LOOK at old photos of Glasgow’s streets and there is often a fair amount of horsing around.

Times Past regular reader Ian Hutcheson tells us: “Flicking through a book of pictures of Glasgow then and now, seeing scenes full of horse drawn cabs and carts, and then a few pages on, note that motor cars were the dominant mode of transport, you might think the transition from horse power to the internal combustion engine happened overnight.

Glasgow Times: The milkman's delivery by horse and cart.

“The reality, of course, is that it took decades for horses to vanish from our streets.”

He adds: “Even into the fifties, on my journeys to and from school, it was common for me to see Clydesdale horses dragging their carts amidst the increasing numbers of motor driven vehicles. Among the trades that retained their sturdy helpers, the most loyal were milkmen and coalmen; for, in a tenement city like Glasgow, they retained their value to their drivers.

“Park your horse and cart at a strategic point in a street, leave the horse munching from a bag of oats, deliver your coal or milk up the closes of the block to dozens of your customers; and job done, pick up the reins and repeat, further along the road. No need to worry about the overheads of a stationary lorry eating into your profits, compared to Dobbin happily eating a mere helping of oats…”

Glasgow Times: Trace horses in Glasgow, 1949, waiting patiently to haul loads up hills if required.

The magnificent Clydesdale horse has long been associated with Glasgow – they helped the cleansing department too, as our picture shows, as well as coal merchants and milkmen. Horses also pulled the city’s first trams. Introduced in the Clyde Valley, the first recorded use of the name Clydesdale for the breed was at an exhibition in the city in 1826.

A much-valued workhorse, they were exported from Scotland around the world and played a key role in both agricultural and industrial revolutions and the First World War.

Ian recalls how on Whittinghame Drive, along the railway line from Jordanhill to Anniesland, there was a garage with petrol pump, showroom, repair shop and stables.

“It was home to the hard-working Clydesdales, and their more athletic cousins, the show jumpers,” he says. “Beyond the gate, there was a field laid out with jumps for practice and the annual gymkhana. Yes - a gymkhana in Glasgow…”

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Ian recalls a friend’s family who were coal merchants – uncle drove a lorry, but dad was ‘old school’ and made his deliveries by horse and cart.

“My friend knew his way around the stables, and so we were free to go and see the horses,” he says. “If we were lucky, the blacksmith, or farrier, might be there, changing shoes on a horse. To do that, he had to crouch under the bulk of the mighty Clydesdale, lift its hoof and wedge it between his thighs. We thought this looked as dangerous as sharing a cage with a lion. What if the horse suddenly decided he didn’t want this assault on his feet? What if he kicked out at the blacksmith and stamped on him?”

He adds: “Fortunately, the horses never did object, apparently treating the whole procedure like a manicure – so we never did see any drama.

“Although the Clydesdales were destined to haul basic, everyday goods, they got their day in the sun at their own annual show at Scotstoun Showground, being admired, parading in all their powerful glory, on their own, without a cart.”