Friday, 4 April 2014

Timeline of Edinburgh anarchism.

There's very little known history from Edinburgh out there I could find. This is what I've got.

The Porteous Riots  April 1736.

5th june 1868 James Connolly born 107 Cowgate Edinburgh  'Little Ireland' .

Edinburgh University Socialist Society founded in 1884.It is believed to have been Britain's first university socialist society.The Society played a key role in the early development of the socialist movement in Scotland, including hosting the first "indoor preaching of Modern Socialism" in Edinburgh on the 19th of March 1884, with William Morris as the main speaker. The talk was titled "Useful Labour versus Useless Toil", The Scotsman reported a "good attendance, a considerable proportion of those present being ladies".

In 1885, following the realisation of the stigma associated with 'socialism', the Society briefly changed its name to Edinburgh University Reform Society

1887:  Edward carpenter gives  indoor lecture in Leith in 1887

1889: Edinburgh held commemorations of the Paris Commune of 1871 ,in 1889 led by Leo Meillet .
James Connolly was later to be the one to organise commemorations of the Commune.

13th October, 1893:  Agnes Henry reports " On the Friday I reached Edinburgh, and again I found myself among old friends, and made acquaintance with new ones. Here we had, Sunday, 3rd Sept., two successful meetings in “The Meadows,” attended by large audiences."
On the Sunday morning we held a large meeting on the Green, the only opposition coming from a man who, as I learned afterwards, had been sent as a delegate from Edinburgh to the Zürich Congress1, with the one and only direction given him by the body he represented—to vote for the exclusion of the Anarchists."

1914:  Leith Dockers receive talk by french anarcho-syndicalist.

 World War 2:   Robert Lynn(1924- 1996?)  Writes, " I might add that, during World War II and for several years thereafter, the Glasgow Anarchist Group was easily the most active and vociferous of all the Left groupings in this country. There were of course regional contacts with staunch comrades in other groups. We had platform speakers from Burnbank, Hamilton, Paisley, Edinburgh and Dundee."
"Some would elect to travel to Edinburgh or Paisley or Hamilton. Edinburgh meetings were held in the Mound. "

 1981 : The Edinburgh Unemployed Workers Centre Trust was set up in 1981

Dec. 1st, 1994: Some members of the ACE collective were involved in running the Unemployed Workers’ Centre on Broughton Street as a campaigning and social space.Unfortunately this lively and successful community centre was forcibly and illegally evicted by Edinburgh Council on Dec. 1st, 1994.

February 1997: Despite a lack of premises, activities continued to flourish. Then in February 1997, ACE found its “Centre” at 17 West Montgomery Place.

2005: anti-G8 protest in Edinburgh especially along  Princess Street.

2009 : First edition of Edinburgh Muckraker.

Present:  There is Edinburgh IWW, Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, The Social Factory Group, Gender Discussion, IWW Scottish education workers’ network,the Edinburgh University Anarchist Society ,  Edinburgh anarchist Federation,

 Much of this was down to the activism and propaganda of a number of important anarchists in ‘auld reekie’, such as Andreas Scheu, Thomas H. Bell and Paul Reclus, nephew of the famous French anarchist geographer, Elisée Reclus.

Andreas Scheu (1844-1927) was an Austrian furniture designer active in German anarchist politics from as early as 1870. He went to London in 1874 where he was involved with and quickly became disillusioned by the stagnation of émigré German socialists. In Johann Most (1846-1906), he found a much more active and energetic anarchist comrade and helped Most with his German language newspaper, Freiheit, published in London and smuggled into Germany from 1879 to 1882.

 Scheu took a sales job with Jaeger in Edinburgh in 1885 and remained in the city until the 1890s where he was a beacon of anti-authoritarian sentiment and practise. He made many contacts with Glasgow over the years and presumably many trips also. He eventually returned to Germany via London after many years of activism throughout which he appears to have remained a committed anti-parliamentarian socialist if not an anarchist.


Oswald Mosley addressed a rally outside the Usher Hall in June 1934.

Communist George Watters, recalled:
“I remember gaun to a meeting in the Usher Hall, having been supplied wi’ a
ticket by some of the students at Edinburgh University. I landed right down in the
second front seat in the Usher Hall… My job was to get up and create a disturbance right
away by challenging Sir Oswald Mosley, which I did. At that time I had a pretty loud
voice. And Sir Oswald Mosley wasn’t being heard… There was a rush and in the rush I
 got a bit of a knocking about, and taken up to High Street [police station].”

Thomas H. Bell, was another young member of the Edinburgh Socialist League, who, perhaps inspired by the example and ideas of Scheu, became a confirmed anarchist and carried this revolutionary creed with him to London and then Los Angeles, where he was still active in the 1930s. Bell made a favourable impression on many anarchists who came across him, most notably Voltairine de Cleyre and he was related by marriage to the indefatigable English anarchist, John Turner (1864-1934), who employed him as secretary of the 3,000 strong Shop Assistants’ Union in 1898. Bell had been active in the Freedom Group in London along with his companion Lizzie Turner Bell. His sister, Jessie Bell Westwater was also later an anarchist activist in the US. It is generally less safe to assume that Bell had Glasgow contacts and a hand in helping the movement there, but his omission from consideration would certainly be unfair, and might also draw the criticism of a Glasgow bias in this work.

A third individual worth mentioning whom we can be more certain spoke and supported the early Glasgow anarchists from a base in Edinburgh was Paul Reclus (1858-1941). Reclus, like another French anarchist Lucién Guérineau (1857-1940), spent a number of years in Scotland after police crackdowns against anarchists in France. Reclus lived in Edinburgh from about 1894 and visited Glasgow often where he was involved in aiding the local anarchist movement. He eventually returned to France in 1914.

 This Edinburgh-based anarchist (John Macara . probably born in Crieff in Perthshire in 1870), was a tramp speaker for anarchism and a tireless propagandist, who was the first to give open-air speeches on anarchism in Belfast, where he also spent three months in Crumlin Road Jail. McAra was never an organisation person and because of this when he moved on after a period of propaganda work, the support he had garnered for anarchism usually dissipated. This did not actually occur in 1909/10 and this may have been because McAra encouraged a Bristol anarchist, George Ballard (or Barrett), to come to the city and carry on the work he had started.

  John McAra  c.1870-1915

West and Midlothian Miners Association.

Socialist Labour Party(SLP)


Gilray, John (1909). Early Days of the Socialist Movement in Edinburgh.

Auld Reekie anarchy

  • Edinburgh Anarchafeminist Kollective
  • Edinburgh Anti-Cuts Alliance
  • Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group
  • Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP)
  • Edinburgh East Save Our Services
  • Edinburgh private Tenants Action Group (EPTAG)
  • Edinburgh University Anti-Cuts Coalition
  • Safer Spaces Edinburgh

  • There's also Fife anarchism.

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