanted the whole south side of Duke Street to be demolished. It was sent by a neighbor, John Butterly.

It was quite calm at the beginning, and then, later on, when the guy said they were pulling down the houses in your area, and probably most of you will be sent to Easterhouse. Mr. Butterly did get up now, didn’t he?

He did.

And he said to the man, “You can live in Easterhouse if you like, but I certainly am not.” [crosstalk 00:33:12] I’ll not use the language John used.

Colorful language, all the time, didn’t matter who he spoke to.

I remember a lot of shouting and moaning. And it was, “No, that’s not happening.”

Easterhouse lies five miles away from Duke Street. Back in the 70s, there were no regular bus routes there.

That time, in the 70s, Easterhouse was very much a distant land. It was miles away, as far as we were concerned.

The schemes got a bad name, especially Easterhouse. It was a wee bad then.

This could have been us, because these places are over 30 years old. They must be.

What do you think of these wee verandas right here? They’re so small.

There’s not much you can get in them. Maybe one chair might do it.

One chair, not being sat on. Because a family house it is, you know?

[inaudible 00:34:07] Look at it.

Well, it couldn’t have been very well built [inaudible 00:34:07] I don’t think. It was a lot of gangs in Easterhouse, and it really did frighten people to come and live here. I certainly didn’t want to come and live in Easterhouse. It was very scary stuff, you know?

John Butterly’s reluctance to be moved out to Easterhouse struck a chord with many at that meeting. They decided to take on the authorities.

What motivated them was basically people were telling him what he was to do and when he was to do it. And you would just accept this? And he’s like, “No, you’re wrong, because I’m not accepting it.”

They were mostly from Bathgate Street, John Butterly, Irene McKinness.

I lived up in 64. We had John Butterly, and Catherine McFarland was in 59. We had Harriet in 47.

Harriet the nuisance.

We had Isabelle Allen.

Jimmy Donelson.

And when we all got together, we made things happen.

So, people in the area thought, “That’s the Bathgate Street Mafia.”

And their boss was John Butterly. The idea was to create a resident run organization from scratch, which would purchase and then renovate their own properties.

It was unheard of. Nobody knew what it was. I mean, I don’t know much where the idea came from, but it was very new, especially in Glasgow.

The residents faced two big problems. First, to try and persuade a reluctant Glasgow Corporation that the residents knew better. Second, to persuade all their neighbors to join them.

The houses were in disrepair. There’s no doubt about that. The houses were in disrepair. People couldn’t afford the upkeep of them. They couldn’t afford the maintenance of them. You had landlords who weren’t interested in doing anything with them, just as long as they were getting the rent, they weren’t interested.

The corporation thought they were unmaintainable. They thought that they were at the end of their life. He disagreed with that. He thought that they just needed a bout of TLC, they just need a bout of love, they needed a bout of money spent on them, whereas they just thought the easiest solution was just to knock them down.

For a year, the Bathgate Street Mafia kept pushing, petitioning, and arguing. Finally, Glasgow Corporation recognized a group of enthusiastic amateurs with no previous experience as a legitimate housing association.

I think they finally won by basically grinding them down, and just by basically being persistent in saying no every single time. “No, no, this is what we’re doing. This is how we’re doing it.” And not listen to what their proposals were. He had the community, and he was determined 100% to save it.

Reidville became one of the very first community-based housing associations in Glasgow, and this immediately gave them access to central government grants of millions of pounds. They now needed to persuade all their neighbors to entrust them with their homes, and see what they could achieve.

How people trusted us, I don’t know. I wouldn’t have trusted myself at that time, because we didn’t know what we were doing.

In spring 1976, local builders and contractors set to work.

The community ran it. The community were the people who were in charge. They looked after it, they made the decisions. It wasn’t the Glasgow City Council, who were sat in the [inaudible 00:37:47] It was the people who were in the houses themselves, who decided what was going to happen. They decided what color the bathroom suites were going. They decided what color the closets were getting painted. It was always to do with the community. It was always to do with that.

We’d had one flat up in 83, Reidville street there, showed them what it was like. And it was just a refubishment. “Oh, this is beautiful. Oh, this is great. Oh, I wouldn’t mind a house like this. Oh, it’s got an inside toilet. Oh, look at that beautiful bathroom. Oh, it’s lovely.”

So, that was a [inaudible 00:38:17] One flat was a [inaudible 00:38:19]

Some did move away. Some did accept rehousing in the schemes. But those that stayed joined the association, and watched as their neighborhood began its transformation. And a century of coal and grime was washed away.

There was a lot of people getting involved with the committee. People wanted to help, people wanted to volunteer. People wanted to be a part of this, because I think when people started to realize, “This is starting to become something new, this isn’t just some wee guy, Bonnett, shouting his mouth off. This is becoming something real.”

This is Reidville Housing Association, Glasgow Housing Association. What would you rather have?


Ah, I’ve got a lot of good memories in here. A lot of good people, a lot of good neighbors who have worked here [inaudible 00:39:47]. Used to have fun, meeting everybody in these lifts, but not today. They’re broke again.


Soaring 30 stories high, and each containing 174 flats, they were the tallest occupied buildings in Scotland.


That’s, I think, the tallest, but the biggest majority of people that stays here are really good, honest citizens. [inaudible 00:40:36] the flats. You could buy a drink here. You could buy cheap vodka here, you could buy cheap champagne up these flats, buy drugs out the flats, buy tobacco out the flats, buy butcher meat by the butcher. Used buy off a Kurd, used to chop butcher meat up. You could buy a butcher parcel for a fiver. So, that community [inaudible 00:41:11] It cost me 20, 25 pound to heat a one bedroom house. Nobody could heat their houses. So, ever a spark stays up here, and [inaudible 00:41:34] at me house, you know what I mean? And the rug toasted.

Oh, this is my old flat here. This is my old landing. This is Motis. I was living in here for over 30 year. This is the room. I didn’t realize how so small it was. This was the living room. This used to be where the parties were at. Used to be sat here and get fall out, constant. Drink, drugs, everything. And that’s a kitchen that [inaudible 00:42:34] make food in. Pot in the deuce. We loved to do pot in the deuce. They called us the Pot in the Deux gang when I stayed here, because I loved the pot in the deuce. Drink, drugs, and pot in the deuce. Don’t know how I still had a life, to tell you the truth.

I could walk out the door and full up. Valium, cannabis, acid, heroin, cocaine, mocydone, tramadol, [inaudible 00:43:07] We used to see it on the telly, [inaudible 00:43:11] Watching Starskey and Hutch.

There were drugs everywhere. Back then, it was easy to buy a bag of smack than it was a bag of toys. It was quicker to buy a bag of smack than a bag of toys, you know what I mean? Maners was [inaudible 00:43:29], Thatcher was shutting everything down, the anarchy. Everybody was running a riot, there was no jobs. We just wanted to smash the government up. And then, all of a sudden, heroin appeared, and everybody started taking it.


Then, the scaffolding began to come off, as the first flats were completed.

This is my mum’s house. This is where I was brought up when I was a kid. Hopefully she hears me.

John Stewart moved into a newly renovated Reidville flat when he was 10.

And they were all new inside, new doors, new toilets, new kitchens, just everything was new inside, and smelled [inaudible 00:45:50], just smelled like a really new house, you know?

Yeah, my old room there. This was my old room. This is where I slept. It’s now used as a store room.

This is my kitchen. It’s never really changed except for the new cupboards. I remember when I was younger, me and my brother were standing here, and we were fighting. He pushed me, and I actually break through the window and landed out the back.

You can just imagine falling through there as a kid, luckily hitting the grass. If I’da hit the brick, I would have been in hospital.

John Stewart attended the local primary school at the end of his street. It served those living on the south of Duke Street.

This here is Thompson Street Primary School, where I went in primary. I was only here for primary 6, primary 7 and stuff. And this here is a playground, a area where you can see the clothesline. This is where the playground area was. A lot of people knew this as the [inaudible 00:46:52] area, but that wall, that’s never really changed. But it was a great school. It was absolutely browing. And I know, I always remember the headmistress, her office was in there, because I was never out of it. It was just one of those things. But it’s a great old building.

Thompson Street School was built in 1875. Its fees were four times higher than other local schools, such was its reputation. It initially appealed to the elite of Denniston, on the other side of the street, before becoming a free school in 1890. By 1984, it was educating Duke Street’s south side.

It’s got a lot of memories. I think the memories was the thing for me. My life started when I moved into that school. The first couple of days I came to this school, I saw this boy, shocking blonde hair, and thought, “Hmm, he’s nice.” And I went home and says to my mom, “I’ve met the boy I’m going to marry.” And she just looked at me and went, “So, you have, dear.” And just left it. But 10 years later, I married that man.

But the number of families in Duke Street was in sharp decline. In 1983, the council decided to close half of the schools in the area. Duke Street’s parents and children campaigned to save their school. Irene led the protest.

As a parent, our first responsibility’s to the safety of our children, and under no circumstance are we going to allow the council to put us in a position and our children in a very dangerous position. But sitting in the middle of our community, we are surrounded by four main roads, and no matter what school they propose to send us to, our children are going to face very dangerous hazards.

Yet again, the council was coming and other people were making decisions for us.

It’s about time they sat up and listened to the people from the area and realize our children come first.

There was a big march. We left from here, and we done a march right all the way around, past Glasgow Cathedral, and came back down High Street and joined Knox Street, all in protest at the fact of their closing a school down.

Hundreds of kids and children gathered outside [inaudible 00:49:07] headquarters before the meeting. The children wore plain white masks because, say their parents, they’re being treated as faceless people.

I remember it very well, because it was filmed to go on TV, and it was the first time I was ever on TV. So, I’m never going to forget that, and then my face was in the picture as well, you know?

Despite winning a temporary stay of execution, the school finally closed its doors in June, 1984.

I was one of the last primary 7 peoples at the Thompson Street Primary.

It seemed it was another building that would chart Duke Street’s sad decline. But John Butterly and the rest of the Bathgate Street Mafia had other plans. After a century of grime and filth, stone cleaning revealed row upon row of glistening, honey colored tenements. Reidville Housing Association was transforming the area.

Then you get impatient waiting on yours to get done. And Bathgate Street was one of the last.

Uh-huh. We were the Bathgate Street Mafia. We were the last to get renovated.

Yeah, we were last to get renovated.

Harriet moved back into what had been her one room and kitchen flat.

Here we are, after this being the small flat. Reidville came and knocked two flats into one, so now we’ve got this nice big flat, if you’d like to come along and see it. And this was in the flat next door, and this used to be the kitchen in the flat next door, which is now a lovely bedroom. The flat is two bedrooms in the flat, we’ve got in the flat.

This used to be a cupboard, and now we’ve got a bathroom, which was a nice luxury when we moved into this flat. This was a sitting. This whole part here was a sitting room that they divided into two, and now we have a small single bedroom in here, which gives you three bedrooms. And next door, we’ve got a nice kitchen, which even takes a table and chairs, so it’s a big enough kitchen for a family. So, this was in the sitting room of the house next door, and now it’s a nice kitchen.

Personally, I feel moving from a small room and kitchen, toilet, into a three bedroom, bathroom, kitchen house was, to me, absolutely [inaudible 00:51:37] It was like moving into a mansion.

This three bedroom flat is now rented from Reidville by her daughter, Vicky.

Vicky’s twin brother lives just straight across the ridge. You can see his window from here. So, they can almost talk to each other. My other daughter lives in Thompson Street, so she’s not far away, either.

As the residents of the south side moved back into their refurbished, and now desirable, homes, so this was influencing the whole of Duke Street, and the north side was changing, too.

Okay, everyone, thanks for coming along today. I know it’s a holiday weekend, so that’s even better that people have turned up. Jerry, you’ll be in Craigpott. You’ll do Westercraigs, and then we kind of congregate, and you’re doing the Square. Okay? Cheers. Have a good day.

So, I’ve been here since 2005, in this streets. Having lived in the west end of Glasgow for 18 years before that. And by selling an apartment in the west end of Glasgow, one could afford to buy a house on this street, with as much space, if not more, and gardens front and back.

Actually, the rubbage from the gloves. The whole of east end is now becoming a far better place to be. When they asked you what you did, and I said I was an architect and we stayed in Denniston, they were puzzled by this, because they had never heard of Denniston. They thought all architects stayed in the West End. Now, everyone’s heard of Denniston.

We’re very pleased with the way that this area exists. There is a certain kind of community. If you can at least spend a little bit of time, once a month, picking up a sweet wrapper or two, then you do your bit.

It’s just really a community feeling there. People feel that they’re supported, and there’s a sense of place, where they are.


So, it’s that kind of thing, that you continue to talk about it. People begin to learn about it. We were just lucky we got in early doors, and we love it to bits. It’s nice, yeah? Isn’t it?

Slowly, the middle classes are making their way back to Duke Street. A sense of community is returning to this street. But no one wants to live in these flats anymore. The last tenants moved out over a year ago, and 378 homes lie empty. Built too close to the railway line and the homes that sit underneath, they can’t be blown up. Instead, they still await demolition, one floor at a time.

The school [inaudible 00:54:40] But nothing happening to it, and it was angering us all. They were saying it was going to cost $50000 to demolish. So, we say to them, “We’ll take it off your hands. What do you want for it?” And they went, “Oh, we can give you for a pound.”

Irene couldn’t save the school, but Reidville Housing Association did save the building. It became 19 flats. Irene moved here in 1987.

This is the main entrance of the old school, and if you just come through it, I’ll show you the living area. This is the living room and the kitchen area. This used to be the headmaster’s room. And my husband told me, visited it more often than I did for the belt.

This is the bedroom. This was a classroom, bit of a staff room for the teachers. When we moved in here, this was John Butterly wanted a jacuzzi. I got a jacuzzi. See, John, you been looking down for me [inaudible 00:55:46] I’ve got a jacuzzi at last.

We are independent, and we make the decisions. The people of the area. It’s people power. The city council, knowing us, the Glasgow Housing Association now, are following in our footsteps. Why? Because we were successful.

Not so long ago, Harriet moved into Riedvale’s very last project: sheltered housing for Duke Street’s elderly.

That was seven years ago, and then I felt quite young. And I thought, “I’m not going to the old folk.”

This is where we sit in the summer. We bring the chairs over and we sit, we wait [inaudible 00:56:29] umbrella to come in, for this table. And that’s our love seat, but nobody’s in love here, so it does not get used.

There was one man stood up, and he’s sitting there, and he went, “Oh, fresh meat!” And he rubbed his hands. And I thought, “Oh, my god!”

John Butterly was awarded an MBE in 1987 for his services to the community.

I remember going here. I said, “Okay, [inaudible 00:56:55] from that day, and it must have been the range of [inaudible 00:56:58] because it was the New Years Day game, and there was a guy front of us, his paper rolled up in his back pocket. And I could see his son with him, kind of looking in his back pocket, and then looking at my grandpa, and then looking at the back pocket. I kind of felt like my grandpa’s famous, you know? It was brilliant. I know he loved it. He absolutely loved being on the front page of the Daily Jacob.

Residents of Duke Street were able to save 1000 homes, and no one was moved more than a few hundred meters from where they previously lived. It was the Riedvale tenants of Glasgow’s Duke Street who pioneered the creation of community controlled housing associations throughout the United Kingdom.

In next week’s episode, Aberdeen’s city squares were an enclave for fisher folk.

You were being taught at an early age that the demon drink was bad for you.

Unchanged for generations.

[inaudible 00:58:05] was regarded as kind of a strange place.

When a new industry arrived, its people were thrown headlong into the modern world.

These people have been sacrificed to oil interests.

If you want to learn more about social change and issues such as poverty, class, and housing, the Open University has produced a free publication. Go to, and follow the links to the Open University, or call 0845 271 0018.

His words and beliefs have shaped rebellions and terrified the ruling classes for centuries. Melvin Bragg’s Radical Lives goes in search of John Ball tomorrow at 9:00. We’re off to the Commonwealth Games tonight on BBC2, picking up the action on the end of day nine.