Ian MacDougall video transcript

Transcript of filmed talk by Dr Ian MacDougall of the Scottish Working People's History Trust.

My name is Ian MacDougall and I’m presently the part-time research worker for the Scottish Working People's History Trust.

I've always been interested in history and decided, after leaving school at the age of 15, I wanted to become a newspaper reporter. It took some time because at that time as alas, at the present, it wasn’t easy to get a job even as an office boy in the editorial department. So I started on the circulation side of Kemsley newspaper. It was the 'Daily Record' or the 'Glasgow Evening News' / 'Sunday Mail' in the Edinburgh Office. So I worked at that.

Did national service.

About five years later I decided I would change my line, but of course I left school without anything, without any bits of white paper, or any certificates except the lower leaving certificate. So it was necessary to get highers, and then I began to think about university. So, to cut a long story short, I was a full-time student for six years and began as a history teacher in 1961.

I'd only been in this comprehensive school for about a week or 10 days when I was invited to attend a meeting that was to be held at the staff club at Edinburgh University. I wasn't a member, of course, of the university staff, but I think one of the tutors there — Mr W H Marwick who had been a conscientious objector in the First World War — he had himself run a course in working-class movements, it was called, which I had taken in my final year at university. I think it was Mr Marwick that saw to it I got invited along.

When I went along there was a group of about seven or eight lecturers and it was then that it was decided to form a sort of Scottish branch.

I think to begin with it was called indeed the 'Scottish Branch of the Society for the Study of Labour History', a rather long-winded title. But after maybe two or three years, the society itself agreed that the Scottish members should just call themselves the Scottish Labour History Society. 

So the society decided in its first year or so that what it would try to do is to give itself a year and make a list of as many of the archives of working-class movements in Scotland, from the industrial revolution onwards, as it could turn up in that time.

Well, the society didn’t have a large membership to begin with, and there were about half a dozen of us who were willing to find the time to look out what survived or records and archives, minutes and reports and correspondence and so on.

It sounds ridiculous now, but at the time it seemed something of a breakthrough. Nothing quite like this had happened before in Scottish labour history. Labour in the sense not [of] the Labour Party but working class or working peoples. 

One of the features of the Scottish Labour History Society was that it was not in the least sectarian. There were some members of the society who belonged to this party or that party or another party, and the society was very pleased if there was a broad range of political views expressed at its meetings.

We certainly didn't exclude anyone from membership at any time because they belonged to the wrong party. There was a considerable range of political opinion represented among the members — not that there were all that many members at that time, ranging from Conservative — there was a very active member of the Conservative Party — to members of the Communist Party.

There were one or two people who I suppose would be described as 'Trotskyites'. There were others in the Labour Party. There may have been one or two in the SNP — I'm not sure about that — and others again who weren’t in any party at all.

So it was a very broad 'church' sort of society right from the beginning. There was no sectarianism.

So the society the best thing was to have maybe particular centres for deposit. The main one proved to be, or to become, the National Library of Scotland. It received more material.

The great thing was to deposit material to ensure their preservation and perpetuity for present and future generations.

 

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