Community housing champion

born July 25th, 1930

died January 25th, 2018

Harriet (known as Etta) Haire, who has died aged 87, was a remarkable lady who overcame personal misfortune and later became a prominent figure in Clydebank and nationally in the community housing association sector.

She was widowed aged 43, and left with five children to bring up, which she did through dint of hard work and the application of her sterling personal qualities.

She was awarded an MBE in 2000, for her housing work. At nearly 60, she had been an original member of the steering group which led to the Trafalgar Housing Co-Operative in 1990, later the Trafalgar Housing Association, so called as its initial involvement centred round housing in that Clydebank street in the Dalmuir area, where she and her family lived.

She remained involved in the Association till 2016, serving three terms as chairperson and spells as secretary and vice chair. Widely admired for her integrity, drive, community spirit, she was very much at the forefront of Trafalgar’s success. She epitomised its aims; to provide, manage, and maintain good quality affordable housing, controlled by local people, and contribute to the area’s wellbeing. For her, tenants’ interests in having decent housing, economic rents and an effective repair service were paramount.

Born Harriet Dawkins Higgins in Clydebank, she was the eldest of four children of George and Isabella and brought up in the town’s Livingstone Street area. A bright pupil, she initially attended a local primary school before going on to Dumbarton Academy where her academic ability was noted.

Family circumstances curtailed her schooling, however, as well as the onset of the Blitz which caused not only considerable loss of life but enormous damage to the town. Her father worked as a dock porter and was also an air raid warden. She sometimes recalled her experiences of being ushered into shelters during raids.

When war finished, the family moved to Morecambe whose coastal location it was thought would help with her father’s respiratory difficulties but unfortunately he died in 1946. The family then returned to Clydebank where Mrs Haire started working in the bakery to contribute to the family budget.

In 1950 she met Sam Haire socially in the town and they started going out together. He was from Belfast where he worked in Harland and Woolf’s shipyard and a year later the couple married in Clydebank where they set up home, with Mr. Haire finding work at the town’s John Brown’s yard.

They had six children, Margaret , Billy , Gordon, Andrew, Isobel and Debbie and by 1962 moved into a house in the then newly built Trafalgar Street. In 1973 Mr. Haire died after a short period of illness leaving his wife to bring up five dependent children (Margaret having recently married). Mrs. Haire worked as a school cleaner doing both morning and evening shifts and the children were always well fed and clothed, as she managed her small wages and the contribution of the welfare state.

The street’s housing stock deteriorated and by the 1980’s poor insulation, flat roofs, and decaying fabric of three-storey tenements were bringing social issues in their wake.

The area was becoming no longer attractive to tenants and it was clear that Clydebank District council, landlords for most properties, had no funds to invest in improvements work. As she approached retirement, with her family all but independent, this she took this predicament as a challenge, which she took up for the betterment of her community.

She and colleagues succeeded in having the housing stock of 218 properties transferred to the Trafalgar Association after 91 per cent of tenants backed the move. Over six phases of development, refurbishments were carried out involving some demolition and new construction. In 1998 she played a crucial role in the transfer of 180 properties in ‘the Terraces’, in the town’s Radnor Park, also to the Trafalgar Association. This was achieved despite competition from others and much credit was due to Mrs. Haire whose standing as a fellow tenant and lead figure in the Association was instrumental in eliciting a 90% favourable vote. These houses, also run down, were demolished and rebuilt.

She insisted her MBE was for the Association, not her. . Months previously she had been treated to a surprise celebration when the director of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations gave a speech in her honour.

Her genuine interest in others was reflected in a lifelong interest in politics. She enjoyed dancing and for about 20 years enjoyed a loving relationship with Bill Jardine until his death in 1998. He had family in South Africa whom they visited and she also enjoyed travelling to visit her family throughout the U.K. A member of the Morison Memorial Church, she set up a ‘Toddlers’ group and volunteered in the café. Mrs. Haire is survived by five children, Andrew having died last year, 12 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.