Tongland (gang area)

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Tongland graffiti in the Calton area of Glasgow, 2004

Tongland is a local nickname for the area of Calton, Glasgow controlled in the 1960s by a violent Scottish teenage gang called the Tongs. The Tongs financed themselves using a protection racket, levying money on shops within their territory, and they marked that territory out in graffiti with their slogan "Tongs Ya Bass".[citation needed]

The origin of their name has varied legends, one legend is told thus: "In the 1960s, in an East-End cinema near Fielden Street,[1] some of the local Calton gang with some leader called McCabe were watching a film, The Terror of the Tongs.[2] about the Chinese secret society...

"...when McCabe shouted out 'Tongs ya Bas' for the first time. McCabe consequently renamed himself Terror McCabe"[3]

This is a legend and may not be a historical event. The name Tongs may have a combined origin:

Calton in the 19th century was ruled by the brutal "San Toys" gang,[4] and that name was written with wildly varied misspellings: 'San Toi' in the 1930s[5]

"Ya bass" is generally taken as the Glasgow slang for "you bastard", though it has been proposed it could be the Gaelic war cry aigh bas meaning "battle and die".[6] Another Glasgow gang slogan was "Spur ya Bass". "Tongs Ya Bass" arguably became Glasgow's unofficial motto in the 1960s and 1970s.[7]

Tongland appears in Gillies MacKinnon's 1995 movie Small Faces, set in the 1960s.[8] The Tongs and other gangs' power over the area and their decline in the 1970s is described in Janey Godley's 2005 autobiography, Handstands in the Dark.[9]


  1. ^ Scotia cinema (7 Millerston Street): "Completely demolished". Moderne interior tyling. Closed as cinema 1964, Bingo until 1985, demolished 1987,; accessed 4 October 2015.
  2. ^ The Terror of the Tongs was a 1961 low budget Hammer film.
  3. ^ DS Forums: Tongs ya bass date 19 Oct 2008
  4. ^ Easterhouse gangs in the 1960s (documentary),; retrieved 5 September 2015.
  5. ^ "Razor Gangs Ruled the Streets But Even In the Violence of Pre-war Years One Man Stood Out". 19 October 2007. 
  6. ^ "'Ya bass' = ancient Gaelic expression "battle and die"". Retrieved 4 October 2015.  'Today' International Child and Youth Care Network; retrieved September 2013.
  7. ^ "The Scotsman". 2 September 2004. 
  8. ^ "British Film Institute review of Small Faces". Retrieved 4 October 2015. 
  9. ^ Godley, Janey. Handstands in the Dark (2005), Chapter 10