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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Green Galloway and Radical Independence

Monument in memory of James Neilson who invented the 'hot blast' technique of iron smelting in 1828.

Scotland's industrial revolution began in 1828 when James Neilson's hot-blast technique of iron smelting led to the rapid rise of Scotland's heavy engineering industries.The final collapse of those industries as a consequence of the economic policies of Margaret Thatcher's government in the 1980s began the process which has Scottish independence as its end.

Glasgow born Neilson's family came from Galloway and were driven from the land by the Lowland Clearances. In 1848, James Neilson returned, buying a farm near Ringford in Galloway. Lacking coal and iron, Galloway never experienced an industrial revolution so it is ironic that Neilson's Monument was built in a such a rural location.  The lack of industrial development and urbanisation also meant that through the Thatcher years, Galloway remained a Conservative and Unionist heartland.  In September 2014, the region might even reject independence. But, as I conclude below, without the culture shock of independence, the enduring legacy of the Lowland Clearances will never be overcome and the region's future will be as an empty green desert.

“Every one is born as a free person, that is, by nature, no one comes out of the womb under any civil subjection  to king, prince or judge; nor does any one bring out of the womb a sceptre or crown upon their head.”

This quotation is from  ‘Lex, Rex or the Law and the Prince’, which was written by Samuel Rutherford  while he was in London in 1644. Rutherford was involved in the negotiations for a religious and political union between England and Scotland proposed by the Solemn League and Covenant. The book used a fierce combination of philosophy and theology to argue against the ‘divine right of kings‘. After the restoration of Charles II in 1660 it was burnt by the public hangman and  Rutherford would have been executed  for his treasonable  beliefs, but before he could be brought to trial, he died in March 1661.

Rutherford’s connection to Dumfries and Galloway  is that he was  the very popular minister of Anwoth near Gatehouse of Fleet between 1627 and 1636. Although very few people in the region would have read the book, the religious and political struggles which produced Lex Rex lasted from 1638 to 1746. During  Charles II reign, the region was seen as a rebellious province and experienced a low intensity civil war. 

Opposition to the Stuarts in Dumfries and Galloway led to support for William of Orange’s invasion in 1688. From Wigtownshire, James Dalrymple and his son John were part of the invasion force. They had been leading figures in the Scottish legal establishment until forced into exile in Holland. From the Stewartry there was William Maxwell. His father had been a contemporary of  Samuel Rutherford as the Presbyterian minister of Minnigaff parish. William Maxwell went on to fight for King William at the battles of Killiecrankie and the Boyne, rising through the ranks to become a colonel.

In Dumfries, William Craik was elected as the new provost on 26 December 1688 and Dumfries burgh council voted to proclaim  William of Orange their new king on 9 January- the first town in Britain to do so. Scots supporters of William of Orange favoured closer union with England, but William’s English advisers rejected this.

William Craik’s son in law Robert Johnston represented Dumfries’ burgh in the 1706 Scottish Parliament. Colonel William Maxwell represented the Stewartry in the same Parliament. Both voted against some, but not all the Articles of Union- despite this Johnston’s grave in Dumfries carries a Latin inscription stating that he asserted Scotland’s liberty by strongly opposing the Union. 

In November 1706, John Hepburn, minister of Urr led a troop of armed horsemen into Dumfries where they burnt  the Articles of Union at the Mercat Cross where the Mid-steeple now stands. On the other hand, John Dalrymple who was now the 1st earl of Stair, was a strong supporter of the Union which he believed was an essential defence against  the threat of a second Stuart restoration.

The reality of that threat was demonstrated by the Jacobites in 1715. In Dumfries and Galloway a small force of Jacobites were led by William Gordon of Kenmure, whose father had fought for William of Orange at Killiecrankie. The other leading Jacobite was William Maxwell, the 6th earl of Nithsdale who was a member of the region’s Roman Catholic community. In October 1715 along with a some Jacobites from the north of England and a group of Highland Jacobites, they attempted to capture Dumfries. 

Colonel William Maxwell had been sent to Glasgow to organise its defences. Meanwhile Robert Johnston  helped organise the 3000 volunteers who rushed to defend Dumfries along with John Hepburn and 300 of his armed followers. The Jacobites turned back and marched into England where they were defeated at the battle of Preston. 

Significantly then, even the strongest opponents of the Union in 1706  became supporters in 1715, preferring the rule of  King George to that of another King James.

John Hepburn died in 1723 after a long an eventful life which included escaping a charge of treason for his involvement in a plot to kill both Charles II and his brother James in 1683. Then, in 1724, Hepburn‘s followers, called the Hebronites became involved  the uprising of the Galloway Levellers. This began in March and continued through until October.

What sparked off the Levellers uprising was the first of the Lowland Clearances. In order to create large cattle enclosures, several hundred tenants and cottars were evicted from their farms. According to the Caledonian Mercury newspaper, a ‘hill preacher’ addressed a conventicle of the dispossessed in such forceful language that they immediately set out to remove the source of their grievances by throwing down the dykes of the newly built cattle parks. When the owners of the demolished dykes attempted to intervene the Levellers armed themselves with muskets. Outnumbered and outgunned, the land owners sent an urgent plea to the authorities in Edinburgh for troops to be despatched to restore order.

The troops sent to restore order were the 2nd earl of Stair’s dragoons, commanded by Major James Gardiner. He was a deeply religious man who spent much of his time in Galloway in the company of local ministers, most of whom were sympathetic to the Levellers. Gardiner had fought against the Jacobites at the battle of Preston so when Jacobite landowner Basil Hamilton demanded that extreme measures should be taken against the Levellers, Hamilton was ignored. 

The Levellers last stand took place in October. Gardiner ordered his dragoons to use minimal force and the Levellers put up minimal resistance. About 200 Levellers were captured, but most were allowed to escape on the march back to Kirkcudbright. 

Despite the defeat of  Jacobites in 1715, they remained a threat. There was little local support in 1745, but they were joined by James Maxwell from New Abbey. James Maxwell was one of the local  Roman Catholic Maxwells. He survived the battle of Culloden and after a few years exile in France returned home to live quietly on his estate. His son William, born in 1760, was to follow a very different path.

William Maxwell was educated by Jesuits in Europe, yet despite this education and his family’s royalist traditions, after a visit to Paris in 1789, Maxwell became an enthusiastic supporter of the French Revolution. In 1792, he visited Birmingham in an attempt to buy arms for the Revolutionaries. This created  a political storm. On 8 October 1792 he was denounced by the Sun newspaper as  ‘English Jacobin Number 1’.

Sensibly, Maxwell fled to Paris where he was welcomed by the Revolutionaries and made an officer in the National Guard. On 21  January 1793, Maxwell was a member of the National Guard unit which escorted king Louis XVI to the guillotine. 

On 1 February 1793, France declared war on Britain. In March, Maxwell returned to England and  soon afterwards became a doctor in Dumfries where Robert Burns was his patient and his close friend. While Burns could share his radical views in private with Maxwell, the forces of reaction dominated the public realm. It was in the midst of this gathering storm that Burns wrote ‘Scots Wha Hae’.

According to John Syme, ‘Scots Wha Hae’ was written while he and Burns were travelling through the Galloway Hills in late July 1793. The verses were completed after they arrived back in Dumfries where Burns said he made an association between the Wars of Independence  and ‘the glowing ideas of some other struggles of the same nature, not quite so ancient’. This is a guarded reference to the  trial in Edinburgh of Thomas Muir and William Palmer for sedition as supporters of the French Revolution. Muir was sentenced to transportation for 14 years and Palmer for 7.

Yet while one revolution was being held in check another revolution was growing in strength. This was the industrial revolution. 

Until his death in 1792,William Maxwell’s brother Thomas had been a partner in the Manchester firm of Taylor and Maxwell. Set up in 1785, this firm pioneered the use of chlorine to bleach cotton and James Watt’s son, James Watt junior was apprenticed to Taylor and Maxwell in 1788. James Watt junior infuriated his father by becoming a supporter of the French Revolution, before, like William Maxwell, settling down to become a respectable member of society.

The decision to apprentice James Watt junior to a cotton manufacturing firm in Manchester was influenced by Peter Ewart who was Boulton and Watts agent there.  Peter Ewart was born just over the Nith in Troqueer.

 This local connection helped Peter Ewart sell steam engines to the two largest cotton spinning firms in Manchester. These had been set up by John Kennedy and his partner James McConnel and by Adam and George Murray- who also came from the Stewartry. As teenagers in the 1780s, they had become apprentices to machine maker William Cannon another economic migrant from Galloway. The four moved to Manchester in the 1790s, where they established businesses.

As an apprentice in London,, Peter Ewart had helped construct the cast iron gears of the Albion Flour Mill. Powered by Boulton and Watt steam engines, this burnt down in 1791 and its blacked ruins were the inspiration for William Blake’s ‘dark satanic mills. 

By 1815, when the battle of Waterloo finally brought the years of war to an end,  the firms of Kennedy & McConnell and A & G Murray owned the largest factories in Manchester, each employing over 1000 workers. In 1824, John Kennedy and Peter Ewart  joined the management committee of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.  John Kennedy became very deeply involved in this railway plan, acting as a judge at the Rainhill Trials in 1829 which established that the future of transport lay with steam locomotives.

But while speeding up the movement of cotton between Liverpool and Manchester helped increase the profits of manufacturers, it also increased the pressure on the workers in the cotton factories to work ever harder and ever faster. 

Born in Newtown Stewart in 1814, Peter McDouall discovered the destructive reality of the industrial revolution as doctor in Lancashire. He witnessed at first hand the appalling price paid by the  men, women and children who worked in the factories and so became  militant Chartist and advocate of a ‘general strike‘.  

In July 1839, he was arrested and imprisoned in Chester for a year but McDouall remained committed to his beliefs. Following his release from prison he was one of those who swung the Chartist movement behind the general strike of 1842. With a reward of £100 for his capture hanging over him, McDouall fled to France, where he lived until 1844. On his return to England, McDouall resumed his work for the Chartist movement. In 1848, McDouall was arrested again and sentenced to two years in prison. Then in 1854 he  emigrated to Australia with his family, but died soon after arriving.

The 1850s also marked a peak in the population of Dumfries and Galloway, when it reached 145 000. It then shrank and has only recently returned to a similar level. However, the recent growth has been confined to Dumfriesshire. The population of the Stewartry is only 23 000, about the same as it was in 1755. The situation in Wigtownshire is similar, but the growth of Stranraer has kept the numbers up to around 30 000.

The decline in population over the past 160 years has created a socially and politically conservative culture. A few years ago a friend who had moved here from Edinburgh described Dumfries and Galloway as a ‘feudal region’. It certainly provided generations of soldiers, administrators, traders and settlers for the British Empire. In the 1930s this culture of loyalty to the Empire was carried over into a flirtation with fascism. In 1934, the British Union of fascists had around 1000 members in Scotland. The Dumfries branch had about 120 and the Galloway branch, based in Dalbeattie had 400 members.

In 1939, John McKie, the Unionist MP for Galloway was a member of the anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi Right Club, as was the earl of Galloway who was chairman of the Galloway Unionist Association. McKie was de-selected for the 1945 election  so stood as an Independent Unionist, but won anyway. He was then re-admitted to the Unionist party and continued as MP for Galloway until his death in 1958.

The Scottish Unionist party became the Conservative and Unionist Party in 1965. Apart from the election of George Thompson as SNP MP for Galloway between October 1974 and May 1979, the Conservative and Unionist Party won every election in Dumfries and Galloway until 1997. In 1997, the SNP won in Galloway and Labour in Dumfriesshire. The Tories then won Galloway back in 2001 but lost to Labour after a boundary change in 2005. The same boundary change saw the Tories win the new seat of  Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale.

In the 1979 devolution referendum, 59.7 % of  the voters in Dumfries and Galloway voted no. In 1997, 60.7% voted yes for a Scottish parliament but 51.2% voted against the parliament having tax raising powers.  In Scottish Parliament elections, Labour have held Dumfriesshire since 1999 and the Tories have held Galloway. In the 2011 Scottish election, across Dumfries and Galloway, Conservative and Labour both got roughly 21 000 votes and the SNP about 19 000. 

Looking ahead to 2014, to paraphrase Karl Marx, although we make our own history, we cannot make it as we please, we are constrained by circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.

The particular past which has been transmitted to us here in Galloway is the past of a region which resisted becoming part of Scotland in the middle ages and supported the Balliols against the Bruces during the wars of Scottish Independence. Four centuries later, when the Jacobites challenged the Union with England, bitter memories of the Killing Times led to support for the Hanoverian kings against the Stuarts. More recently, despite New Labour’s success since 1997, the east of the region now provides visitors from other parts of Scotland with sightings of an otherwise extinct species - a Conservative and Unionist member of parliament. 

For everyone in Scotland, a yes vote in 2014 will mark a break with the past. For many, perhaps most, voters in Dumfries and Galloway, the decision to vote yes will be especially difficult. Our is a region which has been comfortable with the Union, has accepted a dual identity as both Scottish and British. 

As a consequence, if the result in 2014 is independence, this region will experience a profound culture shock. Like a physical earthquake, independence will alter the familiar landscape, creating a new and unfamiliar world. As one of life’s optimists, I hope that this will open up a space for radical, even revolutionary, ideas and practices to emerge here. 

To  finish with  I am going to pick up on the problem of land reform which came up at the Dumfries meeting. 

In other rural areas of Scotland land reform is closely connected to the existence of very large privately owned estates. While there are a few such estates here, the biggest landowner in Galloway is the state via the Forestry Commission. When it was set up in 1919, one of the key objectives of the Forestry Commission was to reverse rural depopulation by providing employment. However, the mechanisation of forestry means that only around 2000 people are employed in forestry and related industries.  

The major expansion of forestry in Galloway began in the 1960s, by which time economic development theory advocated  rural depopulation as a 1968 Strathclyde University study of Galloway’s economic future bluntly put it 

‘Although it may be desirable on socio-cultural grounds to preserve the life of rural settlements, the available labour could be more efficiently used elsewhere… the policy of allowing these localised areas to decline continually, to the gain of larger centres, will result not only in the greater attractiveness of the region to an employer, but also improve the standard of skill of the labour force.’ 

This never became official policy, but between 1961 and 1981, while the expansion of forestry was in full swing, the population of the Stewartry fell from 29 000 to 23 000. Since 1981, the population has stabilised since the numbers of younger people leaving  has been balanced by the numbers of older people retiring here in search of a peaceful place to enjoy their last few years of life. The anticipated result is a demographic time-bomb where the needs of  an ever increasing population of frail and elderly  people will overwhelm our ability to provide the necessary levels of care .

Without a radical change, without the culture shock of independence, it is difficult  to see how this time bomb can be defused. Even with independence finding ways to reverse the Lowland Clearances will be very difficult. Land reform policies aimed at breaking up large Highland estates will not help us. A radical reform of the Forestry Commission to make the provision of sustainable rural employment a key part of its remit will be more useful. Land reform aimed at reversing the intensification of farming to improve biodiversity and  economic diversity would also be helpful. The big picture which needs to drive such radical reforms is climate change. My vision is of a radical green Galloway taking its place within a radically independent green Scotland.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Debatable Lands of Modernity

Water powered cotton mill Gatehouse of Fleet

Steam powered cotton mills Manchester

In late July 1793, Robert Burns and his friend John Syme made a journey into Galloway from Dumfries. After visiting John Gordon of Kenmure near New Galloway,  they passed through the Galloway hills to the new town of Gatehouse of Fleet. While they were in the hills a thunderstorm broke out  and Burns was inspired to compose part of ‘Scots Wha Hae’. Burns complete ‘Scots Wha Hae’ back in Dumfries where he made an association between the Wars of Independence and ‘the glowing ideas of some other struggles of the same nature, not quite so ancient’. This is a guarded reference to the  trial in Edinburgh of Thomas Muir and William Palmer for sedition as supporters of the French Revolution. Muir was sentenced to transportation for 14 years and Palmer for seven.

Around the same time, John Kennedy, a farmer’s son from Knocknalling near New Galloway was making his contribution to a very different revolution. In 1793 Kennedy  managed to use a steam engine to directly power a cotton spinning machine in his Manchester factory. Within a few years the neatly ordered new town of Gatehouse with its water powered cotton mills surrounded by thousands of acres of neatly ordered fields and farms had lost its claim to modernity. A landscape which had briefly epitomised the Age of Reason  was relegated to obscurity while the sulphurous chaos of Manchester and its steam powered factories now embodied modernity.

Through the lives of the ‘notable persons’ listed below who were born in the south of Scotland, it is possible to trace the movement of ideas which led to Gatehouse of Fleet’s  moment of modernity (Groups 1-3) and to its eclipse (Group 4). Significantly, in an almost Hegelian process, the movement which negated the Enlightened modernity represented  by Gatehouse of Fleet and its environment was then itself negated (Group 5).

However, because so many of the key figures in Group 4 were active in Liverpool and Manchester, their importance has been overlooked by both Scottish and regional historians. As a consequence, instead  of being seen as a dynamic region which helped both create and critique the modern, industrialised world; the region is regarded as an inconsequential rural backwater.  This perception  is one which can  and will be challenged.

Alistair  Livingston  18 April 2013

Group 1. Seventeenth century
The religious and political struggles of the seventeenth century shaped the culture of southern Scotland into the nineteenth century. That this period also produced  works of impressive scholarship can be overlooked, so it is important to be aware of  the contributions made by Samuel Rutherford and James Dalrymple. It also needs to be remembered that the fear of a second Stuart restoration was a significant factor in the Union of 1707.  [See Christopher Whatley ‘Reformed Religion,. Regime Change, Scottish Whigs and the Struggle for the ’Soul’ of Scotland, c.1688-1788’, Scottish Historical Review No.233, April 2013.

Samuel Rutherford, 1600-1662, born in Roxburghshire. Rutherford’s ‘Lex Rex’ published in London in 1644 was a powerful critique of the ‘divine right of kings’ doctrine and thus a key text in the transition from feudalism to modernity. Was also minister of Anwoth parish in Stewartry of Kirkcudbright 1626-1637.

James Dalrymple,1619-1695, born in Ayrshire, later landowner in Wigtownshire. Major work ‘The Institutions of the Law of Scotland deduced from its Originals, and collated with the Civil, Canon and Feudal Laws and with the Customs of Neighbouring Nations’, published 1681.

John Dalrymple, 1st earl of Stair, 1648-1707, born in Ayrshire, Wigtownshire landowner. Son of  James Dalrymple. Played major role in Union of 1707.

Group 2. Early eighteenth century.
After the Union, the reality of the Jacobite threat was brought home in 1715, when Jacobite forces twice attempted to capture Dumfries. The fear that the Jacobites would exploit the failure of the Union to bring economic benefits inspired  an initial phase of agricultural and industrial improvement. The realisation that Scotland had to ‘modernise’ (improve’) itself to become an equal partner in the Union, especially after 1745-6 stimulated the Scottish Enlightenment.

Samuel McClellan, died 1708, born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, early capitalist investor in the Newmills Cloth Manufactory, provost  of Edinburgh  1706, MP for Edinburgh 1708.

William Paterson, 1658-1719, born Dumfriesshire. Co-founder of the Bank of England, instigator of the Darien Scheme.

John Dalrymple 2nd  earl of Stair, 1643-1747. Son of 1st earl of Stair. Along with Robert Maxwell (see below)  established ‘The Honourable Society of Improvers in the Knowledge of Agriculture’ in 1723. Pioneer agricultural improver.

Robert Maxwell 1695-1765, born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Secretary to Society of Improvers and editor of  the ‘Select Transactions’ of Society, published 1747. Instrumental, via Society, in establishing the Board of Trustees for Manufactures and Fisheries in 1727.

Henry Home, lord Kames 1696-1792, born Berwickshire. Agricultural improver and key figure in Scottish Enlightenment. Member of Board of Trustees from 1755.

Group 3. Later eighteenth century.
The process of improvement  led to the transformation of the landscape and  the economy. The ability  to trade with and exploit territories under British control around the world created a flow of wealth  which was invested in land. The estates bought were then improved, a process which also improved  and civilised the owners as well as the occupiers of the land. [But there were also indigenous improvers e.g. William Craik and James Murray]. However, despite attempts to develop cotton and other industries, a combination of geology (lack of coal in Galloway) and lack of large urban centres  left the region frozen on the cusp of modernity.

William Craik 1703-1798, born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Agricultural improver and friend of Henry Home.

Richard Oswald 1704-1785, born  Caithness but agricultural improver in Ayrshire (Auchincruive) and Stewartry of Kirkcudbright (Cavens, Kirkbean parish) where he was neighbour of William Craik. Also friend of Henry Home. In 1782 represented UK in peace negotiations with USA.

James Murray 1727-1829, born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Founded new town of Gatehouse of Fleet and its water powered cotton mills which employed 400 people by 1790s.

William Douglas 1745-1809, born Wigtownshire. With his brothers made a fortune through trade with West Indies and Virginia. Bought lands of Carlingwark and Gelston  in Stewartry of Kirkcudbright where he founded new town of Castle Douglas in 1791.

Robert Burns 1759-1796, born Ayrshire, died Dumfries. Poet and pioneer of dairy farming in Dumfries and Galloway. ‘The black cattle, in general, are of the Galloway breed; but Mr. Robert Burns, a gentleman well known for his poetical productions, who rents a farm in this parish, is of the opinion, that the west country [Ayrshire] cows give a larger quantity of milk.’ [Old  Statistical Account, Parish of Dunscore]

Group 4. Late eighteenth to early nineteenth century.
The most significant feature of this period was the  potential offered by the expansion of Liverpool as a trading port and of Manchester as a manufacturing centre. By the 1790s, a group of a dozen or more young men from the rural south of Scotland  had established themselves as merchants in Liverpool and cotton manufacturers in Manchester. They became successful and influential figures in the development of the two cities which were at the heart of Britain’s industrial revolution.

William Kennedy,  1732-?, born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, became fustian manufacturer in Manchester. Daughter Elizabeth married  Robert Riddell - Burns connection.

William Cannan 1744-1825, born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Became textile  machine maker in Lancashire and James McConnell, John Kennedy, George and Adam Murray (see below) all served their apprenticeships with him.

John Paul Jones 1747-1792, born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, on William Craik’s estate. Well known for naval role in War of American Independence.

Edgar Corrie 1748-1819, born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Liverpool merchant, John Gladstone’s first business partner. [Possible family link to William and Peter Ewart]

John Loudon McAdam 1756-1836, born Ayr civil engineer and  road builder.

Dr James Currie 1756-1805 born Dumfriesshire. Became doctor in Liverpool and  Robert Burns first biographer.  Friend of Thomas Telford,  Erasmus Darwin, Dugald Stewart, Joseph Priestley and William Wilberforce.

Thomas Telford 1757- 1834, born Dumfriesshire civil engineer with international reputation.

William Maxwell 1760-1834, born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Father a  Roman Catholic Jacobite (1745-6), but became active supporter of French Revolution, and witnessed death of Louis XVI before becoming  Robert Burns’ doctor and friend.

Thomas Maxwell 1761-1792 born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, brother of William. In 1785 became business partner of  Charles Taylor in Manchester where the firm pioneered use of chlorine to bleach cotton. James Watt’s son James Watt junior joined the firm in 1788.

George Murray 1761- xxxx, born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. With his brother Adam became major cotton spinning factory owner in Manchester.

James McConnel 1762-xxxx, born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Partner of John Kennedy in major cotton spinning business in Manchester.

William Ewart 1763-xxxx, born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Liverpool merchant and business partner of John Gladstone.

John Gladstone 1764-1850, born Edinburgh, family from Biggar. Father of  William Ewart Gladstone.

Adam Murray 1766-xxxx, born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. With his brother George became  major cotton spinning manufacturer in Manchester.

Peter Ewart 1767-1842 born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. A mechanical engineer and scientist. Was  Boulton and Watts Manchester agent and with John Kennedy (see below) involved with Liverpool and Manchester railway.

William Galloway 1768-1836, born Berwickshire. Moved to Manchester in 1790 to become mechanical engineer and maker of stationary steam engines.

John Kennedy 1769-1855 born Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Pioneered application of steam power to cotton spinning. Along with James McConnell, Adam and George Murray became leading Manchester cotton spinner. Friend of James Watt and George Stephenson,. active promoter of Liverpool and Manchester railway and judge at the Rainhill locomotive trials.

William Fairburn 1789-1874, born Roxburghshire, important  civil and mechanical engineer, who built bridges, steam ships and locomotives. Close links to George and Robert Stephenson and also John Kennedy in Manchester.

John Ramsay McCulloch 1789-1864, born Wigtownshire. Editor of The Scotsman 1817-24. First professor of political economy at University College London 1828. Highly influential, advising  prime minister Robert Peel and future prime ministers William Ewart Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli.

James Beaumont Neilson 1792-1865, born Glasgow but family from Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Invented ‘hot-blast’ technique of iron smelting which  revolutionised iron industry and led to growth of heavy engineering in west central Scotland. Neilson Monument overlooks Ringford village and  A 75 road in Stewartry of Kirkcudbright.

Group 5. Early to mid-nineteenth century.
While the age of reason transformed the physical, economic and social environment of the south of Scotland by sweeping away its medieval heritage, the mechanical age marked an even more profound break with the past. The onset of this age was challenged in different ways by this group.

Walter Scott 1771-1832, born Edinburgh but closely associated with Scottish Borders. Internationally known author.

Joseph Train 1779-1852, born Ayrshire. Excise officer and antiquarian who provided Sir Walter Scott with Galloway folktales and legends which were used by Scott in several of his novels- Old Mortality, Redgauntlet, Guy Mannering, The Heart of Midlothian, the Bride of Lammermoor and The Abbot. The connection with Scott prompted Charles Dickens to visit Train in Castle Douglas in 1852.

Thomas Carlyle 1795-1881, born Dumfriesshire. First to use  ‘the environment’ (1828) in its modern sense and opponent of the Mechanical Age.

Dr Peter McDouall 1814-1854, born Wigtownshire. Became a doctor in Lancashire where  human cost of industrialisation inspired him to become a leading ‘physical force’ Chartist and advocate of a general strike. After being Imprisoned several times for his activities, he emigrated to Australia with his family, but died soon after arriving.


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Fascism, Union and Empire

On 8 February 1935, William Joyce, later to be known as ‘Lord Haw-Haw’, addressed a meeting of the British Union of Fascists in the small town of Kirkcudbright in south-west Scotland. What drew Joyce to such an obscure location?

This may seem a purely historical question, but  the image below  was used on 7 April 2013 to illustrate an article in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper which concluded ‘The electorate in Scotland now appears more receptive to radical nationalism than  Mosley’s blackshirts could ever dream of.’ The article was written by Gavin Bowd, author of ‘Fascist Scotland’. In June 2012 Dowd gave a talk ‘Fortify the Cheviots! The Nazis and the Nats’ in which he claimed  that in Scotland  ‘Hatred of the English led to the downplaying of the Fascist threat to freedom and peace, while more radical nationalists could be attracted to the authoritarian and xenophobic solutions offered by the Fuhrer and the Duce.’

Dowd’s  remarks need to be understood in the context of the Scottish independence referendum to be held on 18 September 2014. If a Yes vote is a vote for a radical nationalism  which = fascism, the outcome will be a No vote.  But if Dowd’s suggestion is valid, then the region of Scotland which had the largest number of fascists in the 1930s should now be a Scottish nationalist heartland. It is not. As the map below of the 2011 Scottish election results shows [Orange Lib Dem, Yellow SNP, Red Labour, Blue Tory] the  SNP made no gains in the south of Scotland.

From 1931 until 1997, when the SNP won in Galloway and Labour in Dumfriesshire,  the region was solidly Conservative -apart from a narrow SNP win in Galloway in October 1974 (regained  by the Tories  in 1979). Labour are also a Unionist party, and with SNP support at around 20%, unless significant numbers of Labour supporters can be persuaded to vote Yes, the No vote in 2014 is likely to be overwhelming.

Fascism is closely related to nationalism, but in the UK in the 1930s the nationalism of the fascists was British. In the south of Scotland, as I explain below, the success of the British Union of Fascists was also bound up with Imperialism and a form of cultural regionalism closely related to Ulster Unionism.

The Cradle of Fascism in Scotland

In 1934, the largest Scottish branch of the British Union of Fascists was located in the small town of Dalbeattie in Galloway. Here, under the leadership of town clerk James Little (1901-1967) the Blackshirts had attracted 400 members drawn from town and surrounding areas. A further 120 belonged to the Dumfries branch, similar in numbers to the BUF  branches in the far larger cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. This led the BUF’s newspaper ‘The Blackshirt’ to describe the region as ‘the cradle of fascism in Scotland’.

But why did this rural region of Scotland  provide such fertile soil for fascism? Although Stephen Cullen [The Fasces and the Saltire: The Failure of the British Union of Fascists in Scotland, 1932–1940, The Scottish Historical Review, Volume LXXXVII, 2: No. 224: October 2008, 306–331] and Liam Turbett [Blackshirts in Red Scotland: an analysis of fascism and its opponents in inter-war Scotland, Glasgow University 2012] both mention James Little and Dumfries and Galloway, neither discuss this question in detail.

A starting point is the failure of improving landowners in the late eighteenth century to create an industrial revolution in the region. Although water powered cotton mills were built, for example in Gatehouse of Fleet, lack of easy access to supplies of coal  prevented the crucial shift to steam power. By the 1840s, when coal from Ayrshire and Upper Nithsdale became available via the railways, the region’s economy was firmly based on farming. As a result, with exception of the regional capital of Dumfries and the ferry port of Stranraer, there are no significant urban centres in the region. Nor, unlike neighbouring Ayrshire, was the extent of mining, quarrying and manufacturing sufficient to create anymore than scattered enclaves of an industrialised working class in the region. The region did produce a revolutionary ‘direct force’ Chartist - Peter McDouall (1814-1854)- his main centre of activity was in north-west England.

While the population of Dumfries and Galloway doubled between 1755 when 77 459 lived in the region  and 1851 when  the figure  was 164 633 it then began to decline, dropping to 144 612 by 1901. [In 2001 it was 147 765]. A significant factor in the decline was emigration. In 1851 10 000 people sailed from the port of Dumfries (Carsethorn) to North America, 7000 to Australia and 4000 to new Zealand. [Alfred Truckell in 1986 edition of William McDowell ’History of Dumfries’]. This outflow continued through the twentieth century so that most families in the region still have family connections with former colonies of the British Empire. In contrast, although there was some nineteenth Irish settlement in Wigtownshire, this was minor in scale compared to Irish settlement west central Scotland in the same period.

By the later nineteenth century then, the region, especially Galloway could be portrayed in the paintings of the Kirkcudbright school of artists (also know as the Glasgow Boys) as an unspoilt and timeless  natural ‘paradise’. In  popular literature, the works of local author  S. R. Crockett (1859-1914) convey a similar impression, emphasised in his novel ‘Cleg Kelly’ (1896) by a contrast drawn with urban poverty in Edinburgh. The novel was dedicated to J. M. Barrie, another member of the ‘kailyard’ school of popular fiction who had lived in Dumfries as a boy.

On 28 September 1906, at the height of his popularity, a banquet in Crockett’s honour was held in Dalbeattie. Amongst those attending was ‘Councillor Jack’ of Dalbeattie whose son was later to become a BUF member and  James Little, whose son was to become leader of the local fascists. Following the first toast to ’The King’, Andrew Jameson, lord Ardwall then toasted ’The Imperial Forces’ to which Major Gilbert McMicking (Scottish Liberal MP for Kirkcudbrightshire and then Galloway 1906 -1922).replied at length.

After noting that ‘there has been a torrent of criticism directed against the Imperial Forces in the last six years [I.e. following the second Boer war] McMicking concluded with the following remarks.

Going further into the Army Problem, he said that what some people called this "insoluble problem" was really bound up in the fact that so many recruits now-a-days were rejected as medically unfit, and that unfitness he attributed to physical deterioration of the class from which recruits are drawn, due in large measure to the conditions of life in large centres of population. As time goes on, and generation succeeds
generation, the problem will become accentuated unless a larger proportion of our population can be induced to live in country districts, where they can obtain pure air, and live amid healthy surroundings. (Applause.) That, to his mind, was the real and vital question which underlies the Army Problem. (Applause.)

This conclusion very directly connects the strength of the ‘Imperial Forces’ with Crockett’s Galloway as a ‘country district’. The implication is that the health and vitality of the Empire would increasingly rely on the health and vitality of Britain’s rural rather than urban population.

To develop this theme, in 1913 John Buchan wrote a biography of Andrew Jameson, lord Ardwall. Buchan had met Jameson at Oxford in 1898 and later often stayed with him at Ardwall (near Gatehouse of Fleet) to hunt, shoot and fish. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s  description of Jameson as a Gladstonian Liberal who ‘severed all links with the party in 1885 over Irish home rule, becoming a staunch unionist and chairman of the West Edinburgh Unionist Association’ before becoming an ‘admirer of Joseph Chamberlain and his gospel of imperial unity  and advocate of a Bismarckian ‘blood and iron’ approach to foreign affairs’ is based on Buchan’s biography.

Thanks to Jameson, Buchan was able to draw on a familiarity with Galloway in his 1915 novel ‘The 39 Steps’, but more significant is this extract from Buchan’s first (1910) novel ‘Prester John’

 Before me was the shallow vale with its bracken and sweet grass, and farther on the shining links of the stream, and the loch still grey in the shadow of the beleaguering hills. Here was a fresh, clean land, a land for homesteads and orchards and children. All of a sudden I realized that at last I had come out of savagery. The burden of the past days slipped from my shoulders. I felt young again, and cheerful and brave. Behind me was the black night, and the horrid secrets of darkness. Before me was my own country, for that loch and that bracken might have been on a Scotch moor. The fresh scent of the air and the whole morning mystery put song into my blood.

However,  the landscape so glowing described was in South Africa, not Galloway. Buchan was familiar with the  South African landscape after becoming private secretary to Arthur Milner who was High Commissioner to Southern Africa during the second  Boer war. It was during this war that the first  concentration camps were set up where 27 000 Boer women and children and more than 14 000 black South Africans died. Although such extreme measures defeated the Boers, despite Milner and Buchan’s efforts  this ‘fresh, clean land’ did not become home to a population of Scottish settlers.

In contrast, writing in 1888, John Harrison ‘discerned an essentially Scottish character’ in a part of the Empire much closer to Dumfries and Galloway, found

 in the whitewashed cottages, carefully tended farms and hedgerows , the well-ordered little towns  and well built churches adorned with handsome spires, their busy weekly markets, and that surest sign of a high class population, their well-washed , clean-pinafored children.’ [quoted in  ‘Scottish Unionists and the Ulster Question’ in ‘Unionist Scotland 1800-1997’ editor Catriona McDonald 1998 page 15] 

While echoing both Crockett and Buchan’s descriptions of Galloway, as well as scenes depicted by the Kirkcudbright artists, Harrison is describing County Down in Ulster. Significantly, for Harrison there was ‘racial’ basis to the distinction between the Irish and the Ulster-Scots settlers of this landscape. Such racism however was less important in the development of Ulster Unionism than the religious division between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, or more particularly,  the Calvinist Presbyterianism of the Scottish Covenanters. The Ulster Covenant of 1912 drew on this heritage. The first to sign the Covenant was leading Ulster Unionist Edward Carson, whose grandfather had left Dumfries for Dublin in 1815. In the Revered J.M. Woodburn’s ‘The Ulster Scot’, published in 1914, the complexities of Ulster’s protestant history were skimmed-over to create a coherent and powerful narrative in which the Presbyterian Ulster-Scots were ‘presented as a people who were the very stuff of the British Empire’s civilising mission- the ‘cutting edge’ or ‘advanced guard’ of Empire’ [ Also from ‘The Scottish Unionists and the Ulster Question’]

For those attending Crockett’s banquet in Dalbeattie town hall in 1906, however, it was the people of Galloway who were ‘the very stuff of the British Empire’s civilising mission’. Did anything of the spirit of this gathering survive to influence support for the British Union of Fascists 30 years later? Alternatively, was the enthusiasm for fascism an attempt to  revive the certainties  and securities of  the past?

In 1906, the experience of war was confined to very few of those in Dalbeattie town hall. This changed in 1914. An indication of the impact of the Great War on  the local community  is contained in ‘The Stewartry Roll of Honour in the Great War 1914-1918. This was compiled  and published by castle Dougals newspaper owner J.H. Maxwell in 1927. Over 6000 men and women are named, with brief details of war service  given for about 4000. According to the 1911 census for the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, there were 11 584 males over the age of ten ‘with some form of remunerative occupation’ in the county. Assuming that  most of the 6000 named in the roll of honour were men, then close to 50% of the adult male population of the Stewartry fought in the 1914-18 war.

Cullen [2008, p. 312] quotes a Special Branch Report from September 1934 on the ‘Dumfriesshire’ [Dalbeattie/ Stewartry] BUF branch which states that ‘A fairly large percentage of the members are described as ‘passive’ members, mostly ‘business men, mostly in a small way’.’ Given the numbers who were involved in the 1914-18 war, some of these members would have been former soldiers, but by 1934 they would have settled down to civilian life again. Rather than the BUF, such small businessmen might have been  expected to support the Conservative (or Unionist as it then was) party.

Looking at  the outcome of general elections in Galloway in the first half of the twentieth century, the Liberal party won in 1918, 1922 and 1929. The Unionists won in 1924 (and  a bye-election in 1925), 1931 and 1945. Cecil Dudgeon was the winning Liberal  in these elections, but in 1931 he resigned and joined Oswald Mosley’s New Party. Unionist John Mackie won with 18  993 votes, Liberal’s got 9176, Labour 3418 and Dudgeon 986. Amongst these New Party voters in 1931 would have been the 400 BUF members of 1934.

[Note- in The Blackshirt No 58 1 June 1934, J. M. Little is described as having done ‘yeoman‘ work in the days of the New Party - so there may be a connection with Cecil Dudgeon.]

 John Mackie, the Unionist who won in 1931, went on to hold the seat until his death in 1958. In the 1945  general election, Mackie had to stand as an Independent Unionist after he was deselected by the Unionist party. This was  probably due to Mackie‘s association  with Archibald Ramsay. Ramsay was the Unionist MP for Peebles and  had strong anti-semitic beliefs. He was the only member of parliament to be detained  during World War 2 for his pro-Nazi  sympathies. In 1939 Mackie joined Ramsay‘s Right Club, which also included William Joyce and the 12th earl of Galloway. [There are numerous sources on Ramsay and his activities including  Thomas Lineham ‘British Fascism, 1918-39: Parties, Ideology and Culture’, 2000 pp.142-4]  In February 1939, Mackie spoke at a meeting in Kirkcudbright. Mackie’s speech was reported in the Galloway News, including several challenges  from ’hecklers’  who objected to Mackie’s willingness to accept that Herr Hitler’s sincerely wanted peace. [Richard Griffiths  ‘Patriotism perverted Captain Ramsay, the Right club  and British Anti-Semetism 1939-40’ , 1998, p.150-4]

Turning to the local appeal of fascism, on 14 April 1934, the Galloway News reported at length on a speech given by Sir Oswald Mosley in Dumfries, which was sub-headed ‘Attitude to Agriculture‘.

Great interest was taken in the visit  to Dumfries last Friday night of Sir Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists and a brilliant orator. The demonstration held in the Drill Hall  was attended by over three thousand people and although efforts were made by Communists to  hold up the meeting by organised interruptions they were effectively dealt with by the large body of Blackshirts who attended as stewards. There were several lively melees when interrupters were forcibly ejected and two of the stewards  received injuries.
Sir Oswald held the complete attention of the large audience throughout and his mastery of speech and invective was very impressive. One of the keynotes of the Fascist policy he said  was agricultural re-organisation and not only was that going to benefit agriculture but would put thousands of men back on the land and it was going also to maintain the stability of the State, which was being affected to-day by being dependent on foreign markets, over which we had no control. British agriculture was a subject the Fascists had very much at heart indeed. 

Clearly  this was a speech carefully targeted at an audience drawn from  (as discussed above) a predominantly rural region with farming as its major industry.  However, in Dumfries itself, where there were 120 members of the local BUF branch (equal to the numbers in the far larger cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh) the Communist Party responded by establishing a branch which was successful enough to get one of its members elected to the Burgh Council.  [Liam Turbett, 2012]. In contrast, the Galloway Constituency  branch of the BUF,  based at 40 High Street Dalbeattie, claimed  400 members, making it the largest in Scotland.

The leader of this branch was James McLaurin Little (1901-1967). Little’s father James (1852-1932) was manager of Dalbeattie’s Commercial Bank and had been  Dalbeattie town clerk  for 53 years at his death. Little, who was a solicitor, then became town clerk himself. Another member of the BUF was E. A. Jack whose brother [??]William Jack  was provost [= mayor] of Dalbeattie 1933-36. Their father had been a member of Dalbeattie town council in 1906 when, along with James Little’s father, he had attended the banquet in honour  of S R Crockett The involvement of such well known members of the community would have given the fascist message a local accent and made an otherwise revolutionary movement appear familiar and almost ‘respectable’. The extracts from ’The Blackshirt’ newspaper below  tend to confirm this - whist drives, jumble sales, tug-of-war matches, football  teams, dances, badminton and a ‘life saving team’ -  are not very revolutionary activities.

Extracts from The Blackshirt

The Blackshirt  No 9 16 June 1933
Notes that a non- BUF fascist group has been set up in Scotland.

15 January 1934 Daily Mail ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’

The Backshirt No.38 12 January 1934
Edinburgh branch established

The Blackshirt  No.40  26 January 1934
The activities of Capt. Vincent Collier in Dumfriesshire are rapidly bearing fruit in the creation of B.U.F. branches at Dalbeattie, Gatehouse, Dumfries and Ayr. Meetings have been held in all the above mentioned towns, and the agricultural community have taken a keen interest. Several  influential persons have enrolled in our ranks, and are giving their unqualified support to the Cause. New branch premises have been opened in Dalbeattie, and  accommodation for the seating of at least 150 people is now available. Already several well attended indoor meetings have been held, Capt. Collier and D/A/O Little being the speakers. Ayrshire is giving its support in the shape of many farmers who know that our remedy for their ills will be a permanent cure, and not merely the drugging process of the alleged NATIONAL Government.

The Blackshirt  No 41. 2- 8 Feb  1934
D/A/O Little, and D/B/O Gibson of Dalbeattie paid a visit to the Edinburgh branch last week end.

The Blackshirt  No 43. 23 Feb 1 March  1934
Dalbeattie- This branch  progresses well and is the centre of Fascist activity in this part of Scotland. Two
football teams have been formed by the members, who do not forget the importance of social activities. D/B/O Little is the Organiser, and Dalbeattie enjoys the frequent visits of Captain Collier.

The Blackshirt No 47 16 March 1934
Dumfries D/B/O Duff is Doing  good work in the agricultural areas in the South of Scotland and is rendering good service to the D/A/O Scotland Area, Mr. Little. Great interest is being shown in
the new pamphlet issued recently. Fascism and Scotland.

The Blackshirt No.53 27 April 1934
The Chief of Staff, accompanied by D/A/O Little recently paid a visit to ' Auld Reekie ' the result of which was renewed enthusiasm among members.

The Blackshirt No 56  18  May 1934
Gatehouse A very successful dance was held by the branch on Friday. D/A/O Little travelling from his Thornhill meeting (nearly 60 miles away) was present later in the evening and addressed the crowd assembled. Bus loads from Dalbeattie and Castle Douglas greatly contributed towards the success of the evening. A Badminton court is being furnished with the proceeds.

Dalbeattie There has been much   activity in the South of Scotland during the past fortnight. This branch supplied a bus load of stewards for D/A/O Little's meeting at Annan. The ' Reds' have miserably fizzled out in their threat to drive the Blackshirts out of Dalbeattie. D/B/O Gibson had reluctantly to resign his position
as Officer-in-Charge owing to pressure of business, and that duty is at present being carried on by E. A. Jack.

Dumfries The branch premises now looking ship-shape after hard work on the part of a number of willing  members. Members are proud to possess their own Branch colours, and marched with them to steward  D/A/O Little's meeting at Thornhill for the first time. One of our members had all the tyres of his car  lashed when left outside branch premises. The Women's branch start their physical culture classes on Friday
under the direction of Mrs. Hone.

The Blackshirt No 58 1 June 1934
The Blackshirt Movement in Scotland is indeed fortunate in having such a  champion as Mr. Little in charge of affairs. Mr. J. M. Little did yeoman  work in the days of the New Party, and can well be called the first Scots fascist. Dalbeattie, a small town in the extreme south of Scotland  has been dubbed  the "cradle of Fascism in Scotland" by the Scottish Press: the reason is not far to seek as Mr. Little resides there. T he rapid growth of the Movement in in the South of Scotland is well illustrated by the Dumfries Branch - only  two months old yet already numbering its membership in hundreds. The average attendance at the speakers' class alone is, twenty-five.

The Blackshirt No 61 22 June 1934
Lady Maud, Oswald Mosley’s mother, visits Dumfries branch.

The Blackshirt No 64  13 July 1934
To provide propagandists in Scotland with Scottish speakers' classes are being held regularly in Edinburgh, Dumfries and Motherwell. Branch Officer H. E. Duff plays a prominent part in the organisation of these classes and lectures to large audiences at each of the three centres.
Scottish Blackshirts are well to the fore in sports, and inter-branch tug of-war contests are being arranged. It
is hoped also that there will be a contest between an English and a Scottish team. Next winter there will be at least six Blackshirt football teams in South of Scotland, and negotiations for a Blackshirt Football League are being made. The Dumfries Life-Saving Team have been greatly augmented, and now patrols a 80-mile stretch along the Solway coast.
Mr. J. M. Little, Officer in Charge. Scotland, is absent on account of ill health, and Branch officer H. E. Duff is acting as his deputy.

The Blackshirt No 66 27 July 1934
So great was the attendance at a Whist Drive and Dance held in the Queensberry Hotel, Dumfries that a
larger hall is being taken for the next one. D.A.O. J. M. Little, the O.C. Scotland and Mrs. Little were amongst those present. Blackshirts Life-Saving patrols upon the shores of the Soway Firth are much appreciated and their ambulance men have already handled twelve minor cases.
'The activities of Fascism in the South of Scotland have led to the establishment of two more sub-branches one at Lockerbie, under Mr. G. Woolford. And another at Thornbill, where Mr. John D. Ridley is in charge.
An audience of 300 gathered at Lockerbie last week, to listen to D.B.O. Hone, of Dumfries, and Mr. J. D. Ridley, whose efforts were rewarded by the enrolment of several new members.

The Blackshirt No 86 14 Dec 1934
The Dalbeattie Branch held another highly successful smoking concert last week (as a profit-making concern it can heartily be recommended to other branches). The Ladies' Night was also successful, and saw the recruiting of the first women members of the Movement in Dalbeattie. Members are now busy garnering
material for their Jumble Sale, early next year. A.O. Little will be taking the chair for the Christmas Dinner, which will be held in the Crown Hotel

The capital of the Stewartry, Kirkcudbright, was the scene by a well attended meeting held in the Town
Hall, where A.O. Little addressed a very well represented audience. Kirkcubright might be described us the cultural centre of Galloway, and has a remarkable artists' colony established there. The Fascist attitude towards India was outlined, and the Foreign Secretary's recent statement at the Dumfries Drill Hall was challenged. Dalbeattie Branch furnished stewards who were all conveyed from Dalbeattie in members'
private cars.

On 8 February 1935 William Joyce [‘Lord Haw Haw’, executed 1945] spoke in Kirkcudbright after speaking in Dumfries the day before. [Source Hitler’s Englishman-The Crime of Lord Haw Haw Francis Selwyn 1987 page 66]

On 1 March 1935 J M Little addressed a meeting Castle Douglas Town Hall on ‘Fascism’.

If further research reveals more local fascist material, there will be a follow up post.