Great & Good Isabella Elder & Strong Women o' Govan â€“ Protests and Suffragettes A project in two parts
Great & Good
Isabella Elder and the Histories of Women and Protests on the Clyde
‘Great & Good’ is a creative project in two parts, each celebrating the internationally significant histories of women in the Govan and Linthouse areas of Glasgow. The first strand of the project focused on the life and works of Isabella Elder, involved three artists based in Govan, and culminated in an exhibition with sound, poetry, sculpture, and ceramics. The second strand researched the historic and under-represented role of women in protests on the River Clyde, involved an 11-member team working collaboratively with the Riverside Museum and local women’s groups, and produced an alternative heritage trail in the form of a guided walk. Isabella Elder devoted her life to philanthropic work, supporting communities and empowering the education and welfare of women in Glasgow and beyond. Artists AJ Stockwell, LA Callery, and Monica Brown researched aspects of Isabella Elder’s life and work, including the properties and land she gifted to the people of Govan and Glasgow which are still in use today. The artists responded to Isabella’s many gifts through a variety of actions using media including ceramics, performance, sound and text. Their findings were presented in August 2013 at an exhibition in Verge Gallery1 on Govan Road, across from Elder Park. The second strand of the project was initiated by artist and doctoral researcher tara s Beall, as part of her practice-based research at the University of Glasgow, working with the new Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel. Beall formed a working group or ‘team’ to explore the hidden histories of women in protest movements in Govan, and to consider how these histories might be better connected to the displays within the Riverside Museum. The team researched some of the important contributions of Rent-Strike organisers and suffragettes Mary Barbour and Helen Crawfurd, the role of women in the 1971 Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Work-In, and women’s roles in more recent political actions in Govan.
representatives from local and national organisations concerned with women’s history, including the Glasgow Women’s Library.2 The team also collaborated with local women’s groups Bead ‘n’ Blether and Wooly Wednesdays (who meet weekly at The Portal, a community space on Govan Road). Additionally, they spoke to activist Helen Kyle, visited the Kinning Park Complex (which was given to the community by Glasgow City Council after Kyle and others staged a 55 day Sit-In), and viewed old protest banners and women’s guild banners held in the Glasgow Museums Collection. The ‘Women’s histories and protests’ team developed an alternative walking trail which celebrates and honours the contributions of numerous ‘Strong women o’ Govan‘, hosting a guided walk and protest action on 23 November 2013 where these histories were voiced, streets were (temporarily) renamed, and women honoured. Drawing the ‘Great & Good’ project to a close, there was an evening of music, comedy and poetry and held in Govan Old Parish Church on 26 April 2014, which served as a launch for this project publication.
Thanks to our project partners Glasgow Women’s Library, The Riverside Museum / Glasgow Museums, Plantation Productions, and Glasgow Artist Studios. Special thanks to all those who collaborated with us and contributed so powerfully to this project, our collective actions, and research: Bead & Blether, Woolly Wednesdays, The Govan Reminiscence Group, Helen Kyle, Lindsay Keenan, Kinning Park Complex, Dr. Joan McAlpine, The Friends of Elder Park, Maria Leahy, Chani Bond, Gordon Mackay, Geraldine Greene, Graham Smith, Valerie Kitchen, Glasgow Museums Textile Conservation Room, and all at the Elder Park Library. Thanks also to our funders, The Riverside Museum / Glasgow Museums and Glasgow Arts. 1 ‘Verge’ was a project by Glasgow Artist Studios at 1220 Govan Road, and operated as a gallery and artist studio space between May 2012 and December 2013. It was previously the LUV Gallery, operated by Linthouse Housing Association alongside the LUV Café. 2 Members of the ‘Women’s histories and protests’ team are listed on page 30.
Some of the events and activities of those involved in the ‘Great & Good‘ project are represented here. Others are noted in a project blog, which charted our progress throughout the project, and serves as an archive for much of our collaborative work: www.govanshiddenhistories.wordpress.com ---
The ‘Women’s Histories and Protests’ team met between July – November 2013 and was comprised of individuals from Govan and Linthouse, staff from the Riverside Museum and Glasgow Museums, and 2
Artist, Co-Founder of Glasgow Artist Studios
The act of giving for common good and for a common purpose was integral to Isabella’s work and principles. It was by her kind and generous bounty that Govan received both Elder Park and Elder Park Library, and also that the first women in Scotland gained university education at a Scottish institution. These are just a few among her many great and good deeds which have shaped not only the burgh of Govan, but the people of Scotland as well. Greatly inspired by these acts I wanted to in some way echo these through the act of gifting in my work. The idea behind the ‘sharing vessel’ was to create a functional object that could be used by the Friends of Elder Park continually and that highlighted the hidden history of the park. My interest in this hidden history was sparked by my frequent wanderings through the park between the two spaces run by Glasgow Artist Studios (Verge and the Craigton Rd studios). I had often passed by the statue of Isabella and wanted to know more of who she was and her connection to the park.
On the surface of the vessel are five icons described below: Isabella Elder, trees, the portico, the bandstand and a llama. On 27th June 1885, Isabella Elder gifted Elder Park to the burgh of Govan in honour of her late husband and his father David Elder, with the aim of benefiting the people of this area and improving their social welfare and mobility. Upon opening the park there was a great event with processions from local businesses, societies and schools. Public decorations of banners and flags covered the streets around the park displaying the huge gratitude the people of Govan felt in receiving this great gift of common good. The pathways in Elder Park are lined by avenues of trees; both mature and young trees are represented on the ‘sharing vessel’. Trees are an important feature of Elder Park and the Friends of Elder Park continue to plant and help nurture these, encouraging new growth in the park. The portico was originally part of the frontage of the mansion house, once sited out with Elder Park and re-erected in the park in 1921 after the mansion was demolished. This icon from Linthouse’s past is an indication of the past grandeur of the area, and notes continued interest in the preservation of its history.
At the central point of the park was erected an octagonal bandstand which has since been removed. In Isabella’s original ‘Deed of Gift’ it was stipulated that live music should be provided twice weekly during the summer months, for the enjoyment of all. One of the park’s popular features when it first opened was a small zoo. Here a llama was the star attraction, and can been seen in images and postcards from the time. The Gifting On Saturday 31st August 2013 the ‘sharing vessel’ was gifted to the Friends of Elder Park at a public ceremony in the rose garden, in Elder Park where there stands a statue of Isabella Elder. I would like to give special thanks to Maria Leahy, Chair and Chani Bond, Secretary of the Friends of Elder Park for their support on the day and during the project. I must also thank Gordon Mackay for his wonderful speech and for his wealth of knowledge. There is a rich history to Elder Park and I would hope that my ‘sharing vessel’ goes some way to illuminating this, playing its part in the history of Elder Park. Thanks also to Elder Park Library, the Friends of Elder Park, and to everyone I spoke to during our residency at Verge. We have all shared in this history.
Monica Brown Sound Artist & Radio Producer
At the start of the project, I interviewed Dr. Joan McAlpine, author of ‘The Lady of Claremont House’, which uncovers the story of Isabella Elder. Joan shone a light on the many achievements and philanthropic activities of Isabella Elder in the interview, and her enthusiasm for Isabellaʼs work and legacy was infectious. During the ‘Great & Good’ public research residency, I installed a short excerpt of the audio interview with Joan in a listening post at Verge. I wanted visitors to the exhibition to be able to look through the large windows of Verge across to the Elder Park and hear all about it being gifted to the people of Govan in 1885, and imagine the annual pyrotechnics displays!
The responses were mixed with ﬁeld recordings from the Elder Park and Library and other areas around Govan. Recordings were also taken from around Claremont House, where Isabella lived for some time, and North Park House, which latterly became known as the BBC building. Earlier it was Queen Margaret College, Scotlandʼs ﬁrst and only college for women gifted by Isabella in 1884. There she helped to set up a medical school for women, another nod to her philanthropy and pioneering attitude that equal opportunities should be available for all.
My interest in the act of giving and the ripples that gift creates led to my making the completed sound piece, ‘The Greatest Gift’. I used the residency at Verge to engage with visitors about their own experiences of receiving a gift, and these were recorded. I then recorded other responses from groups such as the Friends of Elder Park, The Govan Reminiscence Group and the Womenʼs Histories and Protest Team.
Isabellaʼs Gifts to Govan & Glasgow Sound piece by Monica Brown
[Voice of Dr. Joan McAlpine] “.... Well I would say that she was a very kind and thoughtful person and she thought what could she do, to help people..... But she wasnʼt a fool... and she didnʼt give money away recklessly, only where she felt it was justiﬁed.
[Sounds of working shipyard] She was very thoughtful really when you think of the things she did, for the University and for Govan, which took in a lot of people really, it was a busy thriving place, Govan, with the ship building and so on... and so she was very good that way; she tried to make the workers happy, she tried to make their lives better.
[Sounds of Elder Park] She gave them a park, which really acted like a lung in Govan at the time, and being a shipbuilders wife she had a pond made so that they could sail their boats ..... And very cleverly she said it was not to have any depth at the edge, so that if any wee child fell in, they wouldnʼt drown themselves. And that was a very far seeing thing, it gave them somewhere to go to, somewhere to sit down, play. She gave a ﬁreworks display every year, pyrotechnics they called it. She had a bit of the park laid aside for animals for them to look at, llamas and things like that. I suppose relatively small and safe animals and this was of great beneﬁt to the people of Govan. She gave Govan a library because at that time Govan had hardly even a bookshop. And the library she had designed by the foremost architects of the time, and she made it that the library should be open on a Sunday, so that the workmen who worked all week could go and use it. So she was really attending to accidents at the work, educating the people, giving a park to improve their general health. So she did very well really by Govan.
[Sounds of a working hospital]
The little hospital outlived it’s usefulness. Although when she built it she had it to the most modern standards, with an x-ray apparatus, and we are talking about just over 1900, so that was most unusual. And she got the person who knew the most about that to buy the latest techniques. And now, and I think
this would be in keeping with what she would have thought, it is used as a home for the elderly and it has been turned in to sheltered housing and Im sure that Isabella Elder would’ve approved of that.
[Sounds of plates being laid out on a table, dishes clinking against each other] She thought it would be a good thing if the young women in the area learned to cook and provide sensible meals for the family and at a low cost. And she had a lady that came and gave them tuition on this and Mrs. Elder provided a place for this to take place and she paid the lady’s wages...... and this woman, Miss Gordon would go out to their houses too, to help them there. She also arranged that they would have at the end of each year a prize giving, now not only a prize giving but if I can just go back a bit, she encouraged them to put away money each week and as much as they put in, she put in the same to encourage them to save. On one occasion the American Consul came over .... he was working in Glasgow and came to the prize giving and was so impressed that he sent the message over to the United States that he had never seen anything to equal it. Because these young women, coming from a poor background had improved so much, and learned so much that he thought it was better than any school prize giving. Isabella was very keen to support anything that would beneﬁt women and she knew that women couldnʼt go to the University and so she was friendly with some other women who associated with the University, but not obviously of them, but perhaps their husbandʼs were perhaps professors and so on...... and they got together and they decided that it would be a good thing to have a college for women. When I was a student I knew that I went to the QM Union but it meant nothing to me, you were marked as a QM student, and that also meant nothing, because I was at the University studying medicine, the same as everyone else, then I mean. So it didnʼt mean anything to me at all, until I started looking into Isabella Elderʼs life and saw where this QM came from.....”
Creative activist, co-founder Monosyllabic & Polka Dot Punks
I was inspired by Isabella Elder as a strong female figure, someone who was always interested in philanthropic endeavours. I was struck by her gift of knowledge — gifting Elder Park Library to the people of Govan, and impressed that the Deed of Gift stated that the Library was to remain open on a Sunday to suit the working classes. Hence my book sculptures, the seed packets labelled ‘Little Women: Seeds of the Future’ and the branch that then begins blooming with knowledge. I altered books by female authors and was especially interested in manipulating the title of ‘Little Women’ by Louisa Alcott, subverting the meaning to represent women of strength, in a time period where women were not expected to be independent.
t s Beall & the WHP team
Strong Women o’ Govan – Protests and Suffragettes
On Saturday 23 November 2013, the ‘Women’s histories and protest’ project team hosted a guided walk and action — a public honouring of strong women of Govan, which focused on women’s roles in protest movements. Our walk began at the Riverside Museum, taking in two displays there before crossing the Clyde via the Govan Ferry1, and continuing along Govan Road to Elder Park. Accompanied by music, we gathered museum visitors and members of the public as we went. At nine points along our route we stopped, and a different member of our team or an invited guest shared stories and histories. For some, we grafittied the pavement, renaming and reclaiming the street using temporary chalk paint. For others, we shared old protest pamphlets and photos. Always, we honoured the hidden histories of strong women in Govan’s past and present. Our desire was to walk in the footsteps of those who had gone before us, connecting the internationally important histories of women in Govan to the buidlings and landscapes that we walk by every day. We wanted to honour the pivotal roles that women played — as catalysts, as supporters, as protesters, as political activists, and as fighters for a cause. Some of what we learned and shared is recorded here. Much of what we hoped to find is still unknown, as women’s roles, even in the histories they created, are often difficult to find. As a reader you are invited to re-enact our walk – either by reading and imagining our actions and those who came before us, or by walking it yourself. What follows is an account of much of our journey on a sunny Saturday morning in November 2013. Each section is written by a member of the ‘Women’s histories and protest’ project team (WHP team), and contains some of our research, notes on our questions and actions, and walking directions.
1 Ferry service between the Riverside Museum and Govan is intermittent. 'The Govan’s hidden histories' project hosted a free ferry for the weekend of 23 – 24 November 2013.
Women's histories and protests walk
Former site of Jacks' Bakery, Water Row (Honouring Helen Crawfurd)
Riv er Cly de Fairfield Shipyard entrance (and the lost women of the UCS Work-In)
The Portal and Plantation Productions
Upper Clyde Shipbuilder's Banner at The Riverside Museum Edwardian Dressmakers' Shop of The Riverside Museum
Isabella Elder statue
68 Shaw St Uist St â€” formerly Ure St
10 Hutton Dr - location of 1915 Rent Strike demonstration
Govan Underground (honouring Helen Kyle and Kinning Park Complex)
Upper Clyde Shipbuilder’s Banner, displayed in The Riverside Museum
The Upper Clyde Shipbuilder’s banner display gives information on the 1971 UCS Work-In, led by Jimmy Reid and other shop stewards who worked in Fairfield Shipyards. (Have a look at the museum display, and the digital screen which tells much about these events). The histories surrounding the UCS Work-In are fairly well documented, as are the roles of many important men who led that fight. What is less well known, and what our project team was interested in, regards the roles of women within the Work-In. We noticed that the display in the museum shows women primarily as the wives and fiancées of men who were involved – not active, but left at home. We know anecdotally from written accounts and from people like Helen Kyle,2 who was in Govan
2 Walking directions: Gather in front of the UCS display. Our journey begins…
at the time, that women raised monies and provided food and housing for those involved in the Work-In demonstrations. We also know from film footage3 that women marched alongside men in many of the demonstrations. But we found it difficult to gather more information on these women, and we were interested in their own stories — from their own voices. We had a lot of questions... 2 We’ll hear more about Helen as we go (see stop 4 – Govan Underground). 3 The film ‘UCS1’ by Cinema Action shows footage of women marching together as part of large demonstrations.
Edwardian Dressmakers Shop, displayed in ‘The Street’ at the Riverside Museum
How important is your right to vote? What lengths would you go to to protect it? Would you post acid in Royal Mailboxes? Cut and bomb telephone links? Smash widows? Set fire to buildings? At the turn of the 20th century women couldn’t vote. Only 3 out of every 4 men could, and there were plans to extend the right to vote to all men, but not to women. The Women’s Social and Political Union‘s Scottish H.Q. was in Glasgow. Many of its members chose to put themselves through hardship in the battle to gain the vote. These women called themselves Suffragettes.
Walk down the old street, and pause in front of the dressmakers shop
They posted acid in the mail, bombed telephone links, smashed windows, and committed arson. Many suffragettes were sent to jail multiple times. Some went on hunger strikes in prison, and and endured force-feeding. Only 96 years ago – in 1918 – the vote was given to all men and women in the UK over the age of 30 through the ‘Representation of the People Act’. It took an additional 10 years for voting rights to be granted to all women between 21-29 years of age, in 1928.
Walk through the museum to the river and continue over (or under) the Clyde to Govan Cross. We took the Govan Ferry, accompanied by music...
Site of ‘Jack’s Rolls’ on Water Row — Stop to honour suffragette Helen Crawfurd
Walk along Water Row, stopping in front of the empty lot near Pearce Lane
Helen's father, William Jack, was a master baker. We know that a much-loved bakery, ‘Jack's Rolls’, opened here in 1922. We couldn’t confirm a connection between William Jack and ‘Jack's Rolls’, but this may have been his son's shop. Regardless, we chose this place to honour her, and tied her campaign poster to the nearby railings... *
Born in 1877, Helen Crawfurd (née Jack) was a member of the Independent Labour Party and an active suffragette, imprisoned five times, and initiating three hunger strikes over two years. With Mary Barbour, Agnes Dollan and other strong women, Helen was a key organiser of the 1915 Rent Strikes, marching on George Square with support of the working men. Together these women continued the fight to give women a voice, and forming Glasgow Womens’ International League in 1916. Their anti-war stance led to the creation of the Womens’ Peace Crusade in 1917, with large meetings on Glasgow Green. In 1920 Helen was invited to the Second Congress of the Communist International Party in Moscow, where she met Lenin. She 20
joined the newly-formed Communist party of Great Britain in 1921 and was immediately appointed to the Executive Committee. Ever keen to involve women in politics, she edited a ‘Page for Women’ in the Communist party’s newspaper. Also in 1921, Helen ran for local elections as a Communist Party candidate for the Govan Ward. Committee rooms for the Communist party were located at 35 Queen Street (now Neptune St.), and Helen would have certainly worked from them. She spent her later years in Dunoon, , where she became town councilor in 1945. She died age 77, in 1954.
Walk towards Govan Cross and stop in front of the Govan Underground Station.
* Just as we went to print, the WHP Team received an email from Helen's brother's grandson (her greatnephew) James Jack, who worked in this bakery from 1954-1963. He confirmed that it was in fact Helen's brother James who opened Jack's Rolls!
Govan Underground Station – honouring Helen Kyle and the 1996 Kinning Park Complex Sit-In
The Kinning Park Complex is a community centre which was run by Glasgow City Council from 1979 until 1996, when problems with the physical infrastructure (combined with service cuts) prompted the Council to schedule the building for closure. The community protested, stating that communities need public spaces in which to flourish. Meetings were held, petitions were signed, banners were painted, and a delegation marched to the City Chambers. When these actions failed to persuade the Council to keep the building open, the community occupied the building. Under the leadership of local activist Helen Kyle, a group of ten women oranised a Sit-In: A 55 day continuous occupation which resulted in the Council handing over the keys and operations to the community. Eighteen years later, Kinning Park Complex (KPC) is still run locally, full of arts, music, and other creative activities – and the roof still needs repair. Lindsay Keenan, building manager and activist, says that he wont let lack of money be a barrier to use, regardless of ability to pay a hire fee. We were interested to hear from Lindsay that KPC defines the community it serves as dispersed – not only those nearby, but including communities outwith, if in need.
Walk down Govan Rd and turn left on Shaw St, stopping at 68, currently ‘Unity in the Community’ Charity Shop.
Lindsay said that he has given out over 50 sets of keys to groups currently using the building: ‘If I’m going to show trust in here, I have to give people responsibility, and I thought it was very important to give people back their ownership of the building... Helen used to tell people when we were starting, “It’s yours already – you already own the building. It’s everyone’s building.” I quoted her often.’ And so shall we. 4 In addition to her role within KPC, Helen Kyle worked for many years as Founder and Director of ‘Scotland in Europe’, based at 966 Govan Rd (see stop 6 – The Portal).
We didnt plan it this way, but we walked from honouring one Helen to another 80 years later: We decided to honour Helen Kyle by pausing here – imagining that we travelled 3 stops to the Kinning Park Complex via subway as it wasn’t possible to go in person.
Our team visited KPC and spoke with Helen and Lindsay. Helen told us it was ‘all about structures and how you involve people. You have to know your politics, and politicians, and the law....and you need to be passionate for change.4’
68 Shaw Street – A Meeting of Women We know that on Tuesday 16th February 1915 there was a ‘Meeting of Women’ here, to ‘Protest against the Increase in Rents’. We chose this place to honour Mary Barbour, a key organiser of these protests, who was very likely at this meeting, although no register is available that we could find.
Mary Barbour (née Rough) was born in Kilbarchan in 1875. When she was 21 she married David Barbour, an engineer in the Govan shipyards, and came to Govan. She is best remembered for her role in the 1915 Glasgow Rent Strike, organising against landlords who profiteered when overcrowding became rife in Glasgow. With her ‘Red Clydesider’ comrades, Mary Barbour and her ‘Women’s Army’ resisted further rent increases. Almost a year of demonstrations resulted in the Government returning rents to pre-1915 levels. Some of her other achievements included: Becoming the first woman Labour councillor to Glasgow Town Council and the First Baillie of Glasgow; being among the first female Magistrates. The introduction of wash-houses, laundries and public baths; free school milk; child welfare centres, playgrounds, pensions for mothers, Municipal Banks; and Family Planning Clinics.
Walk back along Shaw St to Govan Rd, turn left and continue to 966-8 Govan Rd
We stenciled the pavement ‘Barbour Squad St’
Mary Barbour retired in 1931 but continued serving poor communities. She died aged 83, on April 2, 1958 and is buried at Craigton Crematorium. 22
6 Portal – Community arts
space, and meeting place for Bead ‘n’ Blether
We stop to honour members of Bead ‘n’ Blether, and the beautiful banners they created which we carry proudly today. (You can see Katie and Gillian carrying one on previous page)
Once a row of derelict shops, 962-978 Govan Road has been transformed into a vibrant community arts hub. Called The Portal, it houses a number of creative organisations and local groups, including Plantation Productions, Sunny Govan Community Radio, a gallery, and an Artist in Residence Space. It also provides meeting space for local community groups. In September 2013, the WHP team invited three groups who gather here to join us in visiting The Glasgow Museums’s Textiles Conservation Studio at The Burrell Collection. We wanted to view old protest and women’s guild banners held in the Glasgow Museum Collection. We were joined by members of Bead ‘n’ Blether and Woolly Wednesdays, two women’s groups supported by Plantation Productions. Their insights into banners from Scotland’s first Co-operative Women’s Guild, which was established in Kinning Park in 1890, went on to inform the design and creation of the two beautiful banners we are carrying on our walk today.5
Continue along Govan Rd to the gates of Fairfield Shipyard. Stand on the corner of Govan Rd and Elder St – under the statue of the cormorants kissing...
These two banners highlight some of benefits of these groups, which go far beyond skill-sharing and socialising. Their activities are underpinned by mutual support between members, and a profound care for their community. We can truly see the values and ethos of the original women’s guilds echoed in these two contemporary community groups.6 Across the street in the former Engineers Hall at 897 Govan Road, two historic labour history banners were discovered by Jack Sweeney, a member of the Seniors Film Club (which also meets at The Portal). A former Trades Union Shop Steward, Jack and others from the Seniors Film Club joined our visit to the Textiles Conservation Studio. Jack shared the story of how he discovered the ‘Govan Banners’, which are now part of Glasgow Museums Collection. 5 The two large red banners (depicting Isabella Elder and Mary Barbour) were also made by Bead ‘n’ Blether and Geraldine Greene, an artist based at the Portal. Those banners were commissioned for a 2012 project, ‘Nothing about us without us is for us’. This previous work, which highlighted several women in Govan’s past, provided key inspiration for this project. 6 Both are crafts groups, and men are welcome to attend.
We walked across the street. Jack shared with us how he found these banners made by the Scottish Socialist Party, Govan Branch, for May Day 1938. Agnes Dollan was a founder member.
7 Fairfield Shipyard
– site of the Upper Clyde Shipbulder’s Work-In
Names like Jimmy Reid and Jimmy Airlie have become synonymous with the 1970 UCS Work-In. We’ve all seen images of marches, placards, passionate speeches and fists raised in protest. When confronted with this material you’d be forgiven for thinking that the only women’s names involved were those of the ships. What of the women tracers and French polishers; the administrators; and families of those dependent on the yards? We know these women marched alongside the men. They marched together as women. Many suffered great poverty, struggling to feed and clothe their families. When Yoko Ono and John Lennon sent a donation and bouquet of red roses in support, the shop stewards visited the local
8 Uist Street – Walk across Elder Park, past the statue of John Elder and Elder Park Library to Uist St. Pause on the corner of Uist and Langlands Rd, facing the park...
maternity ward, and presented these flowers to women there affected by the Work-In. This simple gesture surely encapsulates the sense of pride felt at the time but is sadly lost to us now.
We brought two-dozen red roses, and renamed the street underneath the statue ‘Women’s Work-In Place’
formerly Ure Street
This street is now called Uist but was previously named Ure Street — the maiden name of Isabella Elder. We wanted to reclaim its previous name to honour Isabella. On our walk we stenciled it ‘Take Back Ure Street’
Isabella Elder née Ure (1828 – 1905) grew up at 13 St. Vincent Place with her mother Mary (née Ross) from the Gorbals and older brother John Francis. Her father, a wellknown lawyer, died when she was two. She married John Elder, a Marine Engineer and her brother’s colleague in the shipyards. John went on to direct the world-renowned Fairfield Shipyards. After John died in 1869, Isabella devoted her life to philanthropy.
Walk through Elder Park past the statue of Isabella. Continue out of the park and onto St. Kenneth St and right on Hutton Drive, stop at number 10.
In 1883 she purchased 37 acres of land next to the shipyard and laid it out as a public park which she gifted to the people of Govan for ‘healthful recreation’. Elder Park opened in 1885, resplendent with trees and paths, a boating pond, and a bandstand on which music was to be played twice weekly in the summer for local people to enjoy. Isabella also commissioned an annual fireworks display. She set up a School for Domestic Economy in Govan, helping women on limited budgets prepare nutritious meals and manage households’ more efficiently. She went on to be a key figure in women’s education, and her foresight and generosity contributed to Scotland’s first female medical students graduating from Queen Margaret’s College in Glasgow in 1894.
In addition to the connection to Isabella, we know that Mary Barbour once lived on Ure Street. Mary also lived on Hutton Drive, where we make our final stop...
Here gathered Mary Barbour’s Army – 10 Hutton Drive, site of 1915 Rent Strike demonstration
Here at 10 Hutton Drive in 1915, Govan women took a stand against rent increases. A few months after the start of World War 1, private landlords announced big rent hikes. Living conditions were tough, the cost of staple foods like bread were rising, and many men were away at war. Led by Mary Barbour, Agnes Dollan (née Moir), and Helen Crawfurd, women organised a rent strike to keep rents at pre-war levels. Mary was a local housewife with two children and her husband worked in Fairfield’s yard. When the bailiffs appeared the women raised the alarm with bells and ricketies (football rattles). They’d gather at the rent striker’s home and block the entrance,
Walk through Elder Park past the statue of Isabella. Continue out of the park and onto St. Kenneth St and right on Hutton Drive, stopping at number 10.
pelting the bailiffs with flour bombs to stop them getting in. ‘We Are Not Removing’ was the cry. The action and support spread across the city, and by November it seemed that the protests would affect the war effort. The government then introduced the Rent Restriction Act 1915, to keep rents at prewar levels. The women had won.
We ended our walk at Verge, with hot soup and an exhibition on other walks in glorious Govan: ‘Govan’s hidden histories’.
Concluding thoughts on ‘Women’s histories and protests’ – part of ‘Govan’s hidden histories’
‘Women’s histories and protests’ is part of a wider project called ‘Govan’s hidden histories’, initiated by artist and researcher tara s Beall as part of research at University of Glasgow working with the Riverside Museum, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It forms a part of her practice-based doctoral research – which explores how museums can use creative activities to increase connections with local communities, and work with them as equal partners. The ‘Women’s histories and protests’ team is: Susan Haddow, Patricia Caird, Maria Leahy, Lyn Mooney, Heather Robertson, Fiona Hayes, Elena Trimarchi, Elaine Addington, Chani Bond, Alice Andrews, and was led by tara s Beall. Presented here are the results of the team’s many conversations, musings, and investigations over the five months we gathered. Much of this will be added to the ‘Govan’s hidden histories’ project, which aims to highlight Govan’s rich histories, connecting them to the Riverside Museum via a series of creative actions, guided walks, and alternative heritage games. Thanks to Maria Leahy and Graham McGeoch for music on the day, Katie, Gillian, and Phil from Bead n’ Blether for their work which continues to inspire, Jack Sweeney, Geraldine Greene, Jon Pope, Lindsay Keenan, Helen Kyle for her work and wisdom, Mark Aikman at Silvers Marine and Pat Cassidy for bridging the Clyde, and Lawrence Fitzgerald for support and enthusiasm. Thanks also to our partners and all those we spoke to as we sought to honour strong women from the past and present.
Images of Great & Good exhibition by Valerie Kitchen. Images on pages 4 – 5 by AJ Stockwell. Images of Strong Women 'o Govan event by Alice Gordon. Cover image and pages 7 – 10 from 'The Elder Park, Govan. An account of the gift of the Elder Park and of the erection and unveiling of the statue of John Elder' by Craig Archibald, 1891, James Maclehose & Sons, Glasgow. Released by The British Library under Creative Commons license via Flickr. Pg 20 of Helen Crawfurd's 1921 election poster, part of The Glasgow Caledonian University Archives: The Gallacher Memorial Library Collection. Used with permission. At the time of printing the GML Collection is inaccessible to the public, and the image reproduced is sourced online and therefore low-resolution.
Pg 25 Jack Sweeney shares some of the history of the 'Govan Banners' outside 897 Govan Road. Pg 26 Gathering under the 'Govan Milestone' sculpture in front of Fairfield Shipyard gates, on Govan Road. Pg 27 Walking through Elder Park towards the statue of John Elder and Uist Street. Pg 28 Fiona Hayes (Glasgow Museums) shares images of Rent Strikes in front of 10 Hutton Drive. Pg 29 The Mary Barbour banner rests outside Verge Gallery on Govan Road, at the end of our 'Strong Women o' Govan' walk.
Pg 22 WHP Team research (original scan) from 'Rent Strikes: Peoples' Struggle for Housing in West Scotland 1980 – 1916' by Joseph Melling, 1983, Polygon, Edinburgh. Pg 15 Chani Bond (Friends of Elder Park) and Elaine Addington (Open Museum, Glasgow Museums) lead the walk from Govan Ferry towards Water Row. Pg 18 tara s Beall (artist/researcher), Heather Robertson (Riverside Museum) and the WHP team welcome everyone and share project findings related to UCS banner display. Pg 19 Elaine Addington from the The Open Museum (part of Glasgow Museums) shares on Suffragettes in front of the Edwardian Dressmakers Shop display. Pg 20 Helen Crawfurd 1921 election poster, showing location of Communist Party Committee Rooms at 35 Queen Street, Govan. Researched by Susan Haddow and the WHP Team. Pg 21 Pavement street sign stencil 'SIT-IN PLACE', honouring Helen Kyle and the 1996 Kinning Park Sit-In. Pg 22 WHP Team research (original scan) showing poster calling a ‘Meeting of Women’ at 68 Shaw Street, Govan on 16 February, 1915. Pg 23 Gathering at 68 Shaw Street, currently 'Unity in the Community' Charity Shop. Chani Bond shared research by Trish Caird (Govan-based writer) on Mary Barbour.
Unless noted here all text, images, and artworks on pages 4 – 13 are ©2013 AJ Stockwell, Monica Brown, LA Callery. All text, images, artworks, and maps on pages 14 – 32 are ©2014 t s Beall on behalf of the WHP team & the 'Govan's hidden histories' project. The map on pages 16 – 17 is part of the wider 'Govan's hidden histories' project and was designed by Zeynep Arman. Published in 2014 Designed by Bakkal Edited by t s Beall
Pg 23 Leaving 68 Shaw Street carrying 1915 'Meeting of Women' poster, banner depicting Mary Barbour in the background. Pg 25 Katie and Gillian from Bead 'n' Blether carrying one of two guild banners created by B'n'B and Wooly Wednesdays. Banners were inspired by a visit to the Glasgow Museum Textile Conservation Studio, and designed with artist Geraldine Greene as part of this project.