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


William Gallacher and friends, 1908

image from Red Clydeside collection

Willie Gallacher's early life was typical to that of many young men growing up at the turn of the 20th century. Gallacher certainly enjoyed an active social life and he seized with relish the many opportunities for personal advancement that were available to a young skilled worker during this period. It is known that he joined several sporting clubs and amateur dramatics clubs in his home town of Paisley.

During this period Willie also began to take an active interest in religion, attending bible classes and joining several choirs in Paisley. Willie also became active in the Temperance Movement during this period, joining the Independent Order of Good Templars. Willie's commitment to the temperance cause was so strong that it shaped his early political views. Although a card carrying member of the ILP Willie choose to campaign on behalf of a Liberal candidate during the 1905 elections because the Labour candidate, Robert Smillie, was an active member of the Public House Trust, a pub landlord's association.

Willie Gallacher's introduction to radical politics came from attending the many open air Marxist and Socialist meetings which were held throughout the industrial centres of Scotland at this time. Although Willie joined the ILP initially, he quickly became disillusioned with their reformist policies. At the same time he was coming under the influence of John Maclean, the Marxist revolutionary, and it was through his influence that Gallacher decided to join the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in 1909. Maclean and Gallacher would remain good friends until a rift in their relationship developed over the establishment of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920.

Source: Maxton Collection, Paisley Museum and Art Galleries