May 15 2009 By Fraser Wilson
THE DOORS shut on almost 200 years of Glasgow history today as workmen moved in to close down Paddy's Market.
Stallholders young and old cleared their tables and packed-up their vans for the last time as tears and emptiness replaced the usual hustle, bustle and laughter of Shipbank Lane.
For many this is the end of the market line while others have chosen to move their stalls to the Barras market just a mile up the road.
The controversial closure comes two years after Glasgow City Council first mooted taking on the lease for the area from Network Rail and transforming the run-down flea market.
Councillors have repeatedly highlighted high levels of crime, counterfeit goods, drug taking and anti social behaviour in the area for their decision to close the facility in it's current guise.
One councillor, Bailie Gordon Matheson, notoriously dubbed the area a "crime ridden midden" - a comment which ignited a war-of-words with traders and customers which still rumbles on.
Furious traders hit back at the council claims saying the crime figures had nothing to do with the market and would persist long after Paddy's closes down. They highlighted nearby homeless hostels as being the source of the crime.
However, late last year the council revealed the stallholders had been operating without licenses.
Nevertheless the decision to close down a market, which for decades has offered cheap second-hand clothes and furniture to poverty-stricken families, has split opinion.
Hazel McGeachin, who has ran a confectionary stall on and off for 15 years, blasted the council's decision saying: "They are turning this area into a ghost town.
"You look at the market, it's a thriving market, there's a need for it and its busy every day. There will never be another Paddy's Market.
"It's for the poor people of Glasgow. It's a social and community place - people come here on a daily basis for something to do."
Like many of her Paddy's pals, Hazel is moving her stall to the Barras in the Gallowgate.
Trader Jim Baird is sad to see much-loved colleagues leave the lane for the last time. He said: "It's very emotional, I actually feel I have experienced a death in the family, it's that hollow feeling.
"I have known so many characters in the market, many of whom have died, and to think this is now the death of the market.
"It's very sad."
Customers too were devastated to hear of the market's demise.
Regular Edward Armstrong, 63, said: "I first came here when I was just 16 to buy my first suit. It only cost s1. This place hold lots of memories for me. It will be a great loss to everybody when it is gone."
During its heyday, there were more than 1500 street traders selling goods, originally from a site in the city's Market Lane.
In the 1850s, it was moved to make way for the St Enoch railway viaduct and it moved several times before settling in Shipbank Lane in 1935.
But now Glasgow City Council plan to use the area to house council offices and to sub-let property to arts and business organisations.
Councillor George Ryan, the council's executive member for business and the economy, said: "The plan identified for the future development and management of the Paddy's Market and Bridgegate site offers a fresh start and the best opportunity to revitalise the area.
"Traders who share the new vision for the market can participate in an exciting way ahead for this historic site.
"Shipbank Lane and Bridgegate can play a key role in linking the regeneration of the Merchant City and the Waterfront.
"The improved facilities and a wider range of traders attracted by the redevelopment of this area will make this a more desirable destination for both the people of Glasgow and our visitors."