Pat Rogan helped city destroy its slum housing shame

Pat Rogan, the man who spearheaded the attack against Edinburgh's appalling slum housing, has been reunited with former council colleagues as part of his 90th birthday celebrations.

Councillor Eric Milligan hosted a special party at the City Chambers last Wednesday to mark Mr Rogan's milestone.

Mr Rogan was an inspiration and driving force among Labour councillors for two decades between 1954 and 1974 and fought to improve living conditions for many in Edinburgh and Leith.

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As the Labour chairman of the Housing Committee from 1962 to 1965, he initiated the drive to sweep away slum properties and to clear areas of prefabs to use the land for new houses.

Mr Rogan was born in West Richmond Street in 1919.

He quickly developed a political awareness, particularly concerning the conditions in which many families in Edinburgh were living.

Mr Rogan said: "Some of the things were just unbelievable – human faecal matter spilling out on to the pavement, perhaps a dozen families sharing a toilet. Landlords could no longer pay for repairs and they abandoned the property."

He added: "Edinburgh had, for too long, turned a blind eye to its housing conditions and there was a presumption in the council when I arrived that the slums would be tackled in the next 20 to 25 years.

"I would not accept that. The only purpose for my becoming a councillor was to rid the town of the slums."

Mr Rogan said the collapse of the infamous Penny Tenement in Beaumont Place, St Leonards, in November 1959, "revealed how bad" the housing situation was.

He said: "The town clerk at the time, William Borland, took counsel's advice and we were told the Edinburgh Corporation would be liable if there were any deaths from collapsing buildings.

"Within a matter of months, 6000 slum properties were cleared."

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During the General Election campaign in 1964, Mr Rogan showed Labour leader Harold Wilson the conditions in Freer Street at Fountainbridge and Jamaica Street in the New Town – some of the worst housing Mr Wilson said he had ever encountered in Britain.

Mr Rogan served for 20 years as councillor for the Holyrood ward, which was an amalgamation of the former Canongate and St Leonards wards.

Former Lord Provost councillor Eric Milligan and former councillors Phyllis Herriot, Alex Burton, Paul Nolan, Sandy Ross, Brian Fallon and Russell Imrie attended last week's party and praised Mr Rogan for his work.

Mr Milligan said: "He was the first Labour councillor to hold a position of real authority in the council. The reason they put him forward as housing chairman was that they needed someone with the energy and vision to tackle the need for slum clearance programmes, and that transformed lives for many working-class people."

Mr Rogan, who has been a resident at Murrayfield House for more than two years, also received a tour of the newly decorated City Chambers during the party.