Charlie and Molly Baird

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Charlie and Mollie Baird.


Charlie Baird was born in the Rottenrow Maternity Hospital Glasgow on 29 November 1915 and was one of 10 children, the family lived in Monteith Row just off the Glasgow Green. From there the family moved to a “room and kitchen” in Bonnar Street. To get a grasp of the living conditions there is the story that all the children slept in the one “recess” bed and were numbered and to save any one from being pushed out the bed, all the even numbers should breathe in as the odd numbers breathe out.


Charlie left school at 14 and though he had a talent for art, because of the family's financial circumstances, he was unable to pursue that particular road. Instead he was employed in in The City Barbers at the bottom of Union Street. Charlie had a hatred of poverty and always questioned authority. It was this that probably lead him to join the Young Communist League. He could never quite accept the rigid dogma of the Communist stance and it was during the war as a conscientious objector in prison, that he met up with some of Glasgow's anarchists. He immediately felt that he had met his kindred spirits. Among the Glasgow anarchists he met in prison for the same reason as himself, were Jimmy Raeside and Eddie Shaw. Charlie spent about a year in prison.


It was at a meeting in Brunswick Street that Charlie met Mollie. She originally hailed from Greenock and was the daughter of a boiler maker who had moved to Mount Street Maryhill in the north side of Glasgow. Charlie and Mollie remained together until their deaths in 1989. During the war the Glasgow anarchists had a room in Brunswick street and both Charlie and Mollie were very active and frequented the anarchist street meetings held in Brunswick Street, which could be rather rowdy affairs. As you can imagine there was a lot of patriotic support for the war and holding public meetings against it could lead to confrontation. There were occasions as someone got on to a box to speak there would be attempts to kick the box from underneath. If the box was snatched, somebody would bring a chair from the Hangman's Rest, a nearby pub the anarchists regularly frequented, and attempts made to defend the chair from being kicked away from under the speaker. For a period during this era Charlie as the secretary of the Glasgow Anarchist Group.


During this period everybody was issued with an ID card which you were suppose to carry at all times. Charlie never card his and in most cases it was because he didn't have it, claiming it had been lost. At that there was an under “ground railway” for deserters and those conscientious objectors who had no intention of going to prison and others of that ilk, and that is where Charlie “lost” his ID cards, Mollie also “lost” hers on occasions. Charlie and Mollie also took part in the “mock tribunals”, where conscientious objectors could be briefed in what to expect and how best to put their case.


About 1961 Charlie rented a shop as a barbershop in Balgrayhill Springburn in the north side of Glasgow, and Mollie used the backshop as a ladies hairdressers. They eventually moved to a shop in Garscube Road. By this time politics had changed in Glasgow and it was more community based. Also about that time there were considerable evictions around the area where Charlie done his business and he was forever putting his hand in the till to help out somebody in trouble with their rent. After the war large street meetings faded, however Bobby Lynn still held Sunday meetings at a house in Kent street in Bridgeton which doubled as a “shebeen”, it was one way of attracting people to the meetings.


Charlie and Mollie moved to 183 Allander Street Possilpark and it was here that Mollie, who was a diabetic at this time, developed an infected toe. She was admitted to Stobhill Hoslital October 1989 to have this removed, but the operation was not successful and she had to have her foot removed. This also failed to stop the infection and she had to have part of her leg removed. While Mollie was I hospital Charlie was suffering from chest infection and Mollie was going to sign herself out unless her son, also Charlie, could persuaded his dad to get himself into the hospital. Young Charlie junior, managed to get his dad to agree to go into Stobhill. However it was during an ambulance strike and it was a police Landrover that came to take him to hospital and as the police helped him into the back of the Landrover, one of them said to Charlie, “This'll bring back a few memories”. Mollie took a stroke and went into a coma and died December 1989, Charlie came out of hospital for the funeral and he died eleven days after Mollies death. Both Charlie and Mollie lived their lives by their principles never relenting in their struggle to fight injustice and repression, never seeking anything for themselves except sincerity in their lives. The were both part of an era in Glasgow's history that was exceptionally rich in anarchist activity.

Posted by John Couzin.

Radical Glasgow website