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The Aberdeen Junior Liberal Association was formed in 1882 and came out of (along-with the Aberdeen Radical Association) the splits between radicals and moderates in the Aberdeen Liberal Association (formed in 1877). Both associations formed in the 1880s were mainly composed of radicals and saw their function as pushing the Liberal Association along a more reformist path.

The Association formed around the issue of land nationalisation and held public lectures by individuals such as the radical MP William Alexander Hunter. Also, in 1886/1887 James Leatham lectured on the merits of socialism and notably in 1888, Robert Cunninghame Graham and Keir Hardie, put the case for working class politics.

Members of The Junior Liberal Association were more middle-class professional people than the Radical Association. Committee members included George Gerrie (Association Secretary and a bank official), George Bisset (President of the Aberdeen Trades Council 1886 – 1888) and W.C. Spence (a school teacher). The Association wound up in 1888 and all these men became supporters of a policy of independent Labour representation, via, The Labour Committee and then the Aberdeen Independent Labour Party.

Related entries: Aberdeen Radical Association, William Lindsay, bookseller and Rev. Alexander Webster, Unitarian minister and socialist.

References: James Leatham 1865-1945 (Bob Duncan, Aberdeen People’s Press, 1978) and Trade Unionism in Aberdeen 1878 1900 (K. D. Buckley, Edinburgh, 1955).

Sources: pamphlets of public lectures are held at University of Aberdeen Library.

The Aberdeen Radical Association was formed in 1884 and came out of (along-with the Aberdeen Junior Liberal Association) the splits between radicals and moderates in the Aberdeen Liberal Association (formed in 1877). Both associations formed in the 1880s were mainly composed of radicals and saw their function as pushing the Liberal Association along a more reformist path.

The objects stated in the 1884 Constitution were: ‘The elimination of all power based on hereditary privilege, the promotion of political and social reform, and the furtherance of measures tending to the amelioration and advancement of the people’. The list of policies went further: abolition of the House of Lords, nationalisation of land, disestablishment and disendowment of state churches, free education and women’s suffrage.

The Radical Association members were predominantly working class, but also included influential leaders such as Dr A.T.G. Beveridge (future Chairman of the Aberdeen Independent Labour Party), George Bisset (Aberdeen Trades Council President 1886 – 1888),  James C. Thompson (Aberdeen Trades Council President 1883 and 1885), Rev. Alexander Webster (Unitarian minister and socialist) and William Lindsay (bookseller, former chartist and involved in many other political organisations). The Association successfully co-operated with the Trades Council on the promotion of William Alexander Hunter as MP for North Aberdeen in 1885.

The Association appears to have wound up at the end of 1887 as there were discussions around this issue at the time. It was felt by some members that the Junior Liberal Association was sufficiently fulfilling the functions of the Radical Association.

Related entries: Aberdeen Junior Liberal Association, William Lindsay, bookseller and Rev. Alexander Webster, Unitarian minister and socialist.

References: James Leatham 1865-1945 (Bob Duncan, Aberdeen People’s Press, 1978) and Trade Unionism in Aberdeen 1878 1900 (K. D. Buckley, Edinburgh, 1955).

Sources: Radical Association Constitution (Aberdeen, 1884) is held at the University of Aberdeen Library.

The University student movement was formed nationally in 1908 (ran until 1918) and an Aberdeen branch was operational in the same year. The Branch issued a magazine called ‘The Suffragette’ in 1908 which was a University Rectorial magazine supporting the candidature of Sir Edward Carson. The Secretary in 1913 was Miss Leitch.

References: University student directories.

Sources: magazine ‘The Suffragette’ (1908).

Aberdeen Socialist Society was formed in c.1891 and followed on from The Scottish Land and Labour League/Socialist League (Aberdeen branch) which was active from 1887 – 1891. The Society continued the work of its predecessor holding public meetings, organising lectures (many with well known Socialist lecturers such as Eleanor Marx) and organising demonstrations by the unemployed. The key person again was James Leatham, compositor, and now a publisher in his own right. From 1889 – 1892 Leatham ran his own printing and publishing co-operative (the 1st socialist press in Aberdeen), selling progressive and socialist literature, including his own very popular propagandist pamphlets. In the winter of 1891–1892, supported by the Society, he produced The Workers’ Herald, the first, though short-lived (there were 6 issues), avowedly socialist weekly paper in Scotland.

By mid-1891 the Society had split (mirroring national events as the Socialist League was overtaken by anarchists) and a group called the Aberdeen Revolutionary Socialist Federation was founded, changing its name to the Aberdeen Anarchist Communist Group in 1893.

In 1893 Leatham left Aberdeen for Manchester and the Society affiliated itself to the Social Democratic Federation (SDF), the largest socialist organisation in Britain, which had been founded in 1881.

Members included Leatham of course, Aiken, Patrick Barron, brothers George and William Cooper (jobbing joiners), William Diack (stonemason), Harry/Henry Hill Duncan (shoemaker), Alex Gray (shoemaker), William Simpson Rennie (stonemason) and William Russel (drystone dyker).

Related entries: The Scottish Land and Labour League/Socialist League, James Leatham, author and publisher, Aberdeen Anarchist Communist Group and Social Democratic Federation.

References: James Leatham autobiography (unfinished) ’60 years of World-Mending’ which was serialised in Leatham’s own magazine ‘Gateway’ from 1940 – 1945, James Leatham 1865-1945 (Bob Duncan, Aberdeen People’s Press, 1978), History of the Trades Council and the Trade Union Movement in Aberdeen (W. Diack, Aberdeen, 1939) and Trade Unionism in Aberdeen 1878 1900 (K. D. Buckley, Edinburgh, 1955).

Sources: James Leatham papers held at University of Aberdeen Library as well as copies of his publications. Copies of The Workers’ Herald are held in Aberdeen Public Library.

The Scottish Land and Labour League (SLLL) was formed in Edinburgh in 1884 and constituted itself as the Scottish section of the largest British socialist organisation of the time, the Social Democratic Federation (SDF), itself founded in 1881. The SLLL agitated for land nationalisation united with public ownership of industrial capital. Later that same year after a split in the SDF, the SLLL affiliated itself to the new organisation, the Socialist League (again effectively as a Scottish section).

In late 1887 a branch of the SLLL was established in Aberdeen after a series of meetings held by SLLL organiser J.L. Mahon. The meetings had been arranged by James Leatham, compositor (and soon to be a publisher in his own right). The local organiser was Leatham, Secretary was Patrick Barron and Treasurer was Harry/Henry Hill Duncan. The branch organised open air meetings in the Castlegate every Saturday, organised a choir and provided for literature to be had at meetings such as Justice (journal of the SDF), Commonweal (journal of the Socialist League) and Agnostic Journal and Secular Review. One of the major events organised was the hosting of a lecture by William Morris, in March 1888.

By 1890/1891 as the Socialist League nationally was disintegrating with the takeover by anarchists, a new organisation was formed called the Aberdeen Socialist Society.

Related entries: James Leatham, author and publisher, Aberdeen Socialist Society and Aberdeen Anarchist Communist Group.

References: James Leatham autobiography (unfinished) ’60 years of World-Mending’ which was serialised in Leatham’s own magazine ‘Gateway’ from 1940 – 1945, James Leatham 1865-1945 (Bob Duncan, Aberdeen People’s Press, 1978), History of the Trades Council and the Trade Union Movement in Aberdeen (W. Diack, Aberdeen, 1939) and Trade Unionism in Aberdeen 1878 1900 (K. D. Buckley, Edinburgh, 1955).

Sources: Socialist Songs: Socialist League, Committee of the Aberdeen Branch (Aberdeen, 1889).

The Association was led by Isabella Wilson Legge (wife of James Legge, stonemason and Chair of the Aberdeen Charter Union) and most of the members were mill workers. It campaigned for votes for women as well as men and was one of many similar organisations across the country. The Association issued a statement by the ‘Female Chartists of Aberdeen’ in 1841. Their meeting place was at the Temperance Hotel, 41 Queen Street.

References: Popular radicalism and working class movements in Aberdeen c.1790-1850 (Robert Emslie Duncan, University of Aberdeen thesis, 1976) and Aberdeen Women’s Alliance, City Centre Women’s Heritage Walk leaflet, 2014.

Sources: unknown.

The Group was formerly known as the Aberdeen Revolutionary Socialist Federation, which had been founded in early 1891, changing its name to the Aberdeen Anarchist Communist Group in 1893. The Federation was formed when some members acrimoniously broke ranks from the Aberdeen Socialist Society (James Leatham et al), arguing for a more revolutionary than reformist position.

Members included Addie, W.N. Allan, Harry/Henry Hill Duncan (shoemaker, member of the Unitarian church led by Rev. Alexander Webster and also delegate of the Boot and Shoemakers’ Union on the Aberdeen Trades Council), A. Fraser, George Fraser, G. Horne, James Horne, James McFarlane, Eglan Shepherd (baker), A. Smith and James Taylor.

Group members held indoor and outdoor meetings, annual socials, demonstrations, hosted visits from other anarchists based in Inverness, Glasgow and London, sold issues of Commonweal and also wrote about their new activities in the journal Commonweal. Duncan wrote a pamphlet ‘A Plea for Anarchist Communism’ published under the group’s name in 1893.

The Aberdeen Anarchist Communist Group hosted the third conference of Scottish Anarchists in 1895 and welcomed delegates from Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hamilton and Motherwell. In 1895 an account states there were 100 members. The Group had a club in Seamount Place in the Gallowgate area.

Although the group had been formed after a split from the Aberdeen Socialist Society, the two groups still had connections, and worked together on occasions. After the group dissolved Harry Duncan came to the fore on the Aberdeen Trades Council, serving as President in 1903 – 1905 and 1910 and playing a formative role in organising dock workers in the city.

Related entries: James Leatham, author and publisher, The Scottish Land and Labour League/Socialist League and Aberdeen Socialist Society.

References: obituary of H.H. Duncan in Aberdeen Journal 5th May 1937, web article by Nick Heath ‘Anarchism in Aberdeen, the Granite City’ (2013). (author used sources such as the articles submitted by the group to the journal Commonweal), James Leatham 1865-1945 (Bob Duncan, Aberdeen People’s Press, 1978) and ‘A Plea for Anarchist Communism’ (H.H. Duncan, Aberdeen Anarchist Communist Group, James Blair, Aberdeen, 1893).

Sources: as above, articles submitted by the group to the journal Commonweal and H.H. Duncan’s pamphlet.