Susan Morrison: Govan sings praises of its women '“ so should Edinburgh
Various duties called me back to the shores of Clyde last week. I am, of course, a proud adoptive Leither, but the rust that passes for blood in my veins always starts pounding when I cross the Kingston Bridge.
To be honest, it’s mainly fear. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s always an air of danger about that bridge. I can never quite shake the niggling anxiety that today might be the day the Kingston goes into full disaster movie mode and hits the deck taking my wee Fiesta with it.
Govan was calling. They were unveiling a statue of the rent striker Mary Barbour on International Women’s Day.
It’s a lovely monument not just to a great lady, but also to the movement she inspired. Not only do we have the mighty Mrs Barbour, but there’s also possibly the largest collection of working-class Scots cast in bronze – outside of a war memorial, that is.
In a nice East/West collaboration, the statue was cast by Edinburgh’s own Powderhall Bronze. Now, all I’m saying is this, we have a brilliant foundry right here on our doorsteps, so why not get cracking and raise a statue or two to great Edinburgh women?
It’s not like we’re short of a lass or two or three to celebrate. There are more statues to animals than women in Edinburgh, including one to a dog called Bum. I’ll just back away from all the punchlines about Bum the dog.
Hundreds turned out for Mary Barbour’s statue, or as they say in Glasgow, hunners. The unveiling was marked by speakers and singers. This being Govan, the singers were an interesting mix of official and unofficial.
Like Hogmanay, the singing was never allowed to stop. A haunting Gaelic song from the official entertainment about a woman bewailing her absent love was enthusiastically answered by one section of the crowd belting out a remarkably upbeat version of that 1950s hit ‘I’m Nobody’s Child’. Why? No idea.
We were about to get the show back on the road just as some random voice bellowed, “Haw, Big Alec, Gie’s yer ‘San Francisco’”.
I know Glaswegians. When the singing starts, it can last for hours. The crowd numbered, as I said, hunners. And they all had their own song.
My big fear was that someone would sing ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’ before Big Alec. Not even Tony Bennett himself would be forgiven for that, especially not at Hogmanay.
The statue was unveiled not by local worthies, dignitaries or politicians, but by local schoolkids, a sort of mini-Mrs Barbour’s army.
In Mary’s day, these kids would have been thin, shoeless and a sort of peely-wally grey. On Wednesday we saw smart, sharp, savvy children, every colour on the planet – new Scots we can be proud of.
The only thing they had in common with those long-ago children was an accent so tough it can strip paint from a Volvo at 50 paces.
Oh, and a cheeky, cheery attitude that could take them – and us – to the top if we encourage it.