Credit: Lisa Paul

The spy who lectured me: five things you didn’t know about The Glasgow Guardian

By Chloe Waterhouse

From conspiracy theorists to CIA spies, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Chloe Waterhouse delves into The GG archives to unearth some revelations.

In 1932, The Gilmorehill Globe was conceived, a four-page spread that included strings of rhyming poetry called “Globlets” and a feature honouring the Duke and Duchess of York’s attendance at the University graduation ceremony. Fast forward 88 years, and the paper now has an illustrious history, spanning decades of blood, sweat, and scandal. From rock stars to CIA spies, there has never been a dull moment for The Glasgow Guardian. Controlled chaos, some might say. I proceed to share the five most intriguing things you probably didn’t know about our acclaimed paper.

The 12th Doctor produced illustrations for us

Yes, you read that right. Back in 1977, Peter Capaldi was a fresh-faced 18-year-old student at The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) wanting some extra kudos for his illustrative talents. The Doctor Who and The Thick of It star consulted The Glasgow Guardian, where his illustrations were used to accompany a wacky three-part story within the paper called “Born Giant”. Spanning across three issues, the plotline centres upon a boy called James the Bell and his perilous search for giants. There’s a lion, there are ice-dragons, there’s yer Glaswegian nana. Can you envision an 18-year-old Peter Capaldi storming The Glasgow Guardian office screeching “Who did your media training, Myra Hindley?”. From his brief stint illustrating for The Glasgow Guardian, Capaldi evolved into a bonafide stud, even cavorting as a punk-rock frontman for The Dreamboys (formerly known as the Bastards from Hell). 

We exposed a former CIA spy working in the politics department

Aptly titled “The spy who lectured me”, The Glasgow Guardian landed this huge exposé in 2004, when a visiting professor was found to have been a former CIA officer. Unbeknownst to the University, this professor gained notoriety in 1984, after having used his undergraduate class for a top-secret CIA project without their knowledge. Written by Ruaridh Arrow (now a Bafta award-winning film-maker and journalist), the report reveals that a Professor Richard Mansbach of Iowa State University applied for an academic swap within the University of Glasgow’s politics department for the school year 2002/3. The University was unaware of Mansbach’s involvement in a defamatory college scandal back in 1984. Though having left US intelligence in 1983, tensions with the Soviet Union intensified and the US was deploying Pershing II and cruise missiles in western Europe. Subsequently, Mansbach was asked by the CIA to form a secret research team to monitor European non-state actors. And who did he recruit? That’s right, his undergraduate class. In exchange for academic credit, these students would produce data-intensive reports for Mansbach, completely oblivious to the fact they were covert CIA workers. As a result of this disarming revelation, claims were fired that the University was not even performing cursory checks on visiting staff. Controversial indeed. 

Kurt Cobain showed us his teen spirit 

I don’t know how we managed to cop this one, but two months after Nevermind was released in September 1991, Nirvana was happy to chat shit with us before performing to a 1,400 strong crowd at the Queen Margaret Union (QMU). This was the only gig Nirvana ever played in Scotland. In comparison to the lacklustre, shoe-gazing indie bands parading around Sauchiehall St at the time, Nirvana reeked of teen spirit and sonic nihilism, with our writer magnetised by Cobain’s razor blade vocals and sullen disposition. Within the interview, Cobain emphasises “complete artistic control, we designed the t-shirts, chose the support bands, designed the record sleeve”. They are inspired by The Pixies, The Breeders, and The Vaselines; Cobain writes “80-90%” of the lyrics. Pictured next to a showtimes sign at the QMU, Dave Grohl is brooding with his top off, Krist Novoselic is smirking, and Kurt Cobain is deep in a pensive state. Probably thinking about where to get a pizza crunch supper after the gig.

David Icke gave us the ick

The Isle of Wight is a quaint little spot, neatly nestled away from the hodge-podge and turmoil of mainstream society. Former residents include Queen Victoria, John Keats, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, oh, and the self-proclaimed son of God David Icke. One of The Glasgow Guardian team travelled there in 2006 to pick the brains of Britain’s most incendiary conspiracy theorist, gaining exclusive access to Icke’s family home in Ryde. Formerly a professional footballer and BBC sports pundit, Icke took an unprecedented career turn in the form of lizard hunting and “Ickeology” (the notion that there is an organisation of secret rulers who are shape-shifting lizards, interbreeding extra-terrestrials intent upon enslaving the human race). Icke talks to our reporter about mind control, lamenting the sinister world of MKUltra, an American government technique for controlling individuals without their consent. He insists that this was the method used to assassinate Bobby Kennedy, and believes that it has been performed on thousands of American children. Ironically, however, during this meeting our reporter perceives Icke to be a “conspiracy sponge”, merely rehashing used material to suit his own narratives. Ickes vilification by the British press is entirely justified, as even his views are cluttered and under-developed. Icke even endorses The Protocol of the Elders of Zion, a document describing a plan for Jewish global domination, largely recognised as fake. According to our reporter, Ickes eyes bulge with terror as he gesticulates: “Keeping quiet is no longer an option, the tornado is coming!” It makes for a very intense read, ick and all. 

In 2004, we revealed the Glasgow University Union (GUU) used uni funding to finance their porn subscription

As an impending financial crisis for the University loomed, and the fate of frontline student services was looking bleak, the GUU had other, far more pressing matters at hand. That being the pleasure principle; porn, porn, and more porn. In a scathing reveal, The Glasgow Guardian uncovered that the GUU used part of their funding on subscriptions to The Adult Channel, an ex board-member dismissively stating: “It’s what board members do when they get drunk. It’s one of the benefits. It’s quite funny.” In addition to this, the mismanagement of funds to spend on recreational items like takeaways and drink resulted in the GUU spending £13,000 more than the QMU in 2003. This culture of incompetence and financial apathy led to an outcry for widespread reform within the union. Originally a banned issue, the paper was released after a fortnight of legal conflict. The GUU even threatened court action, the financing of which would have plunged the SRC into bankruptcy.Time Lords, spy conspiracies, and shape-shifting lizards, The Glasgow Guardian has been on the controversial frontlines throughout time, unearthing fresh stories with mystery to boot. After such a dramatic year it’s worth hoping for a quiet start back to classes, but whatever puzzles are waiting for us this time, it’s The Glasgow Guardian that’ll crack them.


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