7 March 2019
Recently, Eunice Olumide asked the Glasgow City Council to rename the streets in the Merchant City which bear the names of the tobacco lords and sugar plantation owners whose vast wealth has been built upon slavery. I don’t know what the city fathers (and mothers) will say about this proposal but I hope they will decide against it. Three reasons.
Firstly, to remove the names of Glassford and Ingram and all the rest is to erase a significant period of Scottish history which should never be forgotten. The names should resonate not with glory but with shame and be a constant reminder to all of us of the ugliness of our national past.
Secondly, to retain the street names is a constant reminder of the folly of our memorialisation. With the passage of time, the feet of clay are revealed for all to see. Our best memorial is the love which we have for family, friends and all those in need. This is the only memorial which lasts for as St. Paul says, ‘Love is eternal.’
Thirdly, the street names should be preserved as a living reminder of the complexity of human nature. There is good and bad in all of us. The proportions of the mix may vary from one to the other but none of us is free from our personal sinfulness and our participation in the sinfulness of our communities and nations. Lent is a good time to reflect upon this!