Scottish Labour History Society Newsletter

February 2022

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Inaugural Ian MacDougall Lecture – and Diverse Voices Launch
Full details of the first lecture in memory of Scottish labour historian Ian MacDougall are not yet finalised but the date is set – Thursday 7 April – and, like the successful joint anniversary of SLHS and the Scottish Working People’s History Trust, it will be hosted by the National Library of Scotland. Full details will be in the next newsletter, as, we hope, will details of the launch of Diverse Voices, Challenging Injustice: Banner Tales from Glasgow, which is being deferred until the spring.

Sammy Barr – a clarification
Jim Phillips writes: Sammy Barr, Govan shipyard boilermaker, trade-union official and Communist, featured in my article on Jimmy Airlie and deindustrialisation, published in Scottish Labour History, Vol 56, pp77-105. This made reference (p90) to a Shipbuilding Communist branch meeting in November 1972, ‘which voted in support of Barr’s expulsion from the party’. This was incorrect. Jimmy Reid subjected Barr in this meeting to an extended and wounding political-cum-personal attack. Barr’s alleged shortcoming was occupational sectionalism, which Reid claimed to be undermining of Communist unity and working-class solidarity. Airlie, as noted in the article, counselled against expelling Barr, as did John Kay, industrial organiser. Barr was not expelled from the party, which he remained a member of until its winding up in 1991. Many thanks to Danny Carrigan, who was present at the branch meeting in November 1972, for this valuable clarification.

A Correction
Mike Mecham, the reviewer of Mary McAuliffe’s biography of Margaret Skinnider in the 2021 edition of Scottish Labour History, was wrongly attributed as being attached to St Mary’s University, Belfast. In fact, as Mike has pointed out, he is at St Mary's University, Twickenham, in London. We apologise to Mike and our readers for the error.

International Brigade Memorial Trust – Len Crome Memorial Conference
The IBMT 2022 Len Crome Memorial Conference will be held over the weekend of 18-20 March at the John McIntyre Conference Centre of the University of Edinburgh. The theme will be Scotland and the Spanish Civil War. An evening social with live music will take place after the conference, and a James Connolly inspired walking tour of Edinburgh is planned for the morning of Sunday; £20 per ticket. Registration via Eventbrite:… The IBMT website is at

The Working Class Garden 1750-1914
The gardens of the working class in east Scotland are the subject of a new book by SLHS member Catherine Rice, which is described as ‘a unique work of the social, cultural and garden history of Scotland’. Cottage Gardens and Gardeners in the East of Scotland explores the lives of farm servants, labourers and other rural workers, to discover what and how they gardened, and how poverty, insecurity and long, arduous working days shaped their gardens. Workers' cottage gardens also had to comply with the needs of landowners, farmers and employers – and their expectations of the industrious cottager. More details at…

Rent Strikes: A Global History
The International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam is planning an edited volume on the ‘global history’ of rent strikes. The aim is to offer an overview of tenants’ struggles over time and place, so as to identify common trends and peculiarities throughout the world. Despite the working title, studies about different kinds of resistance, organisation, and direct action are welcomed. Although most contributions are likely to deal with housing in C20/C21 urban environments, studies of rural geographies, and contributions about periods before 1900, are invited. Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be sent to and by 30 June 2022.

Working Class Movement Library – Street Ballads and Working People's Enfranchisement
The WCML has Dick Holdstock, author of Again with one voice: British songs of political reform, 1768–1868, talking about the golden age of the broadside ballad – at 3pm on Wednesday 23 February. Login details will be available at on the day, and Dick Holdstock will be joining from the west coast of America.

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