For many Glaswegians who don’t live in the Calton their relationship with the district is founded on one thing.........The Barras.

Twenty or thirty years ago, very few shops opened on a Sunday, so if people needed something they would be drawn to The Barras. It was Glasgow’s answer to a Parisienne flea-market, and sold all manner of things, from towels and linen to second-hand watches and jewellery, as well as old clothing, which today would usually be found in a charity shop.

But The Barras was more than this. It was street theatre, with stall holders persuading passers-by that they couldn’t afford to pass up on their particular offer of the day. The barkers would start their ‘Dutch auction’, and progressively reduce their price until the intended moment, whereupon their assistants would make a racket, causing a stampede among the crowd to buy the bargain of the day.

A visit was often accompanied by a visit to one of the sea-food restaurants, where mussels, whelks and clappy-doos were the order of the day.

Christmas Eve was a special time for The Barras, as irrespective of what day in the week it was, the market would be opened until late evening. Stall holders left with a stock of toys as the end of the day approached, would often sell off their wares at knock down prices, which would be snapped up by parents of meagre means, to give their children a gift to open on Christmas morning.


Peter Mortimer. 11th November 2014

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The Barras