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Old Glasgow

17/02/2010

Heavy industry made Glasgow Scotland’s largest city, dominated its architecture and helped mould the characters of the people who have grown-up, lived and worked there. In that respect, the imposing image of the clock tower of the Singer Sewing Machine Factory that features in this selection of historical imagery is both a poignant and appropriate representative for the ‘Old Glasgow’ area. It is big, brash and bold – and it is also now completely gone. The clock’s monolithic scale – only enhanced in the photograph by the trick of perspective that allows it to seemingly dwarf the tower blocks in the background – made it one of the largest timekeepers of its kind in the world. What else would you expect from the vast factory that truly brought modern mass-production to Scotland? Sadly, it was demolished over forty years ago, with the factory following twenty years later. With many of the physical traces of the old city erased, the photographic record becomes even more important. Modern Glasgow has transformed itself from the dark days of economic depression. But the images here, which capture it both as the ‘Workshop of the Empire’, and also as a victim of industrial decline, are without substitute if we are to understand the city today and in the future.