The Governor, the Poorhouse, the Station and family history – guest blog by Danny Gallacher

Our guest blogger, Mr Danny Gallacher, is a Lay Governor on Glasgow Caledonian University’s Court. On National Genealogy Day he talks about his links with the University and the history of our Glasgow campus site.

I thought my family links with GCU were many and varied. I am a Lay Governor on Court, an alumnus of the University, my daughter is also an alumnus, my son works here and my grandkids attended the University nursery. I was surprised to discover other links that go much further back in time whilst conducting some family history research. I learned that the campus was previously the site of a major railway station, Buchanan Street Station at the west end of the campus, and also the City Poorhouse at the east end of the campus. My family had connections with them both.

My Great Grandfather, James McCool, came to Glasgow from Ireland as a 17 year old in 1901 and through examining birth/marriage/death and census records I learned he worked as a railway shunter, or brakeman. I then found his trade union records which told me he worked for the Caledonian Railway Company and was based at Buchanan Street Station. I had never heard of the station and was surprised to see its location on an old map of Glasgow, the only clue today of its existence is the appropriately named Station Bar on Port Dundas Rd.

Buchanan Street Station

The other connection, with the poorhouse, is an altogether sadder tale. A lady who was one of my Great, Great, Great Grandmothers found herself going there in 1860 in tragic circumstances. She had a difficult enough start in life as a foundling who was discovered abandoned in a tenement close in Greenock, she was adopted by the couple whose door she was left outside and raised with their family as one of their own. She married a sailor and settled to family life as Mrs Jessie McLachlan. Poor Law records show she was forced to enter the City Poorhouse in Glasgow when her husband either abandoned her or perished at sea. Jessie had an 8 year old son, Thomas (my Great, Great Grandfather) and was pregnant at the time too. On checking the census records for 1861 I discovered Jessie, son Thomas and new daughter Jessie, all listed in the City Poorhouse. They were on three separate records as women were separated from men and mothers from their children in the poorhouse. The infant Jessie died before her first birthday. I don’t know what became of the adult Jessie but Thomas went to live with relatives, eventually moved to Barrow where he married and had nine children. The family line that so nearly extinguished somehow survived and thrived.

Photograph of the Glasgow City Poorhouse

Glasgow City Poorhouse, 1880. Source: Mitchell Library

So, whilst I thought I had extensive links to the GCU campus, I had no idea they were so historic and I’ve learned to look at the place in a significantly different way now. I wonder what they would have thought of the prospect of their descendants associated with a University on the same site; I like to think they would have been pleased and proud and it also makes me feel grateful for the improvements in living conditions we enjoy as modern day citizens of this “dear green place”.

Danny Gallacher

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