Posts Tagged ‘1860s’

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). Later in life he was still active voicing his opinions at the time of Boer War and later in 1908 agitating for women’s suffrage.

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 spring 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.

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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Isabella Fyvie Mayo was born in London in 1843. Her family were originally from Aberdeen, and after being widowed, in 1878, she moved to Aberdeen, staying there until her death in 1914. She was first and foremost a published novelist writing under the pen-name Edward Garrett, yet she was also an activist involved in numerous causes.

She was founder member of the Aberdeen branch of the Anti-Vivisection League (1906), starting and editing an Aberdeen (later Scottish) newsletter called ‘Our Fellow Mortals’. In 1893 she co-founded an anti-racism organisation called the (later ‘International’) Society for the Recognition of the Brotherhood of Man (1893 – 1897). This Society was inaugurated in Aberdeen with meetings addressed by African-American Ida B. Wells on the lynching of blacks in America. Mayo was President and contributed to the management of the society’s organ ‘Fraternity’. The Aberdeen branch was very active and other individuals invited to Aberdeen included West Indian proto-anti-imperialist Celestine Edwards, African American ex-Senator J. Green and future pan-Africanist J.E. Casely-Hayford. She was also temporary Secretary of the Aberdeen Ladies’ Educational Association.

She spoke at meetings of the Aberdeen EIS, Aberdeen Trades Union Council, at a Stop-the-War meeting in 1900 and at Women’s Social and Political Union Suffrage meetings in 1907. She often took to the platform recruiting members to join unions, talking on socialism and anti-imperialism, and on one occasion chaired a concert in aid of striking operative engineers. She moved in political circles, being friends with William Diack of the Social Democratic Federation and various Aberdeen trades council members. In 1894 she was the first woman elected to the Aberdeen School Board and did so supported by the male working class Aberdeen Trades Union Council.

From the 1890s she promoted Leo Tolstoy who had begun to write on religious, ethical and political themes and she considered herself a Tolstoyan anarchist – seeking to promote social revolution through the peaceful process of personal reformation.

References:  ‘A notable personality’: Isabella Fyvie Mayo in the public and private sphere of Aberdeen (Lindy Moore, Women’s History Review, 2013) and Recollections of What I Saw, What I Lived Through, and What I Learned, during more than Fifty Years of Social and Literary Experience (Isabella Fyvie Mayo, London, 1910).

Sources: unknown

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Aberdeen Trades Union Council is the body made up of affiliated trade union branches and organisations in the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire area. The Council acts to promote the interests of affiliated organisations and to secure united action on issues of interest. The Council also supports the work of any partner organisations where they share the same objectives to improve the economic and social conditions of working people. The Council is active in campaigns for dignity, equality and diversity in the workplace and beyond.

Seeds were sown in 1846 when a Delegate Committee of Sympathy was established. The Committee came into being as a result of a strike of joiners and the Committee was to be the means of rallying the city’s trade unionists to the support of any section on strike. The Committee was to meet as and when required but seems to have only lasted some 3 or 4 years, but from 1856, a Committee did meet annually in order to make arrangements for the mid-summer holiday.

The Council was formally established though in 1868. Its formation at this time was prompted by the effects of the great strike of 1868, and achieved largely through the efforts of the Aberdeen branches of the Associated Carpenters and Joiners of Scotland, and the Operative Masons’ and Granite Workers’ Union. The Council objects were stated as ‘the advancement and protection of the rights of labour…as also the well-being of the working classes generally’. The Council from the outset, took an active role in both trade and municipal matters within the city, and was central to both the birth and development of an independent labour organisation in Aberdeen. The Council ran candidates in school board and council elections, and acted as the labour party essentially, choosing Parliamentary candidates and organising election campaigns. The joint work was formalised in 1918 when the Labour Party instigated the merging of the industrial and electoral organisations and the Trades Council became known as the Aberdeen Trades & Labour Council (it ran until 1935).

The Council has played a key role in the development of the trade union movement: in the role played in the formation of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in 1897, through the role of Council officers who have been elected as Presidents of the STUC and latterly in 1973 when a Grampian Federation of Trades Council was established, to represent trades across the Moray and Banff and Buchan areas.

The Council was originally based in the Trades Hall in Belmont Street (from the 1890s – 1956) and then relocated to the Adelphi off Union Street, where they are still based today. An important part of the Council was its Social Club which is where over the years countless campaign groups had held meetings and social events. In July 2012 though the Club fell into financial difficulty and was closed.

The Council’s annual calendar of events includes the traditional May Day rally (since 1890), the Workers’ Memorial Day ceremony at Persley Walled Garden (since 1998) and the St Andrew’s Day anti-racism/anti-fascism march (since 2005).

The current office used by the Council contains various memorabilia such as framed caricatures of former Council officers, the Memorial Library of the 15th International Brigade (previously in the Aberdeen Unemployment Centre) and the Spanish flag sent back to Aberdeen which was used to wrap around the bodies of two of the Aberdonians who died fighting during the Spanish Civil War.

Previous names have been: Aberdeen United Trades Council (to 1918), Aberdeen Trades & Labour Council (1918-1935), Aberdeen Trades Council (1936 – 2002) and then Aberdeen Trades Union Council (2003 – current).

Related entries: Delegated Committee of Sympathy.

References: see below. Also, History of the Trades Council and the Trade Union Movement in Aberdeen, (W. Diack, Aberdeen, 1939), Trade Unionism in Aberdeen 1878 1900 (K. D. Buckley, Edinburgh, 1955), The Aberdeen Trades Council and Politics 1900-1939 (C. W. M. Phipps, University of Aberdeen thesis, 1980), ‘ATC 1868 – 1968’ (Jimmy Milne, ATC annual report – reprinted 1988), ‘Reflections on 125 years of trade unions in Aberdeen’ (Professor Paul Dukes, ATUC annual report 1993) and ‘125th anniversary’ (Mike Dey, ATC annual report, 1994).

Sources: papers held at University of Aberdeen Library.

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Leatham was born in Aberdeen in 1865. He was a socialist advocating nationalization and municipal ownership, to be achieved through political representation and popular enlightenment. Already a militant trade unionist (by trade he was a compositor), from 1888 until 1893, Leatham was principal standard bearer of the emerging socialist left in Aberdeen, leading the local branch of the Scottish Land and Labour League/Socialist League and latterly the Aberdeen Socialist Society.

From 1889 – 1892 he 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 Aberdeen Socialist Society, he produced The Workers’ Herald, the first, though short-lived (there were 6 issues), avowedly socialist weekly paper in Scotland. The first issue sold 3000 copies in spite of newspaper boycott and police harassment of sellers. It existed for only 6 weeks though. The prospectus stated that the new newspaper will be dedicated to Socialism, and that it is in favour of shorter working hours, nationalization of industry, town and city councils as landlords, municipal public transport, male suffrage, home rule, disestablishment and disendowment of state churches, abolition of standing armies, abolition of the monarchy and abolition of the House of Lords. It stood against all other local papers which ‘…are owned by capitalists, written by men with capitalist sympathies, supported by capitalist advertisers…’

He published influential works such as – ‘The Most Important Thing In The World’ (1903 lecture about the establishment of a Co-operative Commonwealth where there is local administration and nationalisation); ‘An Eight Hours Day, with Ten Hours Pay’; ‘The Class War’ and ‘What is the good of the Empire’. He published and distributed other publications such as works by John Bruce Glasier, Scottish socialist politician, Robert Cunningham-Graham, socialist and nationalist politician, DJ Nicoll, editor of Commonweal (Journal of the Socialist League) and Rev. Alexander Webster, Unitarian minister and Christian Socialist. He also wrote articles for many other national newspapers and journals such as Commonweal, Justice (journal of the Social Democratic Federation) and Progress: a monthly magazine of advanced thought (G.W.Foote’s secularist journal).

In April 1893 Leatham left Aberdeen for Manchester, working on Robert Blatchford’s ‘Clarion’, returning north to edit the Peterhead Sentinel from 1897. After another brief spell in the north of England he returned to Scotland, settling in Turriff in Aberdeenshire. His own journal called Gateway was published from 1912 to his death in 1945, and from 1916 published at his own Deveron Press based in Turriff.

Related entries: Scottish Land and Labour League/Socialist League (Aberdeen branch) and Aberdeen Socialist Society.

References: see below. Also, autobiography (unfinished) ’60 years of World-Mending’ which was serialised in Leatham’s own journal ‘Gateway’ from 1940 – 1945 and James Leatham 1865-1945 (Bob Duncan, Aberdeen People’s Press, 1978).

Sources: papers held at University of Aberdeen Library as well as copies of his publications and Socialist Songs: Socialist League, Committee of the Aberdeen Branch (Aberdeen, 1889). Copies of The Workers’ Herald are held in Aberdeen Public Library.

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