WHEN THE BULLDOZERS moved into the Hutchie E complex, situated in the Gorbals, they began to remove one of Glasgow’s biggest eyesores. There were many who breathed sighs of relief that day, none more so than Pat Lally and his cronies, the Glasgow District Council, who were the architects and planners of a housing disaster of gigantic proportions. It was pathetic to read of and see pictures in the papers and on T.V. of councillors at the site of the demolition celebrating champagne-style the removal of the evidence of their crass stupidity and greed. A friend remarked at the time: “It’s a pity the buggers weren’t inside the buildings.” That was a sentiment I echoed wholeheartedly.
Of the need for an extensive programme of council housing there can be no doubt. Many of the original inhabitants of the Gorbals (mostly Irish Catholics or descendants) had been herded into the large housing schemes like Castlemilk and Toryglen which were no better than huge open prisons with neither shopping nor transport facilities, so it was not surprising when there was angry clamouring for a return to their roots in the Gorbals area from large sections of the community in Castlemilk. Evidence of this is clear when you compare the population of Castlemilk today, approximately 24,000, to the figure of around 40,000 when at its peak. To ease the political pressures arising from the demands of large sections of the scheme communities to be rehoused back into their former areas, the Hutchie E project was dreamt up by the City Fathers.
When we examine what happened next it is not surprising many people including myself suspected that certain underhand practices might have been involved.
The contract to build Hutchie E was given to a firm called Gilbert Ash, an offshoot of the multinational Bovis Group. Gilbert Ash held a virtual monopoly of the renovation contracts which were being undertaken in Glasgow during the seventies.
The site of Hutchie E was situated above old mine shafts which had been flooded for years. Disaster followed disaster during the construction. After work was halted by flooding (sometimes up to two feet of water on site). When the complex was completed and the decorators moved in they were faced with walls running with water and doors lying off straight lines and moss growing inside the buildings. A painter who worked on the job told me that as he put the wallpaper on it just fell off.
Scandalously, the public were not made aware of these problems. The fact that shifts of men worked overnight on the eve of the opening ceremony by the Queen to make ready the flat which she was to inspect. This was because all the wallpaper had fallen off the walls, which left the contractors panic-stricken.
It was then left for the incoming tenants to find out for themselves just what they had got themselves into. The joke of the day was: “Come and see my flat in Hutchie E. It has all mod cons - even hot and cold running water in the walls.”
Councils officials and Gilbert Ash then disgracefully conspired to shift any blame for their incompetence onto the tenants themselves. Ludicrous excuses were made such as: the tenants’ heavy breathing, gas heating, sleeping with windows opens, condensation. All complete rubbish. These officials knew what the problems were and kept it secret.
The pressure grew too great for the Council to bear and they caved into the demands for repair work. Incredibly the contract for repair work was given to Gilbert Ash, the very people who created the problem. The mind boggled at the effrontery of all this. All attempts at repair work ended in failure and from that failure grew even more organised forms of protest.
The Laurieston Information Centre was the base of this organised protest and from there a campaign was launched which resulted in the rehousing of all 2,000-odd tenants. The Council then left the buildings to rot. With the dismantling of the complex Pat Lally and his cronies in the City Chambers are burying their past misdemeanours and mistakes but no-one who showed any concern for what happened will ever forget that for over twelve years Hutchie E complex stood as a monument to corruption, stupidity and bad planning.
Glasgow smiles better than
the wee lassie
that tells me ma giro’s
in the post