THE councillors on Glasgow Corporation found it hard to contain their shock and outrage. A writer for Time magazine had visited the city, interviewing people, as he put it, “up and down the ladder”. But when his article (headlined “The Meanest City”) appeared in the magazine’s European editions in May 1973, there was considerable civic anger.
It contained, said Lord Provost William Gray, “gross distortions, inaccuracies, and fabrications of a kind which I have never seen in a serious journal in my life before”.
The writer said that violence had become nearly as much a part of life in Glasgow as The Troubles in Belfast, but without the excuse of a sectarian war. He added: “In an equally time-honoured way the Glaswegian fortifies himself with Scotch whisky before combat”.
He said that recent government studies had estimated that 12 per cent of the population could be legally classified as alcoholics. This figure was disputed by the Glasgow Council on Alcoholism; the writer maintained that his estimate included people who were not registered alcoholics but simply drank too much.
Another passage read: “Brawling fury may be one of the few ways the slum-dwelling Glaswegian, and now, it appears, his son, has left to fight back against his own uselessness, boredom and, perhaps, his approaching extinction.”
The feature described the career of many gang members and their initiation at a young age through fights and arrests, and listed the weapons used, such as razors and broken bottles.
The author conceded that one statistic – that there was one pub for every 23 Glaswegians – was a typographical error, but otherwise he stood by the rest of the article. His claim that Glasgow’s murder rate had tripled in eight years was, however, refuted by the police.
The article, it was acknowledged at the time, did at least mention the city’s parks, art galleries, and the presence of Scottish Opera and the Scottish National Orchestra.
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