The politicians are buzzing round Glasgow at present. But most of the

time they ignore the real city. Here JACK McLEAN affectionately

anatomises an ignored part of the true, people's city: Toryglen.

Pictures by James Galloway.

TORYGLEN is at the margin beyond the margin. It always was. Its

origins in the 1950s new Glasgow -- a stirring vision of sub

East-European/Atleean Social Democracy with inside lavvies and a good

life for the wife and kiddies -- saw to it that Toryglen was like every

other scheme: a touch soulless at best.

Back in the fifties and early sixties, though, Toryglen was one of the

prime schemes to find yourself allotted to. Not quite Knightswood or

Mosspark or even its contemporary estate, Merrylee, but definitely

desirable. It was on the edge of the old Govanhill where there were yet

notions of gentility or at least the respectable working class syndrome

which was to lead to the upwardly mobile stuff of later years.

There was grass about and fresh air and neighbouring Castlemilk was

still half-built and had not yet developed its status of undesirability.

It was a good place to be and the local children got to go to, a mile

away admittedly, one of the best schools in Glasgow, Queen's Park

Secondary School. A legendary school, packed with old traditions.

Toryglen had all the earmarkings of the ''good'' scheme. But it was

also at the edge of Rutherglen and at the edge of social changes which

were to occur in many of the housing estates which were being built

throughout Scotland in those post-war years. These were to be crucial

factors in the development of Toryglen.

First of all Rutherglen. This was an ancient burgh, right on the

doorstep of the new scheme, a burgh resentful of Glasgow and its ways:

still semi-rural and conscious of its long history, with its fairs and

its burgh councils and its own royal charter. It took not at all to its

new neighbours: not then; not now. It allowed nothing of Toryglen past

its borders and to this day is still fighting any kind of incursion.

A recent proposal by Strathclyde Regional Council to amalgamate

Toryglen and Rutherglen children into the same school has met with

enormous resistance from both groups of residents, and this despite the

fact that the majority of Toryglen people shop in Rutherglen rather than

in Glasgow or even nearby Govanhill.

But Toryglen had nothing of nearby Govanhill, or of Glasgow come to

that, either. It was a new estate and it kept on getting newer. From the

early beginnings of a peripheral estate with lots of decent and

respectable tenants it went on, as many of the schemes were to do, to

extend itself. Thus the notorious, for Toryglen, Prospecthill Circus and

surrounding canton was erected.

Here I have to declare a personal interest. I worked in Toryglen for

over a decade: taught in the new Queen's Park School now risibly set in

Toryglen, and I knew the Circus. Toryglen called that area simply that,

as though it had clowns and wild animals and ringmasters and

demoralising sawdust about it, like any other circus, which indeed it

did. There were lots of good people about the Circus. But there were

lots of undesirables too. They're still are.

First the decent people. Round the Prospecthill Circus of Toryglen are

rows of neat enough houses and high rise flats. A quiet area it is,

despite the usual high unemployment. Sure, some of the quietness of a

morning is due to the unemployed in their beds or the dope smokers

mulling over their videos watched into the small hours: it would be

surprising in depressed areas like this if it were not so. But there are

clear indications of people trying their best.

A row of bilious pink curtains, neighbour after neighbour emulating

each other in outward finery, and with the almost Levantine aesthetic

which the working classes invariably display throughout the country. The

net curtain industry, too, would go broke if it were not for the

sensibilities of such ordinary people. Beside a graffiti-smeared gable

end is a small red sports car, a pride and joy, no doubt, to some

employed youth.

The houses look out on an industrial landscape worthy of Orwell. In

the high rise flats there are those who try hard to keep the decencies

up. Wee Mrs Conroy puts up pictures torn out of a calendar to cheer up

the landing while she complains of the neighbours above and below and of

the youths who assemble at nights to drink bottles of Buckfast and leave

the empties, with their ominous promise of social breakdown, tucked into

the steps. There are, says Mrs Conroy, ''all those alkies in the flats

across the way. And the wee lassies wi' weans -- single parents y'know

-- they attract some right bad hats.''

As there always is in schemes there is a shopping precinct -- shops

that do not grow organically out of local needs, but rather out of

planners' perceptions of them. Not a few of them are now irrevocably

boarded up: all of them have steel shutters to protect them from the

ever-present vandals: an off-licence would be impossible.

Michael's Chip Shop has grilles at its counter. You poke your hand

through a meagre space in the grille to take your fish supper and you

have to put your money through first: nobody thinks there is anything

odd about this. Like getting fed through a handsworth of openness: just

the way the dole money comes and the pension and everything else. The

local pub -- the Beacon -- is filled with old men, most of them under

pension age but made geriatric by unemployment, who sit lethargically on

seats upholstered in slashed plastic. The barmaid is cheerful enough:

the working classes are ever cheerful in adversity. You are not going to

get converzationi about Sartre and Joyce here, though.

This is what the sociologists call an ethnocentric area: nobody goes

out of it much and few want to either. Down the road in Polmadie, not

five minutes away from the Beacon, is the Spur Bar and Lounge. Quiet,

clean, respectable, good food and well-appointed surroundings, a

clientele considerably more confident and up-market in working class

terms, the Spur has a community easily visible where the Beacon has not.

Another five minutes away from the Beacon and the shopping precinct

and the Prospecthill Circus there is South Toryglen with well-kept

gardens and even a new yuppie estate of Georgian pretensions. The

children here are cleaner and better-dressed. The girls have the

pristine white socks and the boys the creased grey flannels denoting

parental motivation and parental finance. Most of those children go to

King's Park School rather than the nearer Queen's Park.

Their parents -- many of whom have bought their humble enough homes --

have taken to describing themselves as coming from King's Park anyway.

They will rather pathetically deny Toryglen. District councillor

(Labour) and local Church of Scotland minister, the Rev. Stuart

MacQuarrie, is strongly supportive of his flock but admits there is a

lack of confidence among the people of Toryglen.

''There is a lack of identity,'' he says, about the area he represents

in more ways than one, but claims this is changing. ''The people try so

hard and things are going to happen here.'' One cannot help but muse on

his optimism.

But 10 minutes walk away is the other margin of Toryglen: Govanhill.

This is the edge of the Central constituency. A big, blowsy, tenemental,

archetypal Glasgow district, full of people and ethnic divergence: it

has seen the Jewish community and the Highlanders and now contains a

vivid and vivacious amalgam of Irish and Asian and aboriginal


Paddy Neason's pub is packed on a Friday night: with Sikhs and

Donegalies and Glasgow folk, easy in each other's company and united in

their recreative pints of Guinness, just as they are united in their

shopping sprees of a Saturday. Many will patronise the Halal butchers

along with a one-time Pakistani neighbour.

Here you will find Mrs Di Paolo watering her vast array of potted

plants which she has displayed along the first floor parapet. The

nameplates at her close-mouth door read like the United Nations: Medina,

Ahmed, Di Paulo, Wong, Paxton, Malik, Sawadzki.

Govanhill is the old Glasgow with many a gap site there, true, but

with a new sense of the sort of optimism which Toryglen's Reverend

MacQuarrie is striving to invoke.

Things are getting better in Govanhill: indeed life is getting better

in Govanhill, but then life has never really gone away. The pubs, the

Chinese and Indian take-aways, banks, fruiterers, fishmongers, drapers,

schools, nearby health centres (which Toryglen lacks incidentally), the

railway stations, the buses and the bustle, the people in the streets:

this is the city which has been denied the people of Toryglen.

Govanhill is just on the margin of the politicians' concern this week,

as Toryglen is not. Toryglen is the margin beyond the margin this time.

The Water Margin. Like a water margin, too, you cannot see it: but it's

there and the politicians will not be able to ignore it either.