Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Fife photographs throw light on General Strike anniversary

An album of photographs recently acquired by an adult education institute has given a fresh insight into the impact of the General Strike in Fife, 90 years ago.

The dispute began in the mines but spread across other industries as - at least initially - trades unions saw cuts to miners' wages as a threat to all their members.

The photograph album, which is now in the collection of the Bishopsgate Institute in London, contains 35 pictures in total.

The images show marches and rallies, as well as fund-raising events including a fancy dress parade and a sports day.

Image copyright Bishopsgate Institute
Image caption Miners' leader AJ Cook speaks at a meeting in Fife
Image copyright Bishopsgate Institute
Image caption The album describes the man on the left as "a Methil worthy"
Image copyright Bishopsgate Institute
Image caption The dispute continued in the Fife coalfield for months after the General Strike ended

Dr Jim Phillips, from the University of Glasgow, told the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland programme that the General Strike could be seen as an attempt by mine owners to regain control of their industry after World War One.

He said there was a long tradition of radicalism in the west of Scotland and in what was the Fife coalfield.

Image copyright Bishopsgate Institute
Image caption Strikers held marches and protests through the summer of 1926
Image copyright Bishopsgate Institute
Image caption Marches attracted large crowds as people rallied to the cause
Image copyright Bishopsgate Institute
Image caption One photograph in the album shows miners in fancy dress taking part in a gala day

The strike, which had begun on 4 May 1926, ended eight days later. Dr Phillips says many more workers withdrew their labour than had been officially called out.

That led to some strike leaders getting "cold feet", when they were accused by the government of trying to subvert democracy, and so calling off the action.

The rival front pages of newspapers in the collections of Glasgow City Archives give a flavour of the two sides as the dispute got underway.

Image caption The "Emergency Press" put the employers' and government slant on the dispute
Image caption The "Scottish Worker" was the newspaper of the Scottish Trade Union Congress

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