Since Glasgow City Archives (GCA) closed to the public in March this year, we have been encouraging Glaswegians to keep a diary of their experiences of life in the time of Covid-19.

These journals will eventually our collections. Diaries are a powerful record of people, places and times. Collectively, our diary collections provide a range of perspectives across various time periods in Glasgow and beyond.

One remarkable series of diaries we already hold are the illustrated accounts of life in Glasgow during the First World War written by Thomas Cairns Livingstone (1882 – 1964). He was born and brought up in Rutherglen by his Northern Irish parents before moving to Glasgow as an adult. He was a mercantile bookkeeper and shipping clerk for Paterson, Baxter and Company. He married his wife, Agnes, in 1910. They had one son (Thomas Junior) and lived in Morgan Street, Govanhill.

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He was a dedicated diarist, producing nineteen volumes covering the period 1913 to 1933. These were purchased by GCA with the kind assistance of the Friends of Glasgow Museums in August 2016.

Glasgow Times:

Although Livingstone signed up to fight in World War One, he was declared medically unfit for active duty and was never mobilised. He remained in the city and, instead of a battlefield account of the war, his diaries provide a personal narrative of the conflict’s impact on Glasgow.

This would be remarkable enough, but the diaries are also hand illustrated by Livingstone himself.

His cheerful, coloured drawings in combination with his characteristic dry humour provide a contrast to the often grim topics he describes. His diaries document the shortages the city faced as, one by one, essential food and provisions grew scarce and were rationed. They also cover rising rents, the threat of air raids in Scotland, women workers, the economy and fundraising initiatives in the city.

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Yet they also chronicle the family’s daily life together: their walks, the films they saw at their local cinemas, the evening sing-songs they shared and young Tommy’s early education at Victoria School. They are a reminder that daily life went on even against a backdrop of national and international change. Once our service resumes, Livingstone’s diaries will be publicly accessible to view in the archives searchroom on Level 5 of The Mitchell Library.

Glasgow Times:

It was never Livingstone’s intention to chronicle the home front, but it was a natural outcome of his habit of keeping a daily diary. If you have been inspired to start a diary during this time, please consider submitting it to GCA. We will accept paper and electronic diaries which can be accompanied by drawings or pictures (just like Livingstone’s). Further details are available on our website.