Posts Tagged ‘1870s’

Following the failure to include women in the enlargement of the electorate in the Second Reform Bill of 1867, a National Society for Women’s Suffrage was forrned in London, by Lydia Becker. Soon a branch in Edinburgh was established with further branches in Glasgow and Aberdeen by 1871. The leaders of the Edinburgh branch included Priscilla Bright McLaren (President) and Eliza Wigham (who was a Secretary and who was a veteran of the Edinburgh Ladies’ Emancipation Society in the 1830s/1840s).

An Aberdeen branch was formed in April 1871, following a public meeting in the Music Hall to support claims of women householders, with Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson speaking (the pioneering woman doctor and sister of Millicent Garrett Fawcett). Also on the platform were William Lindsay (bookseller and veteran of many local campaigns), Alexander Bain, University of Aberdeen Professor of Logic and Rhetoric (an active supporter of women’s rights and political reform more widely), and also his wife. She was to become Secretary of the new branch and was later a leading light in the Aberdeen Ladies’ Educational Association.

For many years after the 1870s there continued to be speakers coming to Aberdeen (such as Lydia Becker) and local meetings in the homes of members. It is not clear how long the Aberdeen Society branch was active for, yet a continuing organisation, with the name Aberdeen Women’s Suffrage Association, was certainly operating in c.1900. The National Society remained active throughout the 19th century and after splits in the organisation emerged as the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in 1897.

Related entries: National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (Aberdeen) and William Lindsay.

References: Aberdeen Journal, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866 – 1928 (Elizabeth Crawford, Routledge, London, 2001), The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: A Regional Survey (Elizabeth Crawford, Routledge, London, 2006), A Guid Cause: the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Scotland (Leah Leneman, Aberdeen University Press, Aberdeen, 1991) and Bajanellas and Semilinas: Aberdeen University and the Education of Women 1860 – 1920 (Lindy Moore, Aberdeen University Press, 1991).

Sources: Archives of the national body are held at the Women’s Library, London School of Economics.

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There were ‘freethinkers’ in Aberdeen from the 1820s, followers of Richard Carlile and Robert Owen, themselves heirs of Thomas Paine. There was renewed attempts to form a society in Aberdeen in 1855, and a John Fraser of Aberdeen, wrote an article for ‘The London Investigator’, stating that there were plenty of freethinkers in the city, and appealing to form a new society. The high point of the Secularist movement was between the 1850s and 1880s under the leadership of George Holyoake and Charles Bradlaugh (founder of the National Secular Society (NSS) in 1866). There were numerous societies throughout Britain in the 19th century/early 20th century, including in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

In Aberdeen a group was active between 1870 and 1878 and it would seem was part of the Scottish Secular Union, which was for a time a Scottish equivalent of the NSS. There was also a society, which was an official branch of the NSS, between 1892 and 1894. A further group is noted as being active between 1899 – 1901. In the society which was active in the 1870s, the officers included, George Middleton (President), Joseph Campbell (Treasurer), James Maitland (Financial Secretary) and Keith Murray (Secretary). The society met every Sunday at Aberdeen Reform House, Guestrow. Also of note is that the radical and freethought journal ‘The National Reformer’ (edited by Charles Bradlaugh), was available in Aberdeen from booksellers, George Middleton at Skene Square. Middleton was a key member of the movement, as a local agent for secularist publications and also because his premises were used as a meeting place. He was also a publisher and issued pamphlets attacking the church and local ministers (see, The Comet: Or Letters To Bon-Accordians, 9 issues produced between 1884 – 1887).

Related entries: Utilitarian Society (Aberdeen).

References: The Comet: Or Letters To Bon-Accordians (George Middleton, Aberdeen, 9 issues, 1884 – 1887), Victorian Infidels: the origins of the British Secularist Movement 1791 – 1866 (Edward Royle, Manchester University Press, 1974), Radicals, Secularists and Republicans: Popular Freethought in Britain 1866 – 1915 (Edward Royle, Manchester University Press, 1980), Aberdeen Booksellers of Bygone Days (William Walker, Aberdeen Book-lover 2, 1918), The London Investigator, The National Secular Society Almanack, The Secular Chronicle and The Workers’ Herald (1892)

Sources: unknown.

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The International Working Men’s Association (IWMA), also called the First International, split into factions and many members (such as the Aberdeen branch) joined other groups. One such group was the republican movement, led in the early 1870s by Charles Bradlaugh (atheist and founder of the National Secular Society), who himself had been a member the IWMA, but had left acrimoniously in 1871.

The republican movement was closely connected to the secularist movement and part of the tradition of radicalism stretching back to Thomas Paine, Richard Carlile and the Chartists. The movement was more than just a simple criticism of the monarchy, but was also a protest against the Established Church, the aristocracy, and their privileged position in the House of Lords. There was an overarching National Republican League and clubs throughout Britain, in Aberdeen (founded in spring 1873), Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow (these has been formed in 1871).

The Aberdeen Club formed from members that left the IWMA and a visit from propagandist John de Morgan to try and set up a branch in spring 1873, would appear to be the prime instigation. The Club met in Littlejohn Street Hall and officers included, W Scott (Secretary).

Related entries: International Working Men’s Association (Aberdeen)

References: Radicals, Secularists and Republicans: Popular Freethought in Britain 1866 – 1915 (Edward Royle, Manchester University Press, 1980), ‘The English Branches of the First International’ in Essays in Labour History (eds. Asa Briggs and John Saville, 1960) and Aberdeen Press and Journal.

Sources: unknown.

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The International Working Men’s Association, also called the First International, was an international organisation established in 1864, to unite groups involved in the protection, advancement and emancipation of the working classes. The first Congress  was in London and Karl Marx was in attendance, part of the provisional committee which drew up the programme and rules.

Although there were many hundreds of members and affiliated groups, there were no branches in Britain by 1871. Therefore a British Federal Council was established to co-ordinate the branches in Britain. According to a report by John Roach, British Federal Council representative, to their Nottingham Congress in 1872, there were now 19 branches in Britain, including a branch in Aberdeen. There were also other branches in Scotland, in Dundee and Glasgow. The secretary of the Aberdeen branch was a William Stephen, noted as the author of a pamphlet entitled ‘Communism’ which advocated the ‘communism of Christ’.

In 1872 though, the international Association split, due to a faction led by anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, which established a rival International. The split caused irreparable damage to the Association which ended soon after. Like many others, the Aberdeen branch was dead by the middle of 1873, with many of its members now joining Charles Bradlaugh (atheist and founder of the National Secular Society), and his republican movement as an alternative.

Related entries: Republican Club (Aberdeen)

References: Karl Marx and the British Labour Movement: Years of the First International (H Collins and C Abramsky, MacMillan, London, 1965) and ‘The English Branches of the First International’ in Essays in Labour History (eds. Asa Briggs and John Saville, 1960).

Sources: unknown. William Stephen pamphlet noted above and titled ‘Communism’ is untraced.

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Henry (or Harry) Hill Duncan was born in 1862, son of Radical shoemaker Alexander (Sandy) Duncan. Henry was also a shoemaker and an active member of the Unitarian church, led by the Rev. Alexander Webster.

Duncan was active in Aberdeen Trades Council as delegate for the Boot and Shoemakers’ Union and he was also part of the Aberdeen Socialist Society with James Leatham et al. In early 1891 he led a group which acrimoniously split from the Society to form the Aberdeen Revolutionary Socialist Federation, changing its name to the Aberdeen Anarchist Communist Group in 1893. This group had argued for a more revolutionary than reformist position. Duncan was a very active member of the group and published a pamphlet titled ‘A Plea for Anarchist Communism’ in 1893.

After the group dissolved in the mid-1890s Duncan came to the fore on the Aberdeen Trades Council, serving as President in 1903 – 1905 and 1910, and also playing a formative role in organising dock workers in the city. He was also a member of Aberdeen School Board from 1900 -1906 and from 1911 – 1920, later working for the Education Authority.

Related entries: Aberdeen Anarchist Communist Group, Aberdeen Socialist Society, James Leatham and Rev. Alexander Webster.

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) 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. Also Post Office Directories.

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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 (he also called himself a Christian Anarchist), 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 and anarchism 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) and Henry Hill Duncan. 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’.

Related entries: Aberdeen Clarion Club, Aberdeen Labour Committee, Aberdeen Revolutionary Socialist Federation/Aberdeen Anarchist Communist Group, Aberdeen Socialist Society, James Leatham, Henry Hill Duncan, Radical Association and Scottish Land and Labour League/Socialist League

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.

He was involved in the 1832 Reform Act agitations and in 1837 he was 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 was an active Chartist and was correspondent for Aberdeen and the north for the Chartist newspaper, The Northern Star. Lindsay was the Aberdeen representative at the National Association of United Trades conference in Liverpool in 1848 (this association was an early attempt at a trade union federation). He was also Aberdeen representative at a 1852 conference in Edinburgh where he opposed Chartist leader Feargus O’Connor’s land plan.

Lindsay 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.

Related entries: Aberdeen Charter Union, Aberdeen Female Radical Association, Aberdeen Working Men’s Association, Committee of Sympathy, ‘Owenite Society’ and The Utilitarian Society (Aberdeen).

References: The People’s Journal, 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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