Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932


Willie Gallacher's story, 1919

The Clyde in Wartime: sketches of a stormy period

by William Gallacher

image from Red Clydeside collection

William (Willie) Gallacher was born in 1881 in Paisley, Scotland. An engineering worker by trade, Gallacher first became involved in Labour politics in 1905 when he became a member of the Independent Labour Party. However, Gallacher soon became disillusioned with the reformist policies of the party and left to join the more radical Social Democratic Federation which soon became the British Socialist Party.

As one of the leaders of the Clyde Workers' Committee (CWC) during the first world war, Gallacher played a prominent role in the 'dilutions' disputes on Clydeside and was imprisoned twice during these years. As a former chairman of the CWC he represented the Clyde shop stewards at the second congress of the Communist International in Moscow in 1920, where he met Lenin who convinced him of the need for a communist party. Gallacher was one of the founders of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920 and a member of its central committee from 1922 to 1963.

In 1935 Gallacher was elected MP for West Fife after six years involvement in the miners' struggles. He continued to represent the constituency until 1951 and for a long time was the only communist MP in the House of Commons, until he was joined by Phil Piratin in 1945. Gallacher was chairman of the Communist Party until 1956, when he became president, a post which he held until 1963. Willie Gallacher died in 1965.

Source: Bissett Collection, Glasgow University Special Collections