Maggie McIver

Other names: 
The Barras Queen, nee Margaret Russell
May 9th 1879 - May 31st 1958

Maggie was born in Bridgeton, Glasgow in 1879 to Margaret Hutcheson, a french polisher and Alexander Russell, a policeman.

Maggie began her working life as a french polisher like her mother, but she had her first experience of business aged twelve while looking after a family friend's fruit barrow. Once a little older she opened her own fruit shop and met her future husband and business parter, James McIver.

World War One brought an increased volume of traffic on the city thoroughfares and renewed attempts by the Corporation to discourage street trading. Maggie witnessed some barrow traders being booked by the police and decided to provide a place for trading to continue. The McIver’s organized a Saturday market on their land, now known as the Barras. This market soon attracted over 300 barrows. The original market was sheltered in 1926 because Maggie was concerned for the welfare of the hawkers in bad weather.

After her husband’s death, Maggie was left to raise 9 children. She took advantage of the dancing craze of the 1930s and opened the Barrowland Ballroom on Christmas Eve 1934. This allowed her to provide for her large family. Through the Second World War, the ballroom became world-renowned.

Maggie died a multi-millionaire in 1958. A few months after her death, the Ballroom was destroyed in a fire. The Barras Market remains in her family and continues to be dominated by female stallholders.

A history of the Barrowlands in Glasgow
A radio interview with Maggie McIver from 1955.
The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women
A short biography of Margaret (Maggie) McIver written by Yvonne Galloway Brown