10th August 2020
Ian MacDougall had a remarkable impact on labour history with his pioneering interim bibliography of the Scottish working class movement and other labour records held in Scotland of 1965 and his subsequent Catalogue of Labour records in Scotland of 1975. His 1965 work had an impact on discussions within the Executive Committee of the Society for the Study of Labour History. There was no equivalent English catalogue of labour records. Willi Guttsman, founding Librarian at the University of East Anglia, one of the archive members of the EC with Irene Wagner, the Labour Party librarian, was keen to mount a similar survey in England, but Royden Harrison had another plan. It would be better to mount an effort to recover and preserve labour movement records, as Ian was already doing in Scotland, rather than simply catalogue what was already in repositories. The collection of records by Sidney and Beatrice Webb at the London School of Economics for the purpose of their History of Trade Unionism had subsequently ground to a halt. The consequence was an application by George Bain and Royden for funds from the Leverhulme Trust and the creation of the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick in October 1973. I have a recollection of trying to get Ian and other Scots on occasion to attend the SSLH EC as co-opted members from the Scottish Labour History Society, which came into existence first as the Scottish Committee of the SSLH in 1961 and then, with the publication of Ian’s 1965 work, as the SLHS. Distance, time and expense proved an obstacle, yet cordial relations were always maintained. Ian was actively working to the end for publications through the Scottish Working Peoples’ History Trust, for which Ian became the principal researcher on retirement in 1996 from teaching at Newbattle Abbey College, Dalkeith. Ian was key to the launch of the Scottish Labour History Journal in 1969 and for a prodigious output. The current SLHS chair, Stewart Maclennan, notes up to thirty publications on his own shelves alone! This output is notable for the series of oral history Voices, from the Hunger Marchers, Scottish Volunteers in Republican Spain, Scotswomen in Peace and War, Journalists, Librarians, and others. These were supplemented by Pictorial Histories and the publication of important sets of minutes, which included the Edinburgh Trades Council and those of the Mid and East Lothian Miners’ Association. Ian was pivotal in persuading Scottish trade unions, co-operatives and activists, to donate their papers to repositories, from the Mitchell Library in Glasgow to the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. Ian’s contribution to our field has been outstanding and, as already noted, his impact was not confined to Scotland.
Ian originally left school at fifteen without qualifications He worked in newspaper distribution, followed by National Service and a period as an Edinburgh University mature student. He became a history teacher after graduation in 1960. The adult education post at Newbattle Abbey College came many years later. My own relationship with Ian was no doubt cemented by shared experience of mature study and adult education teaching, as well as the common commitment to labour history. We last saw each other in Edinburgh in 2000, seated at the same table for Moussa Jogee’s 70th birthday celebration. We were both friends with Moussa, a South African political refugee, who I met at Sheffield in 1966. Ian later taught Moussa at Newbattle. Ian’s company is a most precious memory of that event. We have lost a great person as well as an outstanding contributor to labour history.