Bashir Maan - Times Past
Posted on 30 March 2022
In partnership with the Glasgow Times, our archivists are exploring Glasgow's fascinating history. This week, Michael Gallagher writes about Bashir Maan.
In May 1970, Bashir Maan was elected as a Glasgow councillor. He became the first Muslim to be voted into public office in the UK. Born in present-day Pakistan (then British India), Maan came to Glasgow in 1953.
After studying and working as a door-to-door salesman, he became involved in community work. He started assisting many fellow arrivals from the crumbling British Raj who had chosen to make Glasgow their home.
Maan won the Kingston ward for Labour, taking the seat from the Conservatives with 52% of the vote. The victory was something of a surprise. Maan found himself sharing front page billing with the Celtic squad, who took part in the European Cup final on the same day.
The Evening Times recognised the significance of Maan’s achievement. They visited him at home the morning after the election. “I feel elated at having made history,” said Maan, before dedicating his victory to the people of Kingston. “I may not manage to do much at first,” he added, “but I hope to do a lot more for the people as I gain more and more experience.”
He certainly did. Over the next half-century, Maan became a prominent figure in many aspects of public life in the city (as magistrate, District Court judge, Justice of the Peace and community leader), working for greater understanding between communities and inspiring subsequent generations. He was awarded the CBE in 2000 for services to race relations and the community in Scotland.
Bashir Maan passed away in December 2019 at the age of 93. As a trail-blazing politician and public figure, he left behind a lasting legacy for his city.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Maan at his home in 2015 whilst he was preparing to deposit his personal papers with the Glasgow City Archives. Glasgow’s archives are one of the most important cultural resources that belong to the people. They can inspire us to explore our personal and shared heritage, and one of our priorities is to make sure that our collections reflect the social, cultural and ethnic diversity of our city.
Today, the Scots-Asian community plays a vital role in all aspects of Scottish civic and cultural life; Bashir Maan was central to establishing and encouraging this rich part of the nation's cultural tapestry. His election in 1970 was a key event, taking place in an era of great change and notable firsts. Indeed, coming just a year after Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, you might say it was one small step for Maan, one giant leap for a community and a nation.