The Christmas Tree

A number of years ago, the Gorbals district of Glasgow was one of the most  deprived areas in Western Europe

This is a photograph from as recently as 1958:


Glasgow Corporation decided to demolish most of the slum dwellings and to rehouse some of the tenants in three multi-storey tower blocks which were designed by the most famous architect of the day, Sir Basil Spence.

When they were completed, they looked drab and dreary (Sir Basil is alleged to have said “To reflect the Glasgow skyline”).

Three rather dull grey high rise rising up to dwarf the remaining tenements below them.

With great imagination and ingenuity, the City Fathers decided to name them:

  • “A Block”
  • “B Block
  • “C  Block

But with the characteristic spirit and wit of the Glaswegian, the new tenants renamed them:

  • “Alcatraz”
  • “Barlinnie
  • “Csing-Csing”

There’s something robust about the human spirit – the ability to rise above even the most depressing of circumstances and to assent that even in the wilderness, light and life and even laughter too

One Christmas, some time after the Tower Blocks had been built and were already falling into a state of disrepair, a photograph appeared (in the “Glasgow Herald” newspaper).  It was of the same three multi-storeys , surrounded by derelict wasteland which was full of almost crater-sized potholes, rubbish and broken glass.

And, in the centre of the picture, perched on top of a rubbish heap, amidst the harsh, grim, wretched wasteland of the area around it, there stood……… a Christmas Tree 

Nobody knew how it got there or who had rigged up the  fairy lights which shone so brightly.  No one knew who put the star on the top of it or even how they managed to plug the lights into the  mains electricity supply……….. or at least nobody was saying!

In the middle of this run down social wilderness stood a little Christmas Tree: a proclamation of hope;a beacon of light.

Oddly, in an area where vandalism was rife, the tree was left untouched. Nobody smashed the lights and wrenched the branches from it.

A light shining in the darkness – an affirmation of hope.  A declaration that humankind’s spirit can reach out for the light.

A reminder for all of us that the Light that came into the world still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never extinguished it

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Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

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