Maggie McIver (nee Russell) married James McIver in 1888 and they had 9 children. Maggie was born in Galston, Ayrshire. Her father, a policeman, transferred to the Glasgow force and the family lived in Bridgeton, where Maggie attended Boden Street School.
Maggie’s career started accidentally when she was asked to look after a hawker’s barrow at Parkhead Cross. The hawker was gobsmacked to find Maggie had not only looked after the “barra” but had started selling from it and was doing a roaring trade.
Within a year Maggie had her own stall, and at the age of 14 was selling fruit to theatre queues at night. Later she progressed to selling fish in the morning and fruit the rest of the day.
When she married James McIver in 1888 they started a small fruit shop in Main Street, Bridgeton, adjoining the old Star Picture House, and bought a pony and trap. They later moved to Green Street and then Marshall Lane in the Gallowgate. They had an idea to hire out “barras” to street traders at 1/6d per week and soon had over 300 barrows in their yard at the Gallowgate.
The 1914 War interrupted progress, and James McIver joined the army, leaving Maggie to run the business, where she was well known for her ready wit and shrewd ability as a dealer in horses and property, while expanding her business in the hiring of barrows. After the First World War, they bought land in the Calton between Gibson Street and the Gallowgate where, in 1921, they started the new Barrows Market. They sold everything from a needle to an anchor.
By 1926 the market was a covered venue due to the Scottish weather. Maggie is said to have felt sorry for the traders who went looking for goods to sell, then taking their wares to the “Steamie” to wash them to make them saleable to the public, only for them to get soaked again by the rain. She decided the market should have a roof. She had a skeleton building erected in Moncur Street and replaced the barrows with stalls. The biggest market in Britain was born. They were open until midnight every Saturday and when everyone had packed up, the McIvers started clearing up, as Maggie would not let anyone complain they had left a mess. In 1928 it was a fully enclosed market and electricity had been installed.
Maggie’s husband James died in 1930 after suffering from a bout of malaria he contracted in the First World War. She was left on her own to raise her nine children while continuing to build on her empire.
Maggie used to hire a local hall annually to give her traders a Christmas treat and one year she was unable to get the regular venue which then gave her the idea to build her own.
The hall was built in 1934, over the market area “on stilts” so that the traders could continue to trade from their stalls. Owing to the popularity it was extended in 1938 just before the start of the Second World War. It continued to flourish but then in 1958 tragedy struck, Maggie died and months later the hall was destroyed by fire. The McIver family were devasted but Maggie’s son Sam vowed the rebuild which he did re-opening on Christmas Eve 1960. Story to be continued.