Some Glasgow Eccentrics

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Glasgow is a strange city and down the centuries, has produced some rather unusual  people, according to MJ STEEL COLLINS

Glasgow eccentrics - Big Rachel

Rab Ha’

The Deep Fried Mars Bar has become something of a joking stereotype when it comes to the questionable dietary foibles of some Glaswegians.

However, the sort of thing Rab Ha’, the Glasgow glutton, used to partake in, makes the modern day sausage supper and Irn Bru combo look like a genteel salad.

It may leave a slightly sickly feel in your guts.  It has always struck me as bizarre that the man has restaurant named after him in the Merchant City…

Rab Ha’, or Robert Hall in non Weegie patois, lived in the early part of the 19th century.

He was a farm labourer, who was thrown out of the family home by his mother for eating everything.

A change of career was decided upon, and Ha’ became a vagrant who made his living by entertaining people with his prodigious and utterly revolting eating habits.

People paid good money to watch him eat tables of food, pies being a speciality.

Not much could beat him, and he even beat the Yorkshire Pudding, a famous English glutton.

Ha’ is probably best known for eating an entire calf, made into pies, as part of a bet.

The only time his appetite failed him was when he failed to ingest a bizarre concoction of oysters mixed in with sugar.

Ha’ would also venture into the countryside to entertain rural residents with his eating.

Not surprisingly, Ha’ came to an early ending, dying in a hayloft in the Gorbals in 1843.

Big Rachel

Rachel Hamilton originally came from Ireland, but settled in the Partick district.

At 6 feet 4 inches tall, she undertook a variety of jobs, including a shipyard labourer, forewoman navvy in a brickworks and latterly, a farm labourer.

She was once sworn in as a special constable during the Partick Riots of 1875. She died in 1899 at the age of 70.

Rachel had a reputation as ‘an enforcer and keeper of the peace.’

Big Rachel
Big Rachel


A well-known street crier, who seems to have had a penchant for people watching at public hangings, Hawkie originally came from Stirlingshire.

He injured his leg as a young child as was lame for life.

At 12 years old, he was put into an apprenticeship as a tailor, but it wasn’t to his liking, so he took to the open road to see what he could find.

He travelled all over Scotland, arriving in Glasgow in 1818.

Life on the road led him into many occupations and he failed miserably at them all.

Eventually he became a beggar, but unusually, was able to read.

He took to selling his own little pamphlets and books on a variety of things, such as epic poems and ballads, and quick to assure the buying public they were getting quality for their hard earned half penny.

The street crying element came from his oral retelling of the ballads and tales published in his wares, and he became adept at it, often being more entertaining than the actual printed work. He spent 33 years in Glasgow, becoming its most quoted citizen, there not being much he couldn’t hold forth on.

One of his tales was about the mass of rats that roamed one of the ‘hotels’ he lived in and how they ravaged the body of a young man who had just died.

Hawkie died in the City Poorhouse on Parliamentary Road, one of the city newspapers marking his passing by commenting on his ‘strong powers of wit, sarcasm and a devoted love of whisky’.


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