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


William Gallacher as a young boy at St.Mirren Primary school in Paisley, 1890-1893

Gallacher back row sixth from right

image from Red Clydeside collection

Willie Gallacher was born in Paisley on Christmas day 1881, the son of an Irish father and a Highland mother. His father, John Gallacher, was a master baker by trade but died when Willie was still a young child. The death of the main breadwinner in working class families in the late 19th century invariably meant a family's descent into poverty and the Gallacher family proved no exception to this rule. Due to his fathers death the burden of supporting the family moved to Willie's mother who was forced to take in washing in order to make some extra money to feed and her clothe the family which consisted of Willie and his six brothers and sisters.

Willie attended St,Mirren's R.C. primary school in Paisley and between the ages of 9 and 12 he attended the local Protestant secondary, Camphill School, his mother deciding to move Willie because of the better academic reputation of the local Protestant secondary. As was the norm for young working class boys during this time, Willie left school at the age of 12 and began work as a grocer's delivery boy, providing a welcome additional wage for a family struggling to make ends meet. Willie left this job following a dispute with his employers and began an apprenticeship as a brass finisher in a sanitary engineering works at the age of 14.

In his teens Willie began to take an active interest in religion, attending bible classes and joining several choirs in Paisley, namely the Wallneuk Mission Choir and the Mission Hall Choir of the Free Middle Church. Willie also became active in the Temperance Movement during this period, joining the Independent Order of Good Templars. Willie's strong and lasting hatred of alcohol stemmed from his own father's alcoholism and the subsequent distress and misery it caused his mother. Willie always blamed his mothers death at the relatively early age of 54, on the hardship and poverty brought on by his fathers fondness for hard liquor.

Source: Maxton Collection, Paisley Museum and Art Galleries