|In 1980, Margaret Thatcher said "the lady's not for turning" and as her
premiership progressed she showed increasing determination and inflexibility. With great
courage she pursued the Falklands War (1982), survived the IRA bomb in the Grand Hotel,
Brighton (1984) and won the year long battle against the miners, thus breaking the power
of the unions, perhaps for ever.
Great national celebrations occurred in 1981, on the occasion of the wedding of Prince
Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, and in 1985 when £40 million was raised to help the
hungry in Ethiopia by the greatest rock concert ever. It took place in London and
Philadelphia and was organised by Bob Geldof, with stars including Mick Jagger, David
Bowie, "Queen" and "Dire Straits". Geldof's effort showed that
philanthropy was not dead among the younger generation.
Ominously, 1981 saw the first case of AIDS. The HIV virus, which causes the disease, was
identified in 1983 and by 1988 it had infected 120 million people and there were 120,000
cases of AIDS.
27th October 1986 was "Big Bang" day, marking deregulation of London's stock
market. There were rich pickings for " Yuppies " in the city boom, but for many
(including Lloyds' names) smiles were eventually followed by tears, especially one year
later when "Black Monday" hit the financial world and fortunes were lost.
A greater disaster, with world-wide effect which money could not cure occurred in 1986.
The nuclear reactor at Chernobyl broke down, releasing vast quantities of radioactivity
which had devastating effects in Russia and as far away as Scotland, affecting green
fields, water supplies, sheep and cattle. Have we learned the lesson? Just before
Christmas 1988 there was another disaster on Scottish soil, when Pan-Am flight 103 crashed
at Lockerbie : all 259 passengers and crew died, along with 11 people on the ground.
Another disaster occurred in April 1987 at Hillsborough, Sheffield when 94 football fans
were killed and 170 were injured in a crush at the Football Association semi-final.
There is little doubt that the Eighties are marked in the public mind as a period of
increasing materialism and a "deil tak the hindmost" attitude.
|This was a period of revival. Out in Pollok Park the Burrell collection opened in 1983
in a splendid new building which brought in the light and greenery of the park as well as
the visitors. It brought Glasgow new international renown. John Julius Norwich wrote
"let there be no mistake about it : in all history, no municipality has ever received
from one of its native sons a gift of such munificence as that which, in 1944, the City of
Glasgow accepted from Sir William and Lady Burrell." The Burrell is one of the things
that makes us proud to live and work in Glasgow. It is sad to see that difficulties have
arisen and let us hope that we remain worthy of this bequest.
Glasgow's Victorian underground system had an astonishing metamorphosis and the new trains
travelling round the same old circuit, in typical Glasgow fashion, got a nick name - 'the
Clockwork Orange' ! Glasgow's own Francie and Josie celebrated the underground in song;
'I know a lot of folk go fancy places at the Fair
They like to sail in steamers or to hurtle thro' the air
But I've a fav'rit route that goes to many ports of call
Although unless you look'd you'd never notice it at all
There's Partick Cross and Cessnock, Hillhead and Merkland St
George's Cross and Govan Cross where all the people meet
West St, Shields Rd, the trains go round and round
You've never lived unless you've been on the Glasgow Underground'
(Cliff Hanley and Ian Gourley)
After two decades of much change and demolition, the city of Glasgow began to look forward
again and worked on presenting a new image. Many buildings were cleaned and people
appreciated the full grandeur of Glasgow's Victorian heritage. Pedestrian areas were
created in Sauchiehall St and Buchanan St. Buchanan St in particular had a new look with
the imaginative redevelopment of Princes Square. Around George Square the Italian Centre
opened and to the east, Merchant city appeared like a phoenix from the ashes. This was the
era of the Yuppies, many of whom settled in the Merchant city. Power dressing was in with
short hair and designer suits which appeared in Emporio Armani. It was the age of Dallas
and Dynasty and wide shoulder pads as worn by Joan Collins. Glasgow's internationally
known Mayfest was born and has gone from strength to strength. It covers a wide spectrum
of the arts and culture and it attracts big names and audiences. The Citizens' theatre was
redesigned, preserving the Victorian auditorium and adding the small studio venues. It is
the most exciting influential British theatre of the past two decades under the innovative
direction of Giles Havergal.
The scene was set for the wonderful Garden Festival held on the south bank of the Clyde
from April to September 1988. Glasgow was 'coming up roses' and took on a continental
atmosphere : people strolled along the walkways, by the banks of the river, over the new
Bell's bridge, rode on the small railway which gave a complete tour of the site and
visited the numerous cafés and restaurants. Around every corner there was a new vista of
flowers and greenery. For the adventurous there was the biggest of big wheels. One of the
most striking features was the friendly good humoured atmosphere among the 4.3 million
visitors who attended. This was the best thing that had happened since the Empire
Exhibition fifty years previously. Despite the awful weather Glasgow folk loved it and
came again and again. What a pity it could not have stayed with us! The 'Mr Happy' logo
slogan was created and Glasgow liked that too. Glasgow smiled along, Glasgow was happy,
Glasgow was 'miles better'.
Soroptimism and the Club in the 1980s
|The 1979-83 Soroptimist Quadrennium had the theme "Building Tomorrow's
World". By 1983 the organisation had increased to 2250 clubs in 71 countries. Sadly,
this record membership was not seen by the Founder President of the first Soroptimist
Club, Violet Richardson Ward who died in 1979. It was appropriate to her memory that the
theme chosen in 1979 was "Building Tomorrow's World" for Violet Richardson Ward
had spent her life in education and bad been dedicated to building a better world for the
people of' tomorrow. This theme tied in well with the UN designation of 1980 as "The
International Year of the Child" and clubs in Britain and Ireland raised funds to
help children in far flung areas of the Federation.
In Glasgow, 1980 saw a change in the frequency of meetings to two a month; one lunch
meeting and one held at 5.30 pm so that members could come straight from work to the Royal
Scottish Automobile Club where tea and sandwiches were served before starting the business
of the evening. A concert was given that year by members of the Orpheus Club, well known
for their spirited renderings of Gilbert and Sullivan, in the attractive Eastwood Theatre
in the woodland setting of Viscount Weir's estate. The Club also visited the City Chambers
again for a fashion show (always a popular item) devised by AE Ball, Furrier and RW
Forsyth - another great Glasgow name that is no longer with us.
The 1980s continued with a similar pattern of meetings, coffee mornings, cheese and wine
evenings, theatre visits and raising money for various charities along the way. In 1980 Mr
A Browning of Kelvingrove Art Galleries spoke on "The Burrell Collection" which
was soon to open in Pollok Park. The 1982-83 session opened with an evening of
reminiscences by four of our senior members, who had many a tale to tell. "Twenty
five years on" was the theme.
The first speaker was Miss Marald Grant (whose remarkable career is described on a
subsequent page). Her memories went much further back than 25 years and it is worth
quoting verbatim her recollections of the Convention in Budapest in 1933, which she gave
at a previous meeting. "The total cost of the 16 day tour with first class hotel
accommodation, first class boat and 2nd class train travel was £26. Wonderful hospitality
was received during travel via Dover, Munich and Salzburg. There bad been the excitement
of a fire on board the ship sailing down the Danube and the local press had reported the
English ladies as "intelligent but not decorative". Nothing was said about the
Miss Grace Williamson of Matthew Algie and Co, the old established Glasgow tea and coffee
merchants, whose membership extended from 1943 to 1992, was President in 1957 when
Soroptimist House was opened. She was the chairman of the committee of the three Glasgow
Clubs, Central, South and West, which achieved this project to provide pleasant and
affordable accommodation for single elderly ladies. The premises purchased at 7 Loudon
Terrace included a basement flat for the caretaker and rooms for two ladies on the ground
floor and three on each of the first and second floors. There was a pleasant garden at the
rear of the property. The House gave friendship and comfort to ladies for more than 35
years. Changing social conditions, increasing costs and the development of other suitable
Housing Associations such as "Abbeyfield" and "Bield" eventually
resulted in the closure of the House in 1993, after a suitable arrangement was made with
those two agencies, which maintain the original objectives of Soroptimist House.
Dr Isobel Case, lecturer in Botany at the University of Glasgow and Club President in 1954
joined the Club in 1935 and remembered being rather overawed by the august company in
which she found herself. The Club was much more formal in those days. Full evening dress
was a "must" at annual dinners and to think of appearing without gloves was
"just not on"; nor did anyone attend a luncheon meeting without a hat. These
early lunch meetings at the Rhul restaurant cost 2/6d!
Mrs Barbara Clark was the last of the quartet of speakers. She was a much loved and valued
member of the Club. She was never seen without a smile and was someone who clearly made
the best of life. She was particularly kind to new members and was always interested in
what they had to say. Barbara Clark was a pioneer in operating one of the first Staff
Agencies in the city which included the provision of part-time domestic help for many
homes - a vitally important service. She was always considerate to customers and employers
alike. She remained well and interested in the Club into old age; she died on the eve of
her 90th birthday in 1991, just after a holiday in Crieff.
Two of our members were very active in fund raising in 1982. Mary Gray with her daughter
Ailsa and her dog walked the West Highland Way to raise funds for our charities. Apart
from this Mary has contributed a considerable sum to our charities from the summer lets of
part of her West Highland home.
Our President in 1982, Margarette Browning also organised a sponsored dog walk and her
husband organised an antique road show which was an excellent fund raiser. Margarette had
so much to offer the Club and it was a great sadness when she died in 1990.
At the 1983 Sunday lunch in the Holiday Inn Mrs Catharine Salt (International President)
announced that Soroptimist International had been granted Category One status at the
United Nations. In the 1983/84 session a special speaker was Sir William Ferguson
Anderson. His subject was "Tomorrow's Elderly" - which includes all of us! Sir
Ferguson Anderson is a world authority on the care of the elderly and was awarded the St
Mungo's prize for his work in the field, so he would know what he was talking about!
The 1984 Sunday lunch was addressed by Winnie Ewing, a former member of note, who is one
of the most prominent Scottish women in Europe today. President of the Club in 1966, she
was elected MP (SNP) for Hamilton in a sensational by-election in 1967. She was also
successful in an equally sensational contest in 1974 when she unseated the Secretary of
State for Scotland - Gordon Campbell, now Lord Campbell of Croy. She has been a member of
the European Parliament since 1975 and there she is known popularly as "Madame Ecosse
" and is mother of the European parliament. She was awarded the LLD by the University
of Glasgow at the Honorary Graduation in 1995. She is President of the Scottish National
In 1985 there was a bazaar in the McLellan Galleries and an autumn dinner in Gleddoch
House, the former home of Sir James Lithgow, the shipbuilder. It is a delightful house
occupying a hillside position with stunning views over the Firth of Clyde. On that
occasion the Club celebrated Marald Grant's 90th birthday. Soroptimism seems to be good
for the health, for celebration of 90th birthdays appears to be a not infrequent event.
Marald Grant MBE had a distinguished career as a social worker in Glasgow. She was the
founder of the Guild of Aid, which operated in the Gorbals as a charitable organisation
for women and children. Marald, a minister's daughter, ran the Guild of Aid in Coburg
Street for 40 years from 1926 to 1966. Social conditions in the area were appalling. Some
houses had neither running water nor gas and in a number of houses there were 18 children.
She started a nursery (charge 1/- a week) so that children could be looked after when
their mothers were at work. The fathers couldn't get work.
The Guild of Aid also organised cookery classes, cheap clothing and fresh-air fortnights
for women and children and in the absence of any other authority, Marald found herself
running an adoption agency for illegitimate babies. She was a member of the Club since
1933, Club President in 1956 and worked hard in establishing the Glasgow Soroptimist House
which opened on 1st October 1957. She died in 1987.
Then in 1985, Elspeth King addressed the Club on "The People's Palace". Since
then Glasgow has lost Elspeth King and seems about to lose the People's Palace. Elspeth
King was curator of the People's Palace from 1974-91 and is the author of the informative
book "The Hidden History of Glasgow's Women". In 1986 the Club put pressure on
the government to abolish production of 'Skoal Bandits'. These tobacco chews were being
manufactured in East Kilbride. They were popular with young people but bad been proved to
be a health hazard. Production has stopped.
1987 marked the Diamond Jubilee of the Club. The membership at that time was 93, 34 of
whom had been members for 20 years or more. Louise N Bendell CA who had been a member
since 1943 and had served as Club Treasurer, was made an honorary member. Other honorary
members were Dr Isobel Case, Marald Grant, Anne Mitchell and Edith Jones who had been
members for 50 years and Grace Williamson who had been a member for 49 years. All these
had made admirable contributions to Soroptimism and to the community.
On Friday 20th November there was a Gala Dinner in the Grosvenor Hotel attended by nearly
300 Soroptimists and friends. Dr Aileen Bingham, the President gave a short history of the
Club when she welcomed the assembled gathering. Before, during and since her Presidency,
Aileen has been a great support to the Club. She has opened her house on many occasions,
in particular to host the concerts given by the Duncan singers. Since her retirement from
medical practice she has been tireless in her work for the Prince and Princess of Wales
The dinner began with a special grace composed by the Rev Dr William Morris of Glasgow
"Of all the gifts with which we're blest
This must take priority
Our friends who think this world the best
In their far-flung sorority
Optimists both wise and charming
Make a sisterhood divine
With thy grace our spirits calming
Bless these gifts, for all are thine."
Entertainment after dinner was provided by young members of the Dance School of Scotland
led by our member Ann Baird who was with Scottish Ballet. The cost of the dinner was £18
(100% increase on 1977 - but well worth it's!). On the following day (Saturday 21st
November) there was a visit to the Hunterian Gallery and Mackintosh House. These, like the
Burrell are priceless assets to Glasgow and make one marvel at the generosity and
foresight of Dr William Hunter and subsequent donors who have enriched the cultural life
of our city. In the afternoon there was a tea party for honorary members, past Presidents
and the Committee in the College Club of the University of Glasgow. In the evening, 100
members and friends enjoyed the Ballet Rambert at the Theatre Royal before adjourning to
the Grosvenor Hotel for drinks and coffee. On Sunday morning many members were present at
a service in Glasgow Cathedral to mark the Jubilee. Dr Bingham read one of the lessons.
Gifts to the Club included a chain of office for our President Elect from our
"daughters", SI Glasgow South and West. A brooch was created to commemorate the
Jubilee; inspired by the art of CR Mackintosh, it featured a rose, bird and tree, designed
by the late Anne Coley. A living tree (a Leriodendrum or Tulip Tree) was planted on the
north walkway of the River Clyde at Mavisbank and was publicised as a Tree for
International Peace. Unfortunately there was no peace on the walkway and the tree and its
plaque were removed within a few weeks to make way for new buildings! However, the Club
replaced it with a Prunus Kanza (flowering cherry) which was planted in the more tranquil
setting of the Demonstration Garden at Pollok House and is safely growing to this day.
Finally, the Club received some welcome publicity when our President was interviewed by
the genial Jimmy Mack of Radio Scotland.
1988 was the year of the Garden Festival and as always, Glasgow Central became involved.
The Club had a plaque on a seat in the festival grounds. Some of our members helped to
staff the Embroiderers' Guild pavilion where a large tapestry was being worked by members
of the public : it has since been hung in the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice. This
effort stimulated the creation of the large banners which were made by the public for the
Year of Culture in 1990 and are commemorated in the book "Keeping Glasgow in Stitches
The Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice is still well supported by a number of our
members who help regularly in the Hospice's Nearly New Shop in Queen's Park.
Other events in 1988 were a Spring Fair in the Couper Institute and a musical
entertainment in the Trades House. In 1988 the Club raised one of its largest donations -
£3250 for the purchase of a pulse oxymeter for the Royal Hospital for Sick Children,
Yorkhill. A special speaker in 1988 was our own Louise Annand. Louise Annand MBE MA is a
distinguished artist and a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland. She was
formerly Museums Education Officer and was twice elected President of the Society of
Scottish Women Artists. She is chairman of the JD Fergusson Foundation and has done much
to preserve the work of that great Scottish colourist. She has exhibited her own work
widely since 1945 and has produced numerous films including the first ever film on Charles
Rennie Mackintosh. Her recreation is mountaineering!
In 1989 the charity project which the Club supported was the International Project for
Peru, a development programme for women organised in cooperation with UNICEF. Peru was,
and is, a country where there is a great disparity between rich and poor and where the
position of women is low; it was hoped that international efforts to alleviate the
situation would be effective.
In 1989 the Club had dinner in Gleddoch House and a Christmas outing to the Citizens'
Theatre maintaining the tradition of friendly social gatherings so characteristic of
All members of the Club were saddened to learn of the death of Lavinia Derwent MBE, a much
loved member for 40 years. She was a wonderful gentle humorous character who gave much of
her talents to the Club since she joined in 1949. Lavinia was a real "Border
bairn". She was born in an isolated farmhouse in the Cheviot hills some seven miles
from Jedburgh. In this secluded atmosphere she was forced to provide her own entertainment
and began making up stories about animals at an early age. Her most famous creation was
"Tammy Troot" who entranced generations of children. She also wrote a
best-selling book about an island called 'Sula' which later featured in a film. Her
autobiographical books, particularly "A Breath of Border Air" recreate a world
when it was the more fundamental things of life that mattered. Lavinia's great friend was
Kathleen Garscadden, "Auntie Kathleen" of BBC "Children's Hour". In
their latter years, when both lived in Glasgow, they phoned each other daily to check up
that each was all right!