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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Campaigning Scots who shook the world

This list is over 6 years old
 

​We've picked our favourite seven campaigning Scots - why not tell us who you should be on the list?

Scotland’s most famous poet, a Jacobite heroine, a pioneering outdoorsman, a cutting-edge architect and a tragic Queen are all up for the title of Great Scot through an online poll being carried out by the National Trust for Scotland.

The conservation charity has selected five historical heroes whose fascinating stories and incredible achievements have had a profound impact on Scotland’s history, architecture and landscape and is asking the Scottish public to select their favourite.

They are national Bard Robert Burns, Jacobite Flora MacDonald, Sir Hugh Munro, the man who first mapped all of Scotland’s mountains over 3000 feet, architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Mary, Queen of Scots.

Thepoll is part of a fundraising campaign to secure the final £100,000 needed to repair the Burns Monument in Alloway and is open till 29 April.

While you’re pondering how to vote, TFN came up with a list of other Scots heroes – people who have made a real contribution to the fabric of Scots society through their campaigning.

These are just our off the cuff suggestions: let us know who you would choose.

Mary Barbour

Mary Barbour

Mary Barbour is a true pioneer of social justice campaigning in Scotland – and one whose role was relatively unsung, until recently. Her activism started when she joined the Kinning Park Co-operative Guild in Glasgow and she rose to prominence when she organised tenants and resisted evictions during the 1915 rent strikes, with her followers being called Mrs Barbour’s Army. She was involved in anti-war agitation and later became one of Glasgow’s first female councillors. In 1925, Barbour helped create the first family planning centre in Glasgow - the Women’s Welfare and Advisory Clinic. A campaign to revive her memory has considerable success – and a statue is to be erected in her honour.

Thomas Muir

Thomas Muir

Thomas Muir has often been cited as the father of Scottish democracy. Born in Glasgow in 1765, he became a radical lawyer whose passionate campaigning for freedom of speech and democracy saw him convicted of sedition and sentenced to 14 years transportation to a penal colony in Australia. With his advocacy of political reform and the people’s freedoms, Muir was celebrated in post-revolutionary France and in 1796, he escaped from Botany Bay and made a daring – and gruelling – journey to France, where he died in 1799 at the age of just 3 3from wounds sustained during his journey.

John MacLean

John MacLean

John MacLean was a Scottish schoolteacher and Marxist educator. His socialist evening classes produced many of the activists who became instrumental in the Clyde revolts during and after the First World War. In 1918, he was jailed from sedition, with his 75 minute speech from the dock earning him a place in Scottish left folklore. He was appointed both an honorary president of the first Congress of Soviets and Soviet Consul to Scotland in recognition of his consistent socialist position on the First World War and his tireless work in support of the Bolshevik revolution. Later in his career, MacLean was at odds with much of the British left for his support for Scottish independence. His health ruined by his stint in jail, where he was force fed during a hunger strike, he died in 1923.

Robert Owen

Robert Owen

Robert Owen is the only non-Scot on the list (he was born in Wales), but he’s very much an adopted Scot. He was one of the 19th century’s foremost social reformers and one of the wellsprings of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement. Owen is best known as the founder of a mill at New Lanark, which was run on humanitarian grounds, with education, child and health care provided for workers. His mills became a showplace of enlightened management, and Owen’s reputation as a philanthropist spread throughout the world. In 1824, Owen travelled to America to invest the bulk of his fortune in an experimental 1,000-member colony on the banks of Indiana’s Wabash River called New Harmony, which was intended to be a utopian society. Even though it ultimately foundered, Owen’s ideas persisted, even influencing the scientific socialism of Karl Marx.

Helen Crawfurd

Helen Crawfurd

Crawfurd was one of Scotland’s foremost women’s sufferage and left wing campaigners. She first became active in the movement for women’s votes around 1900 and in 1910 she joined the radical Women’s Social and Political Union, which has been set up by the Pankhursts. In 1912, she smashed the windows of Jack Pease, minister for education, and received a one month prison sentence. The following year, she was twice arrested in Glasgow when Emmeline Pankhurst was speaking, received another month in prison, and went on a five-day hunger strike. During the First World War, Crawfurd was involved with the Red Clydeside movement, including the 1915 rent strikes and became secretary of the Women’s Peace Crusade. She remained a staunch communist and left wing activist until her death in 1954.

John Muir

John Muir

John Muir was born on 21 April 1838 in Dunbar and became one of the world’s foremost conservationists after his family moved to the United States. Muir is often cited as the father of the modern environmental movement, and as early as 1876, he urged the federal government to adopt a forest conservation policy through articles published in popular periodicals. In 1892 he founded the Sierra Club, a groundbreaking environmental advocacy organisation. He served as its first president, a position he held until his death in 1914. He was largely responsible for the establishment of Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, which became a blueprint for future parks. His legacy lived on not only in the establishment of parks and his environmental activism but in the scores upon scores of articles he penned as a campaigning journalist. In Scotland, his work continues through the activities of the John Muir Trust. He died aged 76 in 1914 in Los Angeles.

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline but made his fame and fortune as an industrialist in the US, amassing vast wealth in the steel industry. In 1901, he sold the Carnegie Steel Company for $480 million and he then proceeded to devote himself to philanthropy, eventually giving away more than $350m, the bulk of his fortune. Among his philanthropic activities, he funded the establishment of more than 2,500 public libraries around the globe, donated more than 7,600 organs to churches worldwide and endowed organisations (many still in existence today) dedicated to research in science, education and world peace.

 

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