Alex Ferguson Govan Glasgow
Sir Alex Ferguson kept his Glasgow roots alive during his era at Manchester UnitedReuters/Phil Noble

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has returned to his hometown of Glasgow to pay tribute to social campaigner Mary Barbour, who fought for the rights of working class people in the early 20th century.

Ferguson, who went on to become British football's most successful football manager of all time, has always been proud of his roots in the working class area of Govan, where Mary Barbour also came from.

In 1915 Barbour led the city's rent strikes, leading to one of the first rent restrictions acts to be passed anywhere in Europe. In 1920 she was elected councillor for a Govan ward, working tirelessly for an end to slum housing, free school milk and more wash houses. She later went on to become a magistrate.

Mary Barbour
Veteran Glasgow councillor and magistrate Mary Barbour was 'courageous and compassionate in equal measure,' says Sir Alex FergusonGlasgow City Council

"I take great pride in coming from Govan," Sir Alex told the Daily Record ahead of today's event. "It's a place where I grew up learning the value of hard graft, resolve and resilience.

"Mary Barbour is also from Govan and possessed all these attributes. She successfully mobilised people from far and wide to take direct action against social injustice and changed the law of the land. A formidable firebrand, she was courageous and compassionate in equal measure."

While manager at Manchester United Ferguson had a sign on his office wall saying "Fae Govan," and has never made a secret of his left wing affinities. A life-long Labour supporter, he frequently returns to Glasgow and has made numerous donations to local worthy causes.

Today (23 April) Sir Alex attended Glasgow's City Chambers to pay tribute to his equally formidable predecessor, donating £5,000 towards a statue. He also met Glasgow's Lord Provost Sadie Docherty and former MP Maria Fyfe, chair of the Remember Mary Barbour Association.

"It's a pleasure to welcome Sir Alex Ferguson to the City Chambers," said Provost Docherty ahead of the meeting. "We're delighted at his support for the Mary Barbour Fund. As we mark the centenary of the First World War, the significance of Mary Barbour cannot be underestimated.

"It would be such a pity if her contribution to women and children and a fairer society was allowed to fade. It's high time she received permanent recognition and it's wonderful that the Remember Mary Barbour campaign to erect a statue in her memory will finally allow a lasting tribute to her vision, courage and convictions."