Glasgow & West Scotland

Sir Alex Ferguson supports fund for Mary Barbour statue

Mary Barbour Image copyright Glasgow City Council
Image caption Mary Barbour was elected as one Glasgow's first female councillors in 1920

Sir Alex Ferguson has returned to his home city of Glasgow to support a campaign to erect a statue in honour of social reformer Mary Barbour.

The Scots football legend has already pledged £5,000 towards the cost.

Mary, who like Sir Alex came from Govan, led the Glasgow rent strikes of 1915, which forced a change in the law to curtail profiteering landlords.

She is widely regarded as one of the most important social reformers of the last century.

Speaking ahead of his visit to Glasgow's City Chambers, Sir Alex said: "I take great pride in coming from Govan. It's a place where I grew up learning the value of hard graft, resolve and resilience.

'Formidable firebrand'

"Mary Barbour is also from Govan and possessed all these attributes. She successfully mobilised people from far and wide to take direct action against social injustice and changed the law of the land.

"A formidable firebrand, she was courageous and compassionate in equal measure. I'm delighted at this opportunity to pay my respects to Mary Barbour with my £5,000 donation to the Remember Mary Barbour Fund."

The scheme which Sir Alex is supporting came about following a motion by Councillor Pauline McKeever in May 2013 urging the city council to support the Remember Mary Barbour committee's campaign for a statue in her memory.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Alex has pledged £5,000 towards the statue fund

Lord Provost Sadie Docherty, who welcomed Sir Alex on Thursday, said: "As we mark the centenary of the First World War the significance of Mary Barbour cannot be underestimated.

"It would be such a pity if her contribution to women and children and a fairer society was allowed to fade.

"It's high time she received permanent recognition and it's wonderful that the Remember Mary Barbour campaign, to erect a statue in her memory, will finally allow a lasting tribute to her vision, courage and convictions."

The Glasgow rent strikes took place at the height of World War One, with 20,000 people taking to the streets in protest against profiteering landlords.

Council service

The mobilisation of Barbour's Army saw thousands of women march alongside shipyard and engineering workers to protest at the prosecution in Glasgow's small debt court of 18 tenants for non-payment of a rent increase.

The campaign attracted ministerial intervention, the cases were dismissed and the Rent Restriction Act was enacted, heralding a change in Glasgow's housing system.

Post-war, Ms Barbour maintained her vision and determination to deliver better policies for women and children across the city.

Image caption The Glasgow rent strike during the First World War brought Mary Barbour to prominence

In 1920 she was elected as the city's Labour town councillor for the Fairfield ward in Govan with huge support from the women she fought for.

Until her retirement in 1931 she worked relentlessly for the working class of her constituency, serving on numerous committees concerned with health and welfare services - leading campaigns for free school milk, children's play parks, municipal wash houses and the city's first family planning clinic.

Even after she withdrew from politics, Ms Barbour remained active in the Co-operative Committees, and in her later years organised trips to the seaside for children of the poor.

She died in 1958 at the age of 83.

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