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Posts Tagged ‘1840s’

There was a freethinking society active between 1846 and 1848 and this group called themselves, The Aberdeen Utilitarian Society (named after Utilitarianism developed by the philosophy Jeremy Bentham). The Society issued a manifesto and held a discussion with Free Church minister Rev. George Ogilvie and University of St Andrews Professor of Moral Philosophy William Martin. Members included James Shirrou (Chairman) and Archibald Watson, bookseller, Gallowgate. The discussion was very controversial and the arguments were played out in the secularist periodical The Reasoner and Utilitarian Record (edited by pioneering secularist George Holyoake from 1847 onwards). William Lindsay, bookseller, in his autobiography, recounted that he had attended some of the group’s meetings and viewed the group as the forerunner to the later secularist societies.

Related entries: William Lindsay and Secularist Societies (Aberdeen).

References: Some Notes Personal and Public by William Lindsay (W&W Lindsay, Aberdeen, 1898), The Aberdeen Journal, The Reasoner and Utilitarian Record, Victorian Infidels: the origins of the British Secularist Movement 1791 – 1866 (Edward Royle, Manchester University Press, 1974) and Radicals, Secularists and Republicans: Popular Freethought in Britain 1866 – 1915 (Edward Royle, Manchester University Press, 1980).

Sources: unknown.

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A group was formed in 1837 by followers of the social reformer Robert Owen (1771 – 1858). Owen had been active for 30 years establishing various social reform schemes and associations, such as New Lanark, co-operative communities across Britain and a Grand National Consolidated Trade Union. In 1835 he established an Association of All Classes of All Nations (renamed as the Universal Community Society of Rational Religionists in 1839), boldly adopting ‘Socialism or The Rational System of Society’. These associations between 1837 and 1845 had hundreds of branches across the country, composed of individuals involved in the earlier co-operative, free-thinking, trade unionist and republican movements. It is not clear whether there was an ‘official’ branch in Aberdeen, like there were in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. In 1837 an Owenite socialist committee was formed in Aberdeen after a lecture in Concert Court, Broad Street, held by the Owenite Robert Buchanan. A committee was formed with the purpose of keeping the subject of socialism before the attention of the people of Aberdeen. William Lindsay, bookseller, was a member, and in 1841 Lindsay and colleagues invited Robert Owen to Aberdeen and he came in 1842 and lectured in the hall of the Royal Hotel.

Related entries: William Lindsay.

References: Some Notes Personal and Public by William Lindsay (W&W Lindsay, Aberdeen, 1898), The Aberdeen Journal, The Republican, Victorian Infidels: the origins of the British Secularist Movement 1791 – 1866 (Edward Royle, Manchester University Press, 1974) and Radicals, Secularists and Republicans: Popular Freethought in Britain 1866 – 1915 (Edward Royle, Manchester University Press, 1980).

Sources: Association of All Classes of All Nations papers are held at the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam.

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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.

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Rev. Alexander Webster was originally from Oldmeldrum in Aberdeenshire but later moved to the south of Scotland. He came back to the north-east, arriving in Aberdeen, from Glasgow, in 1884, and then stayed for 7 years. He returned for a second period of ministry from 1895 – 1901, and after a period of retirement, died in Cults in 1918.

Webster was a Christian socialist, involved in many political organisations and causes and he was also a prolific pamphleteer and orator. Before arriving in Aberdeen, whilst in Glasgow, he had chaired the Scottish Land Restoration League. He and would speak on any platform, be it, Social Democratic Federation, Independent Labour Party (I.L.P.) or Aberdeen Trades Council. He was one of the leaders of the Radical Association (the group existed from 1884 – c.1886), a member of the Aberdeen Labour Committee (the group formed in 1888), Vice-President of Keir Hardie’s Scottish Labour Party and presided over the infamous meeting when William Morris visited and lectured in Aberdeen in 1888. Webster was a very influential figure in the development of socialism in the city, both in the cause, but also in his association with a younger generation of Aberdeen socialists such as James Leatham (who published some of his writings). In his second period of ministry he continued to be active and was a member of Aberdeen Clarion Club. Later in life he was still campaigning, voicing his opinions at the time of Boer War, and in 1907/1908 agitating for women’s suffrage alongside the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

His wrote many pamphlets, such as ‘The Political Position of Labour: A Plea for a Separate Labour Party’ (c.1893) and also issued an irregular journal called ‘The Ploughshare: A Journal of Radical Religion and Morality’.

References: Memories of Ministry (A. Webster, Glasgow 1913), In memoriam Rev. Alexander Webster, pioneer and reformer, Aberdeen Appreciations (Mrs Webster, Maclaren, Glasgow, 1919), James Leatham 1865-1945 (Bob Duncan, Aberdeen People’s Press, 1978) and Aberdeen 1800 – 2000 A New History (W Hamish Fraser & Clive Lee (eds.), Tuckwell Press, 2000).

Sources: a number of his pamphlets are held at University of Aberdeen Library.

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William Lindsay was born in Newhills parish, son of a shoemaker, and followed that trade for a period. Lindsay then established himself as a newsagent and bookseller in the Gallowgate in the 1840s. He was a member of many radical political groups throughout his life.

In 1837 he became a member of an Owenite socialist committee which was formed after a lecture in Concert Court, Broad Street, held by the Owenite Robert Buchanan. A committee was formed with the purpose of keeping the subject of socialism before the attention of the people of Aberdeen. Buchanan started a democratic paper in Glasgow and Lindsay was appointed as the Aberdeen correspondent. In 1841 Lindsay and colleagues invited Robert Owen to Aberdeen and he came in 1842 and lectured in the hall of the Royal Hotel.

Lindsay also joined the Aberdeen chartists, was a founder member of the Aberdeen Liberal Association in 1877, founder member of the Northern Co-Operative Company and was a member of the Aberdeen Workmen’s Peace Association from 1875.

Lindsay was involved in other social issues, and in the 1840s, along-with fellow delegates from the different trades and sympathetic professional men and merchants, formed a Committee of Sympathy which provided food to poor families on Sundays.

Related entries: Committee of Sympathy, ‘Owenite Society’ and The Utilitarian Society (Aberdeen).

References: Some Notes Personal and Public by William Lindsay (W & W Lindsay, Aberdeen, 1898) and Aberdeen 1800 – 2000 A New History (W Hamish Fraser & Clive Lee (eds.), Tuckwell Press, 2000).

Sources: unknown.

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The 1840s were a time of great distress and there was not in existence a society for improving the conditions of the poor. As a result, delegates from the different trades and sympathetic professional men and merchants banded together to form a Committee of Sympathy. A list of the poor families in the city was kept and food was provided to them on Sundays.

William Lindsay (newsagent/bookseller and radical) was involved and it is he who recorded the existence of this organisation.

Related entries: William Lindsay, bookseller.

References: Some Notes Personal and Public by William Lindsay (W & W Lindsay, Aberdeen, 1898).

Sources: unknown.

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A Delegated Committee of Sympathy was established in 1846 and was essentially an embryonic Trades Council in action. The Committee came into being as a result of a strike and lock-out of the Union of House Carpenters and Joiners, as their employers had resolved not to deal with any union and only deal with the workmen individually. The masons organised support for them and rallied the city’s trade unionists to support the strikers.

The Committee had further use and was to meet as and when required but seems to have only lasted some 3 or 4 years. From 1856 though a Committee did meet annually in order to make arrangements for the mid-summer holiday and in 1868 the Aberdeen Trades Union Council was formally established.

Related entries: Aberdeen Trades Union Council.

References: 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: unknown

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