Beverly McFarlane and her journey with activism

I was brought up with a strong sense of right and wrong, but ironically, some of those who taught me failed to abide by their own teaching. Bullying, physical and emotional abuse formed a large part of the culture of Calvinist Scotland in the 1950s and I was by no means a solitary victim. Being poor meant humiliation and rejection. Poverty made kids ‘lesser’ and ‘other’ from an early age. Not having the correct school uniform meant being belted with a leather strap, receiving free school meals meant having different coloured tickets to ensure we were suitably shamed. No matter how bright or competent, poor kids were not picked for school quizzes or events. Those were reserved for posh kids, as of course were unaffordable school trips that the rest of us could only dream of. 

As a young woman, I was busy with work and activism was confined to contributing to charities and trying to treat every patient in my care as a valued human being who deserved the highest standards. At the time, I would not have recognized this as activism, but just simply doing my job. I now realize that this was subversive in its own way, particularly when working in unpopular specialties such as ‘Mental Handicap’ and ‘Geriatrics’ as they were then known. 

One of the many reasons I severed my association with church was that though there were good people with good and loving intentions, too often those who wished to act on these intentions were blocked by the institution. 

Since then, I have ploughed my own furrow, but essentially, I retain the values of serving the least and the last. With age has come a new self-confidence. I no longer fear what people think of me. Hence, when the implications of the impending Nationality and Borders Bill became clear, and I realized it would affect my neighbours and friends, I had an overpowering sense of injustice. Increasingly frustrated and angry watching TV reports, at first I thought, “Why is no-one doing anything about it”? before thinking “Why am I not doing anything about it”? I then posted a message on the local community website, and the rest as they say is history. Together with an amazing group of young women (and one man), a series of events took place last year to protest against the bill and to follow up on the Kenmure Street action of the year before, when we, the community as a whole, prevented two men being removed by the Home Office. 

Beverly is a volunteer at GWL who strives to find and encapsulate women’s histories and legacies through blogs, heritage walks and constant investigation.

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2 replies on “Beverly McFarlane and her journey with activism”

OMG I found this purely by chance as I only very occasionally look at this platform as I gave up posting on it. Thank you so much, Aishwarya for beautifully reflecting what I said. Thank you too, to GWL, for the dedication. Love you all lots x

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