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  • Writer's pictureRachael Fulton

Exploring the East End: Cranhill & Sugarolly Mountains

The East End landscape juxtaposes its jarring past and future: decaying high rises awaiting demolition to one side, the gleaming new Sir Chris Hoy velodrome on the other.

Local historian Douglas McCreath, 67, remembers aspects of the East End and his home turf in Cranhill that are no longer a part of this ever-changing scenery; aspects of the past that are now in danger of becoming lost in a flurry of regeneration and change.

As tour guide on Glasgow Doors Open Day's Discover tour, Douglas is able to share a wealth of knowledge, stories and passion about this area of the city. Reminiscing with other locals and educating outsiders on the area helps Douglas preserve the East End's rich history.

"I'm a great believer in people appreciating their heritage," said Douglas.
"I'm involved in this because if the story of Cranhill and Easterhouse isn't told it will disappear from sight.
"The Cranhill I knew as a youngster has totally disappeared."

Douglas' parents first moved to Cranhill when it was a new, up-and-coming area. As one of the first post-war housing estates built in the city, it was part of Glasgow's outward expansion that brought new hope and excitement to a generation of Glaswegian families.

Douglas fondly remembers his childhood in the area and being a part of this exciting new phase in the city's history. In the Discover tour, which he has guided annually for the last three years, Douglas is able to draw comparison between the stark contrast of the old East End he knew as a child and the current landscape familiar to new generations.

"For most folks of my generation it was like moving into the country - moving from old tenements into brand new tenements," said Douglas of moving to Cranhill.

"People came from overcrowded, often unsanitary tenements in old Glasgow to what were then modern flats with their own bathrooms and felt like they were in the heart of the country - it was paradise."

One of Douglas' most prominent memories is playing as a child on the 'Sugarolly mountains' - a dumping ground for chemical waste near the old Monklands canal that existed long before the Cranhill housing development.

Local children used the area as their playground, oblivious to the hazards that might befall them through exposure to such chemicals.

"They tipped the chemical waste out into the middle of the country, but little did they know that Glasgow would expand outwards and create Cranhill. As kids we used to play on it, sliding down it on bits of cardboard.

"In the winter time when the water ran off and you fell in the ice, your wellies would fill up in green fluorescent water."

It's not just anecdotes of his own childhood that make Douglas' Discover tour such an incredible portrait of the East End of the city.

His knowledge of the area's hidden highlights - from a secluded sensory garden to the wealth of public sculpture beneath the Cranhill Water tower - allows him to open up new experiences and sites to local people as well as outsiders.

The bus takes in numerous sites, from the 'jewel in the crown' of Provan hall, to the newly regenerated Commonwealth sites. Discover tours also visit the Olympia, a building that was once a cinema and dance hall and is now being restored.

Guests will be allowed access to the building site as part of the tour to see the developments, with priority given to people local to the area. On their tea and biscuits break, the group will be taken up to the top of Helendale flats to look out over the East End.

Visitors will also be given an education on the Forge steelworks, the incredible industry that once existed in Glasgow and the communities that it supported.

With each stop, Douglas is able to provide stories about the area's rich cultural heritage and the various lives it has lived in the last few decades, with visitors are encouraged to share their own stories.

Tour members native to the East End have been moved to tears by the experience in the past, as it makes them realise and appreciate the transformation that the area has undergone in recent times.

Douglas' tour intends to celebrate the East End and challenge the misconceptions and negativity that surround this area of Glasgow. He is aware that a combination of rumour and deprivation statistics has led some outsiders to look down upon the East End, to avoid it or consider it dangerous. In his mind, the area is continuously misconstrued and needs to be protected from negative stereotypes.

"The bus tour is an opportunity for folks to drive through the different layers of the onion and see the ways Glasgow has grown," said Douglas.

"It's an opportunity for us to celebrate the East End and a real opportunity to be proud of our heritage.
"My belief is that the more proud you can be of your heritage, the more confident you can be of yourself and the more confident you can deal with the ever-changing future ahead of you."

With the massive Commonwealth Games regeneration works well underway, the East End is having yet another facelift and ushering in a new generation of positivity and hope.

Community projects, arts initiatives and hundreds of volunteers create a system to support East End residents, creating more opportunities for the present and future of the area. Despite these promising attributes, the ever-present threat of funding cuts leaves locals nervous about how long the projects will continue into the future.

"There's lots of active groups in the East end, there's a huge list of them involving volunteers across the board," said Douglas.

"One of the challenges is that due to cuts in government spending many of those organisations and groups are at risk.

"The danger for me is that we might have a situation where we turn the clock back and some of the good work done will go undone."

For more information on Cranhill, visit Douglas' Cranhill Matters website.

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