Posts tagged ‘1960s’

Nov 14, 2014

Bust Up: Women’s Liberation in ’60s/’70s Aberdeen

The 1960s and 1970s – those eras of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll were also eras of wars, racism, starvation, massacres, atomic bombs, nuclear threats, assassinations, the Cold War and rampant sexism.

You only have to watch some hideous films of the ’60s and ’70s or listen to song lyrics from the time to realise that while there was much talk about women’s liberation the reality was it was just that – talk.

Bust Up. Aberdeen

So women’s lib movements mushroomed in much the same way they had a century before with the rise of the Suffragists and Suffragettes. That the struggle was continuing 100 years on reveals how resistant British society was to embrace radical change in its power relationship with women.

What women had discovered was if you want an injustice rectified you have to go out and fight for that cause and not to expect rights to be handed out by political bodies. Rights are grabbed screaming and kicking from those who limit access to them.

The 1960s when the taxman sent tax statements and demands and tax rebates relating to a woman’s earnings to her husband! Women were considered incapable of understanding such complex arrangements.

Women in work were horribly exploited by employers and male-dominated trade unions run by dinosaurs content to collaborate with employers to keep women’s earnings lower than men’s for equivalent work.

Along with employment rights, women sought to control their own bodies – to be able to terminate a pregnancy in particular circumstances. The alternative was horrific and sometimes lethal and in 1967 an abortion act was passed which allowed a woman to apply for an abortion if the pregnancy was a risk to her life, her physical or mental health, to her existing children, likely seriously handicap the unborn child or an arguable detrimental social impact going through with the pregnancy.

That same year the Homosexual Law Reform Act was passed allowing homosexual acts between consenting adults in private.

During the 1960s and 1970s Aberdeen was buzzing with the politicisation of the young. Groups they were involved with included Aberdeen Women’s Liberation made up of young housewives, working women and students.

Much of their discussions centred on questioning the family structure, its strict gender divisions, availability of contraception and developing awareness among girls and women of their status within society.

The group’s very limited resources produced a wee publication called Bust Up. Published here is the second edition and as well it the group printed as a pamphlet on contraception which was distributed outside factories where women worked and secondary schools in the city (which attracted an interview on BBC radio).

I shouldn’t imagine there are many copies of Bust Up or the contraception booklet left some half a century on but a copy of each have recently surfaced and you lucky people have a near unique opportunity to travel back in time catch a glimpse of Bust Up and hopefully soon, the contraception one.

I’ve separated pages from Bust Up with snippets about relevant legislation from around this time for your further enlightenment. Bust Up Aberdeen

 In 1969 the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act guaranteed a wife a share of family assets on dissolution of her marriage, based on her contribution to the household as a housewife or wage earner.


The Divorce Reform Act allowed for divorce on the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and a divorce was granted after five years of separation.

In 1970 the Conservative government of Edward Heath introduced the Equal Pay Act. Equal pay for equal work but what was equal work? That discussion still continues. It was to be another five years before it had to be implemented. 

1973 the British Sociological Association conference on sexual divisions took place in Aberdeen. 

In 1975 Equal Pay Act implemented, in theory although we know there are still women fighting for recognition of equal pay for equivalent work with male colleagues, by Labour under Harold Wilson.



The Sex Discrimination Act was passed which demonstrates that there was no gender equality in Britain. As might be expected the Act failed to cover everything – excluding pensions and social security rights.

Maternity rights were strengthened through the Employment Protection Act.

The same year the Scottish National Women’s Liberation Conference was held in Aberdeen and so too did the Northeast Scotland Regional Women and Socialism Conference. 

 In 1976 the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act was passed which made it possible to get a court order to remove a man from the matrimonial home, whether or not he owned or rented it. The Act did not apply to cohabiting couples.

A year on from the implementation of the Equal Pay Act and women at a factory in Middlesex were out on strike for 21 weeks before management agreed to follow the law. Clearly their employers were not the only ones to ignore legislation but the only one where women were prepared to stay out this length of time to force the hand of their management.

The fishing industry was still a major employer in Aberdeen then and many women worked processing and packing fish (where incidentally they were left to man(sic)-handle very heavy wooden boxes packed with wet fish while their higher paid male counterparts drove around in forklifts never lifting anything heavier than their weightier pay packets.


In 1977 the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act recognised battered women as homeless.

In 1978 the ‘Normal Household Duties Test’ a wheeze brought in by the Labour government under James Callaghan, to deprive disabled married women of benefits as they had to prove they could not work but also then they were incapable of doing normal housework for a whole year in order to receive those benefits.


The Scottish National Women’s Liberation Conference met in Aberdeen in 1977 and discussed lesbiansism and heterosexuality, language, the fifth demand.

The Fifth Demand was legal and financial independence for all women.

The women’s movement agreed a series of demands at their conferences in the seventies:

Demands 1 – 4 Passed at the National WLM Conference, Skegness 1971

  1. Equal Pay
  2. Equal Educational and Job Opportunities
  3. Free Contraception and Abortion on Demand
  4. Free 24-hour Nurseries

5 and 6 Passed at the National WLM Conference, Edinburgh 1974

  1. Legal and Financial Independence for All Women
  2. The Right to a Self Defined Sexuality. An End to Discrimination Against Lesbians. In 1978 at the National WLM Conference, Birmingham, the first part of this demand was split off and put as a preface to all seven demands

Demand 7 Passed at the National WLM Conference, Birmingham 1978

  1. Freedom for all women from intimidation by the threat or use of violence or sexual coercion regardless of marital status; and an end to the laws, assumptions and institutions which perpetuate male dominance and aggression to women.



 One young woman, a keen member of the Labour Party, attended a couple of meetings. She said she was quite interested in women’s lib and she’d only entered one beauty competition. The group was arranging to disrupt a beauty contest being held in Union Terrace Gardens, which it did beautifully, with fancy dress, saucepans and lids. The young woman from the Labour Party did not come back.


Sep 9, 2012

Singing Ding Dong Dollar: A diary of Aberdeen YCND 1965


The diary of a 15 year old girl involved with Aberdeen Youth Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1965 was recently given to me. It is in fact a blue school jotter and the few entries run between August and October of ’65.


One or two parts have been edited and most names have been shortened to initials. A few spelling changes have been made.  Clicking on images brings them up to become more legible.

Megaton was a magazine produced by YCND in Aberdeen.

From 7th August 1965

Sat 7th                   Vigil at Union Terrace in memory of Hiroshima day – Aug 6th 1945. Time was 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.. I left about 5 and there wer e many people taking an interest. Hiroshima day leaflets and copies of Sanity were distributed.

Sun 8th                  March at Northfield – different groups – about 50 – for Hiroshima but mainly in protest at the fall-out shelter situated in Northfield . Had a number of people speak but practically no-one from the houses came out though many were gaping from windows.

Sat 14th                 About 20 of us – not wearing badges – went up to the open day at the. Barracks. (Bridge of Don) . It was fantastic. Little G had stinking water and some other things, we left slogans and signs. All in all caused a bit of sabotage! Eventually we were found out to be CND and from that time on – about 4 o’clock until 5.45 – we were followed everywhere, by soldiers and officers. Plain clothes police were around taking photos. We made a fool of the soldiers following us, some of the time. Hoards of them. They lined up between us and the grass – where the bands were parading in case we chanced running on to the field. Had an argument with the chaplin outside the gate at the end.

Sun 15th                Meeting at 2.30. Discussed a march by the Y.S. (Young Socialists) on the 28th for Vietnam and the anniversary of the death of Trotsky. We are having a continuous march up and down Union Street on the 4th September. I signed the schools pledge. Large amount of people – over 30 at  the meeting.

Sun 22nd               Over thirty at meeting B and C did most of the speaking. I.S. was outside for some reason. I ordered a number of magazines and papers. We’re having out own newssheet soon – Megaton – the Y.S. march set for this Sat is off. Something to do with it not being Trotsky’s death anniversary or something. There’ll will be some-one from Y.C.N.D.  at the Adelphi every  night this week, making posters and duplicating bit from Aug Resistance. A list in it about to-days Educational system is to be duplicated.

Tues 24th               I went along about 3.45 and they are distributing the ‘schools’ leaflets. Most have gone to the Grammar, so there should be a big outcry in the near future. The area convenor system started about a week ago is in full swing. There are special leaflets duplicated with information to help the convenor with his/her work. I am convenor for Rosemount – Area 11.

Wed 25th               Went along to the Adelphi. Most of the schools leaflets gone. Some small posters were made. B and I were out white-washing last night until 5 a.m.. M says B not coming back to Y.C.N.D. .

Thur 26th              In to-day’s Evening Express there was a long column in the front page giving a write-up on the ‘school’ leaflets. There were things quoted from Goldie – rector of the Academy – he treated it all as a school-boy prank. They tore the thing practically to pieces.

We had a schools CND meeting . Little G doing most of the speaking. Only about two new faces. Jimmy Milne wasn’t going to let us have the place – I think he’ll be very sticky in the future. The meeting didn’t go altogether too well – approx 15 there – small leaflets are to be distributed in different schools, as a campaign to get more supporters – and a name and address of a person, or class, that the folk can get in touch easily.

C, G and me went along to the Evening Express afterwards about the write-up in the paper concerning the ‘schools’ leaflets. It was a bit hellish. C spoke most of the time. G opened his mouth a few times and more or less kept putting his foot in it. I only spoke about twice but I think I was more careful. I’m sure the reporter knows, though we denied the fact, that we are part of the schools anarchists – though actually the organisation doesn’t exist – G was keeping his ears flapping and found some reporters discussing the South Y.S. split up. When we left they were getting in touch with N M.

I’s excited about all this but P’s pressing him to get out of CND and I think he will be – very soon. C’ also getting fed up and B may have left also.

Friday Aug 27th   JG and DT asked to join the Y.C.N.D.  and I  got CM to do so as well. There was nothing at all in the papers- morning or evening to do with last night’s interview.


3red Sept             Went round to see KM – on Convening Area- she was out. I got her mother. Left a sheet and note to come to meeting on Sunday. Don’t think her mother’s too keen.

5th Sept                 Went to meeting. Over 40 there. There is a march next Saturday. Were supporting the Y.S.. KM never turned up that I could see. Were looking for premises so I’ll write to that place in Bon-Accord Crescent. B’ back. I stayed out of everything. P’s wanting him to give up Y.C.N.D.  altogether. Yesterday people were out selling Resistance. We hope to have a dance at Christmas and a fast lasting from Christmas eve to Boxing Day. Hope to march to Faslane at Easter instead  of the Aldermaston to London one. Trying to get a name for out peace-factory. CND are meeting to-morrow night in Y.M.C.A. Union Street.

Typed out a letter to SH, HP and JD – convening system – save me going down to them and letter to London Assurance to see about renting their basement.

Today’s Sunday Mail had an article on Aberdeen’s School Anarchist’s Federation. Someone went to see them from Y.C.N.D. . Were mentioned as having something to do with it. Rosemount is one of the 5 or 6 school mentioned. Wait for it on Monday!

Mon 7th Sept                   Went to Adult CND meeting to which Y.C.N.D.  was invited. There was a great majority of us including Y.S. and Y.C.L.. IS took a great hand and other speakers from our side spoke sense though sometimes it was a bit obvious they were hazy on what to say next. The adults cried us down for everything. IS was refused permission to answer back sometimes except when he did it forcibly. What the majority of the adults put forward was complete trash. KC made a very concise and good voicing on  just what or rather what not, the adult CND were doing in trying to win peace. They had described us in some article a while ago as young homeless layabouts who went around sleeping with each other in old houses. I should think they’ve changed their minds. A resolution was put forward by Mrs Clopper and one by NM was at first not going to be accepted but after a disturbance from us, was. With our majority, N’s –a Vietnam piece- was passed while Clopper’s – on Vietnam, much the same but not so definite was not. They said they would not give it to the press as they had decided – because they had paid their subscription fee – that they had a right to stop it. We argued and later they said they would give it but N, G, C and myself went along to P & J office – gave it to one of the blokes. J and his female friend joined us. C & I left so we don’t know how N got on. A*** asked C why CND was doing what it was as it was supposed to be a non-political group. He told me (C) that he  put his foot in it so whatever was said, I hope A***, the rat, doesn’t print it, knowing him, he will.

Sat 11 Sept           A march up and down Union Street about Vietnam and supporting the Viet-cong. It was a Y.S. march with a minority of Y.S. there. Y.C.L, School Anarchists, A.A. (Aberdeen Anarchists), Y.C.N.D  there.

Total amount about 55. More had intended coming so it was a bit of a let down. I think, though, it was in fact, quite successful. Dave Langley from the Y.S. in the south spoke at St. Margaret’s afterwards. What a lot of mush at one time. He was pathetic, all  doo-daddy and join the Y.S. – to hell with everyone else. B made a few words for Y.C.N.D but was insulted by Langley. IS and some others were taking photos of the march.

Night    A Y.C.L. party at 8 that night. I went with C and ended up with KC. Paid 5/- to get in. I got very little food, only a handful of peanuts. Plenty of booze. It was very good.

Sunday 12th                  Y.C.N.D. meeting in Adelphi. Taled a great deal about last night’s party. NM got into an argument over Dave Langley’s talk yesterday. IS really gave him it. Was proposed that a big number of us make trouble for the army etc and one Saturday go to the Information Bureau and start arguing and demanding to join the  army – in other words – make trouble. Over 40 at meeting got over 30 names. Suggestions to hold a picket outside Marks and Spencers in protest against South African goods. It was supported. Still on the search  for premises. Convening system is scrapped.

Sunday 19th                  Y.CN.D. meeting. No meeting next week-end unless some  folk want to hold one, the main folk are going to the hills. Decided against a picket. Each person gave 6d to enable Y.C.N.D. join.

Suggested we form a Scottish Y.C.N.D.. JG etc are writing letters putting us in touch with other Scottish Y.C.N.D groups. Suggested that starting in  a couple of weeks Y.C.N.D should break into small groups of a few people, given a subject to discuss and then give the opinions of the members this way. Were doing this because everyone seems too shy to speak and it may be easier if there’s only a few people altogether. Decided to have a special date when parents can come and argue about Y.C.N.D.

Fri 24th                 B, L, C. M, M, B, C, DR, A, JG, DT, HP, I and me went to the hills. Stayed at the  stable at Gelder. Met the Queen  etc on Monday before leaving.


Sat 2nd                  Wilson  arrived for weekend at Balmoral. Y.C.N.D. went out along with Y.S. etc to meet him at Dyce. About 40 of us. He got away by another exit and we chased after him without any success.

Sun 3rd                 Y.C.N.D. meeting. About 60 attended. Took 6 Resistances to sell and a collection sheet. There was a strong reaction against some of the whitewashing done. We divided into groups at the end of the meeting and had discussions. There is a lot of strong feeling against the Anarchist supremacy in Y.C.N.D. mainly by Y.S. and Y.C.L. Sold almost 200 Resistances.

Mon 4th                 Public meeting on Vietnam War in Music Hall. Same old stuff. Bit of spoken conflict between the youth and older members of the audience in open debate after the talk. Quite a few Y.C.N.D. members attended. IM is going along to try and get into the ’62 Club folk singing to-morrow night with my help.

Tues 5th              Met IM and M outside Club. JI obviously told Mrs B of them and I was worried about having them in the club. ‘We don’t think  that they are particularly the kind of people we desire in the club’ – quote from B. Folk singing was pretty much a drag. The IM – Y.C.N.D. relationship is not exactly good! I was invited back by the members, they seemed to have liked him.

Fri 8th                   Phoned IS in the morning about some members going out to look for the Cults fall-out shelter. Skipped school by playing ill in morning and being sent home. Met M, M and IS at ‘Edward’. At Cults IS and M went in one direction and M and IS went in the other. Searched for about 2 hrs. Only found a possibility the  erection of a new part to a hospital or home.

Sat 9th                  (Some references to direct action ending with) This town’s getting busy!

Sun 10th               Meeting. About 60 attended. Bit of a shambles. Split up into groups again. JG, DT and I decided to go to I’s late birthday party on Fri and then go whitewashing. Some members think we have a spy and the no 1 suspect is T – which I refuse to believe!

Mon 11th               M, M and me went magic markering! We covered quite an area. People should be realizing there’s a Y.C.N.D.  by now! The  Revolution’s near!

Tues 12th              Anarchist meeting Skene Square School. Only 12 of us were there. Nothing was really discussed – not to do with anarchy at any rate! IS was speaking on the subject at the University. F managed it.

Fri 15th                 Some of us went up to B’s flat and prepared whitewash. International Vietnam day is to-morrow and we’re advertising out vigil and march.

Sat 16th                Went out whitewashing at about 12.30 a.m. . Did a lot of work. M and M were picked up by the cops at 2.10 a.m. and kept until 5 a.m.. They went back whitewashing when they were released.  There was also another group out whitewashing. We left B’s flat at about 9 in the morning. Some folk waiting for the vigil so it ended at about 12.45 p.m. . Not a great success at all. March  at 2.30 Market Stance. There was about 60 of us. Went down Union Street to Albyn Place and came back. Dumped some banners in the Adelphi and had a public meeting, decided on the spur of the moment, at the big space beside Marks & Spencer’s. As F was ending it, a couple of cops, after phoning the station, came over and broke the meeting up. We all then – about 40 – walked right into the main hall of the police place in Lodge Walk and sat down. G and F acted as spokesmen and went into another room with a sergeant.

A sergeant came into the hall and chased us out. We were protesting against the lack of free speech in Aberdeen so most of us wrote a complaint and handed it in. They weren’t accepted because they weren’t headed correctly or in envelopes. It was decided to re-do them and send them all in together. G and F got absolutely nothing from them.

Had the teach –in in St K’s at night. Not many new folk there.

Sum 17th               Meeting. Almost 60 there. It wasn’t very good. Nothing much was discussed.

Sat 23rd                Made up some small posters advertising Y.C.N.D. and stuck some up – needless to say, they very soon will be pulled down. The rest of Y.C.N.D. don’t know I’ve done this but they are always on at us to do things off our own steam  so this is my contribution.

Sun 24th               Meeting. Discussing possible ways of getting more funds for Y.C.N.D. . J, D and I have an idea which we don’t expect to carry out! Suggestions – Folk Song Concert, poetry magazine, jumble sales etc. Someone from Ilford is supposed to be coming up next week-end. Over 60 at meeting.

Mon 25th               About 40 of us went in groups to the R.O.C. open night at Northfield.  Some whitewashing was done outside. Two cops were there. Some nasty questions were asked by us and we got some nasty but not surprising answers. It was admitted that Aberdeen’s population would have no-where to go in the 4 minutes warning, if a bomb was dropped on the city.  140 people can get in the R.O.C. place and unless a bomb is directly dropped on the building, these people will be completely safe. The Is, M and M weren’t up.

Tues 26th              Again we went up to the R.O.C.  place. It is opened for two nights, last night and tonight. M and M were there but still not the two Is – they were going to try and get into the 62 Club folk singing. Those of us who had been in the R.O.C. place last night were recognised and didn’t get in. Two cops were outside and took us all up to the gate. Bangers etc were let off. Some stink bombs and things were put in the building by those who got in. Nothing of great value was done. The folk treated us like morons trying to make us believe that all we said about dying was rot.

The argument put forward on Monday night by the bloke I was with was absolute crap. After asking what good was their signals to the people in Aberdeen if they had nowhere to go for safety but had in fact the knowledge that in a few minutes they would all die a horrible death – he said that the governments who built them didn’t really expect them to be used – that no bomb would be dropped.

‘Then what good are they – the money used in building these places could provide food for the starving in Vietnam or China.’ He couldn’t say anything, just sighed pretending we were mad in what we said. This was a bloke who had over 90% in his R.O.C. exams and was given a high post.

‘Why should it be that 140 people can find refuge and inhabitants of Aberdeen have no-where to go?’

Reply:- ‘They don’t expect a bomb to be dropped in Aberdeen and you can always  join the R.O.C. and you’ll be o.k. in here.’

Quest:- ‘But what about the rest of the people in Aberdeen – why have they no shelters?’

Reply:- ‘If a bomb was going to be dropped they would build shelters.’

Quest.:- ‘In 4 minutes of the warning?’

He looked away and shook his head – we waited for a reply but were told it was time to go. It was pathetic. These are some of the questions I asked, the others were also firing ones at other R.O.C. folk.

Sat 30th                Y.C.L party. JG and I went by accident. A crowd of Y.C.N.D ers there but for a long time no Y.C.L. . There was an admission fee of 2/6 which some of us didn’t pay. We also had to pay for drink and when a fuss was made were told we could have our 2/6 back and leave. We left along with some  2/6 which weren’t put in by us in the first place. A great amount of their literature is now blanketing George Street.

J and I hope to go to Dundee tomorrow and see some Y.C.N.D. folk there. Couldn’t find IM to get money for fares off him so N lent us £1.

Sun 31st                 J and I went to Dundee. Went to EQ’s house and he took us down to Bob and Una’s place in Peddie Street. Discussed the different Y.C.N.Ds and possibility of Scottish Y.C.N.D. etc. Stayed for our tea and caught the last bus home. Dundee Y.C.N.D. does need a lift to say the least – it’s stale.  They do practically nothing. The law in Dundee is much worse than ours.

Aberdeen             The boy from Ilford did not turn up for the meeting. Many people away at hills, different towns and I thinks some stayed away because of him.