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History of the Barrhead Co-operative Society Ltd.
A Record of its Struggles, Progress, and Success from its Inception in 1861 until the Year of its Jubilee, 1911 by Robert Murray, J.P.


THE writing of a preface provides an author with a convenient opportunity to do several things which he regards as more or less important. It enables him to explain the plan he has adopted in the pages that are to follow; to apologise for shortcomings that he, probably more than any other, is conscious of; and to acknowledge his indebtedness to friends who have helped him with information or with words of encouragement and counsel. Under the first of these heads a few words seem necessary. In preparing this' historical sketch of the formation and development of Barrhead Co-operative Society the writer has kept steadily in view the purely local character of his commission. There was frequent temptation—particularly in the earlier chapters to widen the scope of the work into a consideration of industrial history in the century preceding the birth of Co-operation, and of the industrial conditions amid which the new movement was born. It would have been easy, and in some respects simpler, to have dipped into the wider Co-operative movement, and to have shown how great was the army in which Barrhead Society was a marching unit. But this temptation was successfully resisted, and there has been strict attention to the local propaganda and the local men, with no reference to the larger issues unless where such seemed essential.

An effort has been made to present a clear and fairly definite picture of the Barrhead in which our fathers lived, and of the social conditions under which they did their pioneer work for Co-operation. The aim has been to record all the important steps of the Society’s development, and regret may be expressed that the need for keeping the book within reasonable limits has necessitated the exclusion of material for which the writer would fain have found space. As far as possible, every incident narrated and every fact asserted has been verified ; and the determination to use only what was unmistakable has caused the omission of not a few items that would have proved interesting, but the authenticity of which appeared to be doubtful.

The task has been no light one, for it involved a great deal of burrowing amongst old records, and it entailed much interviewing of the yet remaining actors in the historical pageant which was to be depicted. It meant also the gathering together of a mass of material far beyond actual requirements, so that the most important and most interesting portions might be selected. Against this, however, is to be set down the fact that the work was of a congenial character, and brought with it a pleasure of a very deep kind. In particular, there has been a real and heartfelt satisfaction in being permitted to preserve, even in a fragmentary way, the memories of the able and devoted band of workers whose efforts created and sustained the young society.

Apologies sometimes savour of the hypocritical; and, to avoid falling into this error, we will make no excuses beyond remarking that, whatever faults the critic may point to, will not, at anyrate, spring from carelessness or want of desire to present the story of our Society in a reliable and interesting fashion. It will he with the readers of the book to determine in how far the written record is worthy of the subject.

In the matter of thanks it is impossible to indicate all those who deserve to be named. To Mr William Maxwell we are indebted for information and for a perusal of Mr M'Innes’s journal, the first Scottish Co-operator. Thanks are also due to Mr Mallace, of St Cuthbert's, Edinburgh; to Mr A. B. Weir, for assistance and advice; to Mr James Maxton, M.A., who kindly undertook the correction of the proofs; to Mr Thomas Dykes, to whom I am indebted for valuable assistance in the compilation of statistics; and, last, but not least, to the members of the Jubilee Committee, for their initial confidence in placing the task in the writer’s hands, and for their continued encouragement and kindness during the progress of the work.

R. M.
May 1911.


Chapter I. 1860-61 . Establishment of the Society
Chapter II. Condition of Barrhead about 1860
Chapter III. 1861-71 : Early Days of the Society
Chapter IV. 1871-81 . Rapid Progress
Chapter V. 1881-91 . Continued Advance
Chapter VI. 1891-1901 . Further Progress
Chapter VII. 1901-11 : Our Own Times
Chapter VIII. Barrhead’s Contribution to the General Movement
Chapter IX. The Pioneers of the Society
Chapter X. The Educational Department


Presidents of the Society
Secretaries of the Society
Treasurers of the Society
Barrhead Representatives on S.C.W.S. Board
Barrhead Representatives on Committee of Renfrewshire Conference Association
Admission Lines granted for various Institutions during 1910
Barrhead Representatives on the “Scottish Co-operator" Newspaper Board
Capital Account of Society at December 1910
Statistics of Progress, 1861-1911
Jubilee Celebration Arrangements

Wholesale Co-operation in Scotland
The Fruits of Fifty Years' Efforts (1868-1918) (pdf)

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