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Posts Tagged ‘1940s’

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.

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Dave Campbell was born in Aberdeen and worked at the Stoneywood Paper Mill in Dyce. He was Chairman of the Donside Paper Workers Union and led the Mugiemoss workers out on strike in the 1930s, with the consequence that he was blacklisted. He was then employed in the construction industry and became union officer in the Constructional Engineering Union. In 1946 he moved with his family to Birmingham and became a full time local organiser for the union.

He was an active member of Aberdeen Trades Council, specifically with the local Trade Union Organising Committee, which was set up by the Scottish Trades Union Congress in the 1930s, to build up union branches. He was also a local leader of hunger marches (to London in 1938) and Council Vice-President in 1938.

A life-long member of the Communist Party, he was a friend of fellow communist Bob Cooney, who stayed with him in Birmingham, and shared an interest in folk music.

References: Aberdeen Trades Union Council annual report 1989 and website of Graham Stevenson which features hundred of biographies of Communist Party members.

Sources: unknown.

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Aberdeen Unemployment Association was one of a number of associations set up after a request from the national Trades Union Congress, which had the intention of countering the influence that was exercised by the Communist Party in another related organisation, The National Unemployed Workers’ Movement (NUWM). The Aberdeen Association was run under the auspices of the Aberdeen Trades & Labour Council (later known as the Aberdeen Trades Council) and was only one of two in Scotland. Although the associations across the country had been set up to counter the NUWM, in Aberdeen, both organisations worked together latterly.

Related entries: Aberdeen Trades Union Council.

References: see below. Also ‘Unity from below: the impact of the Spanish Civil War on Labour and the left in Aberdeen and Dundee 1936 – 1939’ (Malcolm Petrie, Labour History Review, 2014).

Sources: minutes from 1936 – 1941 are held as part of the Aberdeen Trades Union Council archives at the University of Aberdeen Library.

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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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There was a Aberdeen University Socialist Club at various times (1931 – 1934, 1946 (re-formed) – 1954, 1958 – 1974). In 1958 the ‘new’ Socialist Society had been created from the ‘old labour club’.

The club had originally been formed in 1931 as a discussion circle for students for the theory and practice of socialism. The club arranged debates with the Fabian Society of Aberdeen and met in the Independent Labour Party (I.L.P) rooms at 6 Schoolhill. The group advertised itself in 1951 as a Club that stood for unity of all types including communists and anarchists. In 1960 the Club also stated that it worked with other like-minded groups: CND, Anti-Apartheid Movement and the New Left.

References: University student directories.

Sources: unknown.

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There was a Aberdeen University Labour Club at various times (1921 – 1926, 1939 – 1942, 1952 – 1954, 1957 – 1958). In 1958 the new Socialist Society was created from the ‘old labour club’.

The Club was formed to promote Labour ideas and put forward a Labour party candidate for the Rectorial Elections.

References: University student directories.

Sources: some publications issued as part of Rectorial election campaigns and a journal called ‘Insight’ (1924) are held at Aberdeen University Library.

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Founded in 1903 by Albert Mansbridge, the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) was created to promote the higher education of working men and women at a time when few educational opportunities existed for the working class. The WEA is a national, voluntary organisation which provides adult education based on democratic principles.

In 1905, the first WEA branch was founded in Scotland in Springburn. It was followed by branches in Edinburgh in 1912, Glasgow in 1916 and Dundee and Ayrshire in 1917. The Aberdeen and District branch was founded in 1913 with Joseph Duncan, President of Aberdeen Trades Council and founder and Secretary of the Scottish Farm Servants Union, as President. The close connections between trade unionists and the WEA continued when Jimmy Milne, Secretary of the Trades Council, became a member of the WEA Executive Committee in 1966.

The range of subjects taught by the WEA has always been extensive and often focussed on social purpose, especially to marginalised and disadvantaged parts of the community. In the 1970s for example there was a particular programme developed relating to women’s rights and a crèche service was established, for daytime classes, conferences and community activities.

There have been numerous structural changes, resulting in name changes as well: in 1946 the branch became part of the WEA North of Scotland District, which extended from the river Tay to Shetland. Then in 1993 the Districts merged to form the WEA Scottish Association and new local associations formed in the North-East, Moray, Inverness and North Highland.

The WEA had offices at 36 Albyn Place, later at Kittybrewster Shopping Centre and then in 1979 moved to 163 King Street (where they are still located today) sharing space with Aberdeen People’s Press, a wholefood shop (Ambrosia Wholefoods/Cairnleith Croft) and a bookshop (Boomtown Books).

References: website and Pairts: A Story of the WEA in Aberdeen and the North East 1913 – 2013 (WEA North-East Local Association, 2013).

Sources: some papers are held at Aberdeen City Archives (from c.1970 – 1993) and also at the National Library of Scotland. The UK central archive is managed by London Metropolitan University and attached to the TUC Collection.

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