IN Glasgow it was not a big news day when the Evening Times launched in 1876. The paper’s first major story was the opening of a girl’s section of Hutcheson’s Grammar School.

But this showed how the paper fitted in with the daily life of one of the world’s great cities, which it has continued to reflect and report on for nearly a century and a half.

Hutchie’s had been founded for boys in 1636. Along with other historic schools, it helped to give Glasgow what was still unusual in British cities – a literate male population, in both the middle class and the skilled working class, just the kind of people who might relax after a hard day’s work with an evening newspaper.

This potential readership had expanded once universal free education became available in Scotland in 1872. Yet the biggest expansion was actually in schooling for girls, which in earlier times had been patchy and haphazard. Now a literate female population was to be created too, and from the start, the Evening Times courted it. That was why it turned the latest development of Hutchie’s into a lead story.

At once the paper made a certain sort of local readership its own. We tend to think of Victorian Scotland as a place of terrible poverty, and of course on any modern standard it was. But by 1876, the most harrowing stages of the industrial revolution were over, allowing skilled and hard-working craftsman to glimpse the first signs of greater prosperity.

These were modest. Families might rent a flat of their own, cramped but soundly constructed, in one of the better type of tenements (the best are still standing today). They might take a week’s annual holiday and use it to sail doon the water. They might afford to buy a bicycle or spend Saturday night at a musical hall.

Modest again. The earliest signs of women’s liberation appeared. Till now, the main kinds of job available to them had been either grinding and sometimes dangerous toil in the factories. Or else domestic service.

From now on they could work as school teachers or, with better pay, as staff in commercial offices, as secretary to the boss, or as telephonists to charm callers (Glasgow had a municipal telephone service from 1897).

So, the identification of this feminine market by the Evening Times had been shrewd.

The paper continued to flourish right through Glasgow’s golden age as second city of the Empire and Workshop of the World. Clydeside made for the UK one-fifth of its steel, one-half of the horsepower of its ships’ engines, one-third of its railway locomotives and rolling stock, and most of its sewing machines.

In no other part of the globe had such a combination of forces come together to ensure jobs for the workers, fortunes for their bosses and goods for the rest of the human race. The heavy industry, shipbuilding above all, left a deep mark on the nation, apparent even today in popular myth.

The Evening Times was a mirror of all this, and a spur to the people’s love of Glasgow and its achievements. In a fast-changing urban environment, however, their political loyalties were variable. The paper had been born while Glaswegians overwhelmingly supported the Liberal party, which in 1886 split on the issue of home-rule for Ireland. This marked the birth of the Unionist party, not just as a name, but also as an identity, which has not left us even yet. The Evening Times supported its political line. But this had not yet degenerated into the parochial bigotry it has become today.

The Evening Times had a social conscience and its content could be weighty. It carried intelligent mid-market articles on matters it judged to be of interest to its readers, whose jobs and standards of living depended on the city’s worldwide trading network.

They wanted to read about foreign affairs at this high-noon of British imperialism. They felt just as interested in the rapid scientific advances that kept Glasgow at the industrial cutting edge and made it a Mecca for the bright young men who came from America or Russia or Japan to learn in the city’s industries. This made for stories more serious and sober than the popular journalism of the 20th century.

The end of the golden age came in 1914. Glasgow’s shipbuilding supremacy had continued up to the eve of the First World War, and the need for armaments and the replacement of naval losses then demanded even more of the workers along the Clyde. This led to the social and political tensions of Red Clydeside.

The end of the war brought a slump in production from which the city’s industries were never completely to recover. Glasgow had seen its ups and downs before, but now they took place against a background of steadily rising unemployment which continued until the Second World War.

Newspapers are not immune to their economic environment, and that was true of the Evening Times too. Its solution to its own problems was to go downmarket, responding to the sort of Americanised journalism introduced to the UK by Lord Beaverbrook and the Harmsworth family.

The Evening Times grew really big on sports, which were often reckoned to divert jobless men from having little else to think about. In the old days, most Scottish newspapers had carried nothing but advertisements on their front pages. Once they decided to use it instead to parade their big news stories, many readers, especially male readers, instead started reading their papers from the back with the football reports.

The Evening Times eventually went over to running Sports Finals on Saturday evenings. Without any television in those days, readers on their way home from a match could read all the final scores, with at least a brief report (much longer for the big teams), on the afternoon’s play.

It took a high degree of co-ordination and the Evening Times did it well.

Saturday was in general the big day of the Glaswegian week, but it was not only on a Saturday that the paper started carrying entertainment listings. It was essential reading to people looking for a good night out. Another golden age dawned, this time for the cinema, especially after talkies were put on. Some buildings in Sauchiehall Street seem to be copied straight from Hollywood, and they still recall the era. The same magic emanated from dancehalls across the city, while these could also turn into scenes of gang violence.

Glasgow suffered some big disappointments in the years between the wars, but the Evening Times showed it was still a city where the people wanted to bring back its glory days. Their future was to be even more testing.