7 March 1913
|Died||24 March 2005 (aged 92)|
|Alma mater||Oxford University|
|Known for||Spanish Civil War veteran; political activist; charity campaigner|
Early life and education
Elizabeth Aytoun was born 7 March 1913 in Birmingham, UK, to Dorothy Henderson and Rev Robert Aytoun, an Old Testament scholar. Her father died when she was seven, and Edward Cadbury became her guardian. Cadbury funded Girling's education, and she attended St Leonards School in St Andrews, followed by Oxford University, where she studied English Literature; one of her tutors at Oxford was J R R Tolkien.
Spanish Civil War
Girling travelled to Spain in 1937 to join the resistance against General Franco's uprising. Based in the Pyrenees, her main responsibility was caring for children evacuated due to the war. While in Spain, she met Frank Girling, then a Cambridge student working for the International Voluntary Service for Peace. They married in 1939.
Activism and charity work
Having left Spain, Girling opened the family home, Ashintully Castle, to refugees from Eastern Europe and London during World War Two, while Frank was posted first to the east coast of Scotland and subsequently to India.
After the war, the couple moved around England, Frank's work as a social anthropologist and academic taking them to university cities including Cambridge, Oxford, Leeds and Sheffield, before eventually settling in Edinburgh.
Girling remained a committed socialist and was a firm supporter of the Labour party. She founded the Partisan Coffee House in Victoria Street, Edinburgh, in 1959 which would become a well-known meeting place for left-wing intellectuals and artists throughout the 1960s.
Girling was also a campaigner for improved services for allergy sufferers in Scotland, and was a founding member of the Lothian Allergy Support Group. Representing this organisation, she petitioned the Scottish Parliament to establish specialist clinics for allergy sufferers in Scotland.
- Ewan, Elizabeth; Pipes, Rose; Rendall, Jane; Reynolds, Siân (2018). The New Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women. Edinburgh University Press. p. 161. ISBN 9781474436281.
- Maclean, John Ross (2005-05-04). "Obituary: Elizabeth Girling". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- "Elizabeth Girling". www.scotsman.com. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- "Frank Girling". www.scotsman.com. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- "Public Petitions Committee". Retrieved 31 May 2019.