“Irish” by John Burrowes.

Ever wondered why Glasgow was so sectarian? Why does religion dominate daily life; everything from the local football teams enmity to the chaos of the annual Orange parades? It isn’t Ireland, so why all these problems?

This book explains why Glasgow is so dominated by religion and is a book about Glasgow and how it responded to the mass immigration of Irish Catholics in the 1800s.

In the mid 18th century the Catholic population in Glasgow was about 39. By 1805 this had risen to about 450 and by 1845 the Irish immigrants (both Catholic and Protestant) numbered over 80,000. So, a massive increase in the number of Irish then living in Glasgow.

This book tells the story of those immigrants, their attempts to settle into the city and the response of the Glaswegians to the influx. The hordes of Irish were initially viewed with disdain and crowds waited at the docks to jeer at them on arrival and there were the usual complaints – they are taking our jobs, happy to dwell in slums, don’t have any shoes, all filthy and unkempt and “drink is the only thing which makes the Irishman’s life worth living”.

It is a book which will interest those with Scottish ancestry as it explains the expansion of Glasgow as a metropolitan city and the inherited difficulties of trying to incorporate two nations and two major religions into one city. It is also of interest to those with Irish ancestry as it shows the awful hardships endured by those escaping the famine.

 The book is called “Irish” as it refers to Irish as cargo. The captains of the ships meeting on the dockside “What are you carrying? I’m taking coals to Newcastle” “Oh, I’m taking Irish to Glasgow”.

This is a really interesting (if harrowing) book and very easy to read. I would have to say it is one of my favourite non-fiction books.