The Doric Columns
James Leatham (1865 - 1945) was an Aberdeen-born political activist, author and publisher. He was heavily involved in local socialist organisations and between 1889 and 1892 he ran a printing and publishing co-operative, selling works by writers such as William Morris, Robert Cunningham-Graham and John Bruce Glasier. He also published many of his own well-received pamphlets such as ‘The Class War’, ‘An Eight Hours Day, with Ten Hours’ Pay’ and ‘The Most Important Thing in the World’. Between 1891 and 1892 he also produced ‘Workers Herald’, the first openly socialist weekly paper in Scotland. James Leatham ‘The Class War: A lecture delivered in the Northern Friendly Society’s Hall, 213-217 George Street, under the auspices of the Aberdeen Socialist Society’ (James Leatham, Aberdeen, 1892) Leatham explains why class war is inevitable under capitalism; “The theory of Socialism is that the division of society into classes renders social warfare inevitable … that the poverty of the poor is caused by the robbery on the part of the rich. The Mansion explains the Hovel. The Factory, the Foundry, the Shipbuilding Yard account for the Shooting Lodge, the Yacht, and the tours in foreign lands. The long day’s toil of 1 class renders possible the lifelong leisure of the other ... ”
Aberdeen Clarion Club - 42 Castle Street
General Strike Press Editions
The General Strike in Aberdeen - 1926 from the balustrade tower in the main block Electricity Works
The General Strike of May 1926 was a nationwide strike that affected all the cities in the United Kingdom. It had been organised by the Trades Union Congress in an unsuccessful attempt to force the British Government to act to prevent wage decreases and worsening conditions for coal miners. Wider fears about the breakdown of order and the possibility of a more serious revolution prompted some organisations to take more defensive action, as this photograph of the roof of the Aberdeen Corporation Electricity Works shows. To all intents and purposes it shows a machine gun placement on top the Corporation's Millburn Street building across from Ferryhill Parish Church. The placard underneath identifies it as a “Lewis Machine Gun” used in the General Strike of May 1926. The weapon, however, is artificial – a deterrent silhouette designed to dissuade strikers from occupying the Electricity Works.
DEMAND FOR HIGHER WAGES - 1926
But post the General Strike there were a number of Communist Agititators' and Mannie Shinwell a grand old Scottish Socialist started out as a Communist and well meaning they all were. The Morning Star or Daily Worker then was always offered on sale by strong minded Socialists outside the Shipyards.
Bob Cooney (1908 - 1984)
Physically, he was short, perhaps 5ft 7ins, a wiry Scot from Aberdeen, but he always appeared to be larger than life when he sang at clubs. He had a shock of silver grey hair, was clean shaven and dressed casually, though, unlike most folkies, he wore a jacket.
Radical politician. Born in Sutherland in 1908. On the death of his father the family moved back to Aberdeen and Bob was educated at St Andrew's Episcopal School. After school Bob was apprenticed to a pawnbroker. He became involved in the street politics and debates in the Castlegate in Aberdeen and became a communist and bitterly opposed to poverty. Between 1931-2 he lived and worked in Russia. On his return to Aberdeen he fought hard, successfully, against the forces of the British Union of Fascists under William Chambers Hunter in Aberdeen. In 1937 he volunteered as part of the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil war, which he viewed as the front line against fascism. He served as a gunner for the duration of the Second World War. After the end of the war Communism became the main enemy and Bob found his position less tenable and spent a period in Birmingham (Pressed Steel Fisher). In these years he became increasingly involved in folk music and became a celebrity in that field. He died in Aberdeen in August 1984.
Bob was born to an Aberdonian family, of 7, who were living in Sunderland. Bob's father died a few months after his birth and the family returned to Aberdeen. Bob and his brother, Dod, were educated at St Andrew's Episcopal School. The brothers cleaned the school before and after each day and were members of the choir. On leaving school the children all entered a Trade: in Bob's case he was apprenticed to a Pawnbroker the oldest form of Usary. During the period of apprenticeship he began to hate the pawnshop system and develop a hatred of poverty.
Pawnbrokers would consider anything as of value as a pledge and if the
Breadwinner of the Family spent too much of his wages on beer on the way
home from work on a Friday then his watch or best Suit would be 'hocked' on
the Monday for 10 shillings only to be redeemed again on the Saturday for 7/6d so he could dress in his best to out or go to church.
The margin was regular and handsome profit for the Pawnbroker. There
was one at the top of Commerce Street, corner of Broad St and Queen St and
anywhere there were 3 brass balls suspended.
Spanish Civil War
After his return from Spain, amidst Franco's victory, Bob was enlisted as a gunner for the duration of the 2nd World War. After the cessation of hostilities in 1945 Bob became heavily involved in the squatter movement. Shortage of homes had been an issue before the War in Aberdeen and was an issue for many after its conclusion. Many squatted in the recently vacated Army Huts, Camps and Batteries around Aberdeen. By now Bob and his wife, Nan, had 2 daughters, consequently he took work as a Builder. Due to his subsequent activities in Unionising men he was effectively blacklisted from employment in Aberdeen and had to seek employment elsewhere for some 20 years. Also, during this period, after the death of Stalin in 1953 and with growing American influence, Communism acquired a particularly bad reputation. During the later years of his life Bob became increasingly involved in folk music and made a new name for himself in that field. He died in August 1984 at the age of 78. He is also remembered in Bob Cooney Court, a Housing Association development. There is possibly only 1 existing recording of Bob's later folk songs, on his contribution to the ‘Singing Campbells', released on Ossian Records.
Street Bairns also sang a ditty about Bob as his election posters were all over the St Clements Ward and their immediate parents regarded their champion Bob Cooney with a deal of suspicion.
Vote for Mr Cooney!
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