Clydebuilt

‘Ah’ll show yoo anuther Glesca,’ announces Owen Gallagher in ‘Thi Unoffishal Toorist Guide Oootside Glesca Central’, not the ‘bleached version’ of history books and tourist brochures. Clydebuilt is a book about growing up in the Gorbals in the 1950s and 1960s – poverty, pawnshops and sectarianism, carbolic soap and lice, Saturday morning at the pictures, violent teachers, razor-gangs and blacklists. It’s a book about words – Glaswegian dialect, Latin and the Church’s ‘tabernacle of language’. And it’s a book about Red Clydeside, a city of dreamers, fighters, singers and rebels.

Sample Poems

Thi Unoffishal Toorist Guide Oootside Glesca Central

Ah’ll show yoo anuther Glesca, wan wi heid bangers 
sportin chibs tae stick in ribs an folk who hiv woke 
tae find thair milk n meter munny nicked. 
Ir greetid everi Friday wi a q it thi door: 
loan sharks, rent arrears men, priests an spivs. 
Where stray gulls n cats ir scoffd like Mars 
Bars n weans scalps hiv bin mauled by nits. 
Don’t bi connd bi cafs n galleries 
there’s sods here who wipe thair gobs wi fivers 
n widnae think twice o payin someone’s ma 
wi lefters an claes unfit fir charity. 
Folk here hiv nae mair holes in thair belts tae tighten 
tae fit sum right hoorable’s stratigy. 
Firget thi toorist hype, ‘Glesca’s great!’ 
Ah’ll tell yoo aboot thi Clydeside thit made thi English 
Government pipe thit thi Revolooshun wid start here 
n planked tanks n gangs o strike breakers. 
Dae yi want a bleached version o Glesca? 
Wan thit’s bin writtin oot o thi history books? 
Ah’ve git three weans tae feed. Ah’ll dae it fir a cuple a quid!’

I Saw a New World Being Assembled

In the tenements 
there were workers 
who built dreams for others, 

singers who got drunk 
on rebel songs, 
fighters who fought 

for themselves 
in the workplace 
and lost every round 

all in revolt against 
an assembly line 
of masters. 

I saw a new world 
being assembled      
in a sweatshop 

where dreamers, 
singers, fighters, 
unfurled a trade union flag, 

their voices bolted 
and welded into one.

Newspapir Boy Meets Goliath

Ah strode intae an early wurld stalked by a giant 
an witnessed a man dreep doon a drainpipe, 
pub doors openin tae knocks like thi Morse Code, 
an a queue already formed ootside the pawn shop; 

Father Chalmers sprintid wi rosary beads in haun, 
Uncle Hugh bolted frae a tenement, 
shirt-tail flappin, my father stood on a street corner 
hopin tae be chosen fir wurk. 

The giant boy trailed me intae a close 
tae theive ma paper-round, 
snatched ma satchel an ma list, placed a finger 
oan his lips then droo it across his throat. 

Ah walked aff like that yung fella in the Bible, 
intae the Valley of Elah, plucked a marble frae 
ma pockit, turned an raised ma sling.

Crawlin’ ’n’ Trawlin’

Afore Sunday mass ma da wid balance mi 
oan his knee, trawl ma scalp wi’ a metal comb 

tae see if lice hid dared tae land, sabre thaim 
wi’ a thumbnail, an’ flush thi corpses doon thi sink. 

(At times hail continents o’ lice wur on thi move, 
driftin’ snowfields that turned intae an avalanche 

when ah sneezed. Ah watched is thay landed 
ontae ma mates heids – their ma’s demanded 

ma exclusion frae skool). When ma scalp wis free frae 
these bloodsuckers ma da wid massage 

Fairy Soap thro ma hair, lea it tae set 
in wave efter wave: 

a frozen ocean nae heid lice cood scale; 
a rock face nae fitba cood dent.

Thi Clyde Runs Thru Mi

Ah wis reared in a toon whaur alsations guarded milkmen, 
gas meters wur robbed mid-week 
’n’ conductors rarely asked fur fares oan thi lest bus hame. 

Where it paid tae bi alert iz a commando 
parachuting intae enemy territory, 
and wiz safer tae lea thro back courts, 
scale walls lik’ spiderman, 
an’ skite doon telegraph poles intae alleyways 

than bi challenged bi youths oan thi street 
in a scene thit cood’ve bin shot in ‘High Noon’ 
whaur thae droo nae guns but razors 
and snarled; ‘Celtic or Rangers’? 
which prompted a startin’ pistol 
tae gae aff in ma heid. 

There wis nae careers advice 
tae show how thi future micht blow. 
Tae escape ye hud tae outwit yer opponents 
oan thi field wi’ a baw, or don a dog-collar.

Reviews

‘His poems are determinedly unpretentious, favouring brevity and humour. They inhabit the gentler side of satire, attacking taboos, but without making the reader feel under attack, nipping the edges of middle-class comfort-zones without introducing an icy draught.’

Carol Rumens

‘Gallagher has a genius for the short poem. He is witty, funny, surprising radical without being ideological and very, very dexterous in his use of language.’

Mistress Quickly’s Bed

‘A tight focused collection. Gallagher celebrates the dignity and resilience of the working class.’

Iota

‘Gallagher is a trouble-making poet, stirring things up. He’ll keep you asking yourself which side you’re on.’

Michael Rosen