From the 1770’s to the 1830’s the population of Glasgow soared from 30,000 to over 200,000 causing turmoil and racial segregation in the overcrowded inner city.
Examining the information I found about Tradeston it was evident the East Side was predominantly textile working-class citizens. The West End was more residential and upper middle-class.
By 1805 substantial growth saw the opening of the Theatre Royal on Queen Street, which by 1818 became one of the first public buildings to be gas lit. With this new growth came the sign Glasgow had become a consumer-based society. The social status and sophistication saw the city’s growth of new shops with choice never before seen in Glasgow. Imports from Europe, spices from the West Indies, tea from India and even furs from Canada, lined the streets. The city became a manufacturing haven, warehousing goods for distribution elsewhere. Development on the River Clyde made it a busy port city.
Not to say the city did not suffer growing pains. As early as 1800 there were riots due to food shortages. The supply from public wells was lacking. By 1800’s two private water companies were all that served the districts to the north of the city. Continuing growth by the 1830’s complicated the matter.
Janet’s father Robert was listed as a mariner in the Canadian census.
As with all industrial cities, water pollution created many health issues. Steam machines created smoke, which hung heavy over the city. In 1817/18 an outbreak of typhus caused further concern.
Life in the city of Glasgow during this period was very volatile. As with other urban centres experiencing steady growth, ill health was a serious problem. Especially for the poor and the elderly. Many to escape the city and immigrate to America more than likely carried health issues with them to the new country. Especially those caused by pollution.
The 1841 census shows me that William was a handloom weaver born in Ireland. His marriage certificate is from Gorbals, county Lanark. Both participants are listed from Tradeston a developing area with a mixture of both working and middle class citizens. Many of the Irish emigrants had come here for work seeking a better life, creating ghettos in the inner city. The city was overcrowded and the rising standard of living presented a living hell for the most needy.
During the years between 1820 and 1830 the average age for death in Glasgow fell below their previous average of 42 for men and 45 for women. The poor of Glasgow suffered from malnutrition to the point that boys of age 14 were on average four inches shorter than their counterparts from the more illustrious West End. Up to one third of the children of Glasgow suffered from rickets and /or consumption.
In 1830 there was a major outbreak of cholera. Being a major industrial city the labourers were already in weakened states due to long work hours, heavy labour and subject to noxious substances present in their everyday working life. Coupled with workplace injuries and horrendous living conditions the working class Glaswegians died long before their time due to early aging and sickness.
This life of contrasts between rich and poor living side by side shaped the young and gave some aspirations to seek change. I believe this may have been the reason my family moved far from their roots to start a new life. One that would provide their descendants with opportunity and dreams to become who they wanted to become. For William and Mary McEwan the reality was to remain in poverty but their son John was able to make choices that would have never occurred had they stayed in their homeland. He in turn would pass this on to his offspring.