An Clachan at the 1938 Empire Exhibition

'An clachan’ is a Gaelic phrase meaning small village or hamlet. During the Empire Exhibition held in Bellahouston Park in 1938, 'an clachan' was an imitation Highland village consisting of nine different buildings over two and a half acres, designed by the architect Colin Sinclair. The village contained a ‘Chief’s Castle’, a smithy, a weaver’s cottage, a black house (a traditional stone-built house), an inn and a cottage that acted as a Post Office. There was also a ‘mountain burn’ ending in a 150ft loch. The interior of the Chief’s Castle was used as a concert hall and played host to a ceilidh or two.

The site was one of the most popular at the Empire Exhibition with over one million people paying to visit. The Post Office was a main attraction where visitors could buy specially designed postcards to send to friends and family.  The popularity of the clachan at the 1911 Scottish National Exhibition held in Kelvingrove Park meant that it would be included in the Empire Exhibition twenty seven years later. During the Exhibition An Clachan was home to genuine Gaelic-speaking Highlanders who carried out daily tasks as if they were at home. One of the Highlanders, Mary Morrison from Barra, worked at her spinning wheel while singing Gaelic laments.

In Alastair Borthwick’s book, ‘The Empire Exhibition Fifty Years On: A Personal Reminiscence,’ the author discusses the clachan’s popularity and provides an excellent quote by the general manager, George, who did not seem to be as taken by the village as the visitors were, “While I have yet to be convinced of the desirability of displaying to the world at large, houses of the type in which no human being should be expected to live in the year 1938, there can be no doubt as to the drawing power of the Clachan.”


The Post Office with Tait Tower in the background


A postcard from the Post Office


The Chief’s Castle and the loch with the painted background

The weaver’s cottage


The Inn


A boat on the loch


The cottages


The ruined kirk


The bridge over the 'mountain burn' was a popular spot to write postcards


The location of An Clachan today at Bellahouston Park