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No Mean City: 1914 to 1950s



By Michael Moss

The expansion of the businesses and other engineering works in the vicinity completely changed the character of Parkhead. Even as early as 1889 John Carrick commented, "All along the main thoroughfares the modern tenement has replaced the one-storey thatched cottage… Numerous industries have sprung up and the development of the Parkehead Forge… has given an especial impetus to the district which has quite lost its isolated village appearance and now ears quite a city aspect."

From the turn of the century the young William Beardmore had turned the family business at the Parkhead forge into one of the principal munitions manufacturers in the country. The grand Edwardian buildings at Parkhead Cross symbolise the confidence his enterprise brought to the district. During the First World War its output was vital and the plant was much extended. However there were disputes with the workforce, principally over the replacement of skilled men with unskilled men and even women, which reached a crescendo in 1916. The shop stewards were led by David Kirkwood who advocated industrial action threatening the war effort. He was exiled to Edinburgh and, on his return, changed his allegiances and became a manager in the business. The Left Wing never forgave him, renaming his autobiography, My Life in Revolt, "My Revolting Life".

After the war William Beardmore, now Lord Invernairn, tried to diversify into the production of vehicles for transport by land, air and sea with disastrous consequences. He lost control and the plant was rationalised back to its original core of the forge. During the inter-war years, unemployment and gang warfare earned Parkhead and the East End an unenviable reputation. Beardmore's Parkhead was again called into service during the next conflict, but by the 1950s its future was in doubt.

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