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Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 05:33 GMT 06:33 UK
Tour reveals slave trade history
By Jim Muotune
BBC Scotland

Our dear green place grew from a small fishing village circa 550 AD into the post-industrial sprawl it is today as the result of a very significant period of rapid expansion during the 18th and 19th Centuries.

This is without doubt.

However, what is not so well known is that the Glasgow merchants leading this growth, whilst primarily concentrating on the trade in tobacco, rum and sugar, were indirectly involved in the slave trade.

Black history tour
People taking the tour during October are told a fascinating story
Glasgow's Black History Tour involves a guided walking tour centring on the Merchant City area of the city.

It reveals the hidden clues of the great wealth and prosperity of Glasgow which is inextricably linked to the exploitation of African Slaves and black people from the former British Empire.

The tour starts at the Ramshorn Kirk and Graveyard and tour guides Frank Boyd and Pauline Brown from Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance show us the final resting place of Glasgow's most famous "Tobacco Lord", John Glassford.

Glassford's companies were involved in the slave trade and he himself took slaves back to Scotland to be employed as family servants.

Tobacco plantations

Glassford's family portrait hangs in Glasgow's People's Palace and initially featured a black servant.

This was an example of a time in Glasgow when it was fashionable to employ young black servants.

However, it was repainted with the servant coloured out at the height of the abolitionist fervour of the late 19th Century.

This serves as a shining example of how attitudes and indeed history can be changed over time.

Glassford family portrait
A portrait of John Glassford and his family by Archibald McLauchlan

The slave trade was triangular - European goods were shipped to West Africa, where they were traded for slaves which were then shipped to the Americas to be used as labour on the sugar and tobacco plantations.

With money gained from the sale of slaves, European merchants could buy crops to take back to the huge European markets.

Glasgow served as a go-between port for the Americas and Europe and as a result Glasgow merchants were well placed to profit from this trade.

The tour continues around the Merchant City with Frank and Pauline pointing out and explaining the significance of the visual clues on buildings such as the City Chambers, George Square and its monuments, the Merchants House, the Gallery of Modern Art and the Tobacco Merchants House, ending up at the Corinthian in Ingram street.

This tour is one of the highlights of the fifth year of Glasgow's Black History Month.

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