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Industrial Revolution: 1770s to 1830s

Culture and Leisure


By John R Burnett

A Good New Year The major holidays of the period were the New Year, the King's Birthday, and the Fair.

Return Home New Year's Day was a working day, but on Hogmanay festivities took place in the evening and to a lesser extent during the day. They focused on drinking: the Glasgow Herald in 1821 recorded "pretty much the usual quantum of swearing, yelling and vociferous gratulation."

A Regular Row George III's birthday was celebrated on 4 June. After the working day, a crowd assembled at the Cross to watch the town council drink the monarch's health. When the magistrates went to dinner the people made a bonfire of any moveable wood they could find. The Glasgow Advertiser reported in 1793: "The mobility testified their joy by pelting each other with dead cats, dogs &c. to the great annoyance of the peaceable part of the citizens."

Glasgow Fair The Fair in 1770 was still primarily for the sale of horses and cattle, but its pleasure element was growing. The fun centred on an assembly of booths at the foot of the Saltmarket, spilling onto the Green. People came from towns like Paisley and Dumbarton to see shows such as menageries and waxworks, to hear ballad singers, fiddlers and pipers, to dance and to drink. There was "an extraordinary consumption of spirituous liquors." The wealthier citizens were discovering the Clyde coast. In 1778 and 1779 a Glasgow family took lodgings at Rothesay and then at Dunoon, and found themselves the only strangers there. By 1810 the "shopocracy and small-fry manufacturers … rushed down upon the sea coast and into the water, as if bit by mad dogs."

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