'Food, shelter, showers' - how Pollokshields rallied after fire

By Jonathan Peters
BBC Scotland news

Image caption,
General secretary Dalbjeet Singh Dilber, with Shindo Kaur (left) and Prabhjot Virhia (right) outside the temple's kitchen

When fire destroyed a tenement in Glasgow earlier this week, forcing about 20 people from their homes, the local Sikh temple opened its doors to help. We spoke to some of the worshippers and other locals about the fire - and its impact on the community.

"We always help anybody in crisis, we are always there to help them," said Daljeet Singh Dilber, from the Glasgow Gurdwara.

"This is the basic principle of the Sikh religion."

As emergency services dealt with the fire on Albert Street, in Glasgow's Pollokshields, locals were eager to offer other kinds of help.

Image caption,
Local residents watch from behind the police cordon as emergency services continue to deal with the fire

Less than half a mile away, members of the Glasgow Gurdwara opened its doors to those affected.

"Food, money, shelter, showers, anything they need," said Mr Dilber, general secretary of the temple.

"Anytime, anywhere in Glasgow, anything that happens then we can help. This is our nature."

Image caption,
The Glasgow Gurdwara, a local Sikh temple which opened its doors to people affected by the fire

As fire spread through the building, gas, electricity and water were cut off in the area. The temple put out a call to the community, on their local radio and social media, saying they could seek shelter in the building.

Worshippers at the Gurdwara, who are celebrating the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, said they were shocked to see such devastation so close by.

"Everybody was offering help," said Shindo Kaur, who works in the office at the Gurdwara. "The fire brigade and the police came to use the toilet. A couple of them had a drink. Anything they wanted really."

Image source, Nicola Sturgeon
Image caption,
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted a photo of the aftermath of the "devastating" fire

Ms Kaur was among the first people on the scene after the fire broke out. She wanted to make sure the community and emergency services knew the temple's doors were open if they needed it.

"Everybody got together, it was a quick response from the community," she said.

"Early on they didn't even have gas and electric, and no water for hours. So a lot of people came here."

Image caption,
Local residents are worried about the damage to adjacent buildings in this historic Glasgow cross

The fire in the 143-year-old B-listed building destroyed the shop and the homes above it. It is thought to have started in the Strawberry and Spice Garden minimarket late on Sunday evening.

The loss of a building right in the centre of the community left many residents distressed.

Muhammad and Uzma Ali grew up in Pollokshields. Their daughter, who attends one of the local schools, felt anxious at the sight and smell of the fire.

"It's just really upsetting," said Mr Ali.

Image caption,
Muhammad Ali said the fire had affected the entire community

Several businesses are still shut in the surrounding area, with reports of extensive damage to the properties closest to the fire.

A rest centre was opened for affected residents in the early hours of Monday morning at the Tramway centre, a short walk from the fire.

Few people attended, which may be due to the help already provided in the community.

Image caption,
Emergency services are still attending the scene with water cannons

Niall Murphy, deputy director of Glasgow City Heritage Trust, said the building was historically significant because of its architecture and position in the community.

"The important thing was that it was one of Glasgow's crosses, and not many of them survive," he said.

The city's traditional Victorian town centre crossroads were almost all demolished during the 1960s and 1970s as the city was redeveloped.

"About 40% of the city was cleared at that point," he explained.

Image caption,
Police tape surrounds the roads by the collapsed building

Where the building once stood, blackened timbers, interior walls and doors are now exposed to view.

The fire has left both a physical and symbolic hole in the heart of the community.