Sunday, February 10, 2013

Global Govanhill

Govanhill on the south side of Glasgow is home to some 15,000 has people from an estimated 42 different nationalities living within one square mile. Why Govanhill?  The availability of cheap, private-let housing is one practical reason. Also, immigration is self-perpetuating – the presence of an established community makes it more likely others will come and settle. Govanhill was at one time a mining village outside Glasgow. It started to expand significantly from 1837 with the foundation of the Govan Iron Works, known to this day, even though it is long gone, as Dixon’s Blazes. The Irish also began to arrive in Glasgow in large numbers at around this time, estimated at more than 1,000 people a week during 1848 – escaping the famine and seeking employment. In the 1960s, with the demolition of the Gorbals tenements, a second wave of Irish moved to Govanhill. At the end of the 19th century, heavy industry began to draw Jews from Poland and Lithuania. Significant immigration from the Indian sub-continent, in particular from Pakistan, was a phenomenon first observed in the 1960s and 1970s. The sheer numbers of Irish and Asians living in Govanhill during this period led to the area being nicknamed Bengal/Donegal.

Along Allison Street you can daunder up and down and hear not a word of Glaswegian, spoken. It’s all Urdu, Romani, Slovak, Polish, Czech, Somali, Igbo and more. Much of the shop front signage is in Arabic. Completely dominant is the presence of food and drink. A smell of spice and other aromas so strong you can taste it: haleem; nihari; fried fish; dried fish; chana chat; chips; and, of course from the pubs the reek of beer. Available is lado, barfi and gulab jamun (balls of dough, deep-fried and dipped in syrup) or ewa agoyin – a Nigerian dish of beans and stew. Italian Scots  established so many beloved chippies and ice-cream parlours. The Asian immigrants started to arrive in the 1970s. Pakistan was the main country of origin, very few Indians.  There are  biryanis, daal, mustard-leaf saag and curry options, about half of which include meat on the bone – the traditional way of doing it, with way more flavour and naan bread. Also now on the multi-cultural menu is goja, a Romani word, the bowel of a pig stuffed with potatoes and garlic, then boiled or fried.

Since 2004, when Slovakia and the Czech Republic joined the EU, another ingredient has added flavour to the Govanhill melting pot – the Roma people. There are thought to be around 3,000 in the area, and in some parts of the district they appear to be the most populous group; one local primary school has a majority eastern European population and very few English-speaking pupils. The first Roma in Glasgow were asylum seekers from Slovakia, escaping racial hatred. Most, now, are economic migrants, coming from villages in the region of Michalovce. In Glasgow, they have found casual work in potato and chicken processing factories, though, increasingly, jobs are hard to come by. Romanian nationals have very restricted access to the benefits system, and there is anecdotal evidence that some Roma from that country, now living in Govanhill, cannot afford to feed themselves and thus go through the bins of private residences and shops, looking for food.

Kelly’s is one of a number of pubs in the area which cater to those remnants of the Irish population once so dominant here. Tony Mai Gallagher, 71, from Kincasslagh, Donegal moved to Glasgow in 1954 at the age of 12. He well remembers the anti-Irish, anti-Catholic prejudice of his earlier years, and this experience softens him towards the Roma. "Harmony is what we need.” he says

Taken from here

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