“The Queer Folk O’ the Shaws”

Pollokshaws Townhouse (1803) and the Memorial to James McIndoe the poet

Pollokshaws is a district on the southside of Glasgow (A Burgh in its own right until 1912) and was our home for 23 years, and is still the lifelong home of our church in Leckie Street. This blog will recall past and recent memories of life here, and the huge changes that have taken place throughout my lifetime. There is a poem on a plaque in the old part of the ‘Shaws, which always brings a smile to my face, but please don’t take the words too seriously! 🙂 The poem on the plaque reads:

The ‘Queer folk’ O’ the Shaws – “Wha’ ne’er untae the Shaws has been – Has surely missed a treat – For wonders there are to be seen – Which nothing else can beat. – The folks are green, it’s aft been said, – Of that you’ll find no trace; – There’s seasoned wood in every head – And brass in every face. – Look smart and keep your eyes about – Their tricks will make you grin; – The Barrhead bus will take you out -The folks will take you in. Thank you James McIndoe, that poem still makes me laugh!

Pollokshaws has a history going back to the 17th century, but ‘The ‘Queer Folk’ was the name first given to some Flemish weavers brought to the Shaws by the Maxwell family in the 1800’s, and over time became a ‘byeword’ for all those living in the area. (‘Queer’ in the poem had the meaning of ‘strange’ or ‘odd’) McIndoe the poet, it has been said liked making fun of folks, and it says something of Pollokshaws people that they chose to remember him by this ‘cheeky’ poem in the ‘town square’. Being able to ‘laugh at ourselves’ is surely a special virtue.

The changes that have taken place in the Pollokshaws landscape in my lifetime have been quite phenomenal! In the 40’s and 50’s it still had that close community, working class, yet small town / village atmosphere. It has to be said however, that the housing was basic, and in some parts quite deplorable and rightly described as a slum. But development was coming! (See on-line – ‘Pollokshaws – Wikipedia’ for some amazing resources)

In the 60’s Pollokshaws was designated as a redevelopment area, and in due time we were given the sum of ÂŁ1.00 in exchange for our two apartment flat in Harriet Street, plus the keys to a brand new flat in the Shawholm Cresent tower block, with a rent payable to Glasgow Housing Department. Wow, were we pleased? YES we were! The up and downstairs apartment had underfloor central heating, two bedrooms, bathroom, a lounge with a verandah, a fitted kitchen, and our own lock-up garage. Pollok Park was just across the road, the neighbours were great, together we polished the communal corridor and as the proverbial saying goes ‘you could have eaten your dinner off the floor’ it was so clean.

We had many happy days at Shawholm Crescent, but life moves on, and as the family grew we too moved on. But now we look back and wonder why all those hopes and dreams that the new revitalised Pollokshaws brought, would within our lifetime come to ruin and decay? The many factories and businesses in the area also closed over that period of time.

But another revitalised Pollokshaws is arising from the ashes, so time will tell if it is more successful than the last redevelopment effort. I am surprised however that expensive new houses are being built, whilst it seems little effort is going into preserving and maintaining landmark buildings, monuments and the once attractive river bank.

Our Church at Greenview.

Greenview Church, was established by some men in the Shaws away back in 1873, as they were keen to introduce to people a simple form of Christian worship. They met to pray, study the Bible, have fellowship with one another as believers and hold communion. They were also keen to share the good news about Jesus with their fellow citizens in Pollokshaws. First they met in a rented hall off the Main Street, then built a wooden hall in Wodrow Street, (Wodrow Street ran from Cogan Street past what is now Pollokshaws Parish Church – The tree now standing in the ground near the Parish Church was in the grounds of the Hall) before moving to Greenbank Street and finally to Leckie Street, where they have been since 1933. The building there has been changed and extended on umpteen occasions.

The Church from its beginnings had a strong missionary interest, and Norman MacRae one of the founding fathers, went out in 1876 to Narsapur in the Godaveri Delta, India. Up until today a long line of men and women from Greenview Church have followed Jesus’ command to ‘go into all the world to preach the gospel’ both by word and deed. I remember as a youngster the Pollokshaws Burgh Hall being packed to the door for ‘Farewell Meetings’ followed by trips to the Central Station where we waved off our friends as they made their way to Tilbury Dock in London, before sailing to Africa and South America. Many country names come to mind – Northern Rhodesia, Argentina, Brazil, East Pakistan, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania and other nations in the Middle East. Alex Simpson of Pollokshaws died in Brazil, and an orphanage there is called after him. Men and women with a wide variety of skills from the Shaws have left our shores and used their gifts and skills to help folks around the world, and to build, plant and support the Church.

No space here to expand on all the activities of the Church over the years – suffice to say they have been exhaustive. Not including the main Sunday morning and evening services, there has been Bible studies and weekly prayer meetings, Summer ‘Tent’ Campaigns, Choirs singing at Churches around Scotland’s Central belt, Christian conferences, Sunday Schools (Pollokshaws and Thornliebank) with summer trips and children’s prizegivings, Childrens meetings galore, Christian Youth Centre during and after the war, with 2 week summer camps around Scotland and winter craft making and games nights, Youth Bible Classes and special weekends away, Womens tea meetings, Sewing classes, mens meetings, a football team, white water rafting, golf outings, and much more. Some Greenview pics from the ancient past, and from more recent times follow.

During the pandemic the church services were on-line with the help of Zoom, but that gave the opportuniy to upgrade the church building and its fittings. Now services are back in church, and whilst we practice social distancing and wear masks, it’s great having the live band for our singing, and to see friends old and new in person.

Life has changed dramatically in Pollokshaws in my lifetime, and our church too has had to deal with many changes. But thankfully God does not change and the good news of Jesus does not change. In fact the Bible says of Jesus, that He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. An anchor to our souls in our increasingly chaotic world. Our community cafe has started again on Wednesday and Friday mornings, and many have already come to enjoy the friendly welcome and excellent food and coffee. Tot’s and Co. on Tuesday and Thursday mornings are seeing lots of local mums making friends and finding support there, and our ‘Christians Against Poverty’ Centre is up and running, helping folks escape the debt trap. We also have a programme in partnership with ‘Hope for Glasgow’ that deals with those who have destroying addictions. Sunday School runs in parallel with our morning service at 11am, and there is a thriving Youth Group.

If you are coming to Glasgow we would love to see you, and of course if you stay in Pollokshaws there is always a welcome awaiting you!

We look forward to following the ongoing development of Pollokshaws and its Churches, so with this picture of the Burgh Hall, I wish all my fellow bloggers and my Pollokshaws friends at home and abroad a ‘Happy Christmas and God’s blessing in the New Year!’

Pollokshaws Burgh Hall

Matthew

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matthewmckinnonsblog

I'm am a married man, a father, grandfather and great grandfather who has been married to Muriel for 62 years. I have worked as an Engineer in the Sugar Business, and as a Manager in the Relief and Development sector. Firstly however, I'm a follower of Jesus Christ and this fact has shaped my life and work.

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