Sunday, 8 March 2015

Mary Barbour and the Glasgow rent strike

"STANDING in the shadow of Ibrox, Govan is a part of Glasgow that has undergone intense change. Though traditional sandstone tenements still stand on many streets, smart new housing has sprung up, Govan Cross has been transformed and historic buildings have been converted into imaginative office accommodation and public spaces." "A century ago, however, the area was the definition of an urban slum; and as the First World War raged and shipyard and munitions workers poured into the city, it found itself at the centre of a fight-back against overcrowding and rapacious landlords."

"The Glasgow rent strikes, which lasted from April to November 1915, when a regiment of women forced the government to take action, fixing rents at their pre-war rates, have been described by historian James Smyth as possibly "the most successful example of direct action ever undertaken by the working class". For more than seven months, highly organised committees of women would ambush sheriff officers, hurling flour bombs or other missiles at them if they tried to evict non-payers. Leading the revolt was Mary Barbour, who held neighbours, munitions workers and shipyard bosses in her thrall. Barbour, who lived in Ure Street (now Uist Street), knew only too well the privations of slum dwelling and was determined to put the right to decent housing high on the agenda. .."

"But on International Women’s Day, those behind the drive to mark her achievements are convinced she has much to teach 21st century rebels. ..."

I wonder what she would have made of the tyranny of named persons.

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