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Modern Times: 1950s to The Present Day


Geoff Shaw

By Ron Ferguson

Dux of Edinburgh Academy, Geoff Shaw (1927-1978) forsook law to study for the ministry of the Church of Scotland. He was marked out as a rising star with a promising career in the Kirk, but the experience of working with drug addicts, drop-outs and gang leaders in New York changed the direction of his ministry.

Back in Scotland, Geoff, Walter and Elizabeth Fyfe and John and Beryl Jardine established the Gorbals Group as a radical experiment within the Church of Scotland. The three ministers chose to live right at the heart of what was then recognised as one of the worst slum ghettos in Europe. The ever-open battered door of Geoff's tenement flat in Cleland Street represented a haven for many vulnerable and broken people. With coffee and prayer, and hospitality and action, he helped mend lives.

Angered by the disadvantage he saw around him, Geoff decided to go into politics. After several failed attempts, he was elected Labour Councillor for Govanhill in 1970. Within three years, he was leader of the administration of the city of Glasgow and a year later he was chosen as head of the newly created Strathclyde Region. The policies he espoused with greatest enthusiasm were those which sought to give opportunities to disadvantaged people.

In 1978, it looked as if Scotland was on the brink of achieving home rule. Geoff Shaw was widely tipped to be first Scottish premier. Sadly, he had a heart attack and died on 28 April 1978, at the grievously early age of fifty-one. He is survived by his wife, Sarah.

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