Alex Glasgow

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Alex Glasgow (14 October 1935 – 14 May 2001) was a singer-songwriter from Low Fell, Gateshead, England. He was educated at Gateshead Grammar School where he founded the Caprians, a choir that, 55 years on[when?] and still counting, is thriving. He graduated in German at the University of Leeds. He wrote the songs and music for the successful musical plays Close the Coal House Door and On Your Way, Riley! by Alan Plater, and scripts for the TV drama When the Boat Comes In, the theme song of which he sang. He also worked in Germany and emigrated to Australia in 1981.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Alex met Paddy (Patricia) Wallace at Leeds University in 1955. They later married in Bremen, North Germany on 5 July 1961. They had their first child Richie (Richard Duncan) in 1963, their second Dan (Daniel Alexander) in 1965. Ruth their daughter was born in 1968.

Alex was a traditional working class singer-songwriter. His style would be regarded as solidly within the British (and wider) folk music tradition. He became widely known for his own style of Geordie folk songs, often on political topics, generally socialist and/or trades union-focused. He wrote his own songs, not all political, and earlier in his career sang versions of other popular Geordie folk and socialist political tunes and some of the best of these can be found on albums such as Songs of (Alex Glasgow) and Now and Then. His songs included "The Sunsets, Bonny Lad (the sunsets, that will drive your breath away)", "Any Minute Now", "(They're) Turning the Clock Back (he could hear his granny say)", "The Mary Baker City Mix", "In My Town" and "When It's Ours" (Jackie Boy, when it's ours...).

He is particularly well remembered for the song cycle "The Tyne Slides By" written in the 1970s for the BBC series The Camera and the Song. The cycle covers the life of a working person in Newcastle when there was still work to be had in the shipyards, from childhood and schooling, early experience of work, the exuberance of free Saturday afternoons and going to see Newcastle United F.C. play, musing on a working life as the ship goes down the slipway, grandparenthood and death.

Alex has six grandchildren: Katie, Tom, Jude, Beck, Saul and Aleksei.


Glasgow was also a writer and radio and television broadcaster; he presented the BBC 2 arts programme New Release in 1967, amongst other series. He was reportedly even a 'house husband' for a while, (while his wife retrained as a social worker) and known among his friends and neighbours as a fine baker of fresh bread! In addition, he once had a hit in the German pop charts and his theme music from When the Boat Comes In reached the UK pop charts. Some of Glasgow's songs are furthermore ones with real pain and sorrow and are said to be able to make the listener cry. These include songs like "Time Enough Tomorrow (for a sad song...)", "The Harlequin (turn up your coat collar the wind)" and "And I Shall Cry Again (but I'll know why again)". He was a long-time friend and collaborator of the playwright and actor Henry Livings with whom he starred in a 1971 comedy sketch series for BBC2 Get The Drift, based on their stage show, The Northern Drift. This included a riotous version of "As Soon as This Pub Closes (The Revolution Starts)". In 1980, he appeared with Livings at the Perth Festival in Western Australia in The Northern Drift. Glasgow fell in love with the country and emigrated the following year.


Glasgow was born in the 1930s Depression in a North East England miner's family. As a result, he became an ardent socialist, to some extent wearing his pain, anger and politics on his sleeve, but also mirroring twentieth century post-war Britain. That world, however, finally disappeared and, perhaps finally succumbing to modern living, Alex moved with his family and spent his last years in a new life in Fremantle, Western Australia. He died on 14 May 2001, against expectations perhaps, in Australia rather than in the (English) North East.


His songs include several which explore the contradictions of socialism, both inside and outside the Labour Party such as The Socialist ABC, My Daddy Is A Left-Wing Intellectual, Little Cloth Cap, and As Soon As This Pub Closes.

Alex Glasgow moved to Australia because he suffered from arthritis and the climate in Perth was expected to give him some relief – and enable him to continue playing the guitar.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "'Geordie' anthem singer honoured". BBC News. 27 February 2006. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 

External links[edit]

  • [1] Folk music discussion thread at on his life and work
  • [2] Obituary by Alan Plater in the Guardian 17 May 2001
  • [3] Alex Glasgow CDs from MWM, including list of songs
  • [4] Alex Glasgow's Socialist ABC