“GRANDDAD stood up at a packed meeting and expressed his concerns forcefully. ‘We cannot accept this money,’ he declared, ‘until Mr Healy pays decent wages to his shop staff.’ The ensuing row broke up the organisation and I grew up wanting to be like my grandfather…”

This anecdote about the roots of her activism from campaigning MP Maria Fyfe, who died aged 82 earlier this month, is one of many included in a moving and funny book which is published today.

Singing in the Streets: A Glasgow Memoir, is beautifully written personal, nostalgic and sometimes comic view of late 20th century Scotland from the trailblazing politician and feminist icon.

Glasgow Times:

Maria was the MP for Maryhill in Glasgow from 1987 to 2001. During her time at Westminster she was a shadow minister for women and a frontbench spokesperson on Scotland, and she convened the Scottish Labour MP group.

After leaving frontline politics, she chaired the Remember Mary Barbour campaign which fought for a memorial to the WWI Glasgow rent strike organiser.

This story about her grandfather, Daniel, in which he stood up to the wealthy ham and egg shop boss offering a prize to the local branch of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, also recalls his blacklisting for rousing fellow ironworkers in the east end of the city to join a trade union.

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“The union, small and poorly organised in those early efforts to represent unskilled workers, went bust. So did the company, when the striking workers brought production to a halt,” Maria writes.

She also recalls her mother’s father Owen Lacey, who “had a habit of standing on the corner steps of a local bank, charring with his cronies.”

She adds: “With his walrus moustache, cloth bunnet and pipe stuck in his mouth, he looked just like Paw Broon..”

Maria’s memories of her Glasgow childhood are bound to strike a chord with Times Past readers, especially this tale of shopping for her ‘first grown-up costume’ at Sauchiehall Street shopping emporium Pettigrew & Stephen.

“The grey wool jacket was fitted, the skirt accordion pleated and a new lemon blouse from a shop in the Argyll Arcade completed the ensemble,” she recalls.

“Whenever I went out in my new outfit and in my first pair of Louis heel shoes, I felt a million dollars.”

Maria writes of her schooldays, passing ‘the Quali’ and having to wear her ‘terrible’ Notre Dame uniform and she captures her early life in the Gorbals, where her parents were shopkeepers, with humour and pathos.

“My parents were disgusted by Alexander McArthur’s novel, No Mean City, a bestseller that painted a dreadful picture of Glasgow, full of razor gangs, seedy sex scenes and general squalor.

Glasgow Times:

“Yet the reality of my parents’ and neighbours’ lives was scrubbing the walls to make sure bugs were kept at bay and taking turns to wash down the tenement stairs.

“The violence and criminal ongoings were simply not how those Catholic, Protestant and Jewish families lived.

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“When youngsters of my brothers’ generation went out into the wider world, they met people who only knew of the Gorbals what they had read in that book, and it did damage to the city’s reputation – and its citizens’ job chances – that took decades to overcome.”