Monday, 27 April 2015

Local Election Result: Stornoway, May 1955

(How it went for one man in one place 60 years ago)
Calum Smith’s last appearance as a member of the StornowayTown Council, his “account of his stewardship”, and how news of his election defeat was received at the post-election meeting.       

Calum kept cuttings from the Stornoway Gazette and added the notes and dates; the 6th and 13th would have been Fridays, publication day. The paper’s editor, James Shaw Grant, regularly reported council meetings in detail, and had quite often quoted Calum (Malcolm) Smith at length. 

Question Time

Stornoway Gazette May 1955
  When one questioner alleged favouritism in the repair of fences at Council houses, Dean of Guild Langley advised him to complain to a member of the Council, if he did not get satisfaction from the official concerned.
  Baillie Smith disagreed. “Put your complaint in writing and send it to the Town Hall,” he advised. “Then every Council member will be apprised of it, and action will follow – whether for you or against you will depend on the results of the investigation.”      […]
  In the course of a series questions about housing allocation Baillie Smith said he had never come away from a  housing allocation meeting really satisfied that the job had been properly done, and he felt the same could be said of all the other members.
  “The difficulty is to achieve unanimity among nine people as to who are the most deserving cases,” he said, showing by concrete, detailed examples, the difficulties confronting the council.
   The Council sometimes sat from about 7 p.m. until midnight at allocation meetings, said Hon. Burgh Treasurer Matheson. Every case was minutely scrutinised, and very often the members were at a loss what to do.
  Dean of Guild Langley said the Council for many years, had to try to re-house not only the inhabitants of the town but of the whole island. There was also the pressure of those coming into town for local industries. “If you don’t house the key workers in your industries, you can’t have industries,” he said.
  Recalling that six years had passed since he was last called on to give an account of his stewardship in a ratepayers’ meeting, Baillie Smith said, “In the past six years, the situation in the Council has altered considerably. The membership has altered drastically, and, on occasion, tragically. That is why a person like myself, who is only serving his apprenticeship in the Council,  has become a veteran of local politics under the necessity of accepting very important office.”

Stornoway Second to None
  Stornoway, he claimed, bore comparison with any burgh in Scotland for its housing record. At the time of the last census 50 per cent of the population of the burgh was housed by the Town Council. There were 600 Council houses now occupied, more were nearing completion, and the site preparation for still more was in hand.
  In designing houses to fill in the gaps on Newton the architects had been asked to design houses which would not clash with that beautiful front, and they had gone to considerable trouble to design a suitable cottage type of dwelling house.
  He spoke of the completion of the water scheme, providing “an excellent and ample supply”; the comprehensive sewage scheme of which two instalments had been carried out; the improvement of street lighting from “the dim, the very dim days of not so long ago”; road improvement schemes and the demolition of derelict properties.  
  “We have been building beautiful houses where formerly there were slums. We have been planting trees and trying to beautify the town in a great many ways.”
  They were endeavouring, he said, to get the County Council to build a learners’ swimming pool in the school area.
A Better Place to Live In
  “I don’t want to create the impression that I think that all these things are being done because I am on the Council,” he added. “I can assure you that it is not so. Everything that is done by Stornoway Town Council, whether for good or ill, is done by the majority vote of the Town Councillors.
  “If you send me back to Council, I will not solve all your problems, but I will continue working in the future, as in the past, to try to solve some of them.”
  Their aim should be to get a well-knit team on the Council working towards one end and one end only – to make the town of Stornoway a better place to live in.

An ink-stained photograph of 38 Kennedy Terrace, Stornoway, in one of the town’s council housing schemes of the 1950s, as it was in 1959

After the Result                    


A Great Loss to the Council
At the annual statutory meeting of Stornoway Town Council on Friday [… ]
Expressing regret that ex-Baillie Malcolm Smith had not been returned, the Provost said “he was a man with a very wise and shrewd appreciation of the many problems, and varied problems with which the town council had to deal.”
Ex-Baillie Smith had always been concerned with the living standards and general welfare of the ratepayers of the burgh, and he thought it right that they should place on record their appreciation of his services.
A Poor Reward
“I must say frankly that the Council will be a lot poorer for his absence,” said Baillie Stewart1, joining in the Provost’s tribute.
“I must also say that I think he got a very poor reward for his able, efficient and devoted services to the community. But as has already been said that is the wish of the electorate and their wish must prevail.”
“I quite agree that the community has lost the services of one of its foremost men,” said Ex- Provost Smith. “Ex-Baillie Smith was one of our ablest representatives and there is general regret in the community that he is not with us again.”
Re-iterating what he had said about Baillie Smith on the night of the poll, Dr Matheson said he would be missed not only for his efficiency but for the very happy times they had on the Council.
A Man of Parts
Councillor Langley said he always had a very high regard for ex-Baillie Smith. “If it were possible to change the circumstances and place ex-Baillie Smith where I now stand, I would be very happy for the change, but the will of the electors is what must prevail, and I am perfectly sure that the first one to bow to that will is ex-Baillie Smith himself.”
It was a pity that a man of undoubted ability should not be returned to the Council, said Councillor John Macleod. On many occasions ex-Baillie Smith had deputised for the Provost, and had fulfilled the duties faithfully and well.
Speaking as one who knew ex-Baillie Smith as a pupil and as a councillor, Councillor Nicoll said, “he is a man of very considerable parts, and his absence will be a serious loss to the council.“ He expressed the hope that his absence would be purely temporary.
First Council meeting
after election, May ‘55
1. Donald Stewart, later MP (Scot. Nat.) for the Western Isles.  

“Malcolm” was Calum’s registered given name, used in formal or semi-formal contexts; the Gaelic “Calum” was customary among family and friends, along with his nickname, “Safety” (which he used to say had been bestowed due to his – alleged – habit of leading other children into danger). He never returned to public political life as a candidate for election, but was able almost at once to continue expressing his views and trying to influence opinion through the Gazette column which J. S. Grant – not agreeing with the (Bevanite Labour) politics of “M.S.”, but considering he was worth listening to – invited him to write as a result of this defeat.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Ban the Bomb: Easter 1965

It wasn’t all over...

It is no surprise to find inexactitude and bias in supposedly authoritative mainstream history and works of reference, especially when it comes to any manifestation or movement perceived as being left-wing or subversive. The dominant narrative about the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) has it going into decline almost as soon as it began. Thus the BBC giving “context” for a retrospective look at the first Aldermaston March:
1960:Thousands protest against H-bomb
<< The last Aldermaston march took place in 1963, the same year the international test ban treaty was signed, which partially banned nuclear tests.
From then on, CND fell out of favour but re-emerged under the chairmanship of Bruce Kent in the 1980s ...
When the Cold War ended in 1990, CND went into decline once more. >>
This not only disparages the continuing presence and activity of CND into the present, it inaccurately implies that there was no large Easter March after 1963 (let alone to/from Aldermaston – see below).

Wikipedia is a bit better:
At Easter 1964 there was only a one-day march in London, partly because of the events of 1963 and partly because the logistics of the march, which, grown beyond all expectation, had exhausted the organisers. In 1965 there was a two-day march from High Wycombe. In 1972 and 2004 there were revivals of the Aldermaston march in the original direction.
While it may be argued that the event of 50 years ago was neither as sensational as in the “Spies for Peace” year nor as spectacular as the first few marches, and failed to make the same sort of impact, it still attracted many and varied groups and individuals, some already veterans but lots who were new to it, and for whom it was not a bad first experience of being on a demonstration.
If these were “doldrums” they were quite populous and lively ones.

Questions were asked in the House of Commons ahead of the march: clearly the movement was not negligible to some…                 
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Easter March) HC Deb 25 March 1965 vol 709 cc715-6
715         §6. Mr. Marten asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements are being made by the Metropolitan Police in connection with the Easter march of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
§51. Mr.Hamling asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what special arrangements are being made by the Metropolitan Police in connection with the Easter march of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
716         §Sir F. Soskice The Commissioner of Police will make a final decision on the measures to be taken by the Metropolitan Police when arrangements for the march have been completed by its organisers.
§Mr. Marten  I thank the home Secretary for that reply. Can he give an assurance that no C.N.D. sympathisers in the Government will take part in these activities in the Metropolitan area?
§Sir F. Soskice I can give no assurance whatsoever; processions are perfectly lawful in this country.
§Mr. Fisher  May I press the right hon. Gentleman a little on this matter? How many of his right hon. Friends will be marching this year, and does he know whom [sic] they will be?
§Sir F. Soskice I have not the slightest idea. It is entirely a matter for them.
§Mr. Snow  Would not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that these marches of protest serve a useful purpose in forming public opinion as exemplified by the march now being walked—if that be the correct term—with the encouragement of President Johnson in America?
§Sir F. Soskice I thought we lived in the greatest democracy in the world. I always thought that marches, public processions and public addresses were one of the ordinary instruments of democracy and extremely useful.

Some of the marchers had travelled hundreds of miles. 
An overnight bus brought Aberdeen student CND supporters and members of the town’s CND almost the length of the country to the start of the march.

In Trafalgar Square.
Pennants had been prepared for almost every town in the country that might have a CND presence – even Dingwall.

The mid-1960s reflorescence of Aberdeen YCND began to get under way around this time or shortly after: see Ban the Bomb and anti-Vietnam Movement in Aberdeen 

See also online (most accessed March 2015):
Health warning: may contain inaccuracies 
Early defections in march to Aldermaston But 2,000 still in the running By our London staff
Saturday 5 April 1958 -,,105488,00.html
“Demonstrators at the CND march” picture at (but don’t believe every word of the rubric)
<< Content: At CND's annual Easter March for Peace protest marchers sing folk songs for peace and chant 'Out! Out! Out!' outside a US base in the UK.
Context: By mid-1960s there is increasing involvement of young people in the peace movement. Sixties youth culture, represented here at a CND Peace March in 1965 by longer hair, duffel coats, guitars, mouth organs, folk songs and a concern for social justice, is part of a growing political awareness and a questioning of the status quo. >> 
Peace campaigners return to Aldermaston (7 April, 2004)
Health warning: The above summary accounts may contain inaccuracies.

Suggestions for checking facts and background reading:
Barry Miles, Peace: 50 Years of Protest, 1958-2008. London, Collins & Brown, 2008
The CND Story, ed. John Minnion and Philip Bolsover, Allison and Busby (1983)

POSTSCRIPT: Also in 1965...

"... the transmission of the BBC's The War Game, directed by Peter Watkins, was stopped at the eleventh hour with an official announcement that it was too shocking for public viewing. The BBC's Director General, Sir Hugh Carleton-Greene, claimed it had been the Corporation's decision alone - but this programme reveals the part played by senior figures in Whitehall and members of Harold Wilson's government.

Peter Watkins's groundbreaking film went on to win an Oscar and influenced a generation of film makers. The film suggested that the government's Civil Defence plans were hopelessly inadequate and would leave millions of UK citizens to die in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack.

Interviewees in this programme* include: former BBC Chairman of Governors Sir Christopher Bland who is "astonished" to see the files; campaigning journalist Duncan Campbell on the factual accuracy of Watkins's film; Hugh Greene's official biographer Michael Tracey; Bruce Kent of CND; and Derek Ware, the stunt co-ordinator on the film.

The programme also includes Professor John Cook, who obtained the previously secret files under a Freedom of Information request.

Michael Apted is perhaps best known for directing the "Up" series of TV programmes, but is also the director of 26 movies including James Bond in The World Is Not Enough, Gorillas In The Mist and Enigma.

Producer: David Morley
A Bite Media production for BBC Radio 4."
*The War Game Files       To be broadcast at 8 p.m. on Saturday 6-6-15 on BBC Radio4

One of Aberdeen YCND's more successful campaigns was lobbying for a showing of the film of The War Game in a cinema in the city. It was shown, at the Cosmo 2:

"A cinema converted from stables, which had operated as a News Cinema from the 1930s although it latterly went through various name changes until becoming an off-shoot of The Cosmo Cinema, Rose Street, Glasgow, a repertory cinema with the highest reputation for showing the best of world cinema since its opening in 1939. COSMO 2 CINEMA, 13-15 DIAMOND STREET, ABERDEEN.."

Later that year...
Aberdeen YCND "No More War" demonstration
Remembrance Sunday 1965