Posts tagged ‘politics’

July 26, 2017

 Archibald White Maconochie: Tinned Fish, Tariff Reform & War – Part 1  

A W Maconochie (2)

Guest blog by Textor

At a time when political rats of all descriptions are scuttling to fight for or against Brexit it’s worth bearing in mind that ghostly shadows of today’s dogmas, bigotries and self interest are to be found in the past. Not because the world never changes, but because the stresses and strains of capitalism presents supporters and opponents of different factions with a limited bag of solutions. Eerily for today the brief party political career of Archibald White Maconochie (AWM) mixed the “common sense” of a businessman, ill-trained in politics, with bellicose aims, scandal, racism and demands for something to be done about unfair international trade.

Ad of 1877

 

 Archibald White Maconochie’s business was canning; putting fish, meat and vegetables into tins as well as preserving fruit and making pickles. In the early 1870s with his older sibling James he became one half of Maconochie Brothers. Based in Lowestoft the firm initially dealt in handling and curing fresh herring; a massive trade in late Victorian Britain and supplied fish to the British and European markets. Business grew and by 1878 the brothers had developed a network of contacts around the British coast and in Ireland. Skippers and their boats were contracted as sole suppliers of herring while at the same time the brothers bought fish on the open market.

Pan Yan Pickle ad

Keeping an eye out for opportunities the brothers turned to food preserving – an industry pioneered by Pasteur’s science of sterilisation and with expanding global urban markets the commercial potential was enormous. The Maconochie Brothers while still curing food by older methods enthusiastically entered the new world of tinned foods so much so that by 1878 they were promoting themselves as The Largest Fish & Meat Preserving Factory in Great Britain. Thriving and struggling to cope with the demand for preserved fish James and Archibald decided to go to the heart of the Scottish herring industry, to the Buchan coast and specifically to Fraserburgh where they built Kinnaird Head Works. There at the factory’s two-acre site literally millions of herring were filleted, cleaned and washed by fifty “girls” and either packed into wooden barrels or preserved and canned using up-to-date scientific methods. Above the fish processing area was the tinplate department where men manufactured cans for the busiest season, July and August. The store had capacity to hold up to 2 million tins. With smooth continuous factory production being one of the keys to the profitability of the new industry the empty tins were carried by a shoot to the processors below. Five herrings were packed into 1lb tins by women and lids were soldered on by men prior to entering high pressure steam vessels for sterilisation. It’s worth noting how important female labour was in this system and how up until mechanisation was introduced the handicraft skills of the tinsmiths were crucial in the early days of the trade.

unnamed.jpg

Archibald White Maconochie (AWM) was aware of the potential for tinsmiths to hobble his business for he knew these skilled men could withdraw labour at the height of landings, and with herring being highly perishable there was a real threat of losing fish, losing profits and customers shifting to competitors. This could be managed either by introducing new technology or taking a hard line with workers. In 1888 at Lowestoft the extent of AWM’s enthusiasm for stopping fractious labour showed when he grabbed tinsmith David Brown by the throat, knocking him down with the apparent intention of strangling him and shouting I’ll have the life out of you yet. Violence was his negotiating stance when workmen had the temerity to question the rate of work and the tools supplied for soldering. The boss was charged with assault and at the Police Court he was found guilty and  fined £2 with the option of one month imprisonment. He chose to pay the fine. But the Maconochie Brothers had the last laugh as they vindictively sued men who walked out in sympathy at the Lowestoft factory at the time of the assault. The company claimed men had broken a legal contract and that under the conditions of the Employers’ and Workmen’s Act of 1875 they, the company, were entitled to £10 compensation from each of the six men pursued. In the event the firm was awarded £1 damages from each man with the tinsmiths also forfeiting two days wages. Not difficult to see who came out of this affair least affected.

An endnote to this tale is that machinery had been developed in the 1870s to put lids on tins which removed one component of the canning process to semi-skilled status. This was not enough for AWM and in 1901 he still fretted over the canning operation and eventually came up with a machine for beading tin lids and so doing away with the need for soldering. With a single operator the mechanism could manufacture 2500 containers per day but this was further improved by his design of a 4-man operated beader which could deliver 6000 tin an hour. These machines he said gave the edge to employers and tinsmiths could no longer hold up the trade.

Maconochie's Ad 2

And trade was not held up. The world became the company’s marketplace especially countries of the empire and as provisioning of British military forces became a necessity Maconochie found the State an enthusiastic customer for his products. Late Victorian imperialist wars were fed by Maconochie and what better to supply the troops than rations with a shelf life of at least two years. According to Baden-Powell

With morale and Maconochie the British soldier can go anywhere and do anything.

 “Maconochie” had become a global brand  Unsurprisingly when Archibald Maconochie turned to politics the problems of the British Empire were central to his campaign.   

Political cartoon AWJ election Sept 26 1900 p.7

It was the General Election of 1900 that achieved a small political profile for AWM when he was elected to represent the constituency of East Aberdeenshire. He’d stood on a Liberal Unionist  platform against the sitting Liberal member T. R. Buchanan a man who favoured Gladstone’s Home Rule for Ireland agenda. In Maconochie’s eyes Irish Members of Parliament, and by extension their supporters, through their demand for Home Rule threatened the very existence of Britain and its empire (it seems that his anti-Irish bias extended to him having a condition in his will that should any of his sons marry a Catholic they would forfeit their inheritance.) As much as he loathed home rulers it was not this that brought him to politics but the more immediate and bloody struggle being fought out in southern Africa, the Boer War. Fought essentially over who would control the area’s goldfields and get access to the strategically important ports round the Cape this, the final war of Victoria’s reign, was a sure indication of mounting international tensions which divided liberals such as Buchanan and socialists like Keir Hardie from bellicose defenders of the rights to empire.

Maconochie fell into the pro-war camp and found a ready supporter in Aberdeen’s conservative paper the Daily Journal. However, regardless of the fact that his business was selling vast amounts of tinned food to the army it would be wrong to attribute his support solely to self-interest. Like so many others of the time his notion of what was best for Britain inextricably linked business and politics with Britain bringing civilisation and some form of material well-being to the rest of the world: plant the flag and let business follow and so native populations could be given proper  “care and protection”. He believed what he described as the Anglo-Saxon race had a great and heavy responsibility. If we look at the way Maconochie treated his own white labour, from direct assault to paternalism, we can conclude how he thought the colonised should be handled. Archibald had in fact a very straight forward way of addressing politics. Sophisticated notions of negotiation, of moral authority and international law were beyond him. In his view all government required was application of business principles to the nation’s affairs.

Maconochie Accident APJ Aug 22 1903

Mr A W Maconochie, MP, had a nasty motor spill on his way to political meetings at Tarves and Methlick last Saturday. The Liberals of East Aberdeenshire are doing their best to effect another spill later on.

 Britain was not alone in the imperial chauvinist dream; Germany and France in particular envied and challenged her as the then premier world power. Archibald Maconochie recognised these growing threats; to take an anti-war position was to open the door to competitors. The only way of confronting commercial-political enemies he said, was the extension of the Empire in order to keep open markets for British trade. Supporters of AWM stressed his local connections and in particular the hundreds employed at the Fraserburgh works pointing to the fact that full employment meant no need for a soup kitchen in the town. Addressing electors Maconochie said Boers needed to be defeated, integrated and made part and parcel of our Imperial Empire. His rival the anti-war Liberal Buchanan fought to retain his seat but he was denounced for his support for Home Rule as giving succour to the enemy and of not supporting troops who were dying on the battlefields of the Transvaal and despite Aberdeen’s liberal newspaper the People’s Journal condemning AWM for having no other platform than being anti-Boer Buchanan lost the election by 73 votes.

In local terms this was a big event as liberalism had long been backed by the area’s agricultural and fishing electorate. The conservative Press was ecstatic; Maconochie had broken the evil tradition of Aberdeenshire Radicalism. In Fraserburgh Kinnaird Head Works declared a half-holiday and workers marched through the streets shouting Maconochie forever. We can imagine that the local anti-war and pro-labour voters were all but silenced at the unionist success but we can only wonder what they thought when in the midst of Fraserburgh celebrations the new Member of Parliament found eager workers willing to unhitch horses from his carriage and yoke themselves to draw Maconochie to his factory. It is undoubtedly the case that Archibald’s victory was down to his opposition to the Boers and defence of British troops then dying on the veld. Fourteen years later a similar febrile, pro-empire mood also had men swarming to the flag.

1900

Columbia to Britannia: You mustn’t mind those noisy boys of mine, it’s election time. May 16 1900

Maconochie’s anti-Boer view reached fever-point in 1901 when he told the good folks of New Deer that it was for every man to do his utmost to support the Government . . . If a man encouraged the enemy he was no patriot, and was not fit to live among us . . . kid gloves must be taken off and war ended as speedily as possible a sentiment endorsed by the editor of the Daily Journal who described Radicals as a cause of humiliation and shame to Scotchmen in all parts of the world. Addressing constituents at Strichen AWM went so far as to sympathise with the view that anybody expressing support for the Boers should be shot.

 With the end of the Boer War in 1902 the central plank of Maconochie’s platform fell away. He was a bit like Donald Trump left with a rag-bag of opinions and prejudices which mingled commercial instrumentalism with half-digested economic theory. For example on taking his seat in Parliament he was astonished at how backward and hidebound by tradition the process of parliamentary voting was, with walking in and out of yes-no lobbies. This he said could be made easier, more efficient by giving each member electric bells to register approval or disapproval of motions resulting in more or less instantaneous results. In a similar rejection of tradition AWM wanted to throw out aspects of the humanist education syllabus in particular he saw no need for Greek and Latin to be taught. These languages served little purpose in a world of competitive commerce he claimed, better that students spoke German and French. Maconochie did fall in with fellow liberals in his support for old age pensions and as for trade unions he judged them okay so long as they did not actually interfere with employer’s right to set the rates of production. Too often, he said, unions were implicated in ca-canny policies, robbing management of its rights and undermining competitiveness. In other words they might be fine as friendly societies but unacceptable if they challenged the distribution of property and economic power.

MB ad 1877

As manager of a business with international reach Maconochie’s view of the world was saturated with notions of competition. He saw the world in terms of struggles, between firms, between nations and also a social-Darwinist hierarchy of racial division. And there’s no doubt that he was correct to identify deepening international competition as being profoundly important to the well-being of the British Empire. Times were changing, the historical advantage industrial and commercial Britain once had was under threat. Across the pond the USA had emerged as a growing power with its state providing protection to some home-grown industries. In Europe Germany in particular was aggressively pursuing industrialisation and colonisation with the intention of promoting what it regarded as its national right. In Britain these antagonisms highlighted the need for an active and even aggressive defence of national interest. Private capitalism and state institutions were in deep embrace, or as Archibald put it trade followed the flag, for trade was sustained by the flag, and the trade led the flag. So it was with some prescience he predicted that this competition would lead to war with Germany.

unnamed

Planting the flag

Part 2 to follow

The demonisation of foreign workers; the emergence of the Consolidated Pneumatic Tool Company; dodgy war rations; continuing xenophobia- Chinese, European Jews and threat to the Empire.

June 3, 2016

Polly Parrot and the Easter Rising

Polly Walker parrot 1929 at Cragievar

The feathered genius Polly Parrot on an outing into Aberdeenshire

This is a tale of two parrots, well three but one is only of passing interest.

The first account is of Polly, a male parrot, who shared a home with two women at 32 Whitehall Road, Aberdeen in the 1920s.

Polly was no bird-brain but an exceptionally bright bird who recognised and welcomed regular visitors to the house by calling out their names when they appeared. When he heard the postman coming he’d shout “Annie, that’s the postman, hurry up, hurry up!” It seems he didn’t just pick up words and phrases with ease but could produce conversation that related to his circumstances…I’ll give you an example.

One time when the women went off to Ballater for a short holiday Polly was taken along as well, in his cage.  When they arrived to catch the Deeside train at the Joint Station Polly shrieked out, “Hire a cab! Hire a cab!” All went well and the women settled in but somehow or other Polly escaped. This was on a Thursday and the following Sunday morning a local crofter opened his door to discover the poor wee bird cowering on his doorstep, cawing in distress. The man called out to his wife, as reported later, “There’s something at oor door. I ken na gin’t be beast, body, speerit, or deevil, but I wish ye wad come oot an’ see’t.”

The parrot sensing the woman was a body with a bit more sense spoke to the wife, “Take me in, I’m very cold, I’m very hungry, very thirsty. I’m Polly Walker, 32 Witehehall Road, Aberdeen. Take me home!”

And so they did take him in and fed him before heading out to the kirk service. There they heard of a missing bird and a reward of £5 for its return but thought little of it since the description didn’t seem to fit their visitor; the lost bird was said to have a crimson tail and the bird at the croft had no tail at all. Despite this a message was sent to the women in Ballater who quickly arrived at the croft in a phaeton and when they saw the bird they agreed it wasn’t theirs before Polly piped up, “I’m Polly Walker, 32 Whitehall Road, Aberdeen.” The poor thing had been so desperate and hungry when lost it had pulled out all its tail feathers, and now I’m reporting what was said, sucked the sugar from their roots.

Off it went with its owners who nursed it back to health but the trauma of its adventure was such that Polly complained, “Polly, far, far away; lost, tired, cold, hungry, such a disgrace.”

Oh, and during its sojourn in Ballater the bird had picked up the phrase “You’re a devil!” from some of the local rascals but that sentiment was excised from Polly’s vocabulary once back in Aberdeen.  

 ***

Three years later, in 1932, another Aberdeen parrot raised the alarm and saved lives when his owner’s house at 10 King Street went on fire and it called out, “Come here! I’m feart!”

***

My final parrot story is of a visitor to Aberdeen, this parrot was perched on the right shoulder of its elderly lady owner as she made her way  along Union Street. The year was 1924 and the parrot was called Monsieur Coco who bowed to a Press and Journal reporter, or so he imagined, who had been sent out to get an exclusive on the two strange birds gadding about the town. 

mrs pearce and parrot 1924

The reporter learnt the woman dressed in fur was a Mrs Pearse and her companion was “an intelligent Amazonian parrot.” Mrs Pearse was rather better known than her parrot. Formerly Mabel Cosgrove from London, her family were friends of Oscar Wilde’s and she was once married to a Mr Chan Toon, a Burmese barrister of the Middle Temple. She was something of a novelist, in her head at least, which may account for the following. On the other hand she was getting on in years and may have been suffering from senility but wherever the truth lay she claimed she was the widow of Pearse the Irish poet and nationalist executed for his part in the Easter Rising of 1916 and that the parrot had been with her husband in the moments before he was shot at Kilmainham jail but apparently sensing the approach of death it flew off into a hedge. 

In fact the Pearse she had married was an Armine Wodehouse Pearse who died in the Great War days before the Armistice.  She, herself, lived partly in Ireland but travelled extensively and appears to have maintained herself through robbery, blackmail and forgery, even claiming to have written or co-written plays with Oscar Wilde.

The parrot, she said, had been thrown from its nest by its mother when six hours old and quite featherless because its wings were paralysed. This was is Guadalajara and Mrs Pearse took care of him, feeding him on bread and milk and so he grew. From Mexico they travelled to New Orleans where she claimed the two witnessed the execution of two prisoners found guilty of murdering an Irish policeman.

She returned to Ireland and overcame reluctance to admit the parrot on grounds he was poultry and the Irish Free State was afraid of the spread of foot and mouth – though I don’t think birds get foot and mouth but then I’m no vet. The Irish customs officer let the bird in in exchange for a photograph of King George – which I find even more far-fetched than a bird with foot and mouth.

Once home in Ireland her parrot attracted suspicion, that it was “a new dodge on the part of the British Government for recruiting” and so Mrs Pearse and the parrot were given police protection. She countered these accusations by saying if anything the bird’s green and orange feathers were Sinn Fein’s colours and that, apparently, ended suspicion of it and her.

The parrot was a fluent French speaker, from their time in Paris and it was claimed had his portrait painted by the artist Dorin, as Monsieur Coco (the bird not the painter) and while in France he enjoyed a dejeuner of omelette and black coffee outside. In addition the parrot spoke excellent Spanish and English as well and was said to have had an extraordinary memory which is more than can be said for his mistress who appears to have confused memory with imagination.

 

 

 

October 28, 2015

The Ballad of the House of Lords – a parcel of rogues went down in their brogues

The Ballad of the House of Lords

lords

There are ladies and lords and people with swords

and one or two in riding boots

there are barons and earls and viscounts in pearls

concealed under Savile Row suits.

 

There are marquesses and dukes and other such sooks

who’ve dropped in by from the races

for there’s lunch to be had of pressed gammon and crab

to satisfy several gluttonous graces.

 

There’s Bordelaise sauce and tarragon concasse,

and slow cooked ox cheek for lunch

while somebody croaks another snorts coke

with more in the bar quaffing punch.

 

A parcel of rogues went down in their brogues

from Scotland to sponge off our taxes

Lord MacFlannel this and Lady MacPish

downing drams until both collapse(s).

 

There’s boozers and cruisers and downright losers

who’ll turn up to vote on all fours

and Lord Whip-me Quickly and Lady Most Thickly

high class whores and out and out bores

 

Lords Nanny-oh-Nanny let me lie on your fanny

and some that are down on their luck

bankers and wankers and judges who’re spankers

and some who’re just there for the… company.

 

Both jailbirds and crooks and those who’ve cooked the books

In their velvet silk they preen

they’re sad and they’re mad and invariably bad

as they sit on their arses serene.

 

On the woolsack they repose, stuffed with bodies of those

from the commonwealth exploited and oppressed

died creating the wealth accrued by British stealth

from people and lands repressed.

 

They’re gruesome and cant and hysterically camp

and they pay lip service to duty

but they snivel and flout as they mumble and pout

frightfully snooty while pocketing their booty.

 

With tax-free pay, £300 every day

if they choose to turn up for the fee

with expenses besides for air travel and rides

from France or the banks of the Dee.

 

Freeloaders and grovellers and democracy spoilers

who backscratch their way to the House

with brown envelopes or bribe they join a huge tribe

of 800 peers, each a louse.

 

There are city boy slickers some fur coat and nae knickers

there’s Lord Rent-a-Gob down from the north

and Ladies who’ll do benders in stockings and suspenders

whose value is all in their girth.

 

We’ve a bootlicking bunch that scheme during lunch

of lavender shortbread and cream

they’re all pals and they’re cronies and out and out phonies

all cogs in this corrupt regime.

 

The crawlers and creeps and Uriah Heeps

that dominate this Other Place

the sycophants and leeches, Church of England preachers

attendees of this House with the mace.

 

Those winkers and nudgers and out and out fudgers

who’ve no business making laws by rights

putting on airs and graces they mix in high places

with Dames and doddering old Knights.

 

They snigger and incite as they straighten their tights

the cross-benchers that is in their hose

and they squat in their jackets that were tailored by Hacketts

crowing that’s no skin off my nose.

 

For they’re pampered and rich and often quite kitsch

these Peers in their rabbit skin cloaks

more suitably goat rather than stoat

that’s wrapped around these pompous old soaks.

 

Scarlet, white and gold they gather so bold

a mob more hideous than most

and they smirk and they wink and they horribly stink

of sewers and all things gross.

 

Lady Oily, Lord Glib, Lord Bluster, Lady Fib

all revelling in their conceit

to shore up a regime of autocratic extreme

to screw every man in the street. (and woman)

 

Lord Toff to Lord Swell said it’s all very well

for other to criticise us at our game

but we’re magnates and lairds not politically impaired

tho’ we haven’t a vote to our name.

 

There are nawabs and sheikhs and all sorts of cliques

that run countries without any fuss

what’s the problem with Britain so many are smitten

with real democracy in place of this bluff?

 

They check in Burke’s Peerage and generally forage

to find their names get a mention

for it’s gratifying to see Lords and Ladies Swan-ky

are doing their bit for the nation.

 

Lady Ladida ‘n Lord Heehaw thought the mace was a see-saw

connected – not brainy you see

pedigree and good breeding can be so misleading

when deciding who gets in and succeeds.

 

So it’s up to us to generate a fuss

to demand that we drop this sham now

instead of amending the Lords need rendering

obsolete – this old sacred cow.

lords 2

May 20, 2015

Rebel without a cause: Seatgate – Dennis Skinner rebel or establishment?

Rebel without a cause

Skinner

The House of Commons rebel, in name at least, doesn’t care much for rebellion it seems – not when it involves him. The House of Commons rebel is a man of custom, sedentary custom. This rebel is not in the vanguard against the British establishment, no  this rebel is none other than Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs or the Great and Powerful Oz – for this week the curtain was drawn back exposing him to be a puny yet ardent stickler for convention in the tradition of the most obsequious envoy of the British empire proudly planting the Union flag on some piece of foreign territory in the name of the monarch and the Empire by God.

The man who once terrified the establishment is now a compliant part of it, albeit the circus act. He is less firebrand than damp squib. Socialist? up to a point Lord Copper, up to a point.

If socialism extends to pushing others out of the way, he’s a socialist. If being a socialist is insisting a public bench belongs to him by rights or custom, he is a socialist. If being a socialist comes down entirely to age then he is a socialist. If socialism is about common ownership he is not a socialist. If socialism is about sharing the means of production then his jibes about Scots (SNP) and their Barnett Formula suggest he is not a socialist. At best the rebel champions not socialism but localism.

When the great rebel accuses the people of Scotland of living off his constituents you have to question the extent of his  socialism..so much for sharing the burdens placed on us by capitalism. If the establishment’s rebel really cared he would not be carping on about what monies Scotland has but demanding his constituents should match them, instead of grousing that the Scots have too much. That we should all wallow in equal levels of poverty seems to be the ambition of Labour, rebel or not.

His comment about North Sea Oil lacks a punch line so I don’t know what he meant other than another apparent disparaging aside aimed at us in Scotland which again doesn’t sound too socialist to me. Certainly not internationalist which is what so many self-proclaimed Labour lefties say they stand for. His remarks seem grudging and bitter and divisive, not at all what you might expect from a socialist or even anyone in the Labour party.

The rebel believes he has traditional rights no different from an 18th century English country squire or absentee Highland laird wielding their power to evict their tenants from their (tenants) land by any means available to them.

The rebel who is happy to sit for 45 years issuing the occasional humorous one-liner is not a threat to the system he claims to despise. What exactly is he rebelling against? At the moment it looks like the audacity of the new intake of Scots to demand equality with old-timers in the Commons. They are public benches and unless he is advocating privatisation of them then he ought to practise what he preaches.

Labour lefties come in a range of shades; espoused socialists who retire from the Commons or public life straight into that most undemocratic house of cronyism, the House of Lords; wealthy Chelsea and Kensington deluded types who talk the talk but take a taxi or limo in preference to walking the walk; hoary-handed salt-of-the-earth types who live off reputations carefully nurtured and preserved but amounting to very little in the grand scheme of things. And they don’t like it when someone comes along and exposes them to be none other than Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs instead of the rebel whose socialism amounts to nothing more than sporting a red tie.

http://www.newstatesman.com/staggers/2015/05/dennis-skinner-warns-snp-mps-trying-take-his-seat-one-victory-it-will-be-battle

November 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.

010

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.

 

November 9, 2014

Remembrance Day 1960s Aberdeen

Mac 11nov protest

Ian MacDonald has sent in a cutting of his anti-war protest in the 1960s at Aberdeen’s war memorial lion.

‘Archive photo of myself and a friend attending a Remembrance service at Aberdeen in the 1960s.

My message today is the same – blessed are the peacemakers, bring all our troops home, scrap Trident.’

September 19, 2014

So You Voted No

You didn't vote for him or for  The Spirit of Scotland

You didn’t vote for him or for
The Spirit of Scotland

You didn't vote for her and she'll never get another chance

You didn’t vote for her
and she’ll never get another chance

You didn't vote for her or her

You didn’t vote for her or her

Hamish Henderson

You didn’t vote for him and what he worked for. You probably don’t even know who he is.

You fell for Murdoch trash press

You did vote for him, his values and his trash press

You voted for  Neo-Nazi Unionists

You voted for
Neo-Nazi Unionists

You voted to retain the House of Lords

You voted to retain the House of Lords

You voted to retain the corrupt  British Establishment in the manner to which is expects

You voted to retain corrupt British Establishment in the manner it has grown to expect

You voted support for  the Stock Exchange when it threatened you with penury

You voted support for the Stock Exchange when it threatened you with penury

You voted for him and his Party's austerity measure

You voted for him and his Party’s austerity

You voted your approval of their threats and interference in the democratic process

You voted your approval of their threats and interference in the democratic process

You vote your approval of their threats and interference in the democratic process

You vote your approval of their threats and interference in the democratic process

You vote for them and their threats of job losses

You vote for them and their threats to take jobs out of Scotland

You voted your approval of their threats to increase prices in Scotland

You voted your approval of them and their threats to increase prices in Scotland

You voted to reinforce their view they are born with the right to govern you

You voted to reinforce their view they are born with the right to govern you

You voted your approval of  him interfering in the democratic process of a foreign nation

You voted for approval of him interfering in the democratic process in a foreign nation

And you voted no along with these fellow-travellers

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10202433758517846&set=vb.1610349991&type=2&theater

You voted for a Labour leader totally at sea when confronted by ordinary Scots

You voted for yourself and your personal self-interest

You voted for yourself and your personal self-interest

And it could all have been so different.

September 17, 2014

Thank you all fellow YESers it’s been great!

The Yes Scotland Campaign

We’ve taken on the Tories

We’ve taken on the BNP

We’ve taken on the Orange Order

We’ve taken on the Labour Party

We’ve taken on the Britannia Party

We’ve taken on the Liberal Democrats

We’ve taken on the National Front

We’ve taken on Ukip

We’ve taken on the BBC, determinedly propagandizing on behalf of the Union

We’ve taken on the luvvies with their enormous egos and holiday homes in Scotland

We’ve taken on the distortions of our views, our desires, our ambitions in the press

We’ve challenged and sang and laughed and chapped on doors in the sun in the rain in howling gales

We’ve spoken at meetings and shrugged off abuse and attack

We’ve turned ordinary Scots into activists

We’ve introduced young people to political participation

We’ve challenged lies and more lies and dirty tricks

We’ve shaken our heads at political posturing and stunts

We’ve shaken our heads at Labour politicians advocating people do not use their democratic vote

We’ve faced up to the whole panoply of aggressive misrepresentation thrown at us by a mischievous media

We’ve used social media to counter media distortions and lies and censorship of our opinions and ideals

We’ve taken on millionaires and billionaires and city folk who aim to buy support

We’ve taken on self-serving corrupt politicians motivated by self-interest who feather their own nests with inflated expense claims paid for by people who are reduced to feeding their families from food banks

We’ve taken on threats and personal attacks from No supporters

We’ve countered the hysterical rantings of fanatical rightwing commentators

We’ve countered the hysterical ranting of Kensington lefties

We’ve grown more confident

We’ve loved being part of a movement that is positive and ambitious to help the majority in our little country of Scotland

We’ve taken the flak and shrugged it off because we’ve been empowered to speak out

Thank you all fellow YESers

It’s been great

September 15, 2014

Not narrow nationalism but popular democracy

Aberdeen Yes

A great deal of nonsense has been said and written throughout the Scottish independence campaign by a mostly hostile media.

We were told at the outset it was too long. Well here we are about to vote and interest in it is greater than ever. It certainly has caught the attention of the world media and even, the UK media, and that takes some doing when it comes to Scotland-related matters.

The Guardian is an example of a newspaper purporting to represent the whole of the British Isles when, in fact, it represents possibly a small community around SE England. Pick up a copy any day of any week, outside of the referendum period, and you’ll struggle to see any mention of Scotland whether in the politics section or sport.

The Guardian, therefore, cannot be taken too seriously when it claims to understand the Scottish psyche through this campaign. Curiously it regards itself as sharing with the campaign ‘some of the things that matters most to this newspaper and its readers.’ An eyebrow or two will have been raised around Scotland at this conceit.

You, the Guardian, are part of the problem which has led to the groundswell of support for re-asserting our independence.

You are wrong when you say that national identity is high on anyone’s agenda, certainly not for those of the Yes side. The same may not apply to the No side for they’ve supported the cry of Scots across the UK and even abroad who maintain they should have been given a vote. The Yes side see this referendum as the business of those who live in Scotland, who make their livings here, who raise their families here, irrespective of where they come from originally. It is not a franchise based on national identity at all but of location. You can be from Pakistan, England, Poland, Estonia and you are deemed to be Scottish and so entitled to vote.

‘Ugly nationalism’ has no place in the Yes movement, except as an invention by mistaken or mischievous opponents of the independence movement.

No, the view that this is a campaign of national identity, narrow nationalism or Britishness of the type Gove tried to introduce into England with all the nastiness that involves, is far removed from the pro-independence movement. Only No campaigners have been desperately declaring themselves patriots and passionate about Scotland, not the yessers. It is so misleading to suggest independence here is about narrow nationalism. It is a movement which has emerged from us being overwhelmed by at times a bullying and often indifferent Union partner happy to exploit Scotland’s people (industrially and militarily) and our resources and condescend us by ‘giving us’ a few powers of government so that there is an allusion of semi-autonomy. We are a partner we shouldn’t be ‘given’ powers we should be able to take what we want out of the Union.

The Guardian holds up the views of Charles Kennedy to knock back independence. He has not featured in Scottish politics for long (while still an MP) his voice is now unfamiliar here and he speaks for a discredited party of LibDems whose integrity is in shreds and who will struggle for votes in the future so why the Guardian thought he was someone who could shed light on the movement for change here is risible and another example of how out of touch the Guardian is with Scotland and its Scottish readers.

The newspaper’s editorial is spiteful in its accusation against the millions who support a radical shakeup of life in Scotland and reveals an unhealthy level of intolerance of opinion despite its opening statement about sharing some of our concerns.

No-one I have heard has ever uttered the opinion that they think the Scots superior to anyone else; inclusiveness is the overwhelming view.

I suggest the Guardian ca’s canny when going down the line that the Union better serves oldies relying on a state pension for UK pensioners receive among the worst pensions in Europe and the pension age if being pushed back towards 70 the age it was when pensions were first introduced – when few lived long enough to benefit from them.

Likewise with the NHS there can be few in doubt that privatisation will erode all but a tiny element of the once-great NHS. Only by Scotland getting away from its status as a pocket-money dependency will we have a hope of retaining a well-funded free at the point of access health service; as campaigning medical and nursing staff have argued.

The wealth that is created in Scotland will be used to tackle the obscenity of poverty in the 21st century in an oil-rich state but it can only be done when we rid ourselves of the corrupt back-slapping nepotistic establishment that pulls all the strings in the UK around Westminster and Whitehall.

There is little Scotland, as part of the Union, can do to raise the living standards of people across the UK but there is much it can do to use the massive oil and gas reserves we have along with the rest of our economy to improve life here in Scotland with our small population. The argument that risk shared across populations is manifestly untrue given the evidence that small western nations have the highest standards of living and well-being.

Scots are looking for big constitutional change. Labour says vote for them next year and they’ll reform the House of Lords. We’ve heard that one so often and what do we get? Labour Party MPs queuing up to wrap themselves in ermine, eager to grasp the daily allowance of the totally undemocratic Lords. No Labour we don’t want reform of the Lords we want its eradication.

Until recently most issues of the Guardian along with all other mainstream UK newspapers and BBC largely ignored us or patronised or ridiculed us. Fair enough, carry on doing that but don’t expect us to give you respect or play your games anymore.

Whatever the outcome of the referendum vote Scotland’s people have been reinvigorated and we will not be docile any longer.

September 5, 2014

Revealed the shocking ineptitude of Johann Lamont

What – just what was it about this woman that brought her the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party?

Have you ever seen anyone so hapless and useless in such a position before?

Nothing to say – move on – pretend the question didn’t happen.

And people vote for the Party led by her?  Unbelievable.