Paddy's Market: The End of an Era?
Paddy’s Market is a relic of down-at-heel Glasgow in the pre-Franz Ferdinand days. It’s now facing closure by the council, so this is your last chance to catch a grubby, charming part of the city. David Pollock explains why Glasgwegians will miss it.
It’s pretty far from being the most glamorous viewpoint from which to see Glasgow, but for anyone who wishes to view the city in all its bare-bones and often raw glory, Paddy’s Market is worth taking a walk on the wild side for. Set on Shipbank Lane, which is wedged just in between the Merchant City and the River Clyde, Paddy’s mirrors the more well-known Barras market further to the east of the city centre in its milieu of street hawkers and traders flogging cheap clothing and other items.
If you really want to take in this authentic slice of 20th century Glasgow, though, you’re advised to be quick. Concerned about rising crime rates in the area, the city council has recently stepped up moves aimed at closing the site for redevelopment as part of a new cultural quarter. The traders who work the site, however, are negotiating at least to be able to use part of the area to continue trading, and they do have history on their side.
Set up more than 150 years ago near Glasgow Green by Irish immigrants, the market has already been hustled around to more than one location since then, although it’s been in the vicinity of Shipbank Lane since 1870. In the case of many traders who work there today, the connection with Paddy’s is a familial one, which adds an extra dimension to their unwillingness to move.
‘My connection with Paddy's Market goes back a long way, to the turn of the 20th century,’ says trader Brian Daly. ‘My grandmother Bridget Daly had a rag and woollens textile waste business which grew to be one of Scotland's largest textile waste processors in the 1940s and 50s. It was an industry born out of thrift amid the poverty of the industrial revolution when the city had large numbers of immigrant workers, notably the Irish fleeing the potato famine in the mid 19th century.’
The Dalys have kept a stake in the market since then, although Brian’s father branched into the metal recycling business many years back. But he says that it’s about so much more than business. ‘It’s a social network where people are looked after by each other, a very caring community. How we would replace the income and security that Paddy's provides we can't tell, but it's not just that. It's the loss of our community and our friends that will result from the break up of this village within the city centre, because Paddy’s is a place where people know your name, a source of cheap goods and a friendly smile and a bit of banter. It's a very personal experience.’
Paddy's Market, Bridgegate, open daily.