Living with Grandma in Glasgow, Scotland

by uninvitedwriter

I spent the years between 1968 and 1969 living with my grandmother in Glasgow, Scotland. It was a good year.

Early years


When I was ten years old my parents decided that we were moving to Canada.

My father was born in Newfoundland and wanted to go home. He had joined the British Navy during World War II and had stayed. He met my mother, fell in love, and they were married in 1946. I don't know what took him so long to go home. I think he saw that there were more opportunities for him in Canada. 


At the time, we were living in Cumbernauld; a new-town close to Glasgow. My father was employed planting trees around the town. We were living in a nice row house with a backyard. I went to a primary school within walking distance of our house. It was a pleasant enough little town to grow up in. There were woods surrounding the town; we picked wild raspberries and caught tadpoles in ponds.

Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow montage
Glasgow montage

Grandma's apartment

When we moved, my father went ahead to Canada to look for work and a place for us to live. In the meantime, my sister, my mother, and me all moved in with my grandmother in her huge flat in Glasgow. My older sister stayed as she was already married at the time with two kids. She eventually moved to Glasgow in the following months. My grandmother lived on the top floor of a Victorian row house on Hill Street, or tenement as they were known then. It was a huge apartment. It was so big that she had 2 lodgers from the local university staying with her and still had room for the three of us. It had high ceilings with large windows. My mother was given the largest bedroom at the back of the apartment. It was large enough for a double bed and a sitting area. The windows looked out onto the large garden area in the back which was shared by at least 8 3-story row houses. My sister and I each got small bedrooms.


The kitchen was huge also. It had a large walk-in pantry and was big enough for a kitchen table that sat at least 8. The apartment was very beautiful. It had crown moulding around the ceiling with wonderful plaster designs around the ceiling lights.

I was a little afraid of the walk up. In those days the houses had not been refurbished like they are today. The walls were black; it was a dark walk up. I was afraid to go down to the very bottom where you went to get out back. It was very dark and scary. If I did go down there alone, I went down as quickly as possible.


I had a lot of family in that building and the adjoining ones. My great-aunt and her husband lived downstairs from my grandmother. Her daughter lived around the corner in another building with her husband. Her ex-husband lived close by too. I spent a lot of time with my various cousins, who were mostly younger than me.

Pleasant memories

I have pleasant memories of that year in Glasgow. It was the end of the 60s. I used to go to dances down the street on Saturday afternoons, where there was lots of psychedelic decoration and music. I was never without a transistor radio that year, and many years after that. It was a great time for music and I loved all of it. I made friends with the kids who lived across the street. We were always out playing soccer or hide and seek. We got into all sorts of mischief like ringing door bells and running away. Other times I played with myself, kicking a soccer ball against the front steps of the building.

I remember at that time kazoo's were a big fad and we all had to have one. The first time I went to a movie without my parents was while I was living in Glasgow. I was allowed to walk down to the theatre where Planet of the Apes was playing. I remember that it made me feel so mature.


The school I attended was your typical inner-city school, surrounded by a high fence. The doors were locked during school hours. They served school lunches to everyone but I didn't like the food very often. I remember being made to eat some mince and potatoes that didn't taste right or do without dessert. And if I recall correctly the dessert ended up being tapioca which I hated anyway. I remember that I went out into the playground and threw up after that lunch.


Time to leave

My mother, my sister, and I were very sad to say goodbye to our extended family but we were looking forward to what the future would bring. And we missed our father and couldn't wait to see him. Sadly, I never saw my grandmother again after we moved. In 1973 she died of cancer. My mother had gone over for a few months to care for her. I didn't get back to visit Scotland until the 80s. Then everything had changed. The apartments had been cut up into smaller apartments. My grandmother and great-aunt were dead. My great-aunt's daughter lived in a ground floor apartment in the building.

I often think of that year as a very happy time, even without my father. I had lots of friends, lots of places to explore and lots of great music to listen to.

Updated: 02/19/2012, uninvitedwriter
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uninvitedwriter on 02/26/2012

Oops, just realized I hadn't approved some comments :)
Your comments do mean a lot to me... thanks so much.

BrendaReeves on 02/26/2012

Great article. I wonder if the young people here know what a transistor radio is. lol They were like cell phones are today: everyone had to have one.

katiem2 on 02/10/2012

Oh such a nice story, I needed this today. I love Scotland and the people no matter how far removed or reaching are just wonderful, great people. I'm proud to be a Scot myself, or meself :)

NaturalRemedies on 02/07/2012

What fantastic memories UW! I'm glad that you had that year with your grandmother. I got to see my many cousins often growing up, for which I feel very fortunate. (I'm rmcrayne from HP.)

happynutritionist on 09/12/2011

Always nice to read anything related to Scotland...I have never been there but my mother's side of the family came over from Scotland. The Scottish brogue has passed on with the relatives that still had it, and I miss hearing it.

mivvy on 07/22/2011

It is sometimes sad to come back to a place you've loved because of the changes. You must have had a very special and happy year in Glasgow

sheilamarie on 06/27/2011

Lovely memories! It's nice to meet you!

BarbRad on 06/02/2011

It's funny how our brains remember some details from our childhood, but not others. I read an article about that last night in the WSJ. It's also interesting how the same words can mean different things to different people because of their backgrounds. Example. I've always lived in places where you had to have a single family home to have a lot of space. I remember how surprised I was when we went to Europe to visit some of my husband's family. They lived in an apartment more like the one you describe. Maybe this is unique to living in a city. I've always lived in suburbs or rural areas where there was more land free to build on. I guess in cities they have to build up, not out.

chefkeem on 06/01/2011

It's late, I'm tired, and this article was the last one to read for tonight. I couldn't have picked a better "good-night story". It touched me warmly and filled me with fond memories of my own. (We're probably of similar age.)
Welcome to Wizzley, enthusiastically invited writer! :)

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