Glasgow Tenements

Whilst at my Grandma’s over the weekend I took photographs of the figurines in the previous blog post but we also dug out some old photographs together of her childhood in Glasgow. In an earlier blog post: https://rachelfenwick.co.uk/2014/02/24/grandma-kathleen/ I talk about grandma growing up there as she explained it to me over the phone; retelling interesting tales of harsh conditions but happy times spent in Glasgow. Having never seen most of these photographs before I felt happy that my grandma could share them with me. The sulky little girl featured, is grandma herself maybe looking not so happy about her surroundings! The coloured images  also show the many many ornaments grandma’s had in her previous homes!

Grandma Kathleen

As I have mentioned quite a lot of times, this work has all stemmed from the figurines which my grandma keeps. So whilst chatting on the phone to her the other day I began thanking her for being such an important part of the work. I explained that I was now looking into council housing and mentioned I had been researching the Glasgow tenements; this set her off on a few stories which I feel I should mention. As a child, Grandma lived in the tenements, a one bedroom flat in Glasgow with her 6 brothers and sisters and her parents. Just one room for all the kids! Absolutely crazy to think of now! 5 families shared one toilet which was the next street away she said! She did say it was immaculate though- so was proud of that. She was born in 1947 so only two years after the war, which then made a lot of sense considering all the research I’d been doing concerning the state of housing post-war. 8 years later, again making a lot of sense in terms of new social housing, she moved to Drumchapel, an area 7 miles away from the centre. There was another room available- a 2 bed flat, but with the arrival of two more siblings it was still a tight squeeze; with 5 girls in one room and 4 boys in another.  Although this all sounds pretty terrible to me, she was happy to say that: “It was happy days in the tenements.” and what also made me laugh was when she said, “O yes, you would have had to be a posh person not to live in a tenement in Glasgow.” I loved that! While she was on a roll I began asking her about her ornaments, intrigued as to why she likes them so much, she said “I couldn’t live without them.” she said that her mum had had them; probably to show she could afford them. And to my disbelief she came out with-“You better yourself with ornaments.” My grandma truly is the picture of aspirational working class.