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Modern Times: 1950s to The Present Day


Matt McGinn

By Michael Moss

Matt McGinn Matt McGinn was born in Ross Street at the corner of the Gallowgate in Calton in 1928, one of a family of nine. At the age of twelve, he was sent to an approved school for two years. On his release he worked in the Hillington factory of Guest, Keen & Nettleford, spending his spare time at evening classes and reading, When he was thirty-one, he gained a prestigious Trade Union scholarship to Ruskin College in Oxford. After taking his diploma in economics and political science, he went to Huddersfield Teachers' Training College. While he was there he won a competition in a Sunday newspaper to write a song in the folk tradition.

Upon qualification Matt McGinn went to work as a teacher in Rutherglen for three years before becoming the organiser of the Gorbals Adventure Playground. Thereafter he became a full-time comedian and singer. He was a prolific songwriter, drawing on his experiences of Glasgow life for much of his material. His performances in clubs and concert halls were hugely popular, often leaving the audience in tears of laughter.

He was a deeply committed radical in the tradition of Red Clydeside. He believed passionately in the overthrow of capitalism and was a keen supporter of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in. He died in 1977 from the effects of smoke inhalation having fallen asleep with a cigarette in his hand. Born a Catholic, he abandoned religion and at his funeral the Communist anthem "The International" was sung movingly by the large congregation. His songs live on and are still performed.

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