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Football and sectarianism in Glasgow during the 1920s and 1930s

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 March 2016

Andrew Davies*
Affiliation:
School of History, University of Liverpool

Extract

Of all the cities of England and Scotland, Glasgow is most widely associated with sectarianism. As Bill Murray has remarked, the city is renowned for its religion, violence and football, three elements which crystallise in the uniquely bitter encounters between the city’s two major football clubs, Rangers and Celtic. The clubs are identified as ‘Protestant’ and ‘Catholic’ respectively, although, as Tom Gallagher has commented, supporters’ allegiances tend to be more tribal than doctrinal. Religion is inextricably bound up with nationalism in these sporting contests.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Irish Historical Studies Publications Ltd 2006

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References

1 Murray, Bill, The Old Firm: sectarianism, sport and society in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1984), p. 1Google Scholar.

2 Gallagher, Tom, Glasgow: the uneasy peace: religious tension in modern Scotland (Manchester, 1987), p. 1Google Scholar.

3 Ibid.

4 Murray, Old Firm; Walker, Graham, ‘ “There’s not a team like the Glasgow Rangers”: football and religious identity in modern Scotland’ in Gallagher, Tom and Walker, Graham (eds), Sermons and battle hymns: Protestant popular culture in modern Scotland (Edinburgh, 1990), pp 13759Google Scholar; Finn, G.P.T., ‘Racism, religion and social prejudice: Irish Catholic clubs, soccer and Scottish society — I: The historical roots of prejudice’ in Internat. Jn. Hist. Sport, viii (1991), pp 7295CrossRefGoogle Scholar; idem, ‘Sporting symbols, sporting identities: soccer and intergroup conflict in Scotland and Northern Ireland’ in Ian S. Wood (ed.), Scotland and Ulster (Edinburgh, 1994), pp 33–55; Bradley, Joseph M., ‘Football in Scotland: a history of political and ethnic identity’ in Internat. Jn. Hist. Sport, xii (1995), pp 8198CrossRefGoogle Scholar; idem, ‘Sport and the contestation of cultural and ethnic identities in Scottish society’ in Immigrants and Minorities, xvii (1998), pp 127–50.

5 Murray, Old Firm, pp 60–61.

6 Ibid., pp 60–75; Walker, ‘Glasgow Rangers’, p. 138.

7 Walker, ‘Glasgow Rangers’, p. 138; Murray, Old Firm, pp 165–7; Finn, ‘Sporting symbols’, p. 50.

8 Murray, Old Firm, p. 139.

9 Gallagher, Glasgow, p. 3.

10 Darner, Seán, Glasgow: going for a song (London, 1990), p. 96Google Scholar.

11 For an account of ‘Orange walks’ during the 1920s and 1930s see Murray, Old Firm, pp 154–6.

12 Davies, Andrew, ‘Sectarian violence and police violence in Glasgow during the 1930s’ in Bessel, Richard and Emsley, Clive (eds), Patterns of provocation: police and public disorder (Oxford, 2000), pp 43–5Google Scholar.

13 It is worth noting here that sociologists have disagreed as to whether the Old Firm rivalry should be understood as a cause of ongoing sectarianism in recent decades. In the early 1980s H. F. Moorhouse argued that, following the decline of sectarianism in many other aspects of life in Glasgow (including in the labour market), ‘football is now one of the main vehicles of the ethnic antagonism it is supposed to represent’: see Moorhouse, H.F., ‘Professional football and working class culture: English theories and Scottish evidence’ in Sociological Rev., xxxii (1984), p. 311Google Scholar. More recently Steve Bruce and his colleagues have argued that the aggressive posturing and offensive chanting by present-day supporters of Rangers and Celtic should not be taken as evidence of a wider antagonism between the city’s ethno-religious communities. In their view, ritualised abuse is used to ‘wind up’ rival supporters, but ‘most of those people do not mean it’ and lead lives largely untouched by sectarianism outside of the confines of Old Firm matches. See Bruce, Steve, Glendinning, Tony, Paterson, Iain and Rosie, Michael, Sectarianism in Scotland (Edinburgh, 2004), pp 13032Google Scholar; Rosie, Michael, The sectarian myth in Scotland: of bitter memory and bigotry (London, 2004), pp 35, 10–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

14 Gallagher, Glasgow, p. 16. There are no precise figures for the inter-war period, but Catholics were estimated to comprise one-quarter of the city’s adult population during the 1950s: see Highet, John, ‘The churches’ in Cunnison, J. and Gilfillan, J.B.S. (eds), The third statistical account of Scotland: Glasgow (Glasgow, 1958), p. 725Google Scholar (I am grateful to Callum Brown for this reference).

15 On Ulster Protestant settlement in Glasgow’s East End see Walker, ‘Glasgow Rangers’, p. 158.

16 Walker, Graham, ‘The Orange Order in Scotland between the wars’ in Internat. Rev. Soc. Hist., xxxvii (1992), p. 187Google Scholar.

17 Moorhouse, ‘Professional football’, p. 299; Walker, ‘Glasgow Rangers’, pp 140–41.

18 Gallagher, Glasgow, pp 99–100; Darner, Glasgow, pp 95, 129. See also Treble, James H., ‘The market for unskilled male labour in Glasgow, 1891–1914’ in MacDougall, Ian (ed.), Essays in Scottish labour history (Edinburgh, 1978), p. 122Google Scholar; Smith, Joan, ‘Labour tradition in Liverpool and Glasgow’ in History Workshop Journal, no. 17 (1984), p. 48CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For a counter-claim see Rosie, Sectarian myth, p. 79.

19 Gallagher, Glasgow, pp 49–53; Darner, Glasgow, pp 57–8; Walker, ‘Orange Order’, pp 198–9.

20 Moorhouse, ‘Professional football’, p. 299.

21 O’Hagan, Andrew, The missing (London, 1995), pp 22–8Google Scholar. On the extent of I.R.A. activity in the city see Patterson, Iain D., ‘The activities of Irish Republican physical force organisations in Scotland, 1919–21’ in Scot. Hist. Rev., lxxii (1993), pp 3959CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

22 Gallagher, Glasgow, p. 104.

23 Brown, Callum, Religion and society in Scotland since 1707 (Edinburgh, 1997), pp 192–3Google Scholar.

24 Rosie, Sectarian myth, pp 75–6; Brown, Religion and society, pp 147–8.

25 See, for example, the account of the Garngad district in the S.P.L.’s weekly newspaper, Vanguard, 25 July 1934.

26 Gallagher, Glasgow, pp 152–3. Unemployment rate calculated from Ministry of Labour, Local Unemployment Index, monthly returns (1933).

27 Marshall, William S., The Billy Boys: a concise history of Orangeism in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1996), p. 144Google Scholar.

28 Rosie, Sectarian myth, p. 133.

29 Gallagher, Glasgow, pp 152–4; Bruce et al., Sectarianism in Scotland, pp 48–50.

30 Rosie characterises all four wards won by the S.P.L. in 1933 as middle-class (Sectarian myth, p. 136). However, of the four, Marshall describes Dennistoun as ‘predominantly artisan’ (Billy Boys, p. 144), while Govanhill was characterised as a ‘respectable’ working-class district byMcArthur, Alexander and Long, H. Kingsley, No mean city (London, 1957 ed.), pp 223–4Google Scholar.

31 Bruce et al., Sectarianism in Scotland, pp 48–50.

32 Gallagher, Glasgow, p. 156; Rosie, Sectarian myth, p. 128.

33 Gallagher, Glasgow, pp 156–7; Rosie, Sectarian myth, p. 136.

34 Rosie, Sectarian myth, pp 142–3.

35 Damer, Glasgow, p. 95; Smith, ‘Labour tradition’, p. 49; Bruce et al., Sectarianism in Scotland, pp 94–5.

36 Damer, Glasgow, p. 95.

37 Vanguard, 29 Jan. 1936; Devine, T.M., The Scottish nation, 1700–2000 (London, 2000), p. 519Google Scholar.

38 Bruce et al., Sectarianism in Scotland, p. 95.

39 Walker, ‘Orange Order’, p. 182; Murray, Old Firm, pp 154–6.

40 Murray, Old Firm, pp 154–6; Rosie, Sectarian myth, pp 81–2.

41 Sunday Mail, 9 July 1933.

42 See the Glasgow Weekly Herald, 5 July 1884, for an account of the Protestant ‘Blue Band’ launching incursions into the Calton from Bridgeton Cross.

43 Davies, ‘Sectarian violence’, pp 45–7.

44 See below, p. 217.

45 The song is still sung by Rangers supporters, to the tune of ‘Marching through Georgia’: see Walker, ‘Glasgow Rangers’, p. 143; Sunday Mail, 10 July 1927; Weekly Record, 20 Dec. 1930.

46 Glasgow Herald, 1 May 1934.

47 See the interview with Larry Rankin (pseudonym) by Stephen Humphries, n.d. (B.L., National Sound Archive, C590/02/177-80).

48 SirSillitoe, Percy, Cloak without dagger (London, 1955), pp 13031Google Scholar. For a report on one such disturbance see Evening Citizen, 18 May 1931.

49 Hepburn, A.C., ‘The Belfast riots of 1935’ in Soc. Hist., xv (1990), p. 80Google Scholar.

50 On gang violence see Davies, ‘Sectarian violence’, p. 43. For a fatality arising out of a dispute between rival Old Firm supporters see the case of Alexander Craig West discussed below, p. 212.

51 Sillitoe, Cloak without dagger, pp 129–30; Davies, ‘Sectarian violence’, pp 49–56.

52 See, for example, Evening Citizen, 4, 6 Aug. 1930.

53 See, for example, Weekly Record, 21 Mar. 1931; Evening Citizen, 10 Jan. 1955.

54 Davies, Andrew, ‘Street gangs, crime and policing in Glasgow during the 1930s: the case of the Beehive Boys’ in Soc. Hist., xxiii (1998), pp 254–5, 258Google Scholar.

55 See the account of an attack upon a group of Billy Boys by the South Side Stickers following the Scottish Cup Final replay between Rangers and Partick Thistle at Hampden Park in April 1930, below, pp 211–12.

56 Glasser, Ralph, Growing up in the Gorbals (London, 1987), pp 23Google Scholar; Bob Sinfield, ‘Gentleman of jazz’ (http://georgechisholm.tripod.com) (6 Sept. 2004).

57 See, for example, Evening Citizen, 11 May 1928.

58 Ibid., 4 Feb. 1932.

59 Sinfield, ‘Gentleman of jazz’.

60 Murray, Old Firm, pp 26, 169.

61 Ibid., p. 171.

62 See, for example, Glasgow Herald, 31 Oct. 1923.

63 See, for example, Evening Times, 1 Sept. 1922; Murray, Old Firm, p. 123.

64 Murray, Old Firm, p 175.

65 Glasgow Herald, 29–31 Oct. 1923, cited in Murray, Old Firm, p. 173.

66 Evening Citizen, 13, 14 Apr. 1925.

67 Ibid., 13, 14 Apr., 16 June 1925.

68 Moorhouse, ‘Professional football’, pp 298–9.

69 See, for example, Evening Times, 1 May 1922; Evening Citizen, 6 Sept. 1922.

70 Evening Times, 8 Dec. 1922.

71 Ibid., 11 Sept. 1922.

72 Ibid., 29 Sept. 1922.

73 Evening Citizen, 7 Oct. 1925.

74 Ibid., 19, 21, 22 Oct. 1925.

75 See, for example, ibid., 26 Sept. 1927.

76 See, for example, ibid., 2 Jan. 1937.

77 Ibid., 10 Oct. 1927.

78 Ibid., 3 Sept. 1928.

79 Glasgow Herald, 30 Sept. 1936.

80 Sunday Mail, 10 Mar. 1935.

81 Ibid., 23 Sept. 1934.

82 Sunday Post, 4 Apr. 1937; Evening Citizen, 1 Apr. 1937.

83 Sunday Mail, 6 Mar. 1938.

84 Evening Citizen, 17 Apr. 1930.

85 Evening Citizen, 17 Apr., 11 July 1930; Glasgow Herald, 12 July 1930.

86 Evening Times, 1 Oct. 1934.

87 See, for example, Sunday Mail, 20 Mar. 1938.

88 See, for example, Evening Times, 9 May 1930.

89 Glasgow Herald, 25 Oct. 1934.

90 Ibid., 25, 26 Oct. 1934; Sunday Mail, 28 Oct. 1934.

91 Glasgow Herald, 26 Oct. 1934.

92 Ibid., 29 Oct. 1934.

93 Evening Citizen, 8 Mar. 1928.

94 Ibid., 8 Mar. 1928.

95 Ibid., 4 July 1932.

96 Ibid., 28 Nov. 1932.

97 Bulletin, 31 May 1933.

98 Evening Citizen, 23 June 1931, 4 Apr. 1932.

99 ‘Application for leave to appeal against conviction and sentence by John Traquair’, notes of evidence, 30 Apr. 1934 (National Archives of Scotland (henceforth N.A.S.), JC34/1/179, pp 43, 45–7) (henceforth cited as ‘Notes of evidence’).

100 Ibid., p. 45.

101 Ibid., pp 17, 29, 31, 36, 43.

102 Ibid., p. 50.

103 Ibid., pp 14–16, 23–4, 38.

104 Ibid., p. 44.

105 Ibid.

106 Ibid., p. 50.

107 Ibid., pp 46, 49–50.

108 Ibid., pp 18, 25.

109 Ibid., pp 39–40.

110 Ibid., pp 52–4.

111 Ibid., pp 54–5.

112H.M. Advocate v. John Traquair: mobbing and rioting and assault and prev. cons’, 30 Apr. 1934 (N.A.S., JC34/1/179).

113 ‘Lord Moncrieff’s charge to jury’, 30 Apr. 1934 (ibid., JC34/1/179, pp 4–5) (henceforth cited as ‘Charge to jury’).

114 ‘Notes of evidence’, pp 23, 46.

115 Ibid., pp 14, 16, 23, 37, 46, 47, 58.

116 Ibid., pp 17, 29, 31, 36, 43.

117 Ibid., pp 14–16, 24, 30, 38.

118 Ibid., pp 24, 38.

119 Ibid., p. 58.

120 Ibid., pp 12, 56–7.

121 Ibid., pp 55–6.

122 Ibid., p. 56.

123 Ibid., p. 57.

124 Ibid., p. 58.

125 ‘Charge to jury’, pp 1–8.

126 Ibid., pp 8–9.

127 Ibid., p. 9.

128 Ibid., pp 9–10.

129 ‘Note of application under S.1 (b) for leave to appeal against a conviction and sentence, Criminal Appeal (Scotland) Act, 1926’, 28 June 1934 (N.A.S., JC34/1/179).

130 ‘Confidential report by Lord Moncrieff’, 19 May 1934 (ibid.).

131 Glasgow Herald, 18 July 1934.

132 Vanguard, 16 May 1934.

133 Ibid.

134 Ibid.

135 Glasgow Herald, 28 Apr. 1934.

136 Vanguard, 16 May 1934.

137 On the fragmentation of the S.P.L. group see Rosie, Sectarian myth, p. 128.

138 Walker, ‘Orange Order’, pp 204–5.

139 Evening Citizen, 31 Oct. 1931, 26 Jan. 1932; Bruce et al., Sectarianism in Scotland, p. 49; Rosie, Sectarian myth, pp 136, 138.

140 Vanguard, 23 May, 13 June 1934.

141 Ibid., 27 June 1934. It would be interesting to know how signatures were collected in Northern Ireland, given the fractious relationship between the S.P.L. and its counterpart, the Ulster Protestant League. See Walker, Graham, ‘“Protestantism before party!”: the Ulster Protestant League in the 1930s’ in Hist. Jn., xxviii (1985), pp 961–2CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

142 Glasgow Herald, 20 Aug. 1934.

143 Davies, ‘Street gangs’, p. 258.

144 Interview with Larry Rankin (pseudonym) by Stephen Humphries, n.d. (B.L., National Sound Archive, C590/02/177-80).

145 Murray, Old Firm, p. 59.

146 Evening Times, 4 June 1934; see also Murray, Old Firm, p. 177.

147 I wish to thank Matt Houlbrook, Sean O’Connell and Selina Todd for their comments on a previous version of this article.