The Remember Mary Barbour Association aims to create a lasting memorial to one of Glasgow’s greatest heroes.

We are at an exciting stage of the campaign to raise a statue of Mary Barbour. After a call for tender over the summer in September 2015 we shortlisted five sculptors.

  • Andrew Brown
  • Mark Longworth
  • Kenneth Mackay
  • Roddy McDowall
  • Morag McLean

The sculptors have each now produced a maquette (a small model) created to illustrate their vision of a statue to commemorate Mary Barbour.

The maquettes will be unveiled to the public at an event at the Pearce Institute in Govan at 18.30 on Tuesday 17 November 2015, the centenary of the great Rent Strike demonstration.

The Maquette Tour

The Remember Mary Barbour Association wants the public to view the maquettes both on-line and on tour.

The maquettes will go on tour from 17 November as below:

Unveiling of maquettes, Pearce Institute, Govan – 17 November 2015

Elder Park Library, Govan – Wednesday 18 November (1-8pm); and Thursday 19 – Friday 20 November (10am – 5pm)

The People’s Palace, Glasgow Green – Saturday 21 November (10am – 5pm) and Sunday 22 November (11am – 5pm)

There will also be public showings at venues including Riverside Museum, Fairfield Heritage Centre, Wheatley House and the Scottish Parliament.

Dates and times to be announced soon.

Full details via the Remember Mary Barbour Association website.

Govan loves Christmas event, Govan Cross – Wednesday 2 December (2-6pm)

Remember Mary Barbour Campaign Update

There have been great steps forward in our campaign lately.  Cllr Sadie Docherty, the Lord Provost of Glasgow, had the idea of holding a civic reception in the City Chambers to boost our fundraising, and as a result many substantial donations have been coming in, particularly from Glasgow Housing Association.

Sir Alex Ferguson with great generosity donated £5,000, and his turning up at the City Chambers to be photographed signing his cheque drew immense media interest.   Sir Alex, a Govan man himself, told the media that he was a longstanding admirer

Along with the novelist J David Simons, our chair Maria Fyfe took part in an Aye Write event, chaired by Willie Maley, which played its own part in furthering knowledge of the 1915 rent strikers.

With the invaluable assistance of Sarah Munro, of Glasgow Life, Prof Sam Ainslie and our own Sharon Thomas we will shortly be inviting artists to submit their ideas for the statue.   A short list will be created, and each artist will be asked to build a maquette (small statuette) to show what the finished, full sized piece would look like.  The plan is to take the maquettes on tour around Govan and Glasgow to see which gains the most support.

What is key still though is fundraising, whilst we have made great progress there is still a way to go before we have enough to pay for a statue.


Watch this space.

Major milestone for the Remember Mary Barbour Campaign

The Remember Mary Barbour Campaign had come to the stage where we needed a constitution so we could apply for funding and meet the requirements for charitable organisations.

On Tuesday 17 June we held an inaugural meeting to formalise our existence, and agreed a constitution with the help of Bailie Fariha Thomas, whose experience of such matters was much appreciated.

We elected a committee of eight people to carry things forward. The are:

Maria Fyfe
James Adams
Stephen Dornan
John Kane
Esme Clark
Jennifer Russell
Sharon Thomas
Dr Catriona Burness

When the committee meets shortly all current office holders stand down, but can seek re-election.

Membership of the campaign is free. Anyone who wishes to join the campaign should send their contact details to Esme Clark, Secretary.

Business over, Dr Catriona Burness, who has been researching for us as an unpaid volunteer, gave an entertaining and instructive talk on the life and times of Mary Barbour. Everyone present already knew about the victorious rent strike, but not the whole story.  There was much else going on in Mary Barbour’s life, as Catriona notes in her article.

We were delighted to welcome Sadie Docherty, the Lord Provost of Glasgow, who told us why she was committed to this campaign, and would do all she could to help. So our Lord Provost is signed up too!  This will obviously be very helpful when we are seeking help from outside bodies to create a lasting memorial that can inspire us and future generations.

Looking for Mary Barbour

There will be a Mary Barbour statue.*

The Remember Mary Barbour Association is formally up and running. We can now begin applying for funding to raise a statue in lasting memory of Mary Barbour, social campaigner and key leader of the Rent Strike during the First World War.

I am still looking for Mary Barbour amid the archives. The Govan Press has probably been the most fruitful source of information, perhaps not surprising as Mary Barbour lived and was politically active in Govan, representing the Govan Fairfield ward on the Glasgow Corporation from 1920 until 1931.

Most recently I’ve been checking on what I can find in the pages of Glasgow-based newspapers and journals such as The Glasgow Herald, The Bailie and The Bulletin.

These three papers were not in the habit of lavishing praise on Labour politicians, however. When Mary Barbour first stood as an Independent Labour Party (ILP) council candidate in 1920 a “Special Correspondent” for The Glasgow Herald listed her among the “Red Flag” candidates.

The reporter wrote: “Apparently in the opinion of the ILP, the ability to pour forth a spate of words at a street-corner meeting is a supreme qualification for the office of a Town Councillor.”

Yet one of Mary Barbour’s first interventions on the Corporation won praise from The Bailie, a Conservative-inclined satirical magazine:

“At the Town Council meeting on Thursday, I heard two of our lady Councillors speak. One read her speech; the other spoke impromptu. The lady who read is a middle-class Moderate; the second lady was a working class representative. Surely a sign showing that if there is any class inarticulate it is not the working class.”

The reference is to what the Govan Press described as “a very effective speech” by Mary Barbour on the question of the Corporation employing women to wash stairs and closes:

“Mrs Barbour said that this was a subject that had engaged her attention, as a tenement dweller, for some time. It would provide employment for women out of work and would take work from women who were already over-wrought … In concluding a very able speech she said, ‘I support this measure as a mother who likes to keep her stair clean and who has still to wash it. It is my turn to-day.’ On resuming her seat she was loudly applauded by friends and opponents alike. Unfortunately, however, her eloquence was unavailing, and when, after further protracted discussion, the vote was taken, the proposal was defeated by 58 votes to 36.”

Mary Barbour served on the Glasgow Corporation until stepping down in 1931. Her work as a councillor spanned many firsts, from being one of Glasgow’s first female councillors and its first fully fledged woman magistrate through her pioneering social reform including the establishment of the city’s first family planning centre.

*As long as we raise enough money! Please help us by donating to the Mary Barbour Campaign.

Catriona Burness would like to acknowledge permission to quote from texts and papers held in the National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh) and Glasgow Libraries Collection (@CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collection: the Mitchell Library, Special Collections; and Glasgow Elder Park Library).

Mary Barbour on the BBC Scotland John Beattie show

Great news. The story of Mary Barbour and the Rent Strikes is to feature in BBC Radio Scotland’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I.

The story of the Rent Strikes will be broadcast during the John Beattie programme at lunchtime on Tuesday, 25 February, between noon and 1.30pm. Slightly shorter versions of it are expected to feature on Good Morning Scotland and Newsdrive.

The story of Mary Barbour’s campaign against rapacious landlords during World War I is one of a series of stories the BBC is telling to commemorate the 1914-18 conflict. Other stories include: the Zeppelin raids on Edinburgh; Montrose Air Station; Carl Lody, a German spy in Scotland; the conscientious objectors held in Dyce Camp; John Meikle VC, Nitshill Railway Clerk; the Perthshire Patriotic Barrow; and Stobs Camp in Hawick.

Dr Catriona Burness on looking for Mary Barbour

There will be a Mary Barbour statue.*

The Remember Mary Barbour campaign was launched last year to make sure that the centenary of the 1915 Rent Strikes would see a statue raised in lasting memory of its key leader Mary Barbour.

The campaign won support from the Scottish Parliament and from the councils of Glasgow, scene of the most dramatic points in the Rent Strike, and of Renfrewshire, Mary Barbour’s birthplace.

Mary Barbour’s contribution to social history has been discussed on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, on Newsnight Scotland and on Al Jazeera, and has featured in the Evening Times and The Observer.

2014 is going to be a key year for the campaign as we move into the serious business of identifying sources of funding. My contribution to the campaign will be continuing research support and trying to uncover more information about Mary Barbour.

The archive research that I have done so far has focused on the Govan Press, The Glasgow Herald, clips from the Socialist press, Glasgow Corporation minutes and secondary literature.

And I’ve had help (in alphabetical order) from Councillor James Adams, Professor John Foster, Maria Fyfe, Jean Melvin, Flora Pagan, artist Sharon Thomas and the staff of the Elder Park and Mitchell Libraries and of Glasgow Council Research Centre.

I have contributed to this website’s pages abut Mary Barbour. For me the high points of the research are when I come across something that brings Mary Barbour to life. Helen Crawfurd’s Memoir gives vivid descriptions of how the Rent Strike was organised and underlines Mary Barbour’s key role. If only Mary Barbour had kept a diary! I was interested in the Govan Press first interview with her after she was elected to Glasgow Corporation, struck by her seriousness of purpose and intent to be in the Chambers every day. The later report of her directly organising the sale of small fish in Govan highlights her practical focus!

This year we will draw together education packs putting Mary Barbour in the context of her times. If you have information on Mary Barbour it would be great to hear from you. Please email us at

*As long as we raise enough money! Please help us by donating to the Mary Barbour Campaign.