‘They’ve just blown up my childhood!’ That was the emotional, spontaneous, reaction from Finlay McKay, one of the hundreds of people watching Red Road flats being demolished on Sunday 10 June in Glasgow.
Firefighter Finlay was born and brought up on the 25th floor of the Petershill Drive triple block. ‘Staying there was fantastic. I loved it. I’ve still got the pals I had then and living there made me the person I am today. But now, seeing the building come down so very, very quickly….I’m shocked.’ The 42-year-old had brought his daughter Cara (9) and her friends Connor (6) and Taylor (8) to see the GHA’s latest move in its massive re-generation plans. Since GHA was formed in 2003, Scotland’s largest social landlord has invested more than £1.1 billion in refurbishing, modernising and improving homes across the city.
Said Finlay: ‘I left in 1991. My Mum and Dad are dead, now. I’ve moved to my own house in Swinton and tell stories of growing up in the Red Road flats, but that’s the last physical link with ‘who you are’ – gone for me. I thought the building would come down in stages, so I’m shocked it happened so suddenly.’
The controlled explosion used around 275 kilos of explosive to bring down the triple block in seconds. The lower ten storeys of the steel-framed building will be demolished later using long reach machinery. The entire site will take months to clear. Steel will be re-cycled and the rubble crushed to make foundations for roads and buildings.
Around 2000 people were temporarily evacuated from their homes in the area, including residents of a care home, to allow the operation to be completed safely.
Said GHA Executive Director of Development and Regeneration, Alex McGuire: ‘The Red Road flats were popular in their day and are known around the world, but their time has come to an end. We’re pleased the demolition of the first of them went according to plan.’ The remaining seven multi-storey blocks will be demolished by 2017.
William Sinclair, Managing Director of demolition contractors Safedem, said: ‘The Red Road flats have presented a unique series of challenges ranging from the size of the buildings to the steel frame structure.We’re delighted to be involved in another successful demolition for GHA – our 17thwith them since 2005.’
MSP Patricia Ferguson also spent her childhood in a flat in a Red Road block. ‘My family left a room and kitchen in Maryhill to come to a fantastic flat on the 21st floor of a different block from the one demolished today,’ she said after watching the event. ‘The thing to remember is – that tenement with the room and kitchen – is still standing. It has been re-furbished and continues to provide good homes for people. But there is no doubt, the Red Road flats have come to the end of their time and it is right that they come down now.’
A BBC Newsnight film on living in the Red Road flats is due to be screened on Monday 11 June at 22.30.