Coming up Roses

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.

Glasgow in the 1980s

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 Scots!"

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 Party.

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 Hospice.

The dinner began with a special grace composed by the Rev Dr William Morris of Glasgow Cathedral

"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 Soroptimism.

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!