GLASGOW has many popular historic and fine pubs.

However, the city has also been home to several leading Scottish temperance organisations, campaigning for the abolition of alcohol.

Glasgow Times: Front cover of Sottish Women’s Temperance News centenary issue, 1976 Pic: Glasgow City Archives

The Glasgow Abstainers’ Union, founded in 1854, included around 40 societies, with regular activities such as street coffee stalls, day trips, mothers’ meetings, sewing and cookery classes and Sunday evening sermons. Their Saturday concerts at the City Halls ran for more than 70 years.

Temperance tea rooms, coffee houses and hotels such as those owned by Kate Cranston’s family offered pleasant alcohol-free places to visit throughout Scotland.

The Scottish Band of Hope Union, formed in Glasgow in 1871, focusing on enrolling children to the temperance cause. Branches held educational lectures and concerts and trips for their young members, who could join from the age of six. William Quarrier, the founder of orphan homes, was its first chairman.

Women established their own groups, such as the British Women’s Temperance Association, which started in Newcastle in 1876 inspired by American temperance activists who toured Britain. Glasgow City Archives holds records for more than 40 of their branches in Glasgow and the surrounding areas.

For years drinking had been a large part of city life with licensing laws non-existent in Scotland till 1756.

Once licensing was set up, it was initially very lax. In 1780, 605 licenses to serve ale were granted by the Glasgow Magistrates. Some sources estimate there were 2000 taverns in Glasgow by 1831. The ready availability of alcohol was soon linked to anti-social behaviour and poverty. Kirk session minutes, which we also hold in the archives, record stern admonishments by exasperated church elders. The police reported more than 126,000 arrests for being drunk and incapable between 1871 and 1874, and in the city’s poor relief records the inspectors commented on ‘awful boozers’ amongst applicants.

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As the temperance movement grew, so did its influence. In 1890 Glasgow Town Council opted to end licensed premises on Corporation property (this only ended in the 1960s). Lord Provosts Sir William Collins, Sir Samuel Chisholm and Sir Daniel Macaulay Stevenson were all temperance leaders. Later the Temperance (Scotland) Act enabled areas to vote for local prohibition. Areas such as Whiteinch, North Kelvinside and Cathcart choose to become ‘dry’ in the 1920’s. The polls continued until 1976.

Although the movement dwindled in the 1980s, temperance groups provided a social network, entertainments and a way of life for its members in Glasgow for generations.