The author

Ena Lamont Stewart was born on 10 February in Glasgow in 1912. The only daughter of a clergyman and his wife who had originated from Canada, she spent much of her life in the city, growing up to work as a librarian within Baillie’s reference library.

She married Scottish actor Jack Stewart and together they had a son, William. The married couple joined Glasgow’s MSU Repertory Theatre in Rutherglen, which went on to produce her first play in 1942, Distinguished Company.

Three years later, the same company produced her next successful play, Starched Aprons.

The play itself was based on Lamont Stewart’s own observations from working as a receptionist at the city centre’s children’s hospital.

A woman sitting by the fire in a rundown tenement, holding a baby and toddler
Ena Lamont Stewart was shocked at the living conditions in the Gorbals

Working there, she was disturbed by the poverty of those living in the Gorbals, suffering from malnutrition, tuberculosis and other ‘poor’ diseases.

It was in this role that she picked up on the rhythms and nuances of everyday speech which is certainly a hallmark of the play’s realism.

Ena Lamont Stewart was also perhaps initially inspired to write and reflect the real Glasgow because of her disdain for the narrow conventional drama previously on offer:

One evening in the winter of 1942 I went to the theatre. I came home in a mood of red-hot revolt against cocktail time, glamorous gowns and under-worked, about-to-be-deceived husbands. I asked myself what I wanted to see on stage and the answer was life. Real life. Ordinary people.

Writer and broadcaster, Kenneth Roy, who was a good friend and long-time champion of Ena Lamont Stewart wrote the following about her:

It was such a male chauvinist society then and it was difficult for any women writers to make any impression... She was always thought of as a Communist, but she was actually just a great critic and observer. Some of her abilities were journalistic. She observed the society around her, and had this uncanny ability of scraping up language and turning it into these great works of art.

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