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The Real Gorbals Story: True Tales from Glasgow's Meanest Streets [Paperback]

Colin MacFarlane
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
Price: 7.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

6 Sep 2007

Colin MacFarlane was born in the Gorbals in the 1950s, 20 years after the publication of No Mean City, the classic novel about pre-war life in what was once Glasgow's most deprived district. He lived in the same street as its fictional 'razor king', Johnnie Stark, and subsequently realised that a lot of the old characters represented in the book were still around as late as the 1960s. Men still wore bunnets and played pitch and toss; women still wore headscarves and treated the steamie as their social club. The razor gangs were running amok once again, human waste ran down the tenement stairs, and filth, violence, crime, rats, poverty and drunkenness abounded, just like they did in No Mean City.

MacFarlane witnessed the last days of the old Gorbals as a major regeneration programme, begun in 1961, was implemented, and, as a street boy, he had a unique insight into a once great community in rapid decline. He witnessed drunken fights, gang battles, police corruption and even the occasional stabbing, slashing and murder. But the Gorbals had another side: one where ordinary hard-working people were trying to survive in what was arguably once the most notorious area in the world.

In this engrossing new book, MacFarlane reveals what it was really like to live in the old Gorbals.

Frequently Bought Together

The Real Gorbals Story: True Tales from Glasgow's Meanest Streets + No Mean City + No Mean Glasgow: Revelations of a Gorbals Guy
Price For All Three: 23.57

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Mainstream Publishing; 1st Edition edition (6 Sep 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845962079
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845962074
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 15 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 28,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A fascinating portrait of the area, full of detail and colour and memories of characters now long gone" (The Herald)

Book Description

A real-life account of growing up in the 1960s Gorbals by one of its own

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THIS IS A VERY GOOD READ, FULL OF PATTER, ACTION 11 Dec 2007
Glasgow's Gorbals had quite a reputation in the 1960s as arguably one of the darkest, most frightening and dangerous places in the world.

Colin MacFarlane - like television presenter Lorraine Kelly and writers Jimmy Boyle and Ralph Glasser - is a child of the Gorbals. Born in the 1950s, he witnessed the last days of the old Gorbals as a major regeneration programme began in 1961 and a once great community went into rapid decline.

A tough kid who grew up on street corners and in back courts, MacFarlane lived in the same street as Johnnie Stark, the fictional `razor king' of Alexander McArthur's 1935 novel No Mean City, which has become a classic of Scottish pre-war literature. MacFarlane played in the same filth-ridden tenements, witnessing drunken fights and violent gang battles, just like those McArthur wrote about.

As late as the 1960s, Gorbals men still wore bunnets and women headscarves, the steamie was treated as a social club, razor gangs terrorised the streets and crime, rats, poverty and drunkenness were all part of everyday life.

But in The Real Gorbals Story, MacFarlane also describes another world - one of ordinary hard-working people, desperately trying to survive in the toughest conditions and against the odds. Here MacFarlane talks about what it was really like to live in the old Gorbals and recreates the characters that inhabited that unique, bygone world.

Colin MacFarlane is a journalist and has written for a number of national newspapers, including Scotland on Sunday, The Sunday Times, the Scottish Sun and the Daily Record. He lives in Pontypridd, Wales.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Real Alright 21 Jun 2008
By Tomvox
Colin has captured the genuine feel of what may have been a physically run-down area but what the people turned into a tightly-knit community. To anyone growing up in 1950's or early 1960's Glasgow the Gorbals was an area to be avoided. These infamous slums however had a heart - the people of The Gorbals. Colin gives voice to how people had a strong community spirit that survived the 1960's redevelopment of the area and why even today people will be proud to say "Ah'm fae the Gorbals". I understand he is producing a follow-up to come out in late 2008 recounting his own change from a Gorbals Boy to a cosmopolitan man. I look forward to reading it knowing that you cannot take the Gorbals out of the boy (and I'm sure he wouldn't want it any other way).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I was born in Thistle Street in 1953 and The Real Gorbals Story has got the feel of the place and the characters spot on. The last reviewer says he can only remember three characters well perhaps unlike like the rest of us he did not venture out enough to experience what was going on the the magical old gorbals. I know I was there and I can remember Macfarlane and his pals...this book is a must for all those interested in the old place. I still live in the Gorbals and all the boys agree that this book has got to be one of the best ever. Buy it and see!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By John
The Real Gorbals Story was recommended to me by a friend. I enjoyed every is that well written. I give it five stars as the author has managed to bring all the old characters back to life and captures the humour and antics perfectly. He has two other books No Mean Glasgow and Gorbals Diehards....both are up to the same brilliant standard....only a real numpty would disagree!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES 28 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I knew the gorbals ,was born at 336 florence street I found the stories true and very funny loved the (glasgow patter).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NO-ONE WILL EVER WRITE A BETTER GORBALS BOOK ! 7 Dec 2007
Hey i was around the Gorbals at he same time as Macfarlane and i remember him well. He was a bit of a wildman and after reading his book I can tell he still is. Macfarlane like myself was a member of the local Cumbie gang and I can remember him in his Levi Sta Press trousers and hand made Arthur Black shirt. He was always well dressed and had a good line in patter. He was quite bright at school and recognised as a good story teller. I was going to write a book about the Gorbals but there is no way I could match this as it is a real page turner. Well done Colin you have come a long way from the wild streets of the Gorbals. I remember you once quoting to me the line,"Men who are not mean have got to walk these mean streets."...and you were absolutely right. The streets of the Gorbals were wild yet exciting places for every one of us.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
To all of the Gorbals live Fans. The new book by Colin MacFarlane is pure dead brilliant. What a great story teller he is. The Real Gorbals Story is one of the best books I have ever read. The wee twists and turns of the story line pull at your emotions. What is so great about it is the creation of the "feel" of the old Gorbals. There is no book on the subject that can touch it by a million miles. Do yourself a favour and go and buy as many as you can afford. One for yourself to keep-you can dip into it whenever you feel that longing to be in that magical place in your imagination,for a good old therapeutic belly laugh or wee greet for absent friends. Then give one to each of the people you like/love the most. I guarantee it will be the best Xmas present you can give-even if they never experienced the magic of the place the work stands up on its own as a bloody good tale. Only one fault that I could find is that Colin mentions that the Steamie and the bagwash were one and the same thing. NOT SO! The bagwash I remember was in Waddell St and owned by a big Polish man. The stuff he put in to clean the clothes bleached them to an unrecognisable colour and rotted the fabric. Anyone remember this? Cheers Rita

Submitted by: Rita Moffat
Glasgow, Scotland
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 23 days ago by Liam Gahan
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
loved the book brought many memories back to me
Published 1 month ago by mrs g williamson
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read .
The Gorbals of Glasgow . This will make you imagine what it was like to live in the Glasgow Gorbals . The true tails of Glasgow . A good read .
Published 2 months ago by cat
5.0 out of 5 stars A good book ti read
I bought this book for my dad hes started reading it and is enjoying it. As my dad is from the gorbals
Published 2 months ago by Carolsmith
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad and funny
Great book full of character and characters . Times Change but people and stories live on in memory of a bygone age.
Published 2 months ago by perrie
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me.
I just couldn't get into this book. No idea why. It just didn't make me want to keep reading on.
Published 4 months ago by Sharon
5.0 out of 5 stars THE REAL GORBALS STORYS
Published 5 months ago by elizabeth
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Great stories well written would definatley buy any follow up books, written with humour and you definitley get a feel for the times, good read this.
Published 6 months ago by Miss Bossy
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor fayre I'm afraid!
Not very accurate, quite a few names wrong, people and the likes of pubs I'm afraid. A lot missed out if you were really there. Read more
Published 7 months ago by mary stewart
2.0 out of 5 stars Scissors and paste
This is real Colin stories not the real story promised by the title. Part lived, part learned and part copied in the Michell Library. So disappointing.
Published 8 months ago by Elthespo
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