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Posts Tagged ‘1910s’

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 (1898, 1899 and 1907) and Aberdeen Trades Union Council papers (references within) are both held at University of Aberdeen Library.

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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.

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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).

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The National Council of Women of Great Britain was originally formed in 1895 as the National Union of Women Workers. It came out of the 1880s national movement of several women’s philanthropic organisations concerned about civil, educational, religious and social issues affecting women. A body which was part of this movement was the Aberdeen Ladies’ Union (originally called the Ladies’ Union for the Care and Protection of Women and Girls), founded in 1883. The Union had a key role in forming the Central Council of the Conferences of Women Workers in 1891, which was a precursor to the formation of the National Union. In 1897 the Ladies’ Union became the Aberdeen branch of the The National Union of Women Workers.

The Aberdeen Union of Women Workers was made-up of numerous affiliated organisations which worked with women and concerned itself with issues such as poverty, social reform, equal rights, family rights and also suffrage. The affiliated organisations had representatives on the Executive Committee: organisations such as the Aberdeen Clothing Society, Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Employment Exchange and the Aberdeen Women’s Citizen Association. In 1909 the Union worked with the Women’s Liberal Association, Primrose League, National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies to promote female representation on the school boards in Aberdeen and this included joint canvassing work for candidates.

The National Union of Women Workers changed its name to the National Council of Women of Great Britain in 1918. The Council is affiliated to the International Council of Women.

References: website and see below.

Sources: Aberdeen Union of Women Workers papers (1900 – 1926) and a few items as part of the Mary Esslemont papers (an Aberdeen physician) are held at University of Aberdeen Library. National records are held at London Metropolitan Archives.

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Christian Farquharson was born in Aberdeen in 1870 and trained as a teacher. She was active in socialist circles, taking part in a carter’s strike in 1897 and in 1900 she attended the International Socialist Congress in Paris, possibly as a delegate. She married fellow socialist Tom Kennedy (a future MP, he was from Aberdeenshire and was Social Democratic Federation (SDF) organiser in Aberdeen) and changed her name to Farquharson-Kennedy. She was a member of various groups, the SDF, the British Socialist Party, the Working Women’s Political Association and the Associated Women’s Friendly Society.

References:  website Mapping Memorials to Women in Scotland and a commemorative plaque in Aberdeen.

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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A University of Aberdeen society which advertised in the Freshers’ magazines. The society was formed in 1919 and appears to have existed for just one year. They had a syllabus of talks outlined in the magazine.

References: University student directories.

Sources: unknown.

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