By Dave Broom

Footprints of history

Dave takes us on a walk through the Glasgowof his childhood
Where is home? The place of your birth, the place you live in now, somewhere else where you feel the most content? When people ask me where I am from, I say Glasgow even though I’ve been clinging to the south coast of England for 17 years. Glasgow is home.Yet any time I return it is not a home I recognise. Many of the old landmarks (pubs, mostly) are there, but there is a strange dislocation which allows me to look at Glasgow in a new way, to see what isn’t there. The city becomes a jigsaw whose major pieces are invisible.This was brought home earlier this year when I walked the Glaswegian life of my grandparents. He was from Abernethy, she from Kilbarchan. Both came to the city in the late 1800s. They married and moved to a cheap tenement flat in Duke Street, near the heart of old Glasgow, an area dominated still by the grim bulk of the Royal Infirmary, the cathedral and the gothic territory where both meet, the Necropolis.The tenement is long gone, purged in the 1960s, replaced by a brewery. Their journey however took them and their two boys across Alexandra Parade, past the cigarette factories (beer and fags... there’s a Glaswegian heritage for you) to Coventry Drive. That block has gone as well, replaced by functional pale brick housing. They flitted once more, across Alexandra Park, to Dinart Street in Riddrie.The cigarette factories, like cigarettes, have gone. Their flat however is still there. A child’s teddy looks out of the window at me. Things change.That half hour walk from single end to wally close was a small triumph for them, yet it would barely register with today’s Glaswegian. Should it? Isn’t the Glasgow renaissance with its top-end restaurants and bars more relevant than some ghost story?This time, at Live, I walked from the City Inn to George Square. The hotel is next to a strange circular building. Noone gives it a second glance, or notices its mirror image on the other bank of the Clyde. Few know that this was the first tunnel under the Clyde, those rotundas housed the hydraulic gear for lowering carts. We used to dare each other to run through. In those days this was the docks.Today, like everything it has been rebranded and is now ‘Glasgow Harbour’, as if it is some sort of Caledonian Puerto Banus.There is however a river walk which takes you on a strange whisky journey. That huge red brick building beside the Kingston Bridge used to be a hub of whisky activities: warehousing, offices, blending rooms, bottling halls. It was where the Black & White dray horses used to be stabled. It too has been rebranded, it’s now called the Pentagon Centre and its only whisky connections are Neil Wilson Publishing and a website designer.My walk continues beside the river as far as St Enoch Square where Teacher’s palatial offices used to be in the days when the whisky industry believed in lunch.Now people grab a panini as they head into the shopping mall which replaced the city’s most elegant station.I wonder about the possibility of a Glasgow whisky walk, something which would rediscover the ghosts of Teacher, Mackie, Haig, Buchanan, Whyte, Mackay, Lang and many others. Blended whisky was hugely important to creating Glasgow’s wealth, but its story has been wiped. Glasgow is brutal like that. There’s limited space for nostalgia -- Rennie Mackintosh rather than ‘Greek’ Thomson, the vague moniker ‘Merchant City’ being sufficient to cover the most important era in the city’s history. But why not a whisky trail linking offices and warehouses, stables and conveniently situated pubs?In George Square the only link to this blended heritage is Whyte & Mackay. We’ve moved to malt. We cannot be tied to the past forever, yet somehow without the back story we’re missing a trick, a chance to connect. Whisky is as much an urban creation as one of misty glens. Surely we shouldn’t forget where it came from.