WHILE Partick is now firmly part of Glasgow, just under 100 years ago, it was a thriving burgh in its own right.

Once a small weaving village, home to just 1000 people, the establishment of Tod & MacGregor's Meadowside Shipyard at the mouth of the River Kelvin in the 1840s saw Partick grow into an industrial community of 5000 by 1850.

The population boom demanded new houses, streets, lighting, medical services and many other amenities, in particular a sewage system

To raise the necessary finance, in 1852 the village was declared a police burgh, allowing burgh commissioners to levy taxes.

By the time Glasgow annexed the burgh in 1912 the population had grown to over 50,000.

The industrialisation of the burgh saw people move to Partick from all over Scotland and Ireland.

One notable resident who arrived from Ireland and left her mark on Partick was "Big Rachel" Johnston.

Glasgow author and historian Ian Mitchell detailed her extraordinary life in his book This City Now: Glasgow and its Working-Class Past.

He said: "Rachel stood 6ft 4 inches tall and weighed over 17 stone.

"She was a formidable woman. She had to be, she worked as a labourer in the shipyards, as a forewoman navvy at Jordanhill Brickworks and latterly as a farm worker at Anniesland.

"She was also a prominent figure during the Partick riots of 1875."

Irish nationalists protesting against British home rule were attacked on Dumbarton Road by their political opponents, resulting in three days of rioting.

In a bid to quell the trouble, Big Rachel was sworn in as a special constable.

In the late 1800s, as crofting gave way to sheep farming, many Highlanders, forced off their land, moved south to Partick to look for work.

The Gaels brought their culture with them.

There is still a greater concentration of Gaelic speakers in Partick and the West End than anywhere outside the Western isles.

Mr Mitchell, a former history lecturer at Clydebank College, said that while Gaels arrived to work in the shipyards, the area's links to the Highlands run further back than that.

He said: "Partick was on the route into Glasgow from the West Highlands that farmers would use to drive their livestock to market.

"The drovers came down what is now Crow Road (crow is from the Gaelic croadh, cattle) and stayed overnight in Partick before moving on to Glasgow.

"They would stay in one of the Gaelic hostelries that inhabit the area to this day."

His book recalls that one inn, Granny Gibbs, was a favourite watering hole.

He said: "Built in 1796, near where Thornwood roundabout sits today, it was a place for the drovers to rest.

"They would pen up their livestock and rest up before the last leg into the city."

The area can also lay claim to a football first.

The world's first international, between Scotland and England on November 30 1872, was played at West of Scotland Cricket Club's ground at Hamilton Crescent. It ended in a 0-0 draw.

In their early years, Partick Thistle, formed in 1876, moved about the burgh, playing on what is now the site of Partick Railway Station, and the site of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, before moving to their present home at Firhill Stadium in Maryhill in 1909.

douglas.blane@ heraldandtimes.co.uk