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on 11 December 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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on 7 December 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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on 21 June 2008
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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on 3 January 2008
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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on 6 December 2007
I have been reading books about the Gorbals for years but this is the best one yet! The author was brought up in Crown Street, where the fictional Johnnie Starke came from - in No Mean City, He has captured perfectly what it was like to live in what was arguably at the time the toughest area in Britain. The Real Gorbals Story captures the poverty the violence and the humour of the the 1960s. At times I became enamoured by the jaw dropping stories and many of the anecdotes had me a laughing out loud like a lunatic ( I had had people stare at me on the train as I read it on Kindle) No wonder it has been the Scottish number one best seller.
I have now read the Real Gorbals Story twice and loaned a printed book to friends - one of them said she was down in the dumps before reading it but the book gave her a real psychological lift! The Real Gorbals Story would be a great film - I have neard that Tri Star pictures were interested - so come on Hollywood or Scottish movie producers - turn this into a movie! It would make great viewing and give people and insight what the people of Glasgow had to endure in the slums....magnificent stuff! READ THE OTHER TWO FOLLOW UPS BY SAME AUTHOR -NO MEAN GLASGOW and GORBALS DIEHARDS...two wonderful books!
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on 10 December 2007
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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on 10 December 2014
I'm not from the area, but I really enjoyed this, as did my partner! A fascinating glimpse into a childhood that was completely different to my own. Even though it was different, I really identified with the author when he said that he sometimes has dreams about the people and places that have long gone. I love some of the phrases and expressions the people used! Even though some very dangerous and frightening things happened, the overwhelming sense was one of pride and strength in the community. I felt very sad in the final chapter and started reading it again!!
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on 18 December 2015
Sent to my Glasgow pal who lives abroad, he says it takes him back to where he was brought up and will pass on the book to other Glaswegians there, thanks
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on 2 September 2012
I bought this to take on holiday (I'm not one for the usual holiday romance stories) and have found it very interesting. My sister lived in Glasgow for 10 years so I did get to know the city a bit. Even now, the Gorbals still seems to have a notorious reputation. The nice thing about this book is that it gives you a much more rounded picture of what it was actually like to live there. The sense of community shines through, something that was clearly lost when the tenements were pulled down. The gang violence can be a bit shocking but it is seems to be an honest account of the seedier side of city life in the 50s and 60s. It is a shame that some of the grand old buildings, that the whole community enjoyed, were pulled down as well as the tenements blocks. It makes me want to visit the Gorbals area to see what is actually left. Overall, an enjoyable and informative read that I can definitely recommend.
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on 2 March 2015
If you have ever wondered what it was like to live in the slums of the notorious Gorbals in Glasgow this book is a must is stupendously written by best selling author Colin MacFarlane who was brought up in the area in the 60s and 70s...before the place was demolished and all the brilliant characters disappeared. The best selling author captures the place, characters, and patter so well you will imagine you have been transported there back in time.
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