The district of Glasgow that oddly bears the name of a 19th century Swedish opera star


It’s one of Glasgow’s most curious sights – how exactly Jenny Lind’s neighborhood, an unassuming estate south of the Clyde, came to share its name with a Swedish opera star of the 19th century?

Largely built up in the 1920s, the area was part of the farmland of the Maxwell family’s Pollok estate, where Swedish nightingale Jenny Lind spent a night at one of their farms.

After her stay, the landowners decided that the inn would be renamed Jenny.

Unfortunately, the details of her visit are unclear – all that is certain is that she spent the night there at some point in her career.

At the turn of the 20th century, landowner Sir John Stirling Maxwell agreed with local authorities that houses would be built “south of Jenny Lind”.

Johanna Maria “Jenny” Lind was one of the most beloved singers of the 19th century, rising to fame after her performance in Der Freischutz in 1838.

A poster promoting Jenny Lind from her UK tour (Image: Wikimedia Commons – University of Sheffield)

Jenny started singing on stage at the age of 10, after being discovered by the Royal Swedish Opera.

Her vocal range was impressive and the talented soloist often wrote her own passages.

She was in high demand in roles during the 1840s, mingling with high society across Europe.

Jenny moved closer to a fairy tale romance when legendary Danish author Hans Christian Andersen fell in love with her, although she did not return his feelings.

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When she made her UK debut, Queen Victoria attended all sixteen performances of Jenny at Her Majesty’s Theater in London.

During one act, Queen Victoria was reportedly so impressed that she threw a bouquet at the singer’s feet.

Like many opera singers, Jenny retired from acting at the age of 29.

Her last operatic appearance was in 1849, when she starred in Robert le Diable – although she continued to perform around the world.

In 1850, she went to America at the invitation of the showman Phineas Taylor Barnum and gave nearly 100 concerts under his direction.

This story was told in the 2017 film The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman, with Jenny played by Rebecca Ferguson.

A painting of Jenny Lind by artist Eduard Magnus (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
A painting of Jenny Lind by artist Eduard Magnus (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

In real life, his impression of the United States borders on mania, with Jenny Lind dolls, chewing tobacco and sheet music flying off the shelves.

Despite what the film’s narrative may hint at, Lind and Barnum were never romantically entangled – with both parties focusing on business rather than pleasure.

She continued to tour under her own direction, earning thousands of dollars which she donated to charity – mostly to educational institutions in Sweden.

Towards the end of her life, Jenny taught at the Royal College of Music in London before dying in 1887.

Glasgow can’t claim to be alone in taking inspiration from the Swedish singer – with a Jenny Lind Creek in Australia, a Jenny Lind Island in Canada and many streets in America named after her.


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