A Decade of Change

In politics, traditional Conservative Governments headed by Harold Macmillan and Sir Alec Douglas-Home gave way to Harold Wilson, who claimed to represent the "white heat of technological revolution". The shock of the Profumo scandal (starring Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies) helped to bring down Macmillan and was the first of many similar episodes which continue to hit the headlines up to the present day. Internationally the decade saw the beginning of the Vietnam War and assassination of President Kennedy (1963). Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 20th 1969. A great social change occurred in Britain in 1963 when Dr Beeching axed the local railways and put Britain on to the road. The repercussions of this ill advised reform are now being felt.

In 1960 the first laser was built in the United States, an event which had farreaching implications in medicine and industry. The 1960s also saw the development of diagnostic ultrasound in medicine: important work in this field, particularly in antenatal scanning, took place in Glasgow. In 1967 the first heart transplant took place. Among women's scientific achievements, in 1964 Dorothy Hodgkin followed Marie Curie in being awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for discovering, by the use of X-ray techniques, the structure of molecules, including penicillin, vitamin B12 and insulin.

The decade began with an obscenity trial at which the publishers of " Lady Chatterley's Lover" were resoundingly acquitted and now it seemed that anything would be allowed in books or on radio or TV and now the internet.

The age of permissiveness dawned. The permissive society arrived with the Pill, one of the most revolutionary medicines ever to come into the pharmacists' shops (1960). In fact the Pill did more than merely allow permissive sex. It put women in charge of their own reproductive powers for the first time and allowed them to plan careers and families in an organised way which was not possible before.

The greatest phenomenon in the entertainment world was the emergence of the Beatles. Their first single "Love Me Do" was released in October 1962. In February 1963 their next song "Please Please Me" reached No.2 in the charts and on 31st August 1963 the song "She Loves You" entered the top twenty. Before the year was out they had another number one "I Want To Hold Your Hand". The Sunday Times called Lennon and McCartney "the greatest composers since Beethoven". They were certainly as famous.

It was the era of mini-skirts, Twiggy, flower power, drugs and hippies. Hire-purchase - "live now, pay later" - destroyed middle class thrift. British families became motorised and took package holidays to Spain. There was reform of the laws on homosexuality, divorce and abortion. Roy Jenkins once said that "the permissive society is the civilised society". In some ways he was right, but for many the legacy of the decade of change was bitter. But, like them or hate them, after the Sixties Britain was never the same again.

Glasgow in the Sixties

The Sixties brought a new University to Glasgow. Strathclyde University was established in 1964 on the basis of the Royal Technical College and since then has expanded its city centre campus enormously. It has been far sighted in playing a considerable role in the regeneration of Glasgow and has led the field in vocational training.

Another exciting development was the foundation of Scottish Opera by Sir Alexander Gibson, ably assisted by Peter Hemmings. They started off with a short season of about six weeks in the Kings Theatre, but what a thrill. There were epoch making productions of operas like Otello, Boris Godunov, Pélleas et Mélisande and the Trojans. Wagner's complete Ring followed later. Top singers like Janet Baker and Charles Craig were brought in. These were heady days when everyone donned long evening dresses and dinner jackets for first nights which were great social occasions. The company later moved to the refurbished Theatre Royal.

A great and nostalgic event occurred in Glasgow on September 1st 1962 when a quarter of a million Glaswegians gathered in the streets in torrential rain to wave good-bye to the last of the "caurs". The trams ran no more. More and more motor cars were on the road and to cope with traffic crossing the river the Clyde Tunnel opened in 1963. More significantly, an ambitious plan was devised to bridge the Clyde nearer the city centre and connect the bridge with a motorway which would extend from Greenock to Edinburgh. This involved tearing apart the area around Charing Cross and many fine buildings were lost, on the assumption that there were plenty more. Typical of the redevelopment seen in the 60s in many parts of Glasgow were the changes in the Anderston Cross area. Old tenements were demolished (as chronicled in Louise Annand's "Glasgow Sketchbook") and, with prosperity and full employment seemingly assured, the Glasgow Labour councillors, supported by successive Tory Governments, persevered in their efforts to clear the slums. The people of Anderston were told that only 3,800 of the existing population of 11,430 would be rehoused at Anderston Cross. Important new buildings were erected in the surrounding area, including the Queen Mother's Hospital at Yorkhill (1964) and the rebuilt Royal Hospital for Sick Children (1971). In the more difficult economic circumstances of the late 1960s and '70s the policy of redevelopment proved mistaken. It was no longer possible to find the "worst slums" in Anderston as Sir John Betjeman had done in the 1950s, but the children who had moved out to schemes like Castlemilk provided their own pointed criticism of their new high rise homes, encapsulated in a popular folk song :

"Oh ye canna fling pieces oot a twenty storey flat,
Seven hundred hungry weans'll testify to that.
If it's butter, cheese or jeely, if the breid is plain or pan,
The odds against it reaching earth are ninety-nine tae wan".

Soroptimism in the Sixties

Although women were taking up posts previously occupied by men, the "Swinging Sixties" did little to improve the social progress of women. Women's liberation movements were being formed but their extremism laid them open to ridicule and, in fact, equal rights were at a low ebb. Soroptimists had to contribute to the real advancement of the position of women. In 1963, members were urged to dedicate effort "to meet the challenge of youth in the changing world ". Soroptimism was also committed to encouraging career women.

In 1965 the Glasgow Central Club decided to interpret the quadrennial theme "Towards Understanding" by forming links with overseas students and nurses in the city. Over the next three years, these young women were guests of the Club at a number of varied and happy social occasions and outings.

In November 1967, the Club celebrated its fortieth anniversary with a dinner in the Central Hotel. The two "Daughter Clubs", Glasgow South and Glasgow West, presented bars for the President's chain to mark the occasion. In 1967-71, the quadrennial theme on which all Soroptimists focused was "Educate for Progress'. In 1968 the Glasgow Club decided to send textbooks to a college in an underdeveloped country. These books were eventually sent to the Lesotho Training College at Marija. At the 1969 meeting of the International Federation Board, held in Edinburgh, a Swedish lady, Gunnel Hazelius-Berg, was installed as International President. She was a lecturer in the University of Stockholm, who had received the Swedish Royal Decoration for her role in developing a folk museum park and cultural area on the outskirts of the city. The weather for the International Friendship days in Edinburgh was not good. Guests were rained off at the Garden Party at the Royal Palace of Holyrood House. After the Edinburgh meeting, a party of twenty six Soroptimists from England and overseas toured Scotland. Glasgow Clubs joined Greenock and Paisley to take a party on an evening cruise "doon the watter". This was a memorable occasion, with balmy weather, the Firth looking its incomparable best in a technicolor sunset. Dr Maud Menzies records, "we had "high tea" at Greenock with suitable white heather corsages, then went aboard the "Countess of Breadalbane" for a glorious evening sailing round the Firth of Clyde. Christina Keachie taught them all to do Scottish country dances and to the astonishment of the crew, we drank the boat dry!" In 1967 Dr Maud Menzies was invested as a Serving Sister in the Most Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem ~ an honour in the gift of the Queen. The citation mentioned her army service in the R.A.M.C. and her landing on the beach in Normandy. In 1989, at Dunblane Cathedral, she was upgraded to Officer of the Order on account of the work she had done for it.