07 Feb Take the history line to Glasgow Central
Glasgow Central is the start point of our EatWalk food tours and a much-loved landmark.
Scotland’s busiest station, Glasgow Central is the start point for our EatWalk tours of the city. Some 38 million people pass through the station every year, jumping on trains that serve Glasgow’s southern suburbs as well as the West Coast mainline and the towns of the Clyde and Ayrshire.
It was opened by the Caledonian Railway on 31 July 1879 and has played a large role in the city ever since. During both World Wars, it was the scene of emotional farewells as families waved troops off to fight. During the First World War, its underground tunnels were also used as a makeshift mortuary for soldiers who lost their lives and whose bodies were returned to their grieving families.
More happily, the station was the arrival point for Laurel and Hardy during several British tours. In 1932, some 8000 fans turned up to greet them after they travelled through from Edinburgh. Stan Laurel has some Glasgow roots. His father was the manager of the Metropole Theatre on the city’s Stockwell Street and Stan Laurel’s stage debut took place at the Britannia Panopticon, a music hall which still operates down a wynd off the Trongate.
The comedy duo stayed at the Grand Central Hotel, part of the railway station. Other famous guests over the years have included the Hollywood cowboy Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger. The latter was led up the stairs to the hay-lined bridal suite. Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles have all stayed there but the hotel has an even more far-reaching connection with showbiz: John Logie Baird transmitted the world’s first long distance TV pictures to the hotel in 1927.
The railway station is built on top off Grahamston which, originally, was a small village outside of Glasgow’s city limits. As Glasgow expanded rapidly in the 18th and 19th centuries, it swallowed up lots of once independent little villages and hamlets. Grahamston was said to have boasted the city’s first theatre as long ago as 1764. Back then, the theatre was seen as distinctly immoral and the city elders would not allow such sin within the city’s boundaries.
As it happens, this ‘house of the Devil’ was destroyed by a rioting mob. Although we should perhaps take that story with a pinch of salt. There is a similar tale about a wooden theatre by the Bishop’s Castle on the High Street. Apparently this was destroyed in 1753 by a crowd that was whipped up to violence by the Methodist preacher George Whitefield.
Glasgow Central and the Hielanman’s Umbrella
What is certainly true is that Central Station used to be a popular hangout for Highlanders who had moved to the city. From the 1700s onwards, many Highlanders moved, or were moved, from their homes and they came to Glasgow to find work. Many were Gaelic speakers and, up until the Second World War they would gather under the railway station bridge that runs over Argyle Street and exchange news and views. Today, the bridge is still known as the Hielanman’s Umbrella.
Our walking tours of Glasgow concentrate on the city’s food scene but our guides are also full of stories about Glasgow past and present. You can book the tours here.
If you have an interest in railways, or even if you don’t, we can thoroughly recommend the walking tours of Glasgow Central Station. Taking guests behind the scenes and down into abandoned tunnels under the station, it is a fascinating tour of one of Glasgow’s landmarks.
The picture is from Wiki.