Glasgow writer and poet: John McGarrigle (died in the Clutha Disaster, 29th November, 2013)

john mcgarrigle

john mcgarrigle armchairOn 29th November, 2013, ten people lost their lives when a helicopter crashed into the roof of The Clutha Vaults, Stockwell Street, Glasgow. Among them was writer and poet, John McGarrigle, aged 59. (The other victims were Pilot David Traill, 51; Constables Tony Collins, 43 and Kirsty Nelis, 36; and customers Mark O’Prey, 44; Gary Arthur, 48; Colin Gibson, 33; Robert Jenkins, 61; Samuel McGhee, 56; and Joe Cusker, 59. R.I.P.)

The Clutha

Many of those who died, including John McGarrigle, were regulars at The Clutha, one of Glasgow’s oldest pubs. The Clutha gained its first licence in 1819 and was located at the final stop of the penny steamers carrying workmen from Glasgow down the Clyde to Renfrew. Along with its sister pub, The Scotia, it became characterised as a pub without pretension, where all were welcome, and as a meeting place for Glasgow’s left wing writers, folk singers, and political activists.

John McGarrigle

It was at The Clutha that the writer James Kelman, Brendan McLaughlin, musician and former owner of The Clutha, among others, formed Worker’s City, a backlash to the rebranding of Glasgow as European City of Culture. The online version of the publication Workers City The Real Glasgow Stands Up’ (Clydeside Press, 1988) can be seen at City Strolls: The Art of Living in A City

The book aimed to show the true Glasgow, and capture the experiences of its people. John McGarrigle was among those writers who had something to say. Both the man and his work were held in the highest regard by regulars at The Clutha, those involved in the Arts, his fellow Glaswegians and family and friends. His talent was immense and his take on things was wry,  humorous and charming.

In his poems Write Nice Things and Refuge, McGarrigle portrays a city and its problems but also sees beyond these blights, recognising  Glasgow’s  beauty, warmth and the comfort it affords.

An extract from Refuge by John McGarrigle

in winter,
beer cans
dirty books
the paths
and yet
there’s something,
that defies
this desecration
a sunset
unsurpassed . . .

John stumbled on the path to writing when he accompanied a blind friend to a writing workshop with the aim of offering assistance. The event was in Castlemilk and it was organised by the Workers Education Association (WEA). He caught the writing bug and became actively involved in the WEA; contributing to publications such as the Big Flit, (stories of people moving from the inner-city to the modern housing estate). Ultimately he became a committee member at the WEA. He also went  on to gain an Arts Degree at Glasgow University, wrote both prose and poetry and provided great entertainment as a performance or SLAM poet.

Just a week ago on 23rd January, 2014, I went along to a Literary Festival at St Louis Bar/Cafe in Partick – the theme was Rabbie Burns. Rab Wilson the poet was the main act and he entertained the crowd with some of his own poems and those of the Bard. It says something about the work of John McGarrigle that Wilson included in his performance John’s poem Humanitarian Bombing. It brought the house down.

Humanitarian Bombing by John McGarrigle

Bombing is good for you
It’s been scientifically proven to be true
That bombings really good for you !
It’s even better than Barr’s Irn Bru !
It’s extremely exhilleratin,
and totally, positively, humanitarian.
So there you are, it’s definitely true
That bombing is really good for you
It’s a sure cure for constipation
And better by far than senocot
Coz bombing makes you run a lot
It’s really, really true.
Bombing is good for you !
Take a wee near miss
before you toddle off to work
and you’ll be running all day
It helps you work rest and play
Yes ! Bombing is good for you !
And isn’t it really reassuring to know
That they’re cruising on their way,
Those nice well meaning young men
In their B52s and their big stealth bombers
With their bunker busters and their daisy cutters
Yes ! It’s true. Bombing is good for you !
And it really improves your living conditions
No more need to fear the dust mites !
Or worry about the rising damp’
Asthma will be the least of your worries
Coz bombing works better than a dozen curries !
Yes ! Bombing is good for you !
No more blocked drains or leaky taps.
And you’ll be rid of those anti social chaps
That used to live next door.
Bombing is good for you !
I’m getting fed up saying.
You’ll no believe it until you’ve tried it
And you don’t know what your missin
It’s a wee bit like kissin, for the very first time
A stick of dynamite wi a lit fuse’
But as far as i’m concerned
It doesn’t sound very convincing
In fact it’s a fucking farce
So why don’t you try some yourself dear Tony
And stick your humanitarian bombing
Right up your arse.

I contacted John’s family (he left two daughters, Linda and Marie, and a son, John) to check that they were happy for their father to be included on my website, on the section dedicated to Glasgow Writers.  I was delighted that they gave their permission.

They sent me one of their father’s poems:

Bloody Country by John McGarrigle

It’s rainy,
It’s wet,
It’s cloudy
and yet
I love this bloody country
I’m poor
I’m sad
and sometimes
I’m bad
and yet
I love this bloody country
and yet
if I were rich
and single
and free
I’d leave this bloody country

WEA: John-McGarrigle–A-Tribute

John McGarrigle – Facebook

Insight The Clutha – Dani Garavelli The Scotsman

Pat Byrne, January, 2014

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This section: writers, Writing

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

4 responses to “Glasgow writer and poet: John McGarrigle (died in the Clutha Disaster, 29th November, 2013)”

  1. Linda McGarrigle says:

    Pat lovely write up, very proud to say this man is my Dad xoxox thank you very much from The McGarrigle’s xoxox

  2. A says:

    Hello Pat
    Do you know of anywhere I may be able tp get a copy of this wonderful man`s poetry book so far can only locate a copy at St Andrew`s Uni Library.

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