Glasgow Tramways Golden Jubilee 1922 - Times Past

Posted on 26 April 2023

In partnership with the Glasgow Times​, our archivists are exploring Glasgow's fascinating history. This week, Barbara McLean writes about the Glasgow Tramways Golden Jubilee.

Among my family, friends and colleagues, I’m known for my love of the Glasgow tram. I love the cars, the lines, the rosettes on pre-1962 buildings. I love our photos showing them at the heart of Glasgow’s hustle and bustle. And I love the way that Glaswegians are still proud of their tramways over sixty years after they disappeared from the city’s streets. But civic pride in Glasgow’s trams is nothing new and the city’s seen many a tram anniversary celebrated over the years.

In fact, last year marked a century since Glasgow Corporation Tramways celebrated its Golden Jubilee. 19 August 1922 represented the completion of fifty years of public service and was a significant milestone in the city’s public transport history. To recognise this achievement, the Corporation arranged for a civic luncheon as well as a reception and dance at the City Chambers.  In addition, each of the Tramways’ 8,700 staff were also presented with £1 apiece.

However, the most spectacular and public celebration was a pageant of tramcars showcasing the five decades of progress since the first public car ran in 1872. Since the 19th fell on a Saturday, it was decided to hold the jubilee celebrations on Friday 18 August to minimise disruption.

That Friday, thousands lined the route and flocked to the city centre by – what else? – tram. Each of these ordinary cars carried a miniature flag especially for the occasion creating a festival atmosphere. The pageant itself set out from St George’s Cross just as the first public car did fifty years previously.

The special cars selected for the pageant illustrated the three ages of the city’s tramways history. First came the horse-drawn vehicle (1872 – 1898). Next, the double-decked electric cars with open tops (1898 – 1904) proceeded along the track. Finally, the double-decked electric cars with enclosed tops (1904 – 1922) ended the convoy. Members of the Tramways Committee, Corporation officials and their guests were aboard and headed for their final destination: the City Chambers.

Pomp and ceremony were the order of the day. Led by an outrider in a postillion jacket and tartan cap, the cars set off accompanied by the Tramways Department Pipe Band and the Glasgow Police Band. Their route took them along New City Road, Cambridge Street, Sauchiehall Street, Renfield Street and St Vincent Street before reaching George Square where they were given a musical welcome from the Band of the 31st Infantry Regiment of France.

Inside the City Chambers, luncheon awaited these special trams’ passengers who included tramway experts from around the world. Hosted by the Lord Provost, Thomas Paxton, who lead the first of several toasts to the Tramways, the meal included the well-named Jubilee Pudding. Those sitting at the centre table ate their lunch in front of miniature model tramcars.

Last August, there was no pomp, no ceremony and no pageantry to mark the hundredth and fiftieth anniversary of the city’s first public tram service. The Glasgow Tramways are no more. But I was among those who looked back and celebrated them – because I do love the Glasgow tram!