Glasgow thinks of itself as hard-faced and soft hearted. The judgment is at least a half-truth. Straddling the River Clyde at the western end of Scotland's narrow industrial belt, the city offers to the world the brazen, slightly battered aspect of an old booth fighter. It respects very little and fears less. It is a quick-witted, coarse-tongued tough nut of a town, whose most celebrated traditions are still shipbuilding, football (never to be called soccer) and fighting men. No one should be surprised to find that football and crowd hooliganism tend to go together in a place where anyone walking into a bar wearing a scarf of the wrong color can expect to "get the message." In Glasgow's own language, a harsh metropolitan corruption of lowland Scots studded with the shorthand of violence, getting the message is a procedure that may vary from a swift thumping to some impromptu facial surgery with a razor or a broken glass. The city's hospitals are called upon to do so much stitching it seems remarkable that they have never made a deal with the Singer organization.
Even an Edinburgh man would admit, of course, that it would be a monstrous injustice to present Glasgow in these terms and leave it at that. It is a great commercial and industrial center, world famous for the craftsmanship of its engineers and the shrewdness of its financiers. It has a great body of douce citizenry housed in douce suburbs of gray and red sandstone or behind fastidiously trimmed gardens in some of the better council estates. It has a reasonably lively theatrical tradition, a fine art gallery, a splendid university. It is clearly less Philistine than many cities of comparable size, compensating for certain deficiencies in formal culture with its sense of integrated identity, its own zestful folklore.
But all the pious imagemaking of the town council cannot hide the fact that this folklore is heavily laden with tales of squalid primitivism. The battling gangs of the Depression years have been replaced by equally boastful but less warlike mobs of youths, whose principal outlet appears to be scrawling their challenging slogans on the walls of public lavatories or on the sooty gable ends of tenements. Yet, essentially, Glasgow is scarcely less violent than it was. An accidental nudge on a pavement can still produce "a claim." Anyone who is claimed has the option of trying to put up a fight or taking what is coming to him and, whether it is the settling of an old score (vendettas are waged with Sicilian intensity) or a casual encounter, a claim may end in bloody death in the gutter.
Nevertheless, it is true that Glasgow's murder rate—only 14 in 1967—is low in proportion to the number of assaults. This probably is because shootings are extremely rare. Here violence is a personal thing, to be done with the hands, the head, the feet or, more likely, with a bottle, a bayonet, a hatchet, a chain, a knife or the sharpened ferrule of an umbrella.
In most of Glasgow's 1,000 public houses just about anything can start a fight—they are democratic that way—but nothing detonates trouble more readily than a confrontation of supporters of the two clubs that are in many ways the most remarkable in the whole world of football. Overall, Glasgow's record of dedication to the game surpasses even those of Rio, Madrid, Milan, Manchester or Liverpool. The city supports four teams in the first division of the Scottish League, but the real passion is concentrated on Rangers and Celtic.
This is a fervor that goes far deeper than any sporting enthusiasm, for it is rooted in the bitterest religious bigotry in modern Christendom. To the mass of their followers, Rangers are the chosen representatives of Protestantism and Celtic are as firmly identified with Roman Catholicism as the Vatican itself. Rangers wear shirts officially described as royal blue, and their supporters, often in an awesome choir of 50,000 and more, are in the habit of singing God Save the Queen as a gesture of loyalty to the Protestant monarchy. Celtic wear green-and-white hoops, and their fans, who can muster in numbers only slightly short of those that follow Rangers, take most of their considerable musical repertoire from the rebel songs of Ireland. In fact, the essence of the conflict is Irish in origin.
On a clear day it is possible to see the outline of Ireland from the shores of the Clyde estuary, and Irish immigrants had been entering Scotland by the boatload for generations before the two clubs were formed, Rangers in 1873 and Celtic in 1888. The Rangers (they insist on the definite article with a capital "T," even referring to their huge red-brick home near the river on the western outskirts as The Stadium) grew out of the excess energies of a group of oarsmen who used to get the ball out after dragging their boat from the Clyde at Glasgow Green.
Celtic Football and Athletic Club was established in the impoverished Victorian East End of Glasgow by Brother Walfrid, a member of the teaching institute of Marist Brothers, with the main object of providing food for "needy children in the missions of St. Mary's, Sacred Heart and St. Michael's." The charitable principle has been retained, and the club still donates substantial sums each season but, though Celtic's origins were more obviously religious than Rangers', the irony is that in Celtic teams the Protestants may outnumber the Catholics whereas Rangers will not consider a Catholic, regardless of talent. This was not always the case. One Catholic is known to have played for Rangers in the 20s. But in recent years if Rangers signed on "one of them" it was an error, and an error quickly rectified.
Critics are swift to point out that the powerful chairman of The Rangers Club, John Lawrence, a millionaire builder, must have a work force that is about 30% Catholic. It is certainly a logical assumption, because the ratio of Catholics to Protestants in the school population of Glasgow is something like one to two. Neither Lawrence nor any of his fellow directors will comment on the discrimination, but Rangers supporters have a simple explanation of the more liberal approach at Celtic Park: "Where would they find 11 good Catholics?"
The mixture of religions on Celtic teams has had amusing repercussions. John Thomson, the fine young goalkeeper who became a martyr when he was accidentally and fatally injured in a collision with a Rangers forward, is credited with coming in at half time in one match and complaining that an opponent had called him "a papist bastard." Jimmy McGrory, who was center forward on the same team, told Thomson not to worry, that he had been called that many times. "Aye," said Thomson. "But you are one."