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


William Gallacher's funeral procession, 1965

image from Red Clydeside collection

William (Willie) Gallacher was born in 1881 in Paisley near Glasgow, Scotland. He was an engineering worker who became involved in the socialist movement in 1905. At first he joined the British Independent Labour Party (ILP), but shortly after he switched to the Marxist Social Democratic Federation (SDF), which soon became the British Socialist Party (BSP). He became a propagandist speaking at open air meetings and an active member of his trade union, the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU).

Between 1914 and 1919, when the city of Glasgow was witness to an unparalleled wave of working class protest and political agitation, Willie Gallacher was active in all of the major community, industrial and political protests which took place on Clydeside, including the Rent Strikes of 1915/16, the Munitions disputes of 1916 and the 40 Hours strikes of 1919. Following his conversion to Marxism, Gallacher was one of the founders of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in 1920 and a member of its central committee from 1922 to 1963, in 1935 he was elected MP for West Fife and represented this constituency until 1951. Gallacher was chairman of the Communist Party until 1956, when he became president, a post which he held until 1963.

Willie Gallacher's funeral in his home town of Paisley was attended by the leading left-wing political figures of the day including Bob Stewart, Rajani Palme Dutt, D.N. Pritt, Hugh McDiarmid, Frank Stanley, John Platts-Mills, Johnnie and Elsie Gollan. Among the pallbearers were Frank Stanley, Gordon McLennan and Peter Kerrigan.

Source: Maxton Collection, Paisley Museum and Art Galleries