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No Mean City: 1914 to 1950s

Industry and Technology

Service Industries

By Duncan M Ross

Kick off! Even the most industrial of cities require services: the trades and professions which enable those engaged in the more dramatic activities of shipbuilding or engineering to conduct their human lives on a scale far removed from the industrial giantism of their occupations.

Advertisement Census employment data reveal that in 1921 there were 53,934 people engaged in commercial, finance and insurance employment, while by 1931 the total had increased to over 70,000. Most Glaswegian services were focussed on personal consumption, though there was a thriving commercial and financial network and the Glasgow Savings Bank remained the largest and most successful in Scotland. The main areas of growth were to be found in sales and shop assistants whose number increased by more than 7,000 over the same period. This was after all the heyday of the great department stores in the city such as Copland & Lyle's (which had its own orchestra) and the Hugh Fraser empire was taking shape on Buchanan Street. Glaswegians loved their food, supplied by John Urie from his palatial Ca' D'oro restaurant, which was to form the base of the City Bakeries, while Peacocks delivered the city's "purveys" (catering services) for weddings and other social occasions.

F & F Palais de Danse The number of indoor domestic servants increased by fifty per cent during the 1920s, but these were to decline very quickly in the postwar years. By this time new avenues of female service employment were being generated and there were more than 7,000 office cleaners and 2,600 bus and tram collectors. The postwar years were truly the period of the Glasgow "clippie" (tram or bus conductress). Further evidence of services as consumption is revealed by the 127 cinemas in Glasgow in 1930; in 1955 there were more dance halls per head than in London.

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