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People of Lossiemouth
MacDonald, James Ramsay - First labour prime minister of Great Britain

First two old clips of him to watch...

A biography of him can be read here!

MacDonald was born in Lossiemouth, in Morayshire in northeast Scotland, the illegitimate son of John Macdonald, a farm labourer, and Anne Ramsay, a housemaid. Although registered at birth as James McDonald Ramsay, he was known as Jaimie MacDonald. Illegitimacy could be a serious handicap in 19th-century Presbyterian Scotland, but in the north and northeast farming communities, this was less of a problem; In 1868 a report of the Royal Commission on the Employment of Children, Young Persons and Women in Agriculture noted that the illegitimacy rate was around 15% and it is unclear to what extent the associated stigma affected MacDonald throughout his life. He received an elementary education at the Free Church of Scotland school in Lossiemouth, and then from 1875 at the local Drainie parish school. In 1881 he became a pupil teacher at Drainie and the entry in the school register as a member of staff was 'J. MacDonald'. He remained in this post until 1 May 1885 to take up a position as an assistant to a clergyman in Bristol. It was in Bristol, that he joined the Democratic Federation, an extreme Radical sect. This federation changed its name a few months later to the Social Democratic Federation (SDF). He remained in the group when it left the SDF to become the Bristol Socialist Society. MacDonald returned to Lossiemouth before the end of the year for reasons unknown but in early 1886 once again left Lossiemouth for London.

Here is a pdf file of his Immortal Memory given while unveiling the Robert Burns statue in Vancouver.

Here is a pdf file of a tribute given about him.

Our thanks to John Henderson for providing these pdf's.

Iona Kielhorn at the Hillocks, the house Ramsay Macdonald built for his mother in Lossie, is sending us in information on the man himself which we detail below...

Picture set 1
Mountain named after his daughter
Vancouver's Tribute to Burns in which Ramsay MacDonald gave the Immortal Memory.

The Social Unrest, It's Cause & Solution
By J. Ramsay MacDonald, M.P.


IN THE AUTUMN OF 1910 THERE Commenced a series of strikes which were so widespread and stirred the minds of the working classes so deeply that people began to talk of a general labour unrest. Real terror crept into the hearts of large sections of the public and loud clamour for displays of police and military force was made; the deep gulf of opposition between class and class was revealed in all its menace and repulsiveness; the antagonistic feeling of the well-to-do classes was openly displayed in the leading newspapers both by bitterly unfair comment and by misleading news; on several occasions, particularly during the short railway strike, we were on the brink of civil war; the ordinary work of Parliament was suspended again and again for the purpose of considering the industrial strife that was raging outside; legislation embodying new principles was passed hastily.

The signal for action was given in September, 1910, when the boilermakers and shipbuilders were locked out on account of a series of small strikes which had taken place owing to disputes about piece rates; next month the cotton operatives left work; in November a section of the South Wales miners struck on their own initiative, and this had a very disturbing effect upon organised labour all over the country; Northumberland and Durham were agitated by a readjustment of shifts and were blaming governments, employers, and their own leaders impartially. In 1910 more people were on strike than there had been since the miners’ dispute of 1893, and the aggregate duration of the strikes was three times the average of the previous nine years. 1911 began with the printers’ strike in London, and the first three months of the year were unsettled by the prolongation of these disputes ; the spring and summer were marked by numerous minor strikes in widely separated districts and in various trades; in June the first transport strikes began and affairs entered a critical stage; the disaffection widened during July and August; in August the railway strike was declared; during the early winter months numerous local strikes broke out, and it began to be evident that a serious stoppage of work in the coal trade was imminent; in March 1912 the miners came out; in May the second transport strike in London took place. By then the unrest had exhausted itself for the time being.

Nor must we forget that the unrest was world-wide. The number of workpeople affected by strikes in Germany in 1910 was three timesgreaterthanin 1909, whilst the steadily increasing cost of living brought victory after victory to the Social Democrats at byelections. Riots broke out in Berlin. In 1910 France was disturbed by great railway strikes which, in the early winter, led to M. Briand’s general mobilisation order; and 1911 was little less disturbed than 1910, with strikes amongst marines, postmen, textile workers, taxi-cab drivers, and so on. Ministry after ministry fell; Syndicalism reached the acme of its power; dear food caused rioting, as in St Quentin. During these years Austria too was seething with discontent both political and social, and Vienna contributed its portion to the records of rioting which was taking place on the Continent. Maritime strikes occurred in Holland and Belgium. In purely political matters the same unsettlement was seen. The United States was swinging away from its old allegiance to the Republican Party; Portugal and China became republics; Spain was shaken throughout its borders, at one moment by religious strife, at the next by labour agitation. In our own Dominions, Australia was ruffled by bitter labour troubles and elected a Labour Government, and South Africa, too, was turning back towards racial strife. A breath of revolutionary life seemed to be passing over the world, and the established order in every land had to grapple with a restiveness which threatened its overthrow or kicked against its weight.

During these months of unsettlement the expression “labour unrest” was on everybody’s lips. What was its significance? What were its causes? That I propose to discuss in this book, because, though the unrest seems now to have passed away like an earthquake shock, I believe that the evils from which it originated are still active in industrial society, that the volcanic forces are still very near the surface, and that, should circumstances arise, they will burst out into fury almost without warning.

I shall attempt to prove that the causes were moral and economic—moral, because workmen when treated as mere items in production must feel that their human rights are violated and must show resentment, and because wealth is more provocative in its display now than it has ever been before, and at the same time is less honourably won; economic, because changes in the markets of the world and in the relative strength of Capital and Labour have been tending to reduce working-class standards of living since the opening of this century. A mere condemnation of agitators, of Trade Unions, of strikes, in connection with these troubles is, therefore, not only a sign of ignorance, but is futile. It is Mrs Partington bemoaning the failure of her broom by reflections upon the devilish nature of the sea. Having examined the causes of these disturbances, I shall conclude by indicating the trend of opinion and of industrial and political change which, if followed out persistently and courageously, will substitute a human social order for an economic one, when there will be peace.

Download The Social Unrest, It's Cause & Solution here


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