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Minister for Culture & External Affairs' speech at the Historic Govan Launch

24 February 2010

This speech was given by Fiona Hyslop, Minister for Culture & External Affairs, at the Historic Govan: Archaeology and Development Publication Launch on 24 February 2010 in Govan.

It’s a great pleasure to be here in Govan today, particularly in this magnificent building. The Pearce Institute is a great example of how buildings can really represent a community’s confidence, success and sense of itself, something for which Govan should rightly be celebrated.

But this building reminds us how communities have to adapt to meet changing circumstances. That we are here today to launch Historic Govan represents the resilience of both the building, and the community as a whole.

And what a community. Govan is truly remarkable and has an extraordinarily rich and diverse history. Quite simply, it is one of the longest surviving communities in Scotland. As Stephen Driscoll’s excellent work shows, Govan Old Parish Church is a potent symbol of community and continuity. The tombs, stones and other monuments it contains are simply breathtaking.

But, as anyone who studies communities (in particular urban ones) will know, they must adapt, and will inevitably go through sometimes quite painful changes. Govan is no exception, but what truly impresses me is the resilience, strength and, above all, continuity of this place.

That is why this new publication is so valuable. Over time, especially a period as long as Govan’s history, there is inevitably a loss of meaning and understanding. Stories are lost or become confused. It becomes harder to appreciate a community’s past. And when you have a past as long as Govan’s, from early Christian centre to power house of the Second City, change takes many forms: a change in the layout of streets, the prominence of key buildings, the changing stories of the inhabitants themselves.

The Burgh Survey Reports are so useful and important because they bring all these strands together, to provide a resource for studying and better understanding the past. But just as critically, by looking back, recording, understanding and - most important of all - celebrating Govan’s remarkable history, they help us to make a better foundation for the future.

Govan has a lot of heritage to offer; Fairfield’s, Govan Old Parish Church, St Anthony’s Church, Ibrox Stadium, or the cleverly-converted Orkney Street Police Station. But some of its treasures are less well-known. There are hidden gems, like the little farmhouse which survives in Elder Park. With this book in their hand, I am sure people will enjoy discovering all of these, along with the burgh’s internationally important archaeology. Heritage is a valuable resource for education and tourism. Teachers and their pupils are encouraged to focus on understanding their local history, and in Govan they really have a wealth of material to study.

What we see here in Govan is heritage-led regeneration in action, realising its contribution to strong economic performance and social harmony. A recent government report concluded that the historic environment is ‘a highly significant contributor to the Scottish economy’ and that the sector employs more than 41,000 people’. We must recognise the economic, as well as the cultural, value of investing in our historic communities.

The Govan Cross Townscape Heritage Initiative is a £5.3m project to repair and revitalise key buildings in the Central Govan Conservation Area.  It’s a project led by Glasgow City Council with its partners the Heritage Lottery, the Scottish Government and Govan and Craigton Community Planning Partnership.  The basis for this investment is a clear understanding of cultural value. This book reinforces our shared belief that Govan is an important, historic place that adds value to people’s lives. I am delighted to be able to celebrate that with you here today.

In closing I would like offer my warmest thanks to the project team who have brought this publication to fruition. In particular I want to thank the co-authors, Chris Dalglish and Stephen Driscoll. I would also like to thank the Council for British Archaeology, co-publishers of the volume with Historic Scotland. Finally, my thanks to our hosts here today, and, of course, the people of Govan.

For further information

Jennifer Johnston Watt
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8070 or 07827 956866