The Glasgow legend behind the 'only tree on Argyle Street'

·3-min read
A Liverpool tramcar being recycled in Glasgow, 1953 <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
A Liverpool tramcar being recycled in Glasgow, 1953 (Image: Newsquest)

TO GENERATIONS of Glaswegians, it is a romantic symbol of endurance.

The only tree in Argyle Street is a 75-foot tall ash, casting shade over the blonde sandstone tenements of Franklin Terrace.

Our picture has captured a tram (another favourite symbol of the city) passing by in September 1962.

Glasgow Times: The only tree in Argyle Street....
Glasgow Times: The only tree in Argyle Street....

The only tree in Argyle Street.... (Image: Newsquest)

Unlike the tree, which survives to this day, the trams are no longer, of course. As this photo was taken in early September 1962, this picture captures one of the last trams to ride through the city streets.

Experts reckon the tree has been there for more than 160 years.

James Cowan, in his 1935 book, From Glasgow's Treasure Chest, poetically explains: “At the west end of Argyle Street there is a four-storeyed tenement known as Franklin Terrace, which has a narrow strip of garden ground in front of it.

“About the middle of the tenement at No 1223 Argyle Street, there stands a very tall Ash tree, its highest branches reaching far above the top windows of the tenement.

“This tree is unusually graceful for an Ash, its slender trunk almost being as straight as a ships mast; and there are no heavy side branches to spoil its symmetry.

"This slenderness is no doubt owing to the shaded position causing the tree to stretch up to the light. It is quite the most graceful Ash I have seen.”

He also explains why the tree appeared on this spot.

"In conversation with a friend I learned exactly how it came to be there," he writes.

"A friend of his used to live in the house in front of which the tree stands. A member of this friend’s family brought home some primrose roots from the place he had been on holiday, and set them out in the plot.

"The earth around one of those roots must have continued the Ash tree seed, and when the sapling came up it was allowed to remain. That story may not be so sentimentally interesting as one or two others which exist about the tree, but it has the merit of being the true one."

Talking of trams, pictures in the Glasgow Times archive reveal our city was ahead of its time when it came to recycling back in 1953…

This shot of a Liverpool tram being brought to the Glasgow depot accompanied a story which revealed transport chiefs had purchased 24 of the English city’s vehicles, at a cost of £500 each.

“Delivery was taken by the Transport Department yesterday of the first 24 tramcars which have been bought from Liverpool Corporation for £500 each,” said our report, in September 1953.

“The vehicles were transported by road in trailers. After adjustments and repainting, costing about £100 each, the tramcars are expected to be ready for service in Glasgow in a few weeks.”

The reporter pointed out that the cars were 17 years old but added optimistically that they were estimated to have a “remaining life” of 20 years.

(Glasgow trams ceased operating less than a decade later).

This was accompanied by news that around 11 miles of abandoned tram tracks were to be lifted on routes “now served by trolley-buses.”

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:

Do you remember city streets full of trams? Share your memories and old photos by emailing or write to Ann Fotheringham, c/o The Print Centre, 125 Fullarton Drive, Cambuslang, Glasgow G32 8FG.