Sunday, 1 February 2015

Churchill and Glasgow (1919)

While the rest of the UK puts on widow's weeds for the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill, let's remind ourselves of what he did to our city in 1919.
Ninety-six years ago this very night, running battles were taking place across the city after the police baton-charged a peaceful, 60,000-strong crowd in George Square.
The men, women, and children had hit the pavies to call for a 40-hour working week, This was no selfish fight.
The men, who were working a 56-hour week, were horrified and ashamed that the soldiers returing from the First World War were being left on the scrapheap. They knew if they took a cut in their hours, and their pay, some of these returning 'heroes' - their brothers, fathers, neighbours - could get back into the yards and the workshops and start providing for their families.
Sadly, the bosses didn't see things the same way. They had coined it in during the war and weren't about to spend any of their millions on what they called 'bolshevik scum' (That's your granny, your grandpa).
With the Russian Revolution only 15 months old, and the Spartacist Revolution still raging in Germany, the ruling classes came down like a ton of bricks on Glasgow... but Glasgow fought back.
After the first police charge, the crowd uprooted iron railings and charged the police line. As the battle moved to North Frederick Street, some poor bugger drove a beer lorry into the crowd. Sadly, it was full of empties but, rather than claim the cash back on the bottles, the crowd pelted the police and drove them back.
The crowd then reformed and marched to Glasgow Green where, again, they were attacked by the police. Again, now with the help of the East Enders, they routed the police.
Across the city that night running battles took place, in Govan. Townhead and the old Garngad.
Churchill, then Secretary of State for War, had already put the men of the HLI, at Maryhill Barracks, under lockdown. He was feart that Glasgow soldiers would take up arms with their fellow citizens.
He moved 1000 troops into the city from Edinburgh and Aberdeen, carefully weeding out every Glasgow man from the battalions.
The next morning there were machine gun nests on the roof of the North British Hotel (now the Millennium Hotel) and the old central Post Office. There was a Howitzer outside the City Chambers and six tanks, loaded and ready to roll on us, in the cattlemarket in the Gallowgate.
Now, we're not saying Churchill was an S H 1 T (although we may be hinting at such), but he was certainly no friend of Glasgow, or the working man.
In Fife, where he really did turn the guns on the workers, during the General Strike, his name is still anathema. Old Fifers spit at the mention of his name.
Tonight, we doff our bunnets to the brave men and women of 1919 Glasgow, who stood up to fight for their fellow citizens. They didn't want a revolution, they wanted a fair deal for all. Sadly, for many in our great and gallus city, we're still waiting for such a deal...
(Thanx Norry)

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