STATUE HON­OURS SNAIL-IN-THE-BOT­TLE WOMAN May came out of poverty... and she went on to change his­tory

Paisley Daily Express - - Front Page - David Camp­bell The only sur­viv­ing pic­ture of May Donoghue

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Lynsey Gair Lynsey Gair

This faded black and white pho­to­graph shows a beam­ing woman proudly bear­ing a baby girl in each arm.

But far from be­ing just a dot­ing grand­mother, May Donoghue earned a place in le­gal his­tory as the claimant in the world-renowned ‘snail in the bot­tle’ le­gal case.

Now Pais­ley- based artist Mandy McIntosh will use the pre­cious fam­ily photo – the sole sur­viv­ing pic­ture of May – as the in­spi­ra­tion for a bronze statue.

Mandy, who says she was keen to take on the pro­ject as there is a dearth of fe­male stat­ues in Scot­land, said: “There are so few women com­mem­o­rated in this way that it’s great to help re­dress the bal­ance a bit.

“There are more stat­ues of dogs in Ed­in­burgh than there are of women, so it’s very fit­ting that May’s legacy is cel­e­brated in this way.

“When I first started work on the pro­ject my fo­cus was on the snail, but then I re­alised that ac­tu­ally it’s all about May and what she rep­re­sents.”

May was a sin­gle mum liv­ing in poverty in Glas­gow’s East End who had lost three chil­dren and had one sur­viv­ing son.

She suc­cess­fully sued the gin­ger beer man­u­fac­turer Steven­sons after fall­ing ill when she found a dead snail in a bot­tle in Pais­ley’s Wellmeadow Café in 1928.

Her ac­tions changed the laws on neg­li­gence, not only in her na­tive Scot­land, but across the globe.

Mandy added: “The statue shows May hold­ing her twin grand­daugh­ters El­iz­a­beth and May on their chris­ten­ing day in 1952, which is like the scales of jus­tice – her hold­ing these two equal weights.

“May was ridiculed in the press at the time by peo­ple say­ing she was only pur­su­ing the le­gal case for the money, but she kept go­ing and won the case.

“But although she came up out of poverty, she man­aged to change his­tory.”

It’s ex­pected the statue will be in­stalled – very fit­tingly – on May 1 at the Tan­nahill Cen­tre in Fer­gus­lie Park.

The doll-sized de­pic­tion of May will be first made in clay and wax be­fore be­ing cast into bronze, and will rest on an oak plinth with hand-coloured bronze spi­rals.

The artist re­ceived fund­ing for the pro­ject from Ren­frew­shire Coun­cil’s Com­mu­nity, Her­itage and Ed­u­ca­tion fund, which was launched in 2015 as part of Pais­ley’s bid to be named UK City of Cul­ture 2021.

Although the com­pe­ti­tion is over, its legacy con­tin­ues with ap­pli­ca­tions from lo­cal groups still be­ing in­vited for fur­ther rounds of fund­ing.

Mandy says she sees par­al­lels be­tween May her­self and the women of Fer­gus­lie Park .

She said: “I’ve been so im­pressed by the strength of the women around me that although they’ve not been work­ing di­rectly with me on the pro­ject, they’ve cer­tainly in­flu­enced it.”

May’s grand­daugh­ter Mag­gie Hous­ton-Tom­lin, the younger sis­ter of the twins, who are 65 and now live in Oban and Bournemouth, says she and her sib­lings are de­lighted that her grand­mother will be hon­oured – and she plans to be at the un­veil­ing.

Mag­gie said: “I’m quite amazed by how fa­mous my grand­mother has be­come.

“But I’m also amazed my fa­ther never ever told us about her. I only found out when an­other branch of the fam­ily tracked me down about eight years ago.

“I was four when May died and I do vaguely re­mem­ber her as does my elder sis­ter Eve­lyn.

“She was a bit of a char­ac­ter and a very strong woman.

“It’s as­ton­ish­ing to think of the in­flu­ence some­one of her back­ground had.”

Leader of Ren­frew­shire Coun­cil, Coun­cil­lor Iain Ni­col­son, said: “It’s great to see the legacy of the CHE fund con­tin­u­ing and to see more women rep­re­sented in our pub­lic art.

“I look for­ward to see­ing this pro­ject and many others come to fruition.”

Karen Mail­ley- Watt from the His­tory Girls Frae Scot­land, who held a Pais­ley work­shop on how we should cel­e­brate mod­ern women, said she wel­comed May Donoghue be­ing com­mem­o­rated in such a pub­lic man­ner, and added: “It is about time that we, as a so­ci­ety, start to cel­e­brate women’s achieve­ments and help to level the gen­der im­bal­ance which is so no­tice­able within Scot­land’s built and civic en­vi­ron­ments.’

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