A Wee Bit of Glaswegian History!


Strolling around the city you would definitely bump into billboards with the catchy slogan “People make Glasgow”. And if you delve deeper into Glasgow history, you would conclude that Glasgow is truly a city of brilliant people. During the semester in Glasgow I have gathered some stories related with those prominent people who lived and worked in this city and the heritage they left.

Glasgow is a hometown of Thomas Lipton, the founder of Lipton’s tea company. In his early days, he traveled along the USA. As he returned back to Glasgow; he helped his parents to run a small grocery shop applying the experience gained from the USA. Lipton actively used the advertising and marketing which were brand new instruments for British retail sales. He was a showman, constantly drawing people’s attention. He bought pigs from the markets, tied ribbons on their tails and walked with them around the city and called them “Lipton’s orphans”. One Christmas, he ordered the world’s largest cheese from New York. Glaswegians lined up in the streets to the Lipton’s shop to see that piece of cheese with their own eyes. He, also, issued Lipton’s promotional vouchers which allow customers to buy the products which cost 1 pound at the price of 15 shillings. At the time, tea was sold out of large chests and weighed out for the customers, whereas in Lipton’s shop tea was sold in the separate packets by the pound, half pound, and quarter pound which was more convenient for the customers to estimate the quality of the tea and to choose the best one. Low prices and interesting marketing decisions brought the success to Lipton and he opened more shops in Glasgow. Soon his brand appeared all over Great Britain and now Lipton’s tea is a world-famous brand.

At the end of the semester, the students of the University of Glasgow were handed out the questionnaires where we could express our thought on the course and about the professors. The University of Glasgow stated that they consider those questionnaires very seriously as they respect students’ opinions. One of the lecturers told us a story of Adam Smith to show how lucky we are to have an opportunity to criticize. Adam Smith studied first at the University of Glasgow and then he got a scholarship to continue his education in Oxford. He was very unhappy with his Oxford experience. The faculty in the University of Glasgow had more teaching hours and the students were examined on the subject each day, whereas at Oxford there were two lectures per week and twice daily prayers as the faculty was ordained ministers of the Church of England. Also, the income of the professors in the University of Glasgow depended on their ability to attract students. After the lectures, the students give tips to the professor. The more successful the lecture, the more money a professor could gain. Therefore, they tried hard to give the students interesting and useful materials. Adam Smith noticed that as Oxford is rich, it offered its professors a high income which demotivated the professors to win students attention. In the end, Adam Smith left Oxford University before his scholarship ended. Not given an opportunity to express himself during his times in Oxford, he immortalized his criticism against Oxford education in his renowned work “The Wealth of Nations”.

If you open Glasgow map and check the names of the streets, you would see that a lot of them begins with the name “Kelvin”: Kelvinhaugh, Kelvingrove, Kelvinbridge, Kelvindale, Kelvinhall, Kelvinside. They are named after the second most important river in Glasgow – the River Kelvin. Also, those of you who once took Physics classes at school might know about the existence of a Kelvin scale which is used for indicating the temperature in thermodynamics. The Kelvin scale was named in the honour of William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin. He was a prominent physicist who worked at the University of Glasgow. He invented a mirror galvanometer which allowed him to successfully set up telegraph cables across the Atlantic. For his service in the transatlantic project, he was knighted in 1866 by Queen Victoria, becoming Sir William Thomson. And in 1892 he was ennobled and gained the title Baron Kelvin which again derived from the name of river Kelvin flowing by his laboratory at the Glasgow Uni.

If you are a traveler in Glasgow, you would often visit the Buchanan Bus Station. So, who is Buchanan? Andrew Buchanan was a tobacco merchant. There are a lot of Glasgow streets which refer to the tobacco business and Caribbean sugar business: Buchanan Street, Glassford Street, Jamaica Street, Virginia Street. The rise of Glasgow was initiated by the Treaty of Union which allowed Scotland to have an access to the English colonies in America. The Glaswegian ships due to the advanced technology and advantageous position of the Glasgow port could arrive to the New World 2-3 weeks earlier than English and European ships. The city was thriving, as well as merchants, especially the Tobacco Lords. They used the money to build for themselves palaces and churches reshaping the appearance of the city. Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art and St Andrew’s church that you can visit in Glasgow downtown are the examples of those buildings funded by the rich merchants.

Walk, talk, listen, observe. This city and its people are inspiring. People make Glasgow and you too make Glasgow shine brighter! Maybe you are the next Adam Smith whom the Glaswegian would be proud of.

Written by Lita #Meettheauthor