Memories Of Parkhead by Thomas Bell

Thomas James Bell

My name is Thomas James Bell. I was born on 3rd.March.1938.

I was born on the top floor of a tenement building at 15 Salamanca Street, Parkhead,Glasgow, E1.

My Parents had two children. Before me they had a daughter, Margaret Mary Bell, born February 13th 1937. She lived for only nine days. She died of Tuberculosis on 22nd February 1937.

My Parents were Thomas Edward Bell and Mary Tennant O’Neill. My Mother was born in Westmuir Street Glasgow in February 1911. She married my father at St. Josephs Catholic Church in 1936. She died in January 1948. I was ten years old. She died of Tuberculosis.

My parents adopted a girl called Margaret. She was about three years younger than me.

My father was Irish, born in 1888 in a town in Southern Ireland called Gorey, Co. Wexford.

My father played the fiddle and was also very good on the accordion. My father lived till he was 66 years of age. He died in Glasgow Royal infirmary in 1954 from Coronary Thrombosis.

My Father was previously married before he met my mother. He was married to a lady called Anastasia. They had two children, Joshua Paul and Maureinne. Anastasia and my Father married in 1913. She Died in 1935.

I attended three Schools whilst I was a child and these were; St. Michaels Infants School, Gallowgate till I was five, then St. Michaels Primary School, Salamanca Street Parkhead till I was eleven and then St. Marks Junior Secondary School, Shettleston, till I was fourteen. I left school at fourteen. I hated the latter school; it was run by Franciscan Brothers, who were very strict.

Our Top flat tenement house consisted of a front room with a lovely mirror overhanging a coal fire grate and one cavity wall bed. There was a small hall, and this contained a coal bunker big enough for two hundredweight of coal, if you could get it. The hall also contained a gas meter. The Front room contained two cavity wall beds and a black grate fire. There was a small kitchen and this contained a sink and cold water tap. The kitchen only measured a few feet square, and was very tiny. A few shelves were on the walls. There were three windows in the house, one front, one back and a small window in the kitchen.

Opposite my tenement building there were two shops, one was a newsagents and the other a delicatessen type. There was another newsagent a few closes along and also a greengrocery shop near there. There was a public house on the corner of Salamanca Street and Duke Street; It was called the Palace Bar. Just round the corner on Duke Street there were numerous other shops, including a cafe and fish & chip shop.

Also there was the Parkhead Public Hall. They held dances every week. It was very entertaining as a child watching the fights and waiting for the Black Maria (Police Van) to put the fighters in the van. This was a regular occurrence on most dance nights.

Tenement blocks of houses were adjacent to Beardmores, Engineering factory, guns, boilers and parts for ships, planes etc were made there.

I remember being told to run to the Air Raid shelters when the Germans tried to bomb the factory. A loud siren would sound before and after any attack. When the all clear was sounded we could go back to our houses. Most air raids were carried out in the middle of the night.

The Air raid shelters were made of brick and topped with eight inches of concrete for the roof. If you could imagine tenement buildings built in a square with open ground in the middle.

There were four air raid shelters to each corner of the tenements.

Food was very scarce. Food was rationed and we each had our own ration book. Sometimes I would have free school meals.

Sometimes I would visit the little cafe type restaurant that did cheap meals for Beardmore workers, or anyone else that could pay, normally the price was one sixpence per dinner. This was in Duke Street opposite East Wellington Street.

Buttermilk could also be had. A horse drawn milk churn would pull up outside the tenement blocks most mornings and for a few pence they would fill up your milk jug. Buttermilk was used to make bread, scones or it could be drunk. Butter was scarce, most times sandwiches were made of margarine or jam if it was available, fruit could be had but it was also scarce. A typical piece (sandwich) was margarine and sugar, or margarine and a sliced banana.

At the end of the war things improved. More food became available and was no longer on ration..

When my father died I kept the house going by paying the factor (owner) rent money. The House was privately owned and rented out. At the end of 1955 my uncle, my fathers brother came, and my adopted sister Margaret went to live with him and his wife. I never got on with him and I only saw him that one time. I met my adopted Sister Margaret in 1970, she was married living in Coatbridge and had two children. I have not seen her to this day, 2011.

Washing clothes in the tenements was done at the steamie (Wash House and Baths). Also you could have a bath in there as well for a few pence.

As I was getting older I often visited the billiard and snooker hall in Tollcross Road. I used to go there and I would collect the balls and set up the tables and sometimes score for a sixpence. In 2005 I visited it again; it was just as I remembered it

Then there was Celtic Park. On match days you could wait till half time then get lifted over the turnstiles for free. Also prior to any matches, fakirs and all sorts of magicians etc would do their turns, for a few coppers. Speaking of coppers, mounted police were always at the big games, especially Celtic and Rangers matches.

We had quite a few cinemas around and about Parkhead, the Granada, Parkhead Picture Palace, and the Black Cat. It used to be called “The Bug Hut”.

There was a “Barrs Irn Brew Factory” the first one I believe.

Parkhead was quite a busy area. Not much crime. Not many cars around. Tramcars ran up and down Duke Street, Tollcross Road and The Gallowgate to Town Centre.

Doors could be left unlocked. No Drugs. Plenty of drinkers, there were three pubs in the vicinity of Salamanca Street, the Palace Bar, the Hare and Hounds and a Bass pub, the name escapes me.

My father worked as a Boilermakers Helper at Beardmores. He left Beardmores due to ill health.

He also worked for Scottish Farmers Dairies, delivering milk. To start with he had a horse. It was Called Tommy. After the horse he had a pull along milk float. He would travel around delivering milk to the tenements mainly in London Road and Dennistoun area. He then graduated to a full size milk float. As a child I used to go with him when I was off school on holidays etc. My Father was also responsible for cashing the other roundsmens takings each night and locking the dairy up. I often got a few pennies in tips at the weekends. I loved helping with the milk round.

In between helping my dad, he would often give me a shilling to go to the coal yards in Shettleston. This was to get coal for the house fire. I would make a boxcart type of barrow with an orange box and two pram wheels and two pieces of orange box for handles. This was to carry the coal back from the coal yards. The only heating in those days was a range consisting of a small oven and two plates on the top. All this was heated by the fire in the grate. All cooking was done on this stove.

My father had an allotment on Tollcross Road, adjacent to the railway line. He had a fair bit of land and a small coal fired greenhouse. Coal was supplied by engine drivers in their steam trains. My father used to call to them and they would throw down large lumps of coal for his greenhouse heater. Some of this coal went to our house at Salamanca Street.

In 1954 I left Glasgow and worked on a Farm in Kilmaurs, Stewarton, for one year. I moved on again to 79 New Road, Ayr in digs. I had a Job in a coalyard bagging coal and delivering it by lorry to Ayr and its surrounding district. Before my army service I had at numerous jobs. I never lasted long in any of them.

I was called up for National Service in March 1956. I signed on in the regular army in The Royal Corps of Signals. I was a linesman, Class 1. B. Trade. I reached the Rank of Full Corporal. In 1960 , I was stationed at a small town in England, called Droitwich. During my army service I got my Education from Sitting Army Certificates of Education (ACE’s). I got All subjects in Ace3, all subjects in Ace 2, and English in Ace 1, by then I had finished in the Royal Signals. I had a Better education in the army than I ever got at schools.

I met a married a local girl and we have had three children, two boys and a girl who, sadly died at three and a half years old.

When I left the Royal Signals in 1965 I got a security officer’s job in a large engineering company called Garringtons Limited. I had the Rank of Sergeant.

In 1970 I rejoined the Army this time the Territorial Army. I was a Corporal in The Worcestershire Regiment. I also enlisted again in the Territorial Army, this time in the Light Infantry and Mercian Brigade. I was in the Home service force from 1980 till 1983. All told I did sixteen years in the Services in three different regiments.

I was made redundant from Garringtons in 1984. I got another security Job on and industrial site for twelve months. In 1985 I got a security job in a Mail Order Company Called Kay & Company, a Worcestershire Company.

I saw out my time I retired in 2003. I have two lovely grandchildren and a lovely wife. I own my house. I own my car a Mazda Sports Saloon, V6.24V. 2ltr.

All in all not bad for a wee lad from Parkhead, I still love Scotland, especially Parkhead.

Thomas (Tom) Bell,

15 thoughts on “Memories Of Parkhead by Thomas Bell

  1. donna

    smashing memories there, although not from the area I was up there a lot with my pal whos uncle lived with his family in Salamanca st.. it was a weird wee close that you had to go round the back to get into their low down house….I loved the Coop in Westmuir st.. nice big shop especially for shoes.. in fact the shoe dept sticks in my mind more than anything else …. then of course Woolworths over the road, , its hard to think now that the Forge shopping centre wasnt there back then… and I wouldnt really have gone down that way for any reason… I just wonder what it said on that plaque above the Palace Bar , did anyone ever find out… There was also a Tom Martins tailor on the Gallowgate near the big bank on the corner if I mind right…… I wonder if anyone knew Bobby Gallagher who lived in Salamanca st…. I know he had a wife and wee family and went to Canada but he was sent back here for some reason.

  2. Thomas Bell

    Hello Charles Reilly, I remember the things you talked about..Playing football on the spare ground being chased by the polis after the bookies on the corner… Doing a milk round with my dad.. London Road area,Scottish farmers..Also selling papers on the corner of parkhead by the Bank.. ( No longer a Bank).. Remember I was seven years younger than you but stilkl did the same things… Best Wishes. Tom.

  3. Thomas Bell

    From Thomas Bell…I know I have relatives living in Tollcross …Named ……O,Neil or Boyle…My Great Great Grandfather was John O,Neil;Born. 1845.My.Mothers Name was Mary,Tennant O,Neill.Bell.. My father Thomas Edward.Bell..If anyone would like to get in touch I have lots of information regarding those names….O,Neill,Boyle…

  4. Charles reilly

    Hi I was born at 54 ravel row 1945,to me parkhead will always be my home.playing football on the spare ground,being chased by the polis now and then,doing my milk round and selling papers at the cross.Would love to do it all again.

  5. Thomas Bell

    Hello Colin.. The Bass pub as you mentioned was at far end of Salamanca Street opposite St.Michaels pub…I do not know the name of this pub .. I only remember The Bass Signs on the Glass windows and the Hanging Bass sign…,
    Donna,mentioned the House next to the Palace bar..It was a small building but very long. with a tiny shop in it.. I think it was a Sweet shop..The building as I remember was joined to the palace bar and went along as far as The Granada Picture House…So long ago… 1952???
    Sally.. I remember the Fruit shop very well it was up near Parkhead Cross on the Same side as The Granada….
    My Dad Also Thomas used to Sell papers every Night and weekends On Parkhead cross ,, Against The Bank that used to be there…Early 1950,s..

  6. donna

    Spoke to a man yesterday at Whitevale baths while I was taking photos of the old baths, he started talking about the area as he thought I didnt know much about it. but I informed him I came from the district and used the old baths or swimming pool.. he started to tell me about his family being hawkers, and then about his granny called Reynolds who lived in what he said was the oldest house in Parkhead at that time.. he said above the Palace Bar next to the Granada… I wonder if anyone on here knew of the family….

  7. Sally Winters (Pringle)

    In my class at school my friends were edward boyle and also helen devlin. I was born 1950 and lived in 16 van sreet. Went to St Michael’s infant and primary and then St Mark’s jun secondary and then st. gerard’s and Langside College. Just wondered if anyone knew my family. They were Stringers. My grandparents had a fruit shop I think near Parkhead Cross and my grandfather allegedly drank his way through all any profits.

  8. Thomas Bell

    I remember the fruit shop just round the corner from Salamanca Street.. I cannot remember the people in the fruit shop.. I remember Mrs Graham the lady that had the shop on the corner of Salamanca street.My dad was Irish.. He worked at the forge till bad health caused him to finish.. He also worked for Scottish Farmers and had a Milk run on London road council houses opposite Celtic park. I used to help him as a lad…..My Dad also was a Bookies runner on East Wellington Street..Nice to know I am not alone with my Memories….I Now live in Droitwich Spa. Worcestershire. England.. You can E.Mail me Anytime.

  9. Thomas james Devlin

    Born on the 14 of the 4 1937 I read your story and couldent believ my eyes ,i was born on the top floor of 88 Dunbar st Parkhead looking straight into the forge as the smelted the steel to make the bombs to throw back at the germans.I releated word for word everything you said ,it was like reading my own life story.Had an aunt and uncle lived in Salamanca St had the fruit shop there .used to go to all them picture halls you talked about,waited in ques then into the waiting room before you got into the pictures,half the time there was better entertainment outside with the buskers than there was inside .by the way Jack Gallacher was the owner of the fruit shop you may have known him.My grandperents name was Boyle they lived on the top of 88 and ruled the roost from there,every landing had boyles living there we sorta owned the close .it was funny days if anybody fights with you they had to fight the whole family.i remember as a kid waiting ta katch a hudgie on the back of the horse and cart and then getting a belting aff yir maw for doing it.

  10. j bell hope

    my family lived in salamanca st during the war years my granda was james bell and my granny was mary black bell

  11. Thomas Bell

    Well David, other things i remember about Parkhead , I used to use the Working mens Cafe Opposite East Wellington St.. On Duke Street.. It used to cost 6d for a dinner ,Mince and Tatties.. I used to watch The Blacksmiths Hammering out The forgings in the Beardmores shop a little way down Duke Street. I used to visit the Railway banking above The Parazone works .. i used to get a tin Sheet and ride down the Slope.. Do you remember the Edinburgh rd,near Beardmores offices.. I saw a Double decker Bus crash under the Bridge near there.. Took the top off the bus.. Some people were killed. Children.. Did you ever go into the Beardmores offices to see the Ships in the Glass cases…I used to go and watch The Sports days in Helenvale park…Its great still to have Those memories.. I have a job now remembering things that happen today or yesterday…Good Luck . Tom.Bell

  12. david mcgowan

    I don’t remember you personally but you brought back memories. I lived at 1331 duke street. My mother lived there from childhood until shortly before her death,and the tenement was razed. Out theback was a wall with a slope which we used to call the wall of death. Never fell but broke an arm dreeping aff a midden on the other side of Duke Street.
    Dad was a Rangers supporter so rarely went to Celtic Park except for league internationals.Used to go and watch the 3 junior teams on London Road. Parkhead, Bridgeton Waverly and Strathclyde. Did you ever go to the bicycle races at Helenvale Park.
    Like you growing up in Parkhead was wonderful. David McGowan

  13. Thomas Bell

    thanks for your comments,david.. Our Shelters were behind the Tenement block opposite the Papershop…
    I remember the planes coming over to bomb Beardmores and running for the air raid shelters…
    You probably remember me??? I was the one who kept climbing the shelters you used and also climbed part of the granada building to get Pebbles for my catapult…I climbed one too many and fell between the shelter and a wall . I had a gash in my thigh and had to be carried to the Royal Infirmary by my dad.. Good Old Memories.. Tom Bell

  14. david mcgowan

    i lived on Duke St. next to the Grenada.
    We probably shared the same air raid shelter. Ours was on Salamanca Street behind the Grenada.
    By the way I`m 24 days younger than you.

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