I SPEND my working life surrounded by Glasgow’s wonderful archives, which tell the story of the city from the 12th to the 21st century.

At the same time, they can inform the present, providing insights from past experiences.

In autumn 1900 the bubonic plague, a disease normally associated with medieval times, appeared in Glasgow. The most widespread plague epidemic experienced in Glasgow began in 1645, when it was centred on High Street and the Vennels.

The reappearance of the disease 250 years later was a rude awakening, underlining that the physical conditions necessary for its spread were still prevalent in Glasgow at the turn of the 20th century. It began in the crowded and unsanitary tenements of the Gorbals.

The 1900 outbreak was relatively small, with 36 known cases and 16 deaths, largely due to the swift action of the authorities. The first cases occurred in early August in a house in Rose Street, Gorbals, where a Mr Bogie, a docker, and his family were infected. His wife and granddaughter died.

Soon other people in the neighbourhood began contracting and dying from a strange illness.

Glasgow Times:

Wakes for the dead were popular, particularly among the Irish, and it was discovered that some of the later victims were among the more than 100 people who had attended Mrs Bogie’s wake.

Various causes of death were given, but doctors had a feeling something was wrong. This was confirmed when a doctor in Belvidere Hospital diagnosed o’the plague.

READ MORE: Glasgow radio gem The McFlannels was Scotland's first soap

The Sanitary Authorities were quick to act – they looked for anyone who might have had contact with the Bogie family and simultaneously managed to track the spread of the plague.

Those who had attended Mrs Bogie’s wake were quarantined in a “reception house” so they could be monitored. Houses were fumigated and evacuated; clothing and bedding disinfected; staff in hospitals and reception houses inoculated and wakes were prohibited.

Publicity was avoided to try and prevent panic, and the outbreak was contained.

Glasgow Times:

The official report in 1901 concluded the most likely cause was an infected rat carried into the port of Glasgow aboard a ship, but new research by a team at Oslo University established the real culprits were humans.

The unusually high number of secondary plague infections occurred between members of the same household, suggesting that body lice or human fleas may have been to blame.

READ MORE: Get fit with the Shettleston Harriers - 1937-style

The city’s authorities ultimately “dodged a bullet” - this had all the classic conditions for a mass outbreak of bubonic plague, but through medical vigilance, local authority organisation and public information, they managed to nip it in the bud.