My granny lived up the “pawn close” on Springburn Road just opposite Healy’s pub, later renamed The Terminus. The access up the close from the main road was a spiral staircase which took you up to the first landing which was also accessed off Balgrayhill. Her tenement flat was on the first floor landing where three flats shared the same outside toilet. I remember visiting her as a child and had never seen an outside, shared toilet and was terrified using it. Scandalously these conditions persisted into the 1970’s when the old tenements were destroyed and new housing built in the area.
I remember a story she told me from the 1960’s when an Orange Walk was marching along Springburn Road under her window. Being a warm July day, her window was open and her curtains – which happened to be green – were fluttering out the window. This caused quite a stushie among the marchers who were pointing up to the window with the fluttering green “banner”. One of my cousins went to see what the fuss was all about and when he realised it was the green curtains that were causing the offence, waved them back at the walkers. This got their ire up even more and a big screwtap was chucked up which came in the open window. My cousin held it up, took the tap off with a bottle opener, drank the contents in full view of the marchers then tossed the empty bottle back out where it had came from. Cue mayhem at street level with police and marchers running up the pawn close stairs to find the house which had caused such an atrocity. The close was a warren of landings and the marchers gave up after running around for a fruitless 10 minutes.
One of the flats on her landing was a single end and had many a tenant occupying it. Between tenants, some ambitious flymen managed to break into the empty flat and rigged up a rope with a hook ant the end and they lifted the floorboards and “fished” for parcels in the pawnshop below. Must have been strange if you had pawned your new coat only to see someone walking along Springburn Road wearing one that looked “similar” to yours!
The bin area below had the old square midden bins which had no covers and attracted all the insects in the area while the children were playing their games nearby, oblivious to the health hazard. This tenement scene was replicated all over Glasgow before they were torn down in the 60’s and 70’s.
The area of Springburn Road – the Low Road - between the pawn and the bottom of Balgrayhill housed Da Luca’s Café (great plate of mushy peas soaked in vinegar) and one of Springburn’s most famous institutions, Quin’s pub. The pub was at the gushet at the bottom of the Balgray and had an entrances at Springburn Road for the bottom bar and on Balgrayhill for the top bar. Although part of the same pub, they had their own clientele which stuck to the top or bottom bar and rarely mingled. Quin’s and the great Willie Kennedy the bar manager are featured elsewhere on the Guide. From a football supporters perspective, Quins and Healy’s were Celtic pubs and The Boundary at the corner of Hawthorn Street was a Rangers shop. These pubs were not the ghetto Old Firm pubs you have nowadays where supporters of one club will not enter one of their rivals. A lot of Gers fans frequented Quin’s for the great pint of Guinness they sold and the reverse was true also of Hoops fans who enjoyed The Boundary.
I still have a dentist in Springburn and visit the area twice a year and agree with previous postings that the heart has been torn out of the area when the built the bypass to Bishopbriggs. Many of the old tenements no doubt could have been preserved and upgraded but equally many had to come down as they had become quite squalid. You always look back through rose tinted glasses and I’m as guilty as the next man with my reminisces but I loved the area in the 60’s and 70’s.