‘Hard Work, Ye Ken': The Past, Present, and Future of Scottish Labour History
On 30th November the National Library of Scotland (NLS) is hosting a celebration of the work of Scotland’s two leading labour history societies, which are both marking special anniversaries. The Scottish Labour History Society (SLHS) was founded in 1961, when the concept and practice of Scottish labour history were in their infancy; for 60 years the Society has championed the study of working-class history through events and its highly-regarded journal.
Nearly 30 years later, the Scottish Working People’s History Trust (SWPHT) was formed to save and make accessible source materials relating to the history of working people. Through the work of founder and senior researcher, Dr Ian MacDougall, the Trust has recorded, archived, and published oral history interviews with hundreds of men and women about their working and family lives during a period of rapid de-industrialization. Ian, who died last year, also played a pivotal role in persuading hundreds of trade unions, co-operatives and labour movement activists to deposit their papers in Scottish archives and libraries, including the NLS.
Historians Hamish Fraser and Ian S Wood, both former editors of the SLHS journal, will discuss the work of the SLHS and the SWPHT over the past 60 years. Then historians Ewan Gibbs, Caroline Milligan and Valerie Wright will take part in a panel discussion exploring current aspects of labour history research and study in Scotland, asking what the future holds for the history of working people. A Q&A session will be chaired by Dorothy Kidd, SWPHT secretary and trustee, who, for many years, was senior curator of the Scottish Life Archive at the National Museum of Scotland. For more details visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hard-work-ye-ken-the-past-present-and-fu… The event starts at 5pm on 30th November.
Diverse Voices, Challenging Injustice: Banner Tales from Glasgow is the result of a collaboration between the Scottish Labour History Society, Glasgow Museums and the University of Glasgow School of Geographical & Earth Sciences. Long deferred due to Covid restrictions, but now published, its 106 pages tell the stories of peace, anti-apartheid and anti-racist movements in the voices of participants and these are profusely illustrated in colour. Carrying a cover price of £6, complimentary copies will be provided to all SLHS subscribers and further copies will be available from the SLHS website, with reductions on bulk orders. We hope to run a ‘Zoom’ launch for the publication, provisionally set for Wednesday, 2nd December from 2.30-4 pm. Further details in our next newsletter.
Co-operation in C19 Dumfries
SLHS committee member Ian Gasse has recently published a history of the co-operative movement in C19 and early C20 Dumfries. In a joint publishing initiative with SLHS, this new study – Something to Build On: The Co-operative Movement in Dumfries 1847-1914 – is based on original research, using extant minutes, contemporary newspapers and other material. Published in a limited hardback edition, it can be purchased via the SLHS website (Occasional Publications). Full price is £18.00, but it is on offer to SLHS members at £15.00 plus £3.00 p&p, providing they purchase when logged into the site. £3.00 from each sale via the website will go to the Society.
Working Class Movement Library November Talks
WMCL online talks during November (see www.wcml.org.uk/events/) include:
3 November, 2-3pm: Militant Tendency and the surveillance of Trotskyists in Cold War Britain – Oliver Price, a PhD student at Wolverhampton University, on the rise of Militant Tendency in the 1970s, which caused Whitehall officials anxiety about Trotskyist entryism into the UK civil service.
17 November, 2-3pm: Revolutionary Women in Munich 1919 – Dr Corinne Painter of Leeds University introduces Munich's forgotten revolutionary women, explores how and why they became revolutionary in post-WW1 Germany, and looks at the legacy of revolution in their later lives.
24 November, 2-3pm: Oscar Wilde: Art, Socialism and the Working Class – a talk by Dr Deaglán Ó Donghaile, senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, who is the author of Oscar Wilde and the radical politics of the fin de siècle, published by Edinburgh University Press.
‘Black Friday’ and the 1921 Miners’ Lockout
Published to mark the centenary of ‘Black Friday’, The Great Betrayal: Black Friday and the 1921 Miners’ Lockout is a translation of a 1922 Russian account of the Miners’ Lockout by M M Borodin, based on conversations and interviews by the author with miners attending the Red International of Labour Unions in Moscow in July 1921, and later, on a tour made by him, of some of the militant mining communities in Britain in 1922. Editor Pete Dickinson discusses why the book was not translated at the time. The book costs £10.99 and can be ordered via the Mentmore Press website at mentmorepress.co.uk/about-us/first-titles-6310119#footer
'G.D.H. Cole: A Libertarian Trapped in the Labour Party'
The Socialist History Society is presenting a free online (via Zoom) meeting about G D H Cole on Thursday 11 November at 6.30pm. It will comprise a talk by David Goodway, who has recently edited Cole’s Towards a Libertarian Socialism and who has also written about Chartism and edited collections of writings by Herbert Read, Alex Comfort, John Cowper Powys and Emma Goldman. The talk will be followed by a discussion. Register for the meeting via http://www.socialisthistorysociety.co.uk/
Occupy! Occupy! Occupy!
This two-day conference will be held on Thursday & Friday, 2nd-3rd December, at The Deep End, 21 Nithsdale Street, Glasgow G41 2PZ. It has been organised by Govanhill Community Baths Trust to mark 20 years since the campaign began to save the Baths from closure by Glasgow City Council, and will include a range of speakers talking about various Scottish occupations, several of them successful, including that of the Baths. These include UCS, Faslane, Timex, Lee Jeans and Caterpillar, as well as the Govanhill Baths Campaign itself. Speakers include SLHS members Dave Sherry and Dr Valerie Wright of the University of Stirling. The link for booking is at
The Red Rope Archive at WCML
An interesting collection held at the WCML is the archive of Red Rope–the Socialist Walking & Climbing Club, founded in the late 1970s by Socialist Workers Party activists interested in mountain climbing. It soon broadened to include hill-walking and rambling, and established a membership across the UK. The club was avowedly socialist and alternative and described itself as ‘open to any socialist who would like to go walking and climbing in the wilder areas of the country, at low cost, and with agreeable companions’. The club is still going strong and organised along socialist and green ethics. The archive was donated by the club in 2014, with a further donation in 2016. It comprises 13 boxes of material from 1980 to 2010. You can search for the archive on the library’s catalogue at www.wcml.org.uk/catalogue. The Club’s website is at www.redrope.org.uk