At the end of the 18th century Glasgow's population was around 60,000. In the city itself and in the surrounding areas weaving was the main occupation.
The weavers faced difficulties however. New industrial processes threatened their traditional craft based work practices. The American War of Independence had reduced the supply of cotton from plantations of the American South. Plus employers were frantically trying to reduce costs.
Weavers in and around Glasgow heard in June 1787 that payments for weaving muslin were to be cut. This would be the second such reduction in just eight months. A decision was therefore made to strike. This was the first recorded strike in Glasgow's history.
Mass protests by the weavers soon followed. Often they met on Glasgow Green. On Monday 3rd September however the authorities heard that a large number of Calton Weavers had gathered near the Gallowgate. The Lord Provost and Magistrates went to tell them to disperse. However they were stoned by the crowd. News then spread that the weavers were going to march to Glasgow Cathedral.
The 39th Regiment of Foot were sent in under the command of Colonel Kellett. The army and the weavers clashed near Drygate Bridge and soldiers were ordered to open fire. Three weavers were killed instantly and three more mortally wounded. Thousands attended the subsequent funerals.
A strike leader, James Grainger, was also put on trial accused of "forming illegal combinations." He would later be found guilty and flogged.
The strike itself dragged on until October of the same year. Although not ultimately successful it was a sign of struggles to come. The weavers would be at the forefront of further revolts and would strike again in 1812.