Unedited version of column published in the Scottish Sun on Sunday on 1st December 2013
The Clutha, Our People, Our City
Like so many I was horrified to see on the news that Police Helicopter had crashed landed into the Clutha Vaults, remaining glued to my TV screen and twitter all night for news.
For generations this pub has been at the heart of a great city, many us would walk past it every day to the High Court.
Just in the background can be seen the minaret of Glasgow Central Mosque which on Friday night threw its doors open and offered volunteers to assist those in need.
Yesterday’s St Andrews day would have been the STUC’s annual anti-racist march but it was cancelled out of respect, many of us attending would often go back to the Clutha at the end of the annual rally.
I have a personal fondness for the Clutha which stems from the days when Brendan McGlaughlin owned it some 13 years ago. It was a regular haunt for trade unionists, folk bands and just ordinary decent Glaswegians, but for me it was a pub that showed overwhelming generosity and solidarity with financial support to the Chhokar Family as they campaigned for justice for their murdered son.
On Friday night the Clutha reminded me once again why I love this city so much. Across our City and Nation many will have similar fond memories of the Clutha, it represented tradition, folklore and the best that Glasgow has to offer.
The staff, punters and passers-by did all they could to help those trapped until the Emergency Services arrived. Jim Murphy MP is not a man I have seen eye to eye with over the years, but he was one of the heroes of the hour, passing by in his car instinctively jumping out to rush into the Clutha at risk to his own life to help.
He summed up the courage of Glaswegians- ‘people were running towards the pub to help not running away’.
It may be too early to say but it looks pretty obvious that those 2 police officers and the civilian pilot who died did everything possible to save lives and the disaster could have been much worse had it not been for their selfless actions.
As for our Emergency Services they were tested beyond their limits but as always made sacrifices above and beyond duty. The queues for the blood bank in Nelson Mandela Square on Saturday were overflowing and our paramedics, nurses, doctors, firefighters police officers worked around the clock, a testimony to what they do when called upon.
It has become far too easy for a society obsessed with targets and budgets to criticise but we forget that this is the job that the men and women of our emergency services are trained to do day in day out, they are undoubtedly the best in the world
When the dust settles, the injured go home and funerals take place, lives will be changed for ever. Some of us will “not only have lost friends who died but also the ones who will live with tragedy for ever”.
Three went out to work that night and five were amongst friends for a night out never to return home, others remain seriously injured, but despite the loss we all feel Friday the 29th November should be remembered with love and pride.
We are used to holding remembrances for others with little impact on our own lives, but this time it was our city, it was our people. There is a profound sense of many thinking ‘that could have been me.’
As we wake today, across Glasgow the bells will ring, prayer services and minute silences will take place at churches, mosques, temples and stadiums as we remember our own, we will remember their spirit and hope, the ‘pulse and the life’ of this great city.
Approaching Christmas families will be grieving for the loss of loved ones and what we will do in the weeks and days ahead will not take away their grief but may one day temper their pain.
Glasgow is a city full of resilience and has shown once again what its people are capable of. When the time is right I hope the Clutha reopens and when it does it will be a living memorial to those who died and the courage shown by so many. Our city will never forget you, thank you.