Former burgh Govan is proud of its roots

MANCHESTER United manager Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly has the words immortalised on a sign at his offices at Old Trafford.

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Men come off shift at Govan shipyard
Men come off shift at Govan shipyard

When asked where they come from, most Govanites – like Sir Alex – will not say they 'are from Glasgow'. Instead they will answer: "Acumfaegovan".

A place rich with history, the area was once a burgh in its own right and was even the fifth largest burgh in Scotland for a period.

It was November 1912 that it was swallowed up by its bigger neighbour, Glasgow.

For Colin Quigley, an amateur historian and creator of the website www.acumfaegovan.com, this is one of the reasons for the strong sense of local identity in the area.

He said: "I think people are still very much proud of the fact we were separate from Glasgow.

"Long before I knew anything about the burgh state of Govan and its history, I picked up from my family that I was first and foremost from Govan.

"And it seems to have carried on and been passed down through generation to generation."

In the early 19th Century, Govan was a small village that relied on weaving and farming for its income.

With the arrival of the shipyards, the population grew from 2000 to more than 9000.

Mr Quigley said: "I consider the time like a goldrush, only from the shipyards.

"Govan used to be very picturesque, with cottages and only one police officer.

"Then, all of a sudden, there was a boom and they had to take charge of their amenities and that was why they formed the burgh.

"They had to have some way of being able to administer the area."

In 1864, Govanites sent a petition to the Sheriff of Lanarkshire to give them the right to govern their own affairs.

This was granted and the Burgh of Govan was born.

Throughout the next few decades, industrial growth saw the population boom to more than 90,000, with further amenities, such as their own trams system, parks and public baths.

However, Glasgow was also relentless in its expansion, and petitioned to the House of Commons, under the Boundaries Bill, to annexe close-bordering burghs under its municipality.

In what was to become known as the 'annexation battles', the city wanted to bring Partick, Pollokshaws and Govan under its rule.

Govan fought against this for more than 10 years, arguing that the wealth from the dockyards should be kept within Govan.

However, with the large population came cramped and unhealthy conditions, which many began to feel would be improved if the burgh became part of Glasgow.

Mr Quigley added: "In Govan there was a split, and I think that was down the lines of class.

"The working class – mainly people who had come from Ireland and the Highlands – were for the annexation, because they would get cheaper rates on things such as water and electricity.

"The richer people, like commissioners, could afford to stay separate from Glasgow and were very anti-annexation.

"Govan had always argued it could not be annexed against its will and in previous battles that had always seen them through. But by the time 1912 came round, it was clear the majority of Govan wanted to be part of Glasgow."

After 19 days of evidence, the Glasgow Boundaries Bill was passed and the House of Lords sanctioned the annexation.

Since then, Govan has seen many changes to its boundaries, but recently it has seen a surge in interest in tracing and recording its history.

Projects such as the Govan Stones and the soon to open Fairfield Heritage Centre illustrate a strong interest in Govan's history, showing the community spirit built up through the shipyards has remained strong.

fiona.mckay@ eveningtimes.co.uk

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