The History Club is a new member of the 3Ls family of Clubs and aims to be inclusive of the very diverse historical community. We will establish a distinct programme and identity based on members interests as we develop.
The club will meet monthly during term time and the programme will include:
Invited speakers; interesting visits; themed walks; book reviews; historical films/plays; and more!
Club membership is £10 per annum and £2 per meeting for refreshments etc.
Membership of the 3Ls is also mandatory. Meeting will take place on Wednesdays from 2pm to 4pm.
For programme and venue please see the notice boar in the 2nd Floor common room.
Jimmy Reid (Secretary)
Report of 12 February 2020 Meeting
Well! What can I say? I forecast an excellent session yesterday and I wasn’t wrong. It’s a shame my weather forecasting wasn’t up to the same standard. Well done all of you who made it along. Yet again we had an attendance in the 70s. Considering the weather and the arctic conditions inside the room (I will email the Uni on this issue) that was a great turnout.
“Fabulous.” “Excellent.” “Wonderful.” “The best yet.” Were all unsolicited comments from different people I spoke to afterwards. Henry, speaking without notes apart from reading a couple of excerpts from his book, spoke for just over an hour without losing his train of thought or indeed the attention of any of his audience. No mean feat in that cold room. The only fidgeting came in the first few minutes as people re-donned their previously discarded coats to try to keep out the cold.
Henry gave a fascinating talk which highlighted the social conditions in Glasgow as Maclean was growing up, the divisions in what was then a more rigidly divided society as well as the political situation running up to and into the WW1. He painted a picture of a serious minded young man who had been able to benefit from education only because his mother and sisters had gone out to work after the death of his father. He was later to come under fire from political “allies” for devoting significant efforts to women’s causes. The rent strikes were largely organised by women (Mary Barbour’s Army) and he supported women factory workers in various disputes. Women at that time were disenfranchised which perhaps explains the antipathy of these “should be allies” of Maclean to get involved. Maclean seemed less keen on getting elected, preferring instead to agitate against the woes of the working classes and unemployed.
That was part of the enigma of John Maclean. He could mobilise crowds of tens of thousands to take to the streets in support of him but he never polled more than 9,000 votes in an election. This was in part because many of those who took to the streets to support him were disenfranchised because they were women, not property owners etc. The UK political system had not yet evolved to “Universal Suffrage”. He was influenced by amongst others, James Connolly, Lenin, Marx, Luxemburg. He was convinced that through education people would come to realise that the capitalist system was corrupt and would rise up against it. He was an ardent pacifist who had foreseen WW1 and campaigned against it before even the hostilities had started. He was jailed twice during the war for his seditious actions and on both occasions released early because of government fears that he might become a martyr if he died in jail. The hard labour, force feeding and the generally horrible conditions took their toll on both his physical and mental health. On his second release from prison he was met at Buchanan St railway station by a crowd of tens of thousands, perhaps over a hundred thousand who pulled his cart from the station to his home on the Southside of the city.
Despite his poor health he continued to rail against the injustices in society wherever he came across them. Every year he toured the country supporting workers rights and trying to establish more of his adult education classes to enlighten the workers. He lived quite ascetically, spurning comforts and domesticity for the cause so that, in the end and somewhat ironically for a man who had women and their sacrifices to thank for his educational advantage, ultimately he drove out the woman who loved him and whom he undoubtedly loved dearly. Unfortunately, for both of them she came second to the cause every time there was a choice to make.
This inability to compromise was his achilles heel. Gradually he fell out with all of his one time political allies until he was a lone figure, living alone in penury and ill health. He had lost control of his beloved adult education college although he still spoke at well attended public meetings and it was during one of these that he collapsed during a speech dying at home a few days later.
He influenced the Red Clydesiders and many politicians since, but wasn’t one of those elected to Westminster. He had advocated an independent socialist republic in Scotland. He was an Honorary Consul for the USSR. He was considered to be the most dangerous man (to the establishment) in the UK and was followed endlessly by the intelligence forces. All this from a Glasgow school teacher. What other Glasgow school teacher has had their sacking as front page headline news in a French newspaper? He was indeed the Fighting Dominie. (I pinched that term from Matt McGinn’s “The Ballad of John Maclean” – see link below)
If you like music, John Maclean has had two songs written in his honour. Follow the links below if you want to listen. Other versions are available but this was the best youtube had to offer.
Henry sold all the copies of his book that he had with him. If you were disappointed and would like a copy just follow the link below.
Thank you Henry Bell.
History Club Secretary
Link to purchase the biography of John Maclean written by our speaker Henry Bell
YouTube link to The Ballad of John Maclean https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61etFdGpXq8
YouTube link to the John Maclean March: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbDpqVoFPhw