Miss Rough's Army?

This International Women’s Day (8 March), a long-awaited statue of Mary Barbour is unveiled in Govan. A hero of the 1915 rent strike, Barbour later became a pioneering female councillor, bailie and magistrate of Glasgow.

Records in the Mitchell's Registrars Genealogy Service​ help us to learn more about Mary Barbour’s life. Born Mary Rough in Kilbarchan in 1875, she was the third of seven children to James and Jean. 

The family moved to Elderslie where Mary married David Barbour in 1896 – the marriage certificate recorded her occupation as “carpet printer”.


Mary and David moved to Govan, where the 1911 census shows them living at 43 Ure Street (now Uist Street) along with their sons James and William. The census shows that three children were born to the couple but only two were living. The Barbour’s first child, David, died of meningitis. This loss is likely to have shaped Mary’s interest in health and housing issues.

Following the outbreak of World War I, Mary Barbour became a key figure in the 1915 rent strike. She mobilised families in the area during the campaign of non-payment of rent and the prevention of evictions, earning activists the nickname “Mrs Barbour’s Army”. Their actions proved successful, leading to the Rent Restriction Act of November 1915.

Mary continued her involvement in politics after the war, being elected to the Glasgow Town Council alongside four other women in 1920. She served the Fairfield ward until 1931, becoming a magistrate and bailie of the burgh – significant milestones for women in public office.​

Why not use the births, deaths, marriages and census to explore your own family story?

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