Real Lives: Pat fought hard to rid Capital of slum disgrace

Harold Wilson is accompanied by two Labour councillors Mr Pat Rogan and Mr Magnus Williamson walking along Jamaica Street Edinburgh in March 1964 (date correct).
Harold Wilson is accompanied by two Labour councillors Mr Pat Rogan and Mr Magnus Williamson walking along Jamaica Street Edinburgh in March 1964 (date correct).
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Pat Rogan, a Labour stalwart who campaigned for slum clearance in Edinburgh, has died, aged 92.

Mr Rogan was born and raised in West Richmond Street, the son of a stonemason, and followed his father in a way by becoming a bricklayer. First elected to the Town Council for the Holyrood ward in 1954, he retained his seat at all subsequent elections until 1970.

Throughout this period he fought for better housing in the Capital, and in the 1960s campaigned for nine years for a development at St Leonard’s, with the government eventually approving the scheme.

It was in November 1959 that Mr Rogan came to prominence, when the so-called penny tenement – the landlord had once offered to sell it for a penny – in Beaumount Place collapsed after torrential rain, with residents miraculously escaping death.

He went to war on behalf of his constituents and was instrumental in getting them swiftly rehoused. He then helped persuade the Town Clerk, William Borland, to prepare a report that showed how Edinburgh could be met with the bill for 6000 collapsing slum houses. A slum clearance programme swiftly followed.

After that he became the first Labour councillor to chair the city’s housing committee in 1962, elected even though Labour was in a minority because he had the vision and energy to tackle the housing problems with a policy of preserving good architecture where possible but demolishing outright slums.

He took Labour’s candidate in the 1964 general election, Harold Wilson, on a tour of some of those slums, and the future prime minister pronounced them the worst he had ever seen.

Mr Rogan was also involved in the long-runing controversy over the council’s purchase of the King’s Theatre for £175,000 in 1969. The Edinburgh Festival Society had lobbied for the deal, and Mr Rogan argued that councillors should not be the “lackeys and lickspittles” of the Festival.

His contribution to the housing, finance and planning committees was recognised when he was made a bailie and later a magistrate.

Mr Rogan announced in 1972 that he would retire from council duties at the following year’s elections, but he maintained his interest in civic issues.

As a member of the Old Edinburgh Club, he campaigned for the Flodden Wall in his former constituency to be preserved, and the section in the Pleasance is the biggest part of the original fortification from 1513 still standing in the city.

He lived quietly in retirement and his great disappointment away from the political sphere was the fact that his beloved Hibernian FC never again reached the heights they achieved during the Famous Five era.

In his final days Mr Rogan was cared for at Murrayfield Nursing Home, and on his 90th birthday he returned to the City Chambers for a special party in his honour hosted by former Lord Provost Eric Milligan.

Mr Rogan was twice married, his first marriage to Jess (nee Foley) ending in divorce. She later became a Labour regional councillor. He married a second time to Labour organiser Georgina Wilson, who predeceased him.

A much-loved father to Brian, Norma – who also served as a Labour councillor in Edinburgh – Pauline and Brendan, Mr Rogan also had nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother Peter.

His funeral service will take place at Warriston Crematorium Lorimer Chapel tomorrow at 11am.