Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘1900s’

John Paton was born in Aberdeen, his father a master baker and his mother a paper factory worker. In his life he was employed in a bewildering number of occupations: apprentice compositor, warehouseman, apprentice baker, hairdresser, milkman and salesman of false teeth. He became involved in politics as a teenager through membership of the Clarion Club and the Shop Assistants’ Union. He joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP) around 1906, often going to the Clarion Club room beside Marischal College to meet other like minded individuals. He was interested in socialist propaganda and often spoke in public around the usual gathering points such as the Castlegate.

He had some troubles in his work because of his vocal socialist viewpoints, and he moved to Glasgow around 1910. He became disillusioned with the ILP and became interested in the writings of Mikhail Bakunin and with others re-formed the Glasgow Anarchist Group. He returned to Aberdeen around 1912 becoming heavily involved again with the ILP. He became ILP representative on Aberdeen Trades Council, often putting forward anti-war resolutions and was the ILP nomination for North Aberdeen in 1918, but his anti-war stance worked against him. In 1920/1921 he was ILP Northern Organiser, and then until 1924 party organiser for all of Scotland. He stood for election in South Aberdeen in 1923, and was near to standing for Parliament again in 1928 but was unable to do so alongside his new role as General Secretary of the ILP. He left the ILP in 1933 over his opposition to what he regarded as its pro-communist policies.

He was also secretary of the International Committee of Independent Revolutionary Socialist Parties, secretary of the National Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, editor of The New Leader and also The Penal Reformer. He eventually became a Labour M.P. for Norwich from 1945 to 1964.

He wrote a 2 volume autobiography: volume 1 covers early life until 1919, whilst volume 2 (1919 – 1933) is mainly about his professional work with the ILP, after he leaves Aberdeen. The volumes are very detailed describing his formative years learning about socialism and atheism, the Aberdeen Clarion Club, Aberdeen ILP, his pacifist work in World War One (including a few occasions of conflict, such as when Ramsay MacDonald spoke in the city), the role of the ILP Northern Organiser and also the re-founding of the anarchist group in Glasgow.

Related entries: Aberdeen Clarion Club and Musings: Daily acts of rebellion no:1

References: 2 volumes of autobiography: Proletarian Pilgrimage (John Paton, George Routledge & Sons Ltd., London, 1935) and Left Turn! (John Paton, Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd., London, 1936). Entry in Biographical Dictionary of European Labour Leaders (2 volumes, A Lane, Westport Greenwood Publishing Co., 1995)

Sources: 2 volumes of autobiography noted above. Some items of correspondence are held at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre (People’s History Museum), Manchester.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Following the collapse of the Scottish Workers’ Parliamentary Elections Committee (SWPEC) in 1903, in 1906, another attempt was made to bring together local trade unionists and socialists to co-ordinate candidates for elections. The Aberdeen Labour Representation Council formed in late 1906 with members from the Aberdeen Trades Council (ATC), Independent Labour Party, Social Democratic Federation (SDF) and Working Women’s Political Association. The organisation supported Tom Kennedy of the SDF in Aberdeen North in 1906 and put forward SDF nominee, Fred Bramley, a former Bradford cabinetmaker, as candidate for the 1907 Aberdeen South by-election. Council officers included John Macwaters (SDF member and President of the Aberdeen Trades Council) and John Croll (SDF member and Secretary).

The Aberdeen organisation was not affiliated to either the SWPEC or Labour Representation Committee in London and the only link it had to these bodies was via the ATC which was affiliated to the Scottish Committee. Nationally, the SWPEC had been renamed the Scottish Labour Party in 1908 and in 1909 had absorbed into the British Labour Party. In early 1909 the Aberdeen organisation became the Aberdeen Labour Party and due to the affiliation with the British Labour Party, the SDF could not continue its membership.

Related entries: The Scottish Workers’ Parliamentary Elections Committee.

References: The Aberdeen Trades Council and Politics 1900-1939 (C. W. M. Phipps, University of Aberdeen thesis, 1980).

Sources: unknown.

Read Full Post »

The Scottish Workers’ Parliamentary Elections Committee (SWPEC) was the equivalent of the London established Labour Representation Committee (LRC) (the LRC was the forerunner of the British Labour Party, taking the name in 1906). The SWPEC was established under the auspices of the Scottish Trades Union Congress and was another attempt to bring together trade unionists and socialists to co-ordinate candidates for elections. The Aberdeen group was an umbrella organisation, chaired by J.H. Elrick (President of Aberdeen Trades Council (ATC)), with members from the Trades Council, Independent Labour Party and Social Democratic Federation (SDF). The Aberdeen group suffered set backs in council elections and squabbles arose between the member groups, specifically the SDF, which withdrew in 1901. The group appears to have then dissolved in 1903, yet with the ATC continuing its affiliation to the Scottish Committee.

Nationally, the Scottish Committee continued as a separate organisation but more and more Scottish unions affiliated with the British organisation, weakening the importance of the Scottish Committee. The SWPEC was renamed the Scottish Labour Party in 1908 and in 1909 absorbed into the British Labour Party.

Related entries: Aberdeen Labour Representation Council.

References: The Aberdeen Trades Council and Politics 1900-1939 (C. W. M. Phipps, University of Aberdeen thesis, 1980).

Sources: unknown.

Read Full Post »

The Social Democratic Federation (SDF) was Britain’s first socialist political party and was established in 1881 (called the Democratic Federation). Members included Henry Hyde Champion, James Connelly, HM Hyndman, Tom Mann and William Morris. In 1884 the Federation split with others going to form the Socialist League. A key founding member of the SDF who influenced matters in Aberdeen well into the 1890s was Henry Hyde Champion.

In Aberdeen there was already a socialist group operating, the Aberdeen Socialist Society, led by James Leatham. In 1893 Leatham left Aberdeen for Manchester and the Society affiliated itself to the SDF. The SDF became increasingly influential and overshadowed the Independent Labour Party as the 1890s progressed. SDF members were involved throughout the period, as members of the Aberdeen Trades Council, as part of the various interations of joint trade union/labour organisation committees and also standing for municipal and general elections. The first SDF electoral success was William Cooper (former Aberdeen Socialist Society) in the town council elections for Woodside in 1895. In the 1906 and 1910 general elections for the Aberdeen North seat, Tom Kennedy was a candidate (Kennedy was Social Democratic Federation organiser in Aberdeen). Other members included Aberdeen Trades Council senior officers: James Fraser (Secretary), James Gordon (Vice President), John Macwaters (President) and David Palmer (President).

The Aberdeen branch had a hall at 144 Gallowgate, then moved to 41 Queen Street (in 1899). The branch published their own irregular newspaper called ‘The Comet’ and there were several issues from 1898 until about 1908. The newspaper was described as ‘a working class paper…a paper that will take cognisance of the existence of the class war going on in society’.

The SDF could not be affiliated to the newly formed Labour Party and in 1911 the SDF united with other groups to form the British Socialist Party (it lasted from 1911 – 1920).

Related entries: Aberdeen Trades Union Council and Aberdeen Socialist Society

References: 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) and The Aberdeen Trades Council and Politics 1900-1939 (C. W. M. Phipps, University of Aberdeen thesis, 1980).

Sources: branch newspapers called Comet (9 issues from 1898 – 1908) held at Aberdeen City Library, Local Studies. Some issues also held at University of Aberdeen Library as well as Aberdeen Trades Union Council papers (references within).

Read Full Post »

The Independent Labour Party (ILP) was formed nationally in 1892/1893 and the first conference was held at Bradford in January 1893. The first national party Chairman was Keir Hardy. Aberdeen ILP had asked Henry Hyde Champion (formerly of the Social Democratic Federation) to attend on their behalf but he was too ill to attend (he did become the Honorary President of the Aberdeen branch). The ILP as an organisation was a crucial stepping stone on the road to the creation of The Labour Party. It was key to the creation of the Labour Representation Committee in 1900, which then became The Labour Party in 1906 (the ILP becoming an affiliated body).

The Aberdeen ILP formed directly from The Scottish Trades Councils’ Labour Party (which had formed in May 1892) and was more or less a simple name change. The genesis of the Aberdeen ILP though was longer, formed from the Aberdeen Labour Committee, which had been in existence from 1888 – 1892 and which itself had been formed from members of the Aberdeen Junior Liberal Association and The Aberdeen Radical Association. There was remarkable continuity between the first Aberdeen ILP executive committee and the Aberdeen Labour Committee, as it included A.T.G. Beveridge (he was Chairman), A. Birse, George Bisset, George Gerrie, A.P. Glass and William Mitchell (Joint-Secretary). The formation of the Aberdeen ILP was assisted as a result of the coming together of Aberdeen Trades Council, Scottish Trades Councils’ Labour Party (STCLP) and the Aberdeen Labour Committee, in the promotion of the candidacy of the first ever ‘Labour’ candidate Henry Hyde Champion in Aberdeen South earlier in 1892. Champion lost but it was a very important first step to have been taken.

The membership of the ILP was quite diverse, the bulk being trade unionists and some were also members of the Aberdeen Socialist Society. Many of the key party officers though were middle class and formerly of the Aberdeen Labour Committee (Beveridge, Bisset, Gerrie etc.). Other officers were John Keir (Vice-Chairman), J.I. Mundie (Joint-Secretary) and James Philip (Treasurer). Committee members included Aberdeen Socialist Society members and trade unionists, William Cooper and William Rennie.

The labour movement issued a weekly newspaper in 1893 and 1894 called ‘Aberdeen Labour Elector: a weekly record of the Labour movement’ (later called the ‘Aberdeen Standard’). It cost a penny and was initially sold alongside the London edition simply called ‘Labour Elector’ (the newspaper was a vehicle for the views of Henry Hyde Champion and had first appeared in London in 1888 – 1890, but was revived again in 1893 – 1894). The Aberdeen Labour Elector was a fairly forthright publication and the first issue proudly proclaimed its power as a party and that George Bisset was recognised in the town council as the Labour Leader. The first issue also stated that the ILP manifesto was circulating very widely indeed.

The branch reached a peak very quickly in 1893 but from then on never regained its strength. The leadership of Champion had gone as he had fallen out dramatically with the national ILP leadership and Keir Hardie, and had returned to Australia in early 1894. The Aberdeen branch remained loyal to Champion (not affiliating with the national ILP until 1896) meaning the branch remained rather isolated from the national labour movement. In 1896 though there was a flurry of activity as the labour movement promoted the candidacy of Tom Mann (he was the national ILP Secretary) for the Aberdeen North seat. This was the first ever Labour candidate in Aberdeen North and Mann came within a whisker of winning against the Liberal candidate. After this though the Aberdeen ILP became somewhat overshadowed by a strong Social Democratic Federation branch in Aberdeen and appears to have become more or less dormant in the late 1890s.

The branch was resurrected in 1905, active in the 1907 Aberdeen South by-election, and operational well into the 20th century. The ILP disaffiliated from The Labour Party in 1932 and A.F. Macintosh stood as an ILP candidate in Aberdeen North in 1935, against the (winning) Labour candidate.

Related entries: Aberdeen Trades Council, Aberdeen Labour Committee and The Scottish Trades Councils’ Labour Party.

References: ‘Aberdeen Labour Elector: a weekly record of the Labour movement’ and its succeeding publication ‘Aberdeen Standard’ (Aberdeen, January 1893 – February 1894), Trade Union Movement in Aberdeen (W. Diack, Aberdeen, 1939) and Trade Unionism in Aberdeen 1878 1900 (K. D. Buckley, Edinburgh, 1955).

Sources: ‘Aberdeen Labour Elector: a weekly record of the Labour movement’ and its succeeding publication ‘Aberdeen Standard’ (Aberdeen, January 1893 – February 1894) are held at University of Aberdeen Library. The papers of Joseph Duncan, Aberdeen ILP member and trade unionist are held at the National Library of Scotland.

Read Full Post »

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).

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »