HE was the player who scored Celtic’s first ever goal in 1888 – but soon after, he was to fall on hard times.

Bonhill-born Neil McCallum, who went on to score a further 16 times in 33 appearances for the club before signing for Nottingham Forest in 1892, became a general labourer after he finished his playing career.

In 1906, he applied to Glasgow’s Poor Relief Fund after suffering blood poisoning in his hands.

Neil is not the only ‘famous’ name to appeal for help from this fund – in 1921, an application was made on behalf of socialist John Maclean, who was in prison at the time for sedition. The application relates to his transfer to hospital for refusing food.

A young man called Gilbert Begg also applied for help - his uncle was Robert Burns.

“At the Mitchell Library, we hold more than a million poor relief applications for Glasgow parishes as well as thousands for certain parishes within Bute, West Dunbartonshire, South Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire,” explains archivist Barbara Neilson.

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“Since they highlight an individual applicant and their family, they’re a treasure trove for family historians. These are people who would otherwise have gone unrecorded in most cases, and because the applications have to include a lot of detail they are really helpful in providing a picture of what life was like at that time.”

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She adds: “If your ancestor was born or died in a poorhouse or they lived there during a census year, they would have made an application for relief. People could also apply for a small grant of money to cover rent, food, clothing and medicine and would remain in their own home. To request a search, all you need is the person’s full name, birthplace and approximate year of birth.”

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Barbara and her colleagues, senior archivist Irene O’Brien, Michael Gallagher, Lynsey Green and Nerys Tunnicliffe, have launched Ask the Archivist, a fantastic new campaign which gives people the chance to ask them questions about a range of topics based on their collections. More details are available on the Glasgow City Archives Facebook page.

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Ask the Archivist is part of #glasgowlifegoeson, a campaign to highlight the fantastic services available online from the city’s museums, sports, arts and music facilities. Last year Glasgow Life recorded around 19 million visits across all of its different venues and during the coronavirus lockdown, staff were keen to ensure access could continue, albeit in a very different way.

Barbara says: “We had a great response to our first topic and we’re delighted so many people are getting involved. Our next topic is Glasgow's valuation rolls, which are essentially lists of properties, owners and tenants, that were compiled every year for tax purposes. This might sound dry, but the details they contain are so useful for a range of local and family history research."

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The team launched the topic with Jessie Robertson Cleghorn’s application for help for herself and her seven children in 1896. The family lived in two rooms and a kitchen.

One of Barbara’s favourite entries comes from an Elizabeth Adams Cruickshanks, who left her husband to elope with her lover.

She smiles: “Her husband found out when he returned to their house to discover her note: “You need not be vexed about the child, for many’s the lie I told you about it. The child is not yours, but William Pinkerton’s.”

Have you discovered any links to the Poor Relief Fund in their family? Email ann.fotheringham@glasgowtimes.co.uk to share your stories and photographs.