The last surviving link to the iconic Gorbals Boys
photograph has died. Glasgow grandfather Les Mason, the child pictured on the left of the famous photo, has passed away at the age of 70.
The photo in today's Herald, at the point near where it was originally taken
Mr Mason became famous later in life after his family discovered that he was the boy carrying the shopping bag in the photograph taken with his pal George Davis in 1948. The two Gorbals boys, depicted as 'street urchins', were walking across a Gorbals' street arm-in-arm on the way to the shop to get messages for Mr Mason's mum.
The picture was taken in 1948 by the late photojournalist Bert Hardy, who had been despatched from London to tkae phographs highlighting poverty in the Gorbals, which at that time was one of the most deprived and overcroweded urban areas in Europe.
Picture Post, the magazine for which Mr Hardy warked, did not subsequently print the photo as a part of the story on poverty in Glasgow, preferring more austere depictions of the grimness of life in post-war Gorbals. Despite this, the photographer always insisted that the now-famous Gorbals Boys shot was the favourite of his career.
Explaing how Mr Mason discovered that he was one of the Gorbals' Boys, his daughter, Julie, said:
"It was 1985 and another newspaper ran a retrospective looking back at Bert Hardy’s work which included the Gorbals Boys photograph and an appeal to trace the two boys featured in it. The search was then picked up by the Evening Times in a ‘where are they now?’ article. I think it was George Davis’s wife who saw it first and when mum saw it she recognised the story and asked dad: ‘Is that you?’ My brother Scott was a teenager then and he looked a bit like dad did in the photo. It was nice because we didn’t have any other photographs of dad as a boy."
Mr Mason's family added that the former shipyard worker had been very proud of his link with Glasgow's past. George Davis, the other child in the photo, died in 2002, aged 61, seven years after the London-born photographer who took the photo.
Speaking in 1999 of how the pic came to be taken, Mr Mason said:
"We were only about eight years old, and must have been going down Clelland Street to collect our entitlement of cod liver oil, orange juice and dried milk from the Ministry of Health store."
About his circumsatances, again from 1999, Mr Mason added:
"I was one of 13 children, although only eight of us made it past infancy. We were all crammed together in a one-room flat infested with rats, sharing an outside toilet with the rest of the tenement. But everyone lived that way. We didn't know we were poor until other people told us."