IT was, for long decades, one of the best-known and most productive industrial works anywhere in Glasgow.

Gartcraig Fire Clay, at Millerston, made huge numbers of high-quality bricks. Its bricks were exported overseas and used in building projects everywhere from Canada and America to Australia and India.

Now the brick works is being used as a basis for a new community spirit in Ruchazie. The Bricks project has already chalked up much success, to the delight of local councillor Mandy Morgan. “It’s going really well,” she says.

Ruchazie until very recently didn’t have a community council, “or any other community stuff going on, and so I approached the local church about learning more about the history of the works.

“The church was very enthusiastic, to the stage where we have a core group of 21 people who come each week to learn about the history.

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“They’ve now agreed to become a community council, which is fantastic news. It means we’ve gone from using the history to getting some really good community engagement. It’s all about rebuilding the community, brick by bricks.”

The local history concerns more than just the brickworks. Many local people just remember the housing estate, when it was built in 1930. To learn there’s a rich history beyond that is really interesting for many people.

“People didn’t realise there was such a rich history in the area, and it’s that sense of shared history that is bringing people together.”

Councillor Morgan, who represents the North-East ward for the SNP, grew up in Cranhill and so knows Ruchazie very well. She was also aware of the lack of local engagement.

“It had been difficult to get the community to engage in things like clean-up exercises. They had no sense of connection to the area, despite most residents having lived here their whole lives.

“The reaction so far has been really positive,” she said. “The area has changed. There’s a buzz about the place now - people feel that there’s hope. As a councillor, that is all I wanted to do, to bring hope to people.

“I feel that that is happening.”

A local food pantry will be opening in the summer, too, in association with the Scotstoun-based organisation, FareShare, which redistributes quality surplus food to groups working with vulnerable people in and around the city and the west of Scotland.

Local people will become members and will pay £2.50 a week to receive £15 worth of fresh food, including meat, vegetables and fruit. Once it is open, the councillor says, “it will be amazing.”

Lots of regeneration ideas have now been put forward by enthusiastic local residents.

“The community want to get into growing, so they would like to see a garden being established.

“They would like to get a beehive up and running, and a too library so that they can access gardening and other tools.”

She added: “There are two pieces of derelict land in the area, which used to house two schools. The areas have long been used for fly-tipping.

“We’re doing some management activities in the area inbetween, but the outer two sections are still lying derelict.

“What I want to is to use the history of the brickworks in order to attract some Heritage Lottery funding to do something nice around the history.

“The first step was to get the community council up and running and then get it to take this project forward.”

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It’s hoped that a civic space can be created on the derelict land, where the local history can be displayed. It is also hoped to try and break down the territorial issues within Ruchazie, using the shared history and having the civic space somewhere in the middle of the area.”

The history of brickmaking in Scotland has often been overlooked, but historians and others have been researching the remarkable contribution made by Gartcraig and other works.

In 2016, Mark Cranston, a policeman from the Borders who had collected more than 2,300 bricks, and was shortlisted for a Scottish Heritage Angel award, said: ”From 1850 right through to the 1970s or 1980s Scotland was a leading producer, particularly of fireclay bricks.

“These were heat-resistant bricks but the quality of the clay was so supreme that they were in so much demand all over the world."

Councillor Morgan herself has four of the old Gartcraig-made bricks.

“They’re all originals, all 150 years old,” she says. “They are amazing, and we want to do something nice with them.

“The Gartcraig bricks seem to be the most prevalent. They’ve found them all over the world - in Canada, in Boston, in India.

“There was a particular architect who liked these bricks, and so there are some buildings in Boston, still standing today, made with bricks from Gartcraig.”

Councillor Morgan added: “I just want to see the area thrive. I know there are lots of good people in Ruchazie who want to work.


“They just need that hope, they just need to be told, ‘You can do this’.”