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William Gallacher MP

William Gallacher / Political Figure

  • Name  : Gallacher
  • Born  : 1881
  • Died  : 1965
  • Category  : Political Figures
  • Finest Moment : Member of Parliament 1935-51

'A Red Clydesider, a communist, and a good constituent member of parliament'.

William Gallacher was born of Highland-Irish parents in Paisley. His father died when he was seven, with Gallacher managing, much like his political friend John Maclean, to complete his schooling by taking part-time jobs.

He joined the Social Democratic Federation and was active in its conversion to the British Socialist Party. In 1914 he became a shop steward at the Albion Motor Works in Scotstoun, later becoming chairman of the Clyde Workers Committee. Like many Red Clydesiders, he was imprisoned for a year, protesting against the provisions of the Munitions Act.

Turning up in Moscow, having been invited to attend the Second Congress of the Communist International, Lenin prevailed upon him to divert his Scottish militancy towards seats in Parliament. He succeeded in persuading most members of the Scottish BSP to join the Communist Party of Great Britain (with the prominent exception of Maclean). For his pains he was arrested for sedition in 1921, and for incitement in 1925, being slammed into the chink again and refusing bail from the likes of George Bernard Shaw.

Calming down slightly, he gained the seat of West Fife as a Communist in 1935, a seat he held for 15 years, energetically trying to better the hard social conditions of his constituents. More pragmatic than some of his colleagues, he initially opposed World War II, then supported the effort, depending on Soviet policy at the time.

President of the CPGB from 1956-63 (he lost his seat to the anti-monarchist Willie Hamilton in 1951), he was also active in the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Co-operative Movement.

Despite the various honours which came his way (mostly, it has to be admitted, from the Eastern Bloc countries), he remained in his modest Paisley flat, where he died in August, 1965. His coffin, covered in the Red Flag, was watched by 40,000 mourners.

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