Scottish Labour History Society Newsletter

May 2023

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SLHS 2023 Conference on John Maclean
The Scottish Labour History Society is organising a conference to mark the centenary of the death of Clydeside revolutionary John Maclean, to take place in Glasgow on Saturday 18 November 2023.   A generous response to the Society’s appeal for support for the event has provided us with a venue (the Conference Room at the UNITE Scotland offices, 145 West Regent Street, Glasgow) and significant financial donations from trade union and academic organisations, as well as individual SLHS members. We are now moving to the next stage of organisation, and plan to have available soon a full provisional agenda of speakers, workshops and papers exploring Maclean’s life and historical significance. Details will be circulated with forthcoming issues of this newsletter.

Ian MacDougall Memorial Lecture 2023
The second Ian MacDougall Memorial Lecture took place at the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, on Thursday, 20 April. Professor Jim Phillips, Joint Editor of Scottish Labour History, Scottish mining historian and advisor in the preparation of the Scottish Government’s Miners’ Strike (Pardons) (Scotland) Act, presented an account of the central role played by oral history in underpinning a notable example of restorative justice. This validation of Ian MacDougall’s life work and his close affinities with the Scottish miners was emphasised by the attendance of many former and retired miners. The National Library of Scotland retains a recording of Jim Phillips’s lecture and the written text will be published in Scottish Labour History, Vol. 58, at the end of this year.

Ian MacDougall Essay Prize
The Ian MacDougall Essay Prize fund was launched in 2022 with a cash prize for an undergraduate essay on a theme related to Scottish labour history. Launched late last year, its deadline of January 2023 was insufficient to attract other than a minimal response. The Prize Fund has therefore been re-launched at this year’s Ian MacDougall Memorial Lecture. Full entry details accompany this newsletter and are available in bulk flyer format from We invite academic staff and students in SLHS membership to give the Prize the widest possible circulation.

Historical Studies in Industrial Relations
Retired National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) officials are linking up with Liverpool University Press (LUP) to access articles about the union’s history in their journal, Historical Studies in Industrial Relations. NUPE organised public service workers, including many women - nurses, care assistants, hospital ancillaries, school meals staff - who previously stood outside the ranks of organised labour - playing a major role in 1970s industrial disputes, culminating in the so-called 1979 ‘Winter of Discontent’. Parallels with current public service disputes are clear, leading commentators to highlight the historic failure to address low pay amongst these essential and, in public estimation, highly valued workers. The articles written by the late Professor Bob Fryer, whose career was closely tied to NUPE, and Stephen Williams, an ex-NUPE education official, extend the analysis in their Leadership and Democracy (2011) and answer criticisms about their methodology and conclusions. The ex-NUPE officials will be able to read the articles (until 30 June) and join the debate about what was, for a time, the UK’s fastest growing union.

Irish Labour History Society 50th Anniversary Conference
The Irish Labour History Society (ILHS), with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and its Northern Ireland Committee, holds its 3rd international conference in Dublin from 14-17 September. The event will feature national and international experts and labour movement practitioners in over 30 events at four venues. It will include 10 plenary sessions, at least 20 ordinary sessions, an oral history presentation and a voice of experience engagement with expert input from Irish, British and European academics, trade unionists, employer representatives, worker educationalists, migrant workers’ representatives, lay activists, and representatives of trades councils from both traditions on the island of Ireland. Highlights include the 47th Countess Markieviez Lecture (courtesy Irish Assn of Industrial Relations) and discursive studies on social partnership, the peace process, the Good Friday Agreement and Brexit, and social dialogue. The ILHS's 50th anniversary book, Labour History in Irish History, edited by John Cunningham, Francis Devine & Sonja Tiernan of Otago University, will be launched at the conference. There will be labour history tours and various social events. More details, including ‘early bird’ booking (by 31 May) at