MJ STEEL COLLINS looks back on a haunting tale from Glasgow’s high-rises in the 1980s

When people think of Govan in Glasgow, they probably think of shipbuilding and some of the hardest people you’ll ever meet. A taxi driver once told me he got respect in the rougher parts of Kingston, Jamaica, when people told him he came from Govan.

I too also come from Govan in a roundabout way, in that I live there, though Paisley is my true home. So it’s quite a surreal experience to watch “A Govan Ghost Story”, a long forgotten gem from the BBC’s 1980s “The Play on One”. Although it’s set 20 years before my time in this part of Glasgow, it’s still easy to pick out places familiar to me, even eerie in way.

The main setting for the hour long play is the Iona Court high-rises, located on Broomloan Road and Kintra Street. This makes the show even more interesting, given those high-rises are scheduled for demolition in the not too distant future. The play catches Govan in the doldrums of the 1980s’ recession when just about everyone was out of work and on the dole.

It wasn’t exactly a happy time. The main character, a former shipyard worker and 1971 Upper Clyde Shipyard work-in activist, Joe, is very much a haunted man. Haunted in the general sense, by his activist past, his tattered relationship with his daughter and the reality of being unemployed and having to sign on. He is quite rightly, a bit of a miserable guy.

But as it turns out, Joe is also haunted in the conventional sense. Something is in the flat next door, and it keeps on eluding him. At first it starts off as just one of those things you might not pay attention to, but it gradually drags Joe into its core, and we see the impact this has on all aspects of his life. This isn’t just your average ghost; it’s a ghost that can touch a man deeply, as we see here. And it’s as creepy as hell.

Throughout the play, we see Joe attempt to get to the bottom of the haunting, and ultimately the things that have knocked his life out of kilter. It drags the viewer right in, alternatively wishing to hide behind the cushion and wanting things to come out right in the end. It’s also quite an educational watch, splicing footage of the UCS protests from over forty years ago, with the present. We get to hear the late, great Jimmy Reid, leader of the work-in, lay down the law alongside some pretty nifty archive footage. If you like ghosts and social conscience, then this is definitely one for you. And it’s easy to catch on YouTube. I highly recommend it.

And an interesting aside to finish on is that the ground where the Iona Court flats currently sit was once the site of Broomloan house, better known locally as the Broomloan/Kintra St Castle as it was bedecked with turrets. However, the local kids knew it best as “The Hunty”, thanks to tales of ghosts drifting about the place. Who knows!

MJ Steel Collins
Leave a replyComments (3)
  1. Peter Gomes 23 June 2014 at 8:26 am

    Ghost stories are a part of the human life. It is true or false it depends on us how we take it. Some who had experience about ghost or any scary moment in their life they say yes ghost stories are true but in opposite side some say that there are nothing like a ghost and ghost stories and it is false.

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  2. pat carroll 9 April 2015 at 3:07 am

    as a Govanite, and having grown up in Kintra St in the 50’s, i remember the Castle very well. all the local kids thought it was haunted and we used to dare each other to climb the stairs inside it. just next to it, at the junction of Kintra and Woodville Street was a wall-mounted streetlamp which formed a shadow like a corpse on a gibbet which we all called the ‘hangin’ man’.

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  3. Lisa 16 April 2018 at 6:38 am

    Yes I’ve experienced ghosts and had ghost touch me many years ago at my mums house several times. I had something touch and physically hit me once or twice. Few times to the bedroom door flew open and there was a time my mum and I heard a child voice and giggle. My mum lives in early 18th century house. My mum had things fall of the wall wild animals pics pics of family wedding photo no way on earth could a nail made them fall off as the nail never came out and was inside the wall. My mum is forever smells perfume in her house several times and days at a time. My brother saw a mans face in the bathroom mirror and my step dad also experienced something strange years back while having a bath he said something tried to drag him under the bath water he also said something tried to grab his legs while on the loo on the same night. My mum step dad and brother saw a little girl on there stair case few months back my mum took pic of her in late Victorian clothing about 9 years old but she was standing there no sound it only lasted few seconds then she went. My mum was told by someone that her house is built on a burial site.

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