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A History of CLYDEBANK Co-operative Society Ltd.

by WILLIAM E. LAWSON


Printed by S.C.W.S. LTD., PRINTING DEPARTMENT, SHIELDHALL, GLASGOW


Contents

FOREWORD

1

INTRODUCTION

2

PIONEERING DAYS

5

SEMI-JUBILEE

45

THE GREAT WAR

58

JUBILEE

80

THE WORLD WAR

89

PRESENT AND FUTURE

99

EPILOGUE

102

LIST OF PRESIDENTS

103

GENERAL MANAGERS

104

PROGRESS STATISTICS

104

INDEX

105


List of Illustrations

THE PIONEERS

8

JUBILEE BOARD

8

FIRST PRESIDENT

9

OFFICIALS

24

PIONEER MEN’S GUILD

25

WOMEN’S GUILD PRESIDENTS

25

HUME STREET BUILDING

40

CENTRAL DRAPERY

41

COACHES-OLD AND NEW

56

CENTRAL PREMISES

57

THE “QUEEN MARY”

72

SINGER’S CLOCK

73

NEW SHOPS AT FLEMING AVENUE

88

SELF-SERVICE

89

MR. MURRAY D. BROWN

98-99

BOARD OF MANAGEMENT, 1949

98-99

FACTORY OF D. & J. TULLIS LTD.

98-99

U.C.B.S. BISCUIT FACTORY

98-99


Foreword

The narrative which is presented to you is the struggle of an industrial town to overcome the adversities of life and an endeavour to secure a measure of prosperity for the people within its community. We are indebted to the narrator for the fine literary style he has introduced into his work and for the accuracy of the historical facts he relates. Coupled with the advancement of the town as a great shipbuilding and engineering centre he portrays the development of the Clydebank Co-operative Society, and brings to the reader’s attention the people’s deep interest in mutual trading and their business capacity to provide for immediate needs and future requirements. Indeed, the present generation is reaping a rich reward from the endeavours and enterprise of their parents. The town has not a traditional background like many other towns in Scotland because of its recent origin. It was only established as a Burgh in 1886, and many people are still alive who were present in its formation. In the gradual growth of its institutions it brought together many thousands of people from all parts of the British Isles. This influx gave new energy and initiative to the community because it brought with it the arts, crafts, and culture of a variety of people. Therefore, they designed, built, and fitted these great ships of the world-wide reputation for sea worthiness, and sent their engineering products to every corner of the earth. Their culture is very high and can be measured by the large number of musical, dramatic, social, and educational organisations which have been formed by themselves. This is an intriguing story of endeavour and achievement. THOMAS DAVIDSON December 1948

Provost


Introduction

Any stranger strolling on the green of north bank of the river Clyde just 80 years ago might pardonably have inquired: “Where is Clydebank?” Industrialism, with its cranes and crankshafts, had not yet invaded the peaceful pastures seven miles from Glasgow. Only the shrill cry of the seagulls soaring beside the ships that sailed on the river and the soft rural sounds from farmyards and fields broke the quietness of the pastoral scene that was Clydebank, or Barns o’ Clyde as it was then known. Most Scottish towns boast that their roots go far back into the country’s history. Some have existed for a thousand years. The fate of a few has been to decay. Others have ignored the influences of the outer world and stayed static. Many have marched steadily and unspectacularly, growing slowly with the development of the machine age. A number of towns of belated birth lay no claims to historical fame, no associations with the early kings or martyrs, but with the vigour of youth have grasped the opportunities offered by the industrial developments of the late 19th century and prospered with a speed that has outstripped the ancients. Such a town in Clydebank. So rapid was its growth, particularly in the first decade of this century, when the population leapt from 18,000 to 39,000 between 1901 and 1911, that it became popularly known in the Press as “The ‘Risingest’ Burgh.” Clydebank owes both its origin and its mushroom growth mainly to the ships that have brought it worldly fame. First buildings to rise from its fields were the sheds around the slipways. First sounds to replace the gentle rattle of the reaping machines was the clanging of the riveters’ hammers as they built the first ocean greyhounds. The first workers crossed the Clyde from Govan when the brothers George and James Thomson, compelled to seek a new yard, selected with foresight a spot where the Cart joins forces with the Clyde. That was in 1871. Some of the workmen lived and slept and ate in a large bothy beside the slipway, others travelled daily from Glasgow in the Vulcan-a small steamer provided by the firm, for


public transport facilities were primitive. Within a year, however, the Thomson brothers decided that it would be in their interests, as well as those of their workers, to provide houses, and towards the end of 1872 the first block of dwellings was erected. To-day, familiarly known as “Thomson’s Buildings,” they still stand-that block on the south side of Glasgow Road backing John Brown & Company’s shipyard. The four-storey tenement at the yard was the nucleus of a new town that was to grow with unprecedented speed, and it was their inhabitants, the employees of Thomson’s (who later sold to Brown’s), who formed the Clydebank Co-operative Society, about which this book is written. Ten years were to pass, however, before that memorable day, and in the intervening decade the foundations of the town were further secured by the advent of other industries, including the transference of Messrs. Thomson’s engine works from Finnieston. As more and more workers joined the little community the need for a building to meet the social needs of the people became apparent, and in 1873 there was erected the hall that became known as the “Tarry Kirk.” A wooden erection, its uses were multifarious. During the day it was a cooking depot, in the evening it served as a dance and concert and soiree hall, and on Sunday it met the needs of the various religious denominations. It was in the “Tarry Kirk” that the shipbuilders met and decided to form the Cooperative organisation that has been a boon to the community throughout the past 80 years. The following pages tell a story of courage and faith, enterprise and enthusiasm, and all who are fair-minded will concede that without the influence and endeavours of the co-operators Clydebank and its citizens would not have emerged so strongly from the many ordeals that have beset them and their burgh.


1.

Genesis

What others could do they could do. That logical and confident conclusion was reached by the shipbuilders of Clydebank when some of their number, who had already experienced the benefits of Co-operation in other communities, broached the idea of conducting their own shop. Work had just begun in producing the first of the famous family of Cunard ships, the Bothnia; trade was good; a Co-operative store had been operating successfully for a year in neighbouring Dalmuir. Why, asked Thomson’s workers, should they continue buying their requirements from the grocery store inside the yard when they could purchase cheaper by running their own shop? Those workers from Govan were particularly steeped in the Co-operative tradition, for had their predecessors in the shipyards there not pioneered the trail in Scotland - indeed, in Britain-as far back as 1777? The first idea was to seek a branch shop from Dalmuir, where a society had been born following the accidental discovery by a youth of deception by a local grocer, who sold butterine (the old name for margarine) as butter. With only a year’s experience behind them, however, the Dalmuir co-operators did not consider themselves strong enough to buy premises to cater for their Clydebank members. Instead, a Dalmuir man, James Balfour, suggested the formation of a separate society. His advice was accepted. At the meeting in the “Tarry Kirk” in April 1881 sub-committees were appointed-one to draft a code of rules, the other to find suitable premises. Framing the rules was easy. Securing a shop was not so simple. This and other responsibilities provoked doubts in the minds of some of the pioneers and they suggested a year’s delay. Those fears were not shared at all, however, and when the provisional secretary, James Hempseed, received an unexpectedly favourable reply from a factor to his inquiries about a shop he quickly accepted the offer, leaving his colleagues no alternative but to go


ahead with the project. Prompt and courageous decisions are the basis of successful business ventures, and Hempseed was the first of the many who by their enthusiasm and foresight have been responsible for the remarkable growth of the Society born on 20th May 1881. The mixture of the inaugural meeting bears that date, and the following extract tells what transpired: After several preliminary meetings at which a sub-committee was appointed for the purpose of drawing up a code of rules, securing a shop, and collecting money for shares for intending members, a meeting of subscribing members was called for this evening in Lesser Clydebank Hall, for the purpose of passing the rules are revised by Committee, electing office-bearers and Committee, and any other business that may be brought up. Mr. Richard Livingston was called to the chair . . . . The Secretary then proceeded to read the alterations that it was proposed to make on the Dalmuir Society’s rules, and, with the following alterations, it was agreed upon unanimously to adopt them as a whole, altering names of places, etc., to suit Clydebank . . . It was moved . . . “No member shall be allowed to hold more than 100 shares in this Society.” “The form of the seal shall be an oval stamp, with the words ‘Clydebank Cooperative Society’ round the edge, and a figure of justice with a sword in the right hand and a balance in the left as a device in the centre.” It was also moved, seconded, and carried that Mr. James Hamilton, 182 Trongate, Glasgow, be empowered to print 200 copies of rules. A letter was read from the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society inviting a deputation of this Society to meet them on Saturday afternoon. Mr. Richard Livingston, Mr. William Hannah, and Mr. John Murray were elected for that deputation. In this simple fashion the foundations of a new Co-operative society were firmly laid. At that same meeting the men were appointed to control is destinies, and in steering it round the rocks they proved as able captains as they were builders of ships. The 11 pioneers, were:-


RICHARD LIVIGNSTON, President. WILLIAM HANNAH, Treasurer. JAMES HEMPSEED, Secretary. JOHN TURNBULL, Committeeman. ALEXANDER CLARK, “ PETER CANDLIN,

GEORGE HOSIE,

ALEXANDER M’LEAN, “ ALEXANDER HOWIE, “ JOHN MURRAY,

THOMAS CURRIE

Empowered by the members to engage a salesman, the Committee lost no time, and a week later Mr. James M’Kie, a Glasgow grocer, was appointed as the Society’s first employee. His wage was 30s. per week and he had to deposit a security of £20. He asked no interest against his security for the first quarter, but gave his first glimpse of business acumen by insisting upon a bonus equivalent to the dividend. A message boy, Archibald Auchincloss, was also engaged. The minute of the second meeting records that his wage was to be 10s. a week, but that the impression of generosity is corrected in a later minute, which states that he was paid 6s. for the first fortnight and thereafter 3s. 6d. per week. SALESMAN OBJECTS

The modern shopman would shudder at the hours of business - 70 ½ per week; daily from 8 a.m. till 7.30 p.m. except Fridays and Saturdays, when the closing hour was 10 p.m. There were daily breaks for breakfast of half-an-hour and for dinner of one hour. No mention is made of tea interval. It was no small wonder that within a week of starting the salesman lodged an objection about his hours of duty. The poor fellow’s protest touched no soft chords in the Committee’s heart. Instead they sternly impressed upon him that it would be in the interest of the Society as well as of himself if he could take breakfast in the shop and


not close it in the morning at all! He was relieved, however, of doing business in Glasgow, the Committee undertaking the duty of purchasing the essentials for carrying on the shop. Three “Alecs” – M’Lean, Clark, and Howie-were giving the duties of shop committee and of acting as general superintendents of the shop during the first quarter. The first Committee meeting took place in the shop situated at the corner of Dumbarton (now Glasgow) Road and Canal Street. (To-day it is a newspaper office.) To spread the good news of Co-operation’s coming, 400 copies of a circular were distributed among the town’s 3,000 inhabitants. A copy of the rules was sent to the Registrar; a somewhat flexible “no credit trading” resolution was passed; and it was decided to ask the supervisor at Bowling for a tobacco licence. Early on it was decided to buy the Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Society. Although the shop was busy enough, no great interest was shown by the population in the democratic opportunities offered to customers of controlling their own business, and at the June monthly meeting only two members, apart from the Committee, turned up, so it had to be adjourned. Staffing troubles soon reared their awkward head, and within two months both the original employees had gone. It was decided to dispense with the services of the salesman, while the message boy intimated that he was returning to school. Next salesman, William Robertson from Kirkcaldy, received only 24s. a week, but the new message boy was more fortunate than his predecessor, being rewarded with 7s. 6d. weekly. The first dozen copies of the Co-operative News had been ordered and sold to the members at ½ d. each, including delivery, but the new message boy soon rebelled against having to deliver the newspapers on Saturday mornings without remuneration. He won his point, and was granted 3d. extra. BUSINESS PROSPERS

Despite those troubles the business prospered, and in their first quarterly report and balance-sheet the Committee made this statement to the members:In presenting you with the first report and balance-sheet your Committee think that under all the circumstances it is very favourable. The profits after all necessary


expenses are allowed for, gives a dividend of 1s. 3d. per £, and they have good hopes that if backed by the members it will be better next quarter. The sales for the latter half of the period have been about double the amount they were in the first, and they may be still further increased without any increase in the working expenses. Your Committee would therefore hope that all the members will see it to be their duty to consistently support their own store, and do all they can to add to the list of members. The present number of members is 56, and the average purchase per member per week is 13s. 6d. Unanimous assent was given at the first quarterly meeting on 4th August to take out 40 shares in the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society. Thus began a loyalty to the wider Co-operative Movement that has never faltered. Purchases from the Wholesale Society during the first quarter amounted to £271 18s. 8d., which, on a dividend of 6d. per £, gave a welcome return to £6 16s. to small concern. Encouraged by the success of the first quarter’s operations the members decided to launch out into additional enterprises. To the sale of groceries, butchermeat, and greengroceries they added footwear and coal to their services, and decided to launch out into additional enterprises. To the sale of groceries, butchermeat, and greengroceries they added footwear and coal to their services, and decided to take orders for clothing. Some of the more daring spirits even suggested by the end of the year that the Society should build its own premises. Investigations were made, but the Committee decided against the advisability of such a bold step. The suggestion showed, however, as did the appointment of another employee, that the shipbuilders of Clydebank could launch a Co-operative society just as successfully as they could send a ship down the slipway.


II.

Troubled Waters

Acrimonious discussions over members’ debts and shop losses marred many of meetings on the advent of the new year. In framing the constitution the pioneers had stipulated that no credit be given to members whose shares were not full paid, but discretionary power had been left with the Committee to give credit to any member for whom an individual committeeman guaranteed responsibility, provided the credit granted did not exceed the amount paid in. It is hard to refuse friends, however and the rule does not appear to have been applied too rigidly. Despite a warning against the dangers of giving credit uttered at a meeting in January by Mr. Robert Barrowman, the traveller for the S.C.W.S., and subsequent stern measures against those in debt for the supply of coals, the Committee found it hard to control the practice as so many other traders were in the habit of “obliging” customers. Disclosure in the second balance-sheet, dated 23rd February, of a “leakage” of £52-or £30 over the shopman’s allowance-brought matters to a head. The books were sent to the S.C.W.S. for scrutiny, and there was a series of special meetings at which some scathing and pointed remarks were passed. Mr. Hempseed took offence following a difference of opinion with other members of the Committee and he resigned. The salesman was replaced by another, a Mr. Beckitt from Paisley Provident Society. These disputes had an upsetting effect on the running of the shop, and at one meeting strong threats that they would withdraw their money and cease buying their goods if the delivery service did not improve were made by a number of members. That particular problem was overcome by engaging another boy to deliver messages, the new shopman gave satisfaction, and the return of Mr. Hempseed to the position of secretary restored the Society to an even keel. Commencement of an association with the United Co-operative Baking Society of Glasgow was an event that had happy consequences in later years for both the local Society and the Burgh of Clydebank. Mr. Alexander Howie moved that as a trial six dozen loaves be ordered.


Satisfaction was apparently given, as on 6th April the same gentleman tabled a motion in favour of affiliation with the U.C.B.S., and it received unanimous support. Equal accord greeted a proposal by Mr. Hempseed that dividend be paid only on a cash paid and not on purchases. At the second pay-out of surplus profits the dividend was 1s. 4d. per £, and the report revealed that membership had risen to 65, average sales per week to £62, and that working expenses were 1s. 0 ¼ d. per £. The dividend might not have been so high had a rather surprising suggestion by Mr. Alexander M’Lean been adopted-that coal be retailed at cost price. That would have been taking the fight to the private traders with a vengeance. It is unfortunate that no record of the discussion on this motion is available. It was defeated, however, a counter proposal for a profit of 1s. per ton to the Society, put forward by Mr. John Murray, being favoured by the members. Holding of the Society’s first soiree, at Dalmuir, was one of the happier events in a trying year. EDUCATION BEGINS

Narrowness of vision is a failing not unknown in some sectors of the Co-operative Movement, but even since the early days it has not been a characteristic of the Clydebank cooperators. That readiness to link up with the wider Movement, instanced by the early decisions to affiliate with the two large Scottish productive federations, the S.C.W.S and the U.C.B.S., was again manifest when a proposal to join the membership of the Co-operative Union was placed on the agenda. Without dissent that step was taken. Early in 1883, too, that interest in national affairs was demonstrated by the making of the first grant (10s.) to the National Congress reception committee. Prompted by a question from Central Board educational committee as to what was being done to educate the members in Co-operative principles and to propagate the ideals of the Movement, the Society set aside £1 to inaugurate an educational fund. For the first time, too, a reserve fund was instituted, and the allocation was also £1.


Taking out shares in proportion to the number of members in the local organisation marked a strengthening of the bond with the S.C.W.S. The Wholesale Society, however, was not immune from criticism, and the return of “an unworthy piece of furniture” to the Glasgow warehouse is recorded. Paraffin lamps had been used to illuminate the shops, but the Committee decided the time had arrived for more modern methods, and a Renfrew plumber was engaged to install gas lighting. There was some dissatisfaction with the state of repair of the shop, and the Secretary was instructed to write “a smart letter” to the factor. The exact terms of this note are not known, but it contained a threat that the Committee would carry out the repairs and send the bill to the factor. Throughout the year several attempts were made to have a compulsory increase in the number of shares held by each member. Ultimately a special meeting was convened to debate the proposal, but, although a majority of the members were in favour, that old familiar “bogey,” the three-fourths majority rule, late the motion low. BATTLE ROYAL

Coal continued to be the subject of some warm discussions. Purchasers who resided more than one mile from the shop were none too pleased when they were made to pay extra cartage. Coal carting led to a battle royal between the Committee and a well-known local contractor and character, “Jock” Watson. The said “Jock” challenged the accuracy of an account, “threeping” for payment of 49 tons as against 35 tons checked by the Committee, After giving vent to some lurid language, including a threat to take legal action, “Jock” accepted a compromise, being “squared with £3,” as the report puts it. Soon after his election to the chairmanship, William Thomson, the original vice-president, left the district to follow his trade, and after two months’ absence from the Committee’s deliberation’s he was replaced. Shortly afterwards, after hearing speech about the chairman’s duties and responsibilities, the members decided that their president, Richard Livingston, should be paid the princely sun of 5s. per quarter for his services. Obviously, the voluntary spirit was very strong in those days, and even the hard-working secretary was remunerated only to the extent of ½ d. per member per week. As the membership was just 79 at the end of the ninth quarter it will be noticed that his reward was not rich.


In support of local business the decision was taken to transfer the Society’s banking account from the Union Bank, Renfrew, to the local branch of the British Linen Bank. Choosing calendars for Christmas distribution was regarded as no light matter in the old days, and memories of a one-time famous stage beauty are recalled by the Committee’s decision to order 125 “ Lillie Langtry’s” to adorn the homes of Clydebank co-operators. First fruits of the educational enterprise were also apparent at the festive season when it was agreed to distribute free copies of the Christmas number of the Co-operative News to stimulate interest in the Movement’s wider spheres.


III.

Havoc by Rats

One of those industrial depressions that have fallen upon Clydebank with unfortunate regularity throughout the years descended in the fourth year of the Society’s existence, but its adverse effects on trade generally were not reflected in the sales of the Co-operative organisation. On the other hand, it appeared to create in the community a wider realisation of the benefits of mutual trading, and the records show regular weekly admissions that brought the membership to the century mark for the first time. A donation of £5 for the relief of the unemployed also commended the Co-operative Movement to the working class of the town. An indication of progress was the repeated proposals for larger premises, the suggestion of some of the bolder members being that new premises should be built. The demand for better shopping facilities became so insistent that the Committee agreed to consult leading Scottish co-operators for advice on the project. Mr. T. Slater., secretary of the U.C.B.S., attended a meeting at which he detailed the experiences of various other societies before expressing the opinion that the Society’s financial resources did not warrant immediate action, but that they should “keep a lookout” with a view to building better premises when more capital was available. Enlargement of the original shop and transfer to other premises in Elgin Place were other proposals mooted but rejected. An invasion of rats had prompted the idea of removal. Great damage was done for a considerable time by the vermin. On several occasions goods to the value of over £1 were lost in a single night. The shop being situated near the canal made the raids of the rodents difficult to check, and the Committeemen sighed for a Pied Piper to relieve their perplexity. Links with the wider Movement continued to strengthen. More shares were taken out in the U.C.B.S., making the total held 75, and the right of the Society to have a representative upon the Baking Society’s directorate was intimated. Mr. Thomas Keenan was appointed, thus beginning an unbroken association with the federation’s management board. Ten shares were taken out in the Paisley Manufacturing Society, then the oldest Cooperative productive federation in the world. The matter of Co-operative insurance also received attention, following a communication form the insurance organisation appointing Clydebank Society to act as agent on their behalf in the district. After some discussion the duty of setting the scheme in motion was entrusted to the president, Mr. Alexander Howie, on the understanding that no fee would be paid by Clydebank, the only remuneration to be in the form of commission, if any.


A commendable gesture was the decision to grant 10s. from the profits of two North of England societies, Thornley and Wheatly Hall, in a response to an appeal for aid. While able to give financial help aid to others the Clydebank co-operators were not averse to receiving assistance, in the shape of advice from outside sources, and following the reading of a paper by Mr. Kater of the Vale of Leven Society on the subject instituting a penny bank it was decided to inaugurate such a department. Another progressive venture was the introduction of a loan system. Lively passages occurred over the question of who should pay the 6d. agreement stamp. According to law it had to be paid by the lender, but the legal requirements were imperfectly understood by at least one member, who in his anxiety to saddle the wrong horse persistently kept asking the question: “What gets the loan?” History does not record a tobacco shortage in the late ‘80s, but for some unexplained reason that had nothing to do with the economy the members decreed by a majority that no smoking be permitted at the monthly meetings, thus making a departure from erstwhile free-and-easy routine. AN EFFECTIVE CURE Leakage has caused furrows on many a Co-operative committeeman’s brow, and losses became so serious that some hard thinking was done in the early days of 1885. After pondering the problem the conclusion was reached that to encourage more care and economy on the part of the shop staff an inducement in the form of a bonus to all employees should be given. With some cunning the bonus was fixed at the same figure as the dividend, with the proviso that it would be paid only when the leakage was less the 1 ¼ per cent. No doctor could have diagnosed the trouble more accurately or supplied such an effective cure. The excessive losses stopped immediately, and the dividend rose to the unprecedented height of half-a-crown. OUT OF POCKET Most men who break ground on ventures destined to help humanity give ungrudgingly of their time, labour, and thought to secure that success which they consider their best reward. The Clydebank pioneers were was unselfish and earnest as any. Practically without fee, and on occasion out-of-pocket, early Committees worked diligently on behalf of the Co-operative principle. With the coming of a measure of prosperity, however, there emerged a feeling that those who served the Society should not suffer financially because of their work for the Movement, and a motion was eventually submitted “ That all delegates sent by this Society to attend meetings or transact business for its benefit be paid third-class travelling fare and one shilling expenses. If in working hours the delegates be paid for time lost.” That proposal did not seem unreasonable, but many meetings passed and many arguments took place before it was finally passed.


Most spontaneous was the generosity shown towards a proposal that one shilling be deducted from the members’ net dividend to defray the expenses of a trip for the juveniles associated with the Penny Bank. Favourable decisions were given towards two new Co-operative projects - the establishment of a large central bakehouse by the U.C.B.S. in or near Glasgow and the formation of a federal drapery society. Support for the drapery was probably influenced by the statement that it was “certain to prove a success.” At a later stage the Society was invited to provide a Board member for the new drapery, and Mr. Alexander Howie was appointed. Development of the clothing trade was also indicated by the arrangement of a monthly visit from the cutter of the Paisley Manufacturing Society, who took orders and measurements for men’s garments. NEW PREMISES Towards the end of the year the way was opened for the oftdemanded and much-needed new premises. An offer was made by the S.C.W.S. to advance loans from their surplus capital to enable retail societies which were not financially strong enough to launch out on their own to begin building. That offer was enthusiastically heard in Clydebank, and to prepare the way for acceptance and hasten the day when construction would begin the members removed their former opposition to the increase in share holdings by deciding to raise the minimum shares necessary to be held from three £1 shares to five. In the closing month of the year the Committee were authorised to make inquiries and enter into negotiations for acquiring ground building purposes. Co-operation in Clydebank had advanced from the struggling stage. It was now a firmly-established institution prepared to march forward apace with the rapid growth of the community.


IV.

Marching Ahead

All the citizens of Clydebank were not so sure of themselves as the co-operators. Plans for the Society’s new premises were passed months before the town acquired the dignity for being a burgh, and the decision to acquire that status was only taken after much wrangling and eventually by the bare majority of one vote. There was also a prolonged controversy over the question of the name to be borne by the new burgh-the communities of Clydebank, Dalmuir, Kilbowie, and Yoker all advancing claims. The final vote lay between Clydebank and Kilbowie, and the former won the christening honour by seven votes to four. Had the nomenclature not been chosen it may have been that the name of the local Co-operative society would have been different from that which we know to-day. That the Committee lost no time in pursuing the terms of this mandate to acquire a feu is shown by the fact that by February they were able to report success, Ground in what was the newly-made Alexander Street, on part of the site occupied by the present Central premises, was secured, and at a special meeting in March the plans of the proposed new buildings were considered and scrutinised with great care. To the chairman was delegated the duty of making further arrangements with Mr. Davidson, inspector of works for the S.C.W.S. The final plans concerned the erection of three tenements, consisting of 15 dwelling-houses and two shops. Proved successful as shopkeepers and bankers, the co-operators believed that they could also provide homes for the people. To meet the estimated cost of £3,500 a special loan was planned, and members were invited to advance money at 5 per cent. interest. In addition, a loan of £2,000 was secured from The S.C.W.S. Reference to this ambitious scheme appears in the 20th quarterly report -“As you are, we hope, all aware, we are now building large and commodious business premises in Alexander Street, which we hope to occupy early next year.” Plans for the keenly anticipated opening day figured largely in the discussions throughout the year. A motion, submitted by Mr. Hugh Miller, that a demonstration be organised and that the memorial stone of the new building be laid with masonic honours was passed, but with the characteristically cautious proviso that a committee be appointed to ascertain the probable cost. When the report was received the minimum amount was stated at £13 6s. 4 ½d., and, after keen discussion, a special meeting of members was called to decide the issue. When the meeting was held, however, it was discovered that they requisite six clear days’ notice had not been given, so the chairman had to declare it null and void.


While this large enterprise was being talked about, another important decision was taken and acted upon-a branch was opened in the neighbouring village of Yoker after a canvass had revealed support for such a venture. Compared with these important developments, other events during 1886 were insignificant, but none the less interesting as an indication of the earnestness with which both members and committeemen tackled their problems. With the Society now out of its swaddling clothes some revision of the rules was considered necessary, but none of the changes were revolutionary. A proposal that no person could serve on the Committee who had a relative employed by the Society did not find favour. While prepared to spend pounds in their thousands on new premises, the members were still determined to be careful with the pence, and it was only after some deliberation that each committeeman was granted a payment “at the rate of 3d. for each night”-with the qualifying clause that “anyone absent the whole night will be fined 3d.” There was an apparent determination against the principle of “something for nothing.” Despite the scant reward the Committee laboured diligently without much attention to hours, and two of the Board prepared competitive plans for a wheeled contrivance for use by the message boy. One designer recommended two wheels, the other three, and the two plans were submitted for judgment. Following a heated wrangle the inventor of the threewheeler was triumphant by solitary vote. Favouritism and “under-the-counter” methods were not unknown in those days, and to dispose of “certain grumbling and dissatisfaction” it was decided to sell eggs by weight. The old bogey of shop leakage reappeared, and when the annual balance-sheet was issued there was a demand for stock being retaken. This was done, and a report on the matter gave the explanation that “Although the sales are much in excess of any previous quarter the profits are much less in proportion, the principal reason for this being that the goods have been sold at a much less margin of profit, and also that a heavy loss has taken place in selling out through destruction by vermin and want of facilities for carrying on such an extensive business in our present narrow and confined premises.” With the hope that all would be well when the new building was opened in the New Year, the explanation was accepted.

A PROUD DAY Pride and enthusiasm unparalleled since the great day of the Society’s birth was engendered by the opening on 26th May 1887 of the brand new building in Alexander Street. Many more magnificent premises have since been erected, but none have so fired the imagination of the townspeople as did that first building venture, and we can well imagine the feelings of the pioneers in being able to look upon their own property only six years after they had taken the brave step of establishing their own little shop. One of the new shops was devoted to drapery and hardware, the other to the fleshing department, while the room at the


rear of the butchery was allocated to the Committee as a meeting room. As furnishings, one armchair, eleven wooden chairs, and a table with four drawers were provided. There appeared some lack of confidence-not altogether unwarranted, as later events proved-about the Society’s ability to conduct its own fleshing department. Some thought that it should be let to a private butcher. The 100 per cent. co-operators won the day, however, and the business was begun under the complete control of the Committee. Keen competition took place for occupancy of the 15 dwelling-houses above the shops, and the allocation was made on the Art Union principle. The proud members were horrified when someone sought to erect a byre at the rear of their fine new building, and they were not particularly satisfied with the assurance that while the byre could not be prohibited its removal could be ordered if it proved a nuisance. Opening of the new premises had a decided propaganda value, and there was a heartening response to a printed appeal by the Committee who as for “largely increased business” and trusted that “every member will make an effort to increase the membership by doing their utmost to redeem their fellowmen from the greedy grasp of the middleman.” During the subsequent quarter 40 more persons sought the benefits of the Co-operative trading, and membership approached the 200 mark. It was with no little pride that the Committee received a deputation from the Milngavie Society, who had asked permission to view the Clydebank building with a view to undertaking a similar enterprise. Although shop hours were better than those endured by private trade shop salesmen, there was little change from those fixed at the beginning of the Society’s history. One concession was that the hour of closing in alternative Fridays was an hour earlier-9 p.m. instead for 10 p.m. Trade unionism had still to make its presence felt. Neither was there any sign of political consciousness, as “no action” was taken in response to a letter signed by a Mr M’Dermid who urged retaliation against local private trade grocers who had taken action against the Society. What that action consisted of is not clear from the records although it involved “putting paragraphs in the paper.” First female employee entered the service in 1887-a cash girl, who received 7s. a week. Purchase of the first horse and van also took place in this memorable year. Refusal of a local carrier to convey goods to Radnor Park forced the Committee to begin their own delivery service and to build a stable. With the acquisition of the horse and van and the appointment of the first vanman, the ancient three-wheeled peramular rattled no longer over the town’s cobbled streets. Vulcanite tokens for use by the members were another novelty.


Inter-society friendliness became apparent by two decisions-to lend the banner to Dalmuir for their juvenile trip and to have a joint excursion with the Dalmuir members. An eloquent addendum to the excursion motion was “that we refresh ourselves!” For the first time, too, the monthly meeting took place at a new and more commodious venue, the committeeroom of the Public Hall. Towards the end of this eventful year an important appointment was made. Keen rivalry was evident for the position of secretary, and after some misunderstanding and confusion regarding procedure Mr. John Steel was appointed on a show of hands, Mr. Hempseed, who had held the position since the formation of the Society-apart from a few weeks in 1882-having to demit office. BREAKAWAY THREAT Stormy scenes at the members’ meeting were an unfortunate feature of the year 1889. So disgruntled did a certain section of the members become with the conduct of the business that they determined to break away and begin a society of their own. Feeling, no doubt, that their honour was at stake, the Committee made no attempt to pacify the recalcitrant, who actually reached the stage of making inquiries for premises. The stage was set for a spilt, which might have had a disastrous effects for both parties. The situation had been closed watched from the outset, however, by an ex-member of the board, and when the threat of fissure became serious he informed the S.C.W.S., the Scottish Section of the Co-operative Union, and the Glasgow and Suburbs Conference Committee. Representatives of those organisations approached the contending parties, and after patient negotiation succeeded in healing the unhappy breach. The wrangling had had the effect of making many members stay away from the meetings, and the chairman, after appealing for “more support in trying to keep order,” commented that “until the quarterly and monthly meetings are more orderly than they have been the members will not turn out.” In a further effort to persuade wider active interest in the Society’s affairs it was decided to fine those who did not attend the meetings without having a reasonable excuse for absence. The fine was 3d., and a similar penalty was imposed upon those who showed laxity by failing to send in their share, loan, and cash book to the office at the end of each quarter. Tightening up of the credit regulations also took place, 15s. per £ paid-up shares being the prescribed limit. Deterioration in the efficiency of the fleshing business resulted in the renewal of an old problem, and once more, with some reluctance, the department was closed. Standing empty and unused, the shop was a constant reminder to the Committee of failure, and it is little wonder that from time to time members of the Committee sought to remove the bolt on their business ability. A plebiscite of the members on the question of reopening was agreed to, but never carried out. Another suggestion that the shop be reopened as a drapery, delf, and


footwear department was considered, but rejected. Final decisions always seemed to be avoided. Another failure was the running of an educational department. Although it had been decided early in the year to allocated 1 ¼ per cent. of the profits to the educational fund, the cultural operations were not successful, and ultimately the Educational Committee was abolished. A happier feature of a troublesome 12 months was the acquisition of a double shop and opening of the first branch at Yoker. Premises in Shandon Place were taken on a five years’ lease. Charge of the new branch was bestowed upon Mr. William Montgomery, who thus climbed the first rung of the ladder that led him to the general managership. Appreciation of the increasing burden of work that had been placed upon the secretary’s shoulders was indicated by the raising of his salary to £24 a year. He was also authorised to appoint an assistant. The secretary Mr. John Steel, also wins mention at this stage by being


V.

Fears Realised

Almost inevitably increased responsibilities are accompanied by increased troubles, and the Clydebank Committee did not escape from the consequences of their greater commitments. Early fears about the fleshing department were not long in being confirmed. Few weeks passed without a loss being reported, and the Committee confessed in their quarterly report that it was a “heavy drag” on the Society’s operations. So serious did the debits become that for some weeks the shop was closed. This unsuccessful venture also led to the Society being involved in its first legal action. It was decided to go to court to retain the sacked butchers security, which had been exceeded to by the losses incurred. Eventually the shop reopened following a visit from two representatives of the S.C.W.S., including the cattle buyer, and the inauguration of a new venture by the Wholesale Society in the dead meat trade. Butchery losses had a serious effect on the dividend, which slumped to 1s. 1 ½ d. Nevertheless, a proposal to pay a separate dividend on meat-also drapery-did not find favour. Resignation of the salesman, James Beckitt, also had an upsetting influence upon the organisation. His successor was Mr. David Caldwell from Catrine, whose remuneration was fixed at 33s. a week. About the same time a revised table of payments to officials and Committee was introduced, providing the following rewards:- President, 10s. per quarter; shop committee, 10s. per quarter; ordinary committee, 3d. per meeting; secretary, £6 per annum; assistant secretary, £2; treasurer, £3; purchase book checkers, 10s.;auditors 15s. The stocktaking fees were-grocery, 2s. and drapery, 5s., with 1s. for refreshment. For the first time the problem of overlapping between Co-operative societies was experienced. Although there was a separate organisation in the Radnor Park district quite a number of people in the area preferred membership of the Clydebank Society, and they considered that a branch should be opened for their convenience. When their request was refused they threatened to start still another separate society in Radnor Park. The committee of the Radnor Park Society were invited to discuss the matter, but they refused, and there was also no effective move following a suggestion that the societies in the burgh - Clydebank, Dalmuir, and Radnor Park-should discuss the entire problem of servicing the area and avoiding uneconomic competition. Time was not yet ripe for a fusion of forces, at least so far as the rulers of the separate societies were concerned. The discussions, however, had the happy result of averting a split in the Clydebank Society. Connected with Radnor Park


members threat to break away was a motion that would have authorised the Committee to open branch shops anywhere at any time, but that permission was not granted. Those proposals provoked heated words, and when a member of the Committee declared publicly that “It would be better for this Society if some of the members of the Committee were on the top of Ben Nevis instead for where they are” only a withdrawal and an apology soothed those whose feelings were ruffled. Indignation seems to have been widespread, too, when someone expressed the suspicion that the first horse acquired was “older than what it was represented to be when bought.” The animal apparently had been lying down on the job. Rows always provide good “copy” for the newspapers, and it may have been because of the troubles experienced during 1888 that the Glasgow Evening Times sent a request for reports of the Society’s quarterly meetings and other items of news connected with the Society. The reason given by the Times, however, was that they were giving special attention to news about Co-operation owing to the increasing importance of the Movement in Scotland. BREAKAWAY THREAT Stormy scenes at the members’ meetings were an unfortunate feature of the year 1889. So disgruntled did a certain section of the members become with the conduct of the business that they determined to break away and begin a society of their own. Feeling, no doubt, that their honour was at stake, the Committee made no attempt to pacify the recalcitrants, who actually reached the stage of making inquiries for premises. The stage was set for a split, which might have had disastrous effect for both parties. The situation had been closely watched from the outset, however, by an ex-member of the board, and when the threat of a fissure became serious he informed the S.C.W.S., the Scottish Section of the Cooperative Union, and the Glasgow and Suburbs Conference Committee. Representatives of those organisations approached the contending parties, and after patient negotiation succeeded in healing the unhappy breach. The wrangling had had the effect of making many members stay away from the meetings, and the chairman, after appealing for “more support in trying to keep order,” commented that “until the quarterly and monthly meetings are more orderly than they have been the members will not turn out.” In a further effort to persuade wider active interest in the Society’s affairs it was decided to fine those who did not attend the meetings without having a reasonable excuse for absence. The fine was 3d., and a similar penalty was imposed upon those who showed laxity by failing to send in their share, loan, and cash book to the office at the end of each quarter. Tightening up of the credit regulations also took place, 15s. per £ of paid-up shares beign the prescribed limit.


Deterioration in the efficiency of the fleshing business resulted in the renewal of an old problem, and once more, with some reluctance, the department was closed. Standing empty and unused, the shop was a constant reminder to the Committee of failure, and it is little wonder that from time to time members of the Committee sought to remove the blot on their business ability. A plebiscite of the members on the question of reopening was agreed to, but never carried out. Another suggestion that the shop be reopened as a drapery, delf, and footwear department was considered, but rejected. Final decisions always seemed to be avoided. Another failure was the running of an educational department. Although it had been decided early in the year to allocate 1¼ per cent. of the profits to the educational fund, the cultural operations were not successful, and ultimately the Educational Committee was abolished. A happier feature of a troublesome 12 months was the acquisition of a double shop and opening of the first branch at Yoker. Premises in Shandon Place were taken on a five years’ lease. Change of the new branch was bestowed upon Mr. William Montgomery, who thus climbed the first rung of the ladder that led him to the general mangership. Appreciation of the increasing burden of work that had been placed upon the secretary’s shoulders was indicated by the raising of his salary to £24 a year. He was also authorised to appoint an assistant. The secretary Mr. John Steel, also wins mention at this stage by being the first delegate the Clydebank Society sent to the National Co-operative Congress. Nothing of a spectacular nature marked the Society’s career in 1890. The equilibrium list to some extent by the disputes and difficulties of the two preceding years was restored, and the process of building up continued surely and steadily. A strong faith in the solvency of the organisation had been created, and instead of having to devise ways and means of raising capital the Committee were confronted with the opposite problem of money accumulating faster than it could be utilised. It was a clear indication of stability that when one member sought to lodge loan capital to the value of £150 the Board turned him down. The sum of £400 was sent to the S.C.W.S. on loan, while a further £400 was paid towards the abolition of the bond on the property - a step which some thought too daring. LACK OF CONFIDENCE Meanwhile the empty butchery shop continued to trouble the consciences of the Committee members, and there were repeated efforts to have the stigma of failure removed. But vacillation continued to mark the discussions on the issue. At a special meeting in the spring it was decided by a small majority that the fleshing department be reopened in September, and the S.C.W.S. cattle buyer agreed to advise and pay supervisory visits, but a month before the shop was due to reopen the members showed their lack of confidence in the venture by reversing their previous decision. Instead, there was a majority in favour of utilising the premises as a drapery. There was no withdrawing from that decision, and before the end of the year the drapery was opened.


Resignation of Mr. Caldwell from the position of head salesman was a blow, and it was evidence of his worth that on his departure to become assistant manager of the S.C.W.S. at Kilmarnock he received a testimonial of £10 in appreciation of his services. This was a change from the old trouble of trying to retain the security of sacked shopmen. In replacing Mr. Caldwell the Committee adopted a practice that was so successful that it has been followed by successive boards throughout the Society’s entire history-that of choosing of the Society’s own staff to the post of principal employee. Mr. William Montgomery was the new head salesman and his salary was 33s. a week. A slight concession was made to the employees, the Saturday night closing time being reduced from 10 till 9 p.m., and to facilitate this a regulation was made whereby no orders were delivered on Saturdays unless they were handed in before 2 p.m.


VI.

Hoodoo Returns

At first the drapery department returned results which dispelled the “hoodoo” that had hung over the shop in its original capacity as a butchery, but that happy state of affairs, alas, was not destined to endure. Heavy leakage in that separate drapery resulted in a special stocktaking, and later the consigning of the books to the scrutiny of the S.C.W.S. accountant. Friction was pronounced, and there was talk of “insulting and abusive language” and “slanderous statements” at the monthly meetings. The trouble culminated in the resignation of the secretary and the decision to appoint a full-time official to carry through the now onerous secretarial duties. To this 27s. per week post Mr. Hempseed, the original secretary, was appointed. Another decision following upon the leakage was the insuring of the drapery stock for £1500. The reorganisation of the department proved satisfactory, but a new source of trouble appeared in the shop. First, the shopwoman was severely censured for absenting herself from duty beyond the specified time during her holidays, and a few weeks later the unfortunate lady further incurred the displeasure of the Committee, and was “cautioned” for delay in attending to members grievances. The initial attempt at imposing a time-limit for Committee members was made, unsuccessfully, by Mr. David Bell, who proposed a limit of two years and an off-period of one year. Success, however, greeted a motion to reduce the interest on loan capital from 5 to 4¼ per cent. per annum-an indication that the organisation was still adequately capitalised. Some of the funds were used for the development of the business by the opening of Branch No. 2. At Cameron Street a suitable grocery shop was secured and taken over on 26 th November. So steadily were trade and membership increasing that further extensions were urgently required, with a boot and shoe shop having primary claim. Consultations took place with the architect on the advisability of building a stable, van shed, grocery store, boardrooms, office, and hall. In view of the small rental paid for the shipyard dining hall the suggested hall was omitted from the plan submitted to and approved by the December quarterly meeting. While embarking upon these development schemes the co-operators maintained their interest in the general welfare of the working class in Clydebank. Particularly praiseworthy was the gesture of donating £20 for the relief of those suffering from the great railway strike of 1891. Many railwaymen showed their appreciation by joining and sharing in the benefits Co-operation had brought to so many members of the community. Sympathy


with the unfortunate was also shown by a grant of £5 to an old member who had fallen upon evil times through illness. That kindliness was also extended to animals, the minutes recording “that the vanman be instructed to pay particular attention to the Society’s horse poulticing its foot and keeping it off work for a couple of days.” Complaints show that “inferior coal” is not merely a modern grouse. As a sequel to representations the Committee decided to secure their supplies from a nearby source-the old Drumshangie Colliery. CONCERNING COAL Coal was the commodity that called for the concentration of the Committee for a considerable part of the succeeding 12 months. For some years a coal service had been provided, but the supply had never been completely satisfactory, and with the growing membership a more extensive and thorough service became essential. This matter was interesting the entire district about this period and a joint meeting of the co-operators of Dalmuir, Duntocher and Hardgate, Clydebank, and Radnor Park was called. Radnor Park’s suggestion was the establishment of a coal federation, but that was not acceptable to the Clydebank representatives, and the proposal for a joint project fell through. The Clydebank Committee was authorised to enter into the business of supplying coal in bags and to establish a depot. Various existing systems in Glasgow was examined, and it was decided to copy the St.George Society’s organisation. A siding was secured at the railway station, where a wooden building for an office and tool shed was erected. While no difficulty had been encountered in negotiating with the railway company for the coal siding, on another question the two organisations came to loggerheads. This was over the plan of the North British Railway Company to drive a new track through the town. There was general opposition to the scheme by property owners in the centre of the burgh, and, if executed, the project would almost certainly have had damaging effects on the Alexander Street building. Representations were successful, however, and the N.B. had to adjust their plans to avoid disfiguring the centre of the town. Interest in the general affairs of the community is also revealed by an intimation that the shops were closed at one o’clock one Tuesday afternoon to enable the employees to witness the launching of the warship Ramilles from the shipyard-one of the first of the many large ship construction undertaken in the burgh. Reverting to the Society’s internal affairs we find that the much desired extension scheme in Alexander Street, incorporating the erection of a stable, van shed, store, office and boardroom received full approval, and contracts were fixed. The estimated cost was about £866. In August the premises were ready for occupancy. As progress was made the need for rules revision again became evident, and one of the new measures was the resuscitation of the Educational Committee, to which seven individuals were elected. Those men soon justified the existence of the committee, and one of


their early acts was to ask power-which was granted - to spend £4 on prizes to be presented to the children attending local schools. With the recurrence of losses in the drapery drastic steps were taken. The lady in charge was supplanted by a member of the sterner sex, Mr. John Thom, from the Cooperative Drapery and Furnishing Society, Glasgow, who took over the responsibility for 24a. a week. One of the ground-floor dwelling-houses in Alexander Street was converted into a boot and shoe shop, and the back kitchen was used as a repair shop. Entry into the repair business proved most successful, and within a short time a practical shoemaker was engaged on a full-time basis. The Committee considered the salesman was too ambitious, however, when he suggested the mirrors for the sides of the windows and they rejected this idea. Window display was not ten a widely-appreciated art. Towards the close of the year the Committee had occasion to put one of their number “on the carpet.” Apparently full of the Saturday night spirit he had “misconducted himself” in the central grocery shop. It was a much less exuberant committeeman who appeared at the weekly meeting, and he was pardoned after tendering profuse apologies. The full Committee also took the purchasing committee to task for buying goods outside the S.C.W.S.; they were instructed not to do so in future without permission. DOUBLE BLOW A double blow struck the burgh early in the year 1893. Economic depression reduced industry almost to a standstill, causing widespread want among the shipbuilders and engineers. It was one of the most trying of the periodic economic blights ever to strike the community. To accentuate the suffering the winter was of the most trying description. All businesses experienced the effects of the depression, but the Clydebank Co-operative Society was now on unshakable foundations. It not only withstood the strain, but further propagated the ideals of Co-operation by the generous gesture of giving grants to members in reduced circumstances. To cover the cost the sum of £50 was withdrawn from the reserve fund and distributed gratis, and later a similar sum was given on loan to tide needy members over their troubles. That generosity did not begin and end with the Society’s own members; a donation of £25, deducted from profits, was made to the Burgh Relief Fund, which was administered by a committee that included three Co-operative committeemen. Necessitous cases in the town were also assisted by a free distribution of bread, undertaken jointly by the U.C.B.S. and the local Society.


FIRST GUILD BRANCH Increased activity by the Educational Committee was evident during this time of depression. Among their outstanding deeds was the organisation of this first local branch of the Scottish Co-operative Women’s Guild. On 25th August-just five months after the establishment of the Association of the Women’s Guild in Scotland-the Clydebank guildwomen held their first meeting in the boardroom, and decided to meet every Tuesday night. Thus began an auxiliary that has since proved of tremendous value in propagating Cooperation among the housewives of Clydebank and district. A leading figure among the pioneer guildwomen was Mrs. Bell, who later was elected to the high office of National President of the Scottish Guild. Mrs Bell took a prominent part in the first important largescale venture in which the Clydebank guild participated-the organisation of a bazaar to put the Co-operative Convalescent Homes on a sound basis-and her enthusiasm for the guild movement and for that particular project is exemplified by the fact that on the opening day she left her home in Clydebank at 2 o’clock in the morning and walked all the way to the City Hall, Glasgow, where she arrived about 5 o’clock to assist in the erection and dressing of the stalls. Clydebank’s close association with the worthy work of the Homes has been maintained throughout the years, and it has been represented on the directorate for many years by Bailie Mrs. Lappin. Adoption of “unfair methods” by local coal merchants to try and draw trade from the Society led to one of the first real clashes with private traders. A damaging retaliatory blow was the Co-operative Committee’s decision to reduce the price of coal to 9d. per cwt., and they added the threat that the price would be lowered still further “at the sacrifice of dividend” if the merchants did not desist. That step indicated that those in charge were determined not to allow maintenance of the dividend to interfere with their primary task of servicing the people efficiently and without hindrance. Failing health led to the resignation from the secretaryship of that faithful and industrious pioneer, Mr. James Hempseed, and to the first proposal in favour of the appointment of a managing-secretary. Such a move was not favoured, however, and another secretary, Mr. Andrew Gentiles, was appointed. Within a fortnight, however, Mr Gentiles also had to relinquish the position for health reasons, and a former secretary, Mr. Steel, returned to the job. An indication that the Committee were finding their time fully occupied in dealing with the larger operations of the Society is given by the decision, taken during the summer, to cease interviewing complainers unless proof was first submitted that the complaints were authentic. Until then they had been at great pains to pacify and satisfy irate customers, but the membership had grown too large for such individual attention. Need for further revision of the rules to meet new developments became evident, and a series of meetings was required to deal with the new proposals. One of the decisions made was to resend the rule imposing a time-limit on Committee members.


At the time of the annual municipal elections consideration was given for the first time to the position co-operators should take up-a sign that the Co-operative Movement was stirring politically.


VII.

Politics Barred

Emergence from the trade slump was a happy feature of the burgh’s history in the early part of 1894, but those recurring depressions were beginning to make an impression upon the suffering workmen, including those associated with the Co-operative organisation. As yet there was no definite link between trinity consisting of the Co-operative, Labour, and Trade Union Movements, and many Co-operative members were opposed to participation in political affairs. Some expressed the opinion that discussion of political matters should be excluded at the Society’s meetings, whereas others insisted that it was impossible to talk Cooperation without politics being involved. “No action” was the decision of the Committee, however, in response to an invitation from the Scottish Labour Party to appoint two delegates to attend a conference of representatives of the various trade and friendly societies in the town at which the question of selecting working-class candidates for the Council and other local Government bodies was considered. The reason given for the Committees refusal to participate was that most of them were already connected with the other organisations representated at the conference. That sympathy with efforts to improve the lot of the workers was not lacking was shown by a donation of £20 to the Scottish Miners’ Strike Fund. Early in the year a proposal to reopen the butchery department, which had been such a failure, was turned down because of the poor industrial situation, but as soon as trade at the shipyards improved the demand for expansion of the Society’s activities was resumed. The drapery trade had developed so rapidly that the small shop in Alexander Street had become too small to cope with all the customers, and in June a special meeting took place in the shipyard dining hall to discuss a large extension scheme. At that meeting the Committee submitted figures showing that in the preceding two years trade in drapery, furnishing, furniture, and boots amounted to £10,130. Of that sum, however only £2,799 had been retailed in the Society’s own shop, most of the sales passing through the Co-operative Drapery and Furnishing Society’s shop in Great Clyde Street, Glasgow, and the Paisley Cooperative Manufacturing Society’s premises. The Committee expressed the opinion that the trade from their own shop could have been doubled had larger premises been available. A scheme for the conversion of existing dwelling-houses into shops, the extension of the Alexander Street premises by the provision of what was then considered a commodious drapery and furnishing department, and the erection of more dwelling-houses - at an estimated cost of £3,600-was placed before the members, who gave the necessary authorisation, and the preparatory work for yet another ambitious enterprise was immediately begun. To their original plan the Committee later arranged the provision of tailoring,


dressmaking, and millinery departments, and towards the end of the year they took their courage in both hands by plunging once more into the fleshing trade, and opened not merely one, but two shops-one in the old drapery, the other in the east-end of the town. With the erection of more dwelling-houses the suggestion was made that facilities be provided whereby the tenants could through time purchase the houses, but the matter was not pursued. Only a few minor worries beset the Committee during 1894. Trading losses and absenteeism on the part of the salesmen led to drastic action in connection with Kilbowie Road grocery, there was a serious burglary at the same shop; and two of the message boys went into the black books-one being fined at the Police Court for riding the Society’s perambulator on the pavement, while the other was reprimanded for calling on Yoker members “at an extraordinary hour in the morning.” Such youthful zeal was apparently not appreciated! A notable departure during the year was that of Mr. James Hempseed, the pioneer secretary, who, on leaving the town, was publicly presented with a testimonial in appreciation of his services in establishing the Society and placing it on a sound foundation. A man of courage and vision, Mr. Hempseed had always been an enthusiastic supporter of new ventures, and when he left he could look back with pride upon his contribution towards establishing Co-operation among the shipbuilders. By their guild activities the women had proved worthy propagandists, but there was reluctance to grant them the full rights of membership and active participation in the government of the Society. It was not until March 1895 that the ladies made their first appearance at a members’ meeting, and then they were present only on invitation. Perhaps they had a soothing effect. At any rate, it was agreed that the wives and daughters of members be invited to attend future meetings - as spectators. A proposal to grant a similar privilege to members’ sons was not favoured however, and likewise there was no support for a suggestion that members of the public be invited to the meetings. MEMBERSHIP RIGHTS Admission to membership itself was still regarded as a privilege, and the Committee carefully scrutinised all applications and had no hesitation in rejecting unsuitable cases. They refused, for instance, to accept two inhabitants of Dalmuir as that would have meant accentuating the growing overlapping problem, while they also turned down applications by two women whose husbands were already members. For some time the system of paying bonuses to employees had been operating with some success. It had become an important issue in the Co-operative Movement, and Clydebank sent delegates to a national conference at Kirkintilloch with instructions to support payment of the bonus. Later in the year, however, that decision was reversed; at an adjourned meeting discontinuance of the bonus was carried.


In the autumn the extension scheme planned the previous year was sufficiently advanced to permit the members to hold their quarterly meeting their own premises for the first time. There was a large turnout in the hall that formed part of the new drapery department. A few weeks later the hall was let for the first time-to the engineers who used it to discuss strike action. With the new drapery establishment open additional staff was required, and new appointments concerned a cutter, a dressmaker, and a milliner. The old drapery was converted into a delf shop, thus allowing development in another line of business. Rents for the newly constructed dwelling-houses were fixed, ranging from £10 10s. to £17 8s. per annum-figures which present-day tenants will read with envy. No sooner had the new premises been opened than other developments were approved, the Committee receiving authority to open grocery and fleshing shops in Kilbowie Road, opposite Singer’s factory. Meanwhile evolution towards the linking up of the Cooperative organisations in the burgh was taking place, one instance being a request by the Radnor Park Society’s committee that the Clydebank Society distribute coal among Radnor Park members. The Clydebank reaction was to suggest that the Radnor Park Society should take out a number of shares in the Clydebank Society and that Radnor Park members should pay ½ d. per cwt, for coal in bags and 6d. per ton for coal in ton loads in excess of the price paid by Clydebank members. The year was also noteworthy because of the installation of the first telephone of the first telephone in the Society, at an annual rental of £32 10s. Another commentary on the times was the intimation that the Educational Committee organised a magic lantern show in the Public Hall and that that form of entertainment attracted a packed house. Revising the rules seemed to be a favourite occupation in those days, and for the second successive year we find the rules undergoing a comprehensive overhaul. In the course of four drawn-out general meetings the members made various adjustments. One new provision barred any member from being a member of any other Co-operative society, while another rule, which survives to-day in almost all societies, forbade membership to anyone who sold goods similar to those retailed by the Society. FIRST GENERAL MANAGER Transition from adolescence to manhood may aptly describe the outstanding feature of Clydebank Society’s history in 1896, for it was in the year that they Society raised itself to the status of having a general manager to guide its affairs and give that central control important to a departmental organisation. Unlike many other developments which were put into effect only after months of argument, the proposal to create a general manager was adopted promptly and with little controversy. There was some opposition at the members’ meeting, but by 50 votes to 18 there was approval of the motion, which was backed by the argument that the Society had become too large to be operated satisfactorily merely by a band


of men meeting in their leisure hours. Consultations with the older Dumbarton and Vale of Leven societies followed regarding the duties of the general manger, and when these had been defined the post was advertised at a weekly wage of £2 10s. To-day that may seem a low remuneration for such a responsible post, but there was no lack of applicants. Fifty-three ambitious grocers from all parts of Scotland sought the post, but the Committee decided that they need go no further than Clydebank for their man, so Mr. William Montgomery, head salesman and an employee of the Society for 11 years, became first general manager, a position he was to occupy with distinction for the next 35 years. As an office the new manager was given the hall used by the Educational Committee. Mr. Montgomery was formally welcomed into his new duties at a gathering of the Committee members, when Mr. D. Gilmour, the chairman, appealed to the Committee to give him all possible assistance in managing “the different branches connected with a large and growing concern.” Another indication of the Society’s widening ramifications was the decision to appoint a full-time cashier and book-keeper. This followed an inquiry into the conducting of the office, and the man chosen for this important post was the secretary, Mr. John Steel. About the same time the secretary had his salary augmented in an unusual way. He complained to the Committee about the frequency with which the police were calling at his home in the middle of the night to get him to secure unlocked doors and to extinguish lights left blazing in the Society’s premises. As a punishment and deterrent the Committee decided to fine erring employees 5s. each time they failed to lock doors and turn off gas jets-the fines to be handed over to the secretary every time his slumbers were disturbed. A line of business in which the Society has been outstandingly successful was begun in 1896, when the old drapery was converted into a fish shop. The new enterprise received a flying start, although until then the Vale of Leven had been the only Co-operative organisation in the West of Scotland to conduct such a trade in a separate shop. Soon after the entry of the Society into the fish business a private fishmonger, noting the Society’s success with some apprehension, offered to sell his business to the Society. Due to wish management this difficult trade has been most prolific and profitable, and Clydebank’s fish sales and services are among the highest and best in the country. In other respects there was no desire either on the part of the Committee or the members to allow the Society to rest upon its oars, and of a special general meeting it is reported “a very strong feeling existed among the members for further extension in various ways.” New premises in Yoker and Kilbowie and the opening of a bakery were proposed, and definite action was taken to feu ground on the North side of Glasgow Road and Elgin Street for grocery, boot, and fleshing departments. Failure to abide by the rule stipulating six clear days’ notice to members when convening meetings and the consequent lapse of time resulted in the opportunity of securing the ground being lost, but eventually premises in Blythswood Terrace were leased. Serious consideration was given during the year to clearing off non-purchasing members, but action to dispose of those undesirables had to be delayed a £927 would have


been required to conduct the pay-off and it would have meant too heavy withdrawals of loan capital from the S.C.W.S and U.C.B.S. The committee were instructed, however, to take the earliest possible opportunity of meeting the wishes of the purchasing members on this point. Relations with another of the federations, the Glasgow Drapery and Furnishing Society, had deteriorated, and towards the close of the year there was unanimous agreement that all shares in the “D. & F” be withdrawn. It appeared that while the Society was receiving only 3 per cent. from the federation as interest on capital the Society was paying its own members at the rate of 5 per cent. More “harmonious” items of note during the year concerned the giving of a concert by the employees and the inauguration of a singing class by the Educational Committee. AN UNHAPPY YEAR For those associated with the administration of the Society 1897 was one of the unhappiest years in Clydebank’s Co-operative history. Once again the town had to endure industrial distress, this time among the engineers in the community, and for the first time since the birth of the organisation there was a substantial drop in the trade. Not so serious financially, but grave from the point of view of the Movement’s local reputation, was a scandal which led to a responsible official being prosecuted for embezzlement. The incident, which involved a defalcation of £180, also resulted in a rearrangement in the office management, including the appointment of separate individuals to the positions of book-keeper and treasurer. Both posts were advertised, and two men from outside the town took over the duties. Influenced, perhaps, by the need for a more widespread knowledge of business methods among the members, the Educational Committee organised classes in book-keeping and shorthand. Despite the rebuffs of falling trade and financial losses, a certain amount of development took place during the year. The first cash desks and girls were introduced into the central and No. 4 grocery branches and safes were installed. Another butchery shop was opened and the Society agreed to support the formation of a federation for a Co-operative laundry at Barrhead. Advocates of that new Co-operative project pointed out that laundries were a good investment, giving a return ranging from 6 to 18 per cent., while the conditions of laundry employees would be raised if operated under Co-operative auspices. Both these arguments appealed to the Clydebank people, who were ever ready to embark upon new ventures.


VIII. Deep

Depression

Intense industrial distress had a braking effect on trade throughout most of the year in 1898, and there was little support for any proposals advocating heavy capital expenditure. Two rejected suggestions consisted of the starting of a diary and the opening of a shop at Yoker Ferry. Even the annual soiree was abandoned because of the depression that hovered over the town. There was a move to disband the Educational Committee, the proposer asserting that “it was a waste of money because everything they have tried has been a failure,” but while 19 members supported that opinion there were 35 who maintained that the committee was serving a useful purpose. A boycott of the Co-operative Movement by the private fleshing trade caused considerable indignation, and created a renewed demand for participation in politics. A motion was submitted which urged the members to be “up and doing”, to be represented in parliamentary and municipal administration, and to subscribe to the Parliamentary and maintenance Fund organised by the Movement. There was again fierce controversy over the issue, one opponent prophesying that politics would be the rock upon which the Society would perish. In the end a “wait and see” attitude was adopted. Another proposal which fell to the ground was an attempt to amalgamate with the Blairdardie Society. That organisation was stated to be “sinking rapidly”, but the Blairdardie management at that particular time apparently preferred to sink or swim by their own efforts, and they failed to turn up at a special meeting called by the Glasgow and District Conference Association to discuss a union. It had been the practice to note in the minutes the passing of prominent personalities who had helped in the building up of the Society, but it was something novel to bestow that distinction upon a national figure. Clydebank co-operators readily accorded that tribute to William Ewart Gladstone at their May monthly meeting, when the chairman, Mr. James Boag, referred to the death of “the greatest statesman of the present century.”


AGAINST POLITICS Renewed outbreaks of discrimination against the Movement led to fresh demands for Co-operative representation in Parliament in the early part of 1899, but in Clydebank, as elsewhere, the anti-political wing of the membership remained much the stronger. At the January monthly meeting proposal for direct representation for the Movement in the House of Commons received only half a dozen votes. The general feeling was no stronger than Liberal, and, at the same meeting, there was unanimous assent to a motion to give a donation towards a national memorial for that Party’s recently deceased leader, Gladstone. An example of the strengthening anti-Co-operative feeling was found in the decision of the printers of the New Church Hymnary not to provide copies for sale by Cooperative societies – an action which resulted in a protest being sent to the local churches. Introduction of tramcars to the streets of Clydebank was the subject of another protest. Such an innovation was not popular with all the townspeople, who considered that their streets would be disfigured and the noise would be disturbing. Accordingly to a petition was sent to the Burgh Commissioners urging them not to lease the streets to the British Traction Company for their new tramway system. The plea failed. On the other hand the local Co-operators welcomed another important development in the burgh, the erection of municipal buildings, and the Society’s show was an outstanding feature of the demonstration held on the occasion of laying the foundation stone. All the Society’s horses took part, six of the most powerful Clydesdales in the West of Scotland were sent by the S.C.W.S., while the U.C.B.S. provided a good turnout of lighter animals, the whole making a brave show. Jamestown Band headed the Co-operative section. To add still further to the prestige of the Movement, the U.C.B.S. entertained about 5,000 school children in the forenoon of a memorable day. An important step in the development of the fish trade was taken after a deputation had visited the Grahamston and Bainsford Society which then had the most successful fish trade in the Movement. A first-class fishmonger was engaged, and annual contract was fixed with an Aberdeen firm, and two fish carts were put upon the road. This service was also placed at the disposal of the members of Dalmuir and Radnor Park societies. Agreement was also reached for the supply of coal to the members of those societies, and this led to a considerable increase in that trade. FALSE HOPES Collaboration between the societies in the town and district continued and increased, and the prospect of amalgamation loomed ahead. Meetings between the societies were frequent, but nothing definite was done until May 1900 when at the request of the Scottish Sectional Board of the Co-operative Union a conference took place at which representatives from Clydebank, Duntocher and Hardgate, and Duntocher Independent appeared to discuss the matter.


Messrs. James Deans and Peter Glasse spoke on behalf of the Section. In a long and eloquent speech Mr. Deans pointed out the saving in expenses that would result from a union and the trade that was being lost through the inability of the smaller societies to meet all the needs of their members. His eloquence, alas, was of little avail. All present were agreed on the principle, but Clydebank were strongly in favour of an amalgamation embracing all five organisations in the district. Dalmuir and Radnor Park declined to entertain the proposal, and the whole project was nullified. A request by Duntocher Independent for the opening of a butcher shop in their area was agreed to, however, and the various societies continued their helpful co-operation. Prolonged negotiations for the erection of a slaughterhouse were successfully terminated. When the Town Council refused to erect a public one, the Society took the initiative. Whitecrook Farm was taken over at a rental of £40 per annum on a ten-year lease, the Commissioners gave their consent, and the contract was carried through. Another important business development planned and completed was the purchase of the ground in Hume Street where the present hall and offices are situated. Erection of the much-needed premises was proceeded with on the purchase of 964 yards at 6s. per square yard. Those in favour of participation in politics gained some ground against those who favoured neutrality at the annual municipal election. It was decided to question candidates regarding the rejection of the Society’s tender for the hospital contract although it was the lowest offer, and it was also agreed to approach Dr. Robertson and ask him to stand in the interest of the Society at the election. Representatives were also sent to the housing committee formed for the purpose of returning Labour candidates to a commission dealing with housing reform. BAKERY ISSUE A controversy that had important consequences for the community raged during 1901. For some years there had occurred periodically agitations for the establishment of a bakery by the local Society. On one occasion negotiations were begun for a site and fell through only because the building was situated on ground belonging to the railway company and a limit of five years was placed on lease. Dissatisfaction with the service provided from the U.C.B.S. bakery at M’Neil Street, Glasgow, was expressed by an influential body of members, and a motion to proceed with the erection of baking premises on the Society’s behalf was carried by a large majority over an amendment that proposed a further conference with the U.C.B.S. A search was made for suitable ground, and the site chosen was that whereon stand to-day the handsome building conducted by the U.C.B.S. for their biscuitbaking. How this came about will be gathered from the following explanation. Negotiations of a preliminary nature on behalf of Clydebank Society were set afoot, the ground proprietors were approached by their lawyers, and the price stated and favourably


received. Further, the North British Railway Company was asked upon terms for a siding within the ground, and everything pointed to the venture being carried through without encountering any insuperable difficulty. Suddenly, however, directors of the U.C.B.S. realised the approach of a crisis, and to meet it they beseeched the Clydebank Committee to receive a deputation. The request was granted, and by that section of the membership opposed to the building scheme warmly welcomed. Thereupon a strong deputation of U.C.B.S. speakers acknowleged the fact that Clydebank’s withdrawal might have serious repercussions, so they gave a promise that a recommendation would be made to the federation for the erection of a branch of the “Bakery’s” business in the district. Stormy scenes were witnessed at a later meeting when Messrs. M’Culloch, Bain, and Young of the U.C.B.S. were heard at some length in speeches opposed entirely to the breakaway threatened by the Clydebank members. The oratory over, a motion to adjourn consideration was defeated in favour of an amendment to settle the issue there and then. Rather strangely the decision to rescind the motion to erect a bakery for operation by Clydebank Society was passed unanimously. During the proceedings a letter was received from the North British Railway Company agreeing to construct a siding within the ground chosen at a cost of £65 to the Society. That document was transferred to the U.C.B.S. after the unanimous agreement of the quarterly meeting of the federation to build premises in John Knox Street, Clydebank. “Thus went by the board” (a prominent Clydebank co-operator of later years wrote regretfully) “Clydebank Society’s grandest opportunity for developing a line of business which would certainly have been to-day (if under their ownership and control) the most valuable asset of the cooperators of the burgh.” Few of the citizens of to-day have doubt, however about the wisdom of the decision taken in 1901. The U.C.B.S. factory has been a boon to the burgh, providing as it does employment for 500 workers, and the local Society has had no reason to regret the service received. It is worthy of note at this stage that had the price of the adjoining ground been a bit more reasonable the bakery would probably have had a fitting companion in the shape of S.C.W.S. flour mill. In the same year the Committee were authorised to open a dairy. The death of Queen Victoria in June marked the end of an epoch-and the beginning of a new era in the affairs of the nation and of Clydebank Society, which developed with increasing rapidity. Becoming more confident of their power the members at last gave their unanimous approval for participation in politics. In August they decided that Co-operative candidates should contest municipal election, and to support those who would “do justice to the Society.” Dalmuir and Radnor Park societies were invited to co-operate in the campaign. That housing was a sore problem in those days as well as to-day is revealed by a reference to “dilatoriness to the Town Council in proving house for the working class,” and a motion calling for action.


IX.

Majority Year

With the advent of 1902 the Society welcomed its majority year, and the records show that the members had every reason for celebrating – which they did most heartily. A gala day was selected as the best method of celebrating the “coming-of-age,” and the sum of £250 was voted for the expenditure. The demonstration took place in June, and although the weather was not on its best behaviour the citizens were stirred into enthusiastic appreciation of the importance of the Co-operative organisation in their midst. Articles in the pages of the Scottish Co-operator and the Co-operative News paid well deserved tribute to those who had built up the Society. Certainly the position of the Society on the attainment of its majority afforded splendid testimony to the business capacity, shrewdness, and organising the rapid extension of the burgh, which had grown to be one of the busiest industrial towns west of Glasgow, The population had increased from 2,750 to 19,000 during the 21 years of the Society’s existence; buildings had risen on the green fields. At the time of the celebration the membership was 2,028, the annual trade £100,000, capital amounted to £42,281, and the profit totalled £11,198. During the 21 years the members had received £84,256 as dividend on purchase, or double the amount of capital subscribed, The business consisted of seven grocery shops; five fleshing shops; two boot shops; fish, drapery, furnishing, tailioring, dressmaking, millinery, shoemaking, dairy and coal departments. Still greater developments lay ahead. Fired with enthusiasm by the interest created by the 21st anniversary celebration the Board of Management, which had taken charge of educational work, conducted a vigorous propaganda campaign. The result was a demand for more shops. In the Radnor Park district three suites of shops, incorporating 12 departments, were opened. At Dalmuir in the west and at Yoker in the east six and five new shops respectively were provided. Those enterprises included the purchase of a building site at Ferry Road, the erection at a cost of £9,000 of premises in Pollock Street and Walter Street, and the acquisition of property in Livingstone Street.


MORE SHOPS Much of the Committee’s time and energy during 1903 was spent in the same way as they had finished the previous year – in providing new shops and improving existing property for the benefit of the steadily rising membership. The most extensive alterations were made in Alexander Street, where the whole street frontage of the Society’s property was converted into shops. While the new bakery premises of the U.C.B.S. were being carried to completion the method of bread delivery was agitating the minds of management and members. That which found most favour was direct delivery from the bakery to the member’s home, the idea being to minimise handling. While the intention was good, the system failed to stand the test of practice. The formal opening of the John Knox Street bakery took place on 12 th December, when representatives of many societies attended, were shown through the handsome building, entertained, and listened to speeches in which confidence in the venture was expressed. No one will deny the optimism expressed on that memorable occasion was completely justified. Whether to adopt the climax check system or to introduce the national cash register method was a question that caused considerable thought, and the matter was remitted to a special sub-committee consisting of four from the membership and three from the Board of Management. Both systems were given a trial, and ultimately it was decided to introduce two cash machines. A MINOR MISTAKE Few major mistakes were made by the Clydebank management. Like the best of people, however they sometimes erred in minor matters, and within a few months of the adoption of the national cash register system they revised their opinion and admitted that a mistake had been made in not selecting the alternative financial system of the climax check. Experience in the operation of the business convinced the Committee that the cash register should be discarded and replaced by climax checks. A section of the members, however, proved rather stubborn in accepting the change over, and it was something of a struggle that the Committee upheld their action in switching systems. When they first ventured to recommend the change they were severely condemned by an opposing section of the membership, and in the end they had to justify their position at a special general meeting, which finally accepted the alteration. Otherwise 1904 was an uneventful year. Extension of the business continued steadily, and the Clydebank Society’s enterprise led to a clash with Radnor Park Society. As well as opening shops in Kilbowie the Clydebank management negotiated the acquisition of the two separate blocks of shops in Kilbowie Road (at an annual rental of £180). Objection was taken by Radnor Park, who maintained this was an encroachment on their territory, and they requested a conference between the two committees with a view to arriving at an


amicable arrangement. Clydebank, however, would not consent to debate the matter unless the issue of amalgamation was also discussed, and Radnor Park would not hear of that. UNSUCCESSUL PLEAS In May of the following year the question of uniting the Clydebank and Radnor Park societies was again raised. Gradually the idea was winning favour on both sides, and on this occasion the respective memberships held special meetings to discuss the project. Two representatives from the Scottish Section, Mr. James Deans and Mr. M’Culloch, were given the opportunity of speaking and advocating union. Both men tried hard to convince opponents of the scheme that fusion would be beneficial to the cause. Alas, old-time prejudices proved too powerful, and the desirable was once more deferred. Their pleadings were not entirely unfruitful, however, as their arguments won quite a number of additional supporters for Co-operative unity in the burgh. A dispute with the drapery manager placed the Committee in an awkward predicament in the closing weeks of 1905. Following a batter-royal the manager resigned, and the remainder of the staff in the department followed his example, and for a few days the drapery business was almost at a standstill. A new manager was quickly appointed, however, and he soon secured the services of new staff and stimulated trade in the department.


X.

Saturday, 19

th

Semi-Jubilee

October 1906, was a memorable day in the annals of the burgh. Upon that

date the co-operators of Clydebank celebrated the semi-jubilee of the Society, and in so doing demonstrated the generosity and public-spiritedness of the Movement. A feature of the celebration was the presentation to the burgh of a handsome granite drinking fountain bearing the inscription: “Presented to the inhabitants of the Clydebank Co-operative Society Limited on the occasion of their Semi-Jubilee, 1906.” The unveiling ceremony was the occasion of one of the most remarkable Co-operative demonstrations held in the West of Scotland. Between 6,000 and 7,000 children marshalled at Ferry Road, Yoker, in the early afternoon and marched in procession through crowed streets to the Public School playground, where each was presented with a lucky bag of pastry, fruit and confections. At the head of the procession, led by the Clydebank Prize Band and Dumbarton Pipe Band, were a dozen vehicles colourfully decorated and displaying slogans and emblems. Lining the route were uniformed members of the Boys’ Brigade, who also assisted the police in forming an open area round the site of the new fountain at the corner of Kilbowie Road and Rosebery Place. Inside the ring were two lorries serving as a platform, and upon this officials of the Society and representatives of the burgh took their places. Mr. George Irvine, president of the Society, performed the unveiling ceremony, and accompanying him were Mr. John M’Pherson, vice-president, who was chairman; Messrs, John K. Brown, Alexander Fleming, and Thomas Ashcroft of the Board of Management; Bailie M’Donald, S.C.W.S.; Mr. D. H. Gerrard; Rev. J. Buchanan Blake, U.F. Church; Rev. Malcom M’Coll, Episcopal Church; Provost Taylor; Mr. C.P. Leiper, burgh treasurer; Bailies Peffers, Cornock, M’Bride, and Ross; Councillors Sinclair, Wilson, Knox, M’Gee, Davidson, and Carswell; Messrs. N. M’Nicol and J. Richardson, Glasgow and Suburbs Council. After Mr. M’Pherson had referred to the Society’s gift and hinted about other requirements which philanthropically-inclined citizens might bestow upon the burgh, Mr. Irvine gave a brief resume of the Co-operative organisations accomplishments during the 25 years of its existence. In the course of a quarter of a century, said Mr. Irvine, they had progressed from conducting one single grocery shop with little or no capital to the controlling of 50 shops. Besides, they had the responsibility of holding about £70,000 of working-class capital, and, possessed property to the value of £40,000 which, in their wisdom, they had depreciated by £10,000. Mr. Irvine said that co-operators were twitted at times with being dividend-hunters. There was perhaps a ray of truth in that, but if that were so they hunted


only for that which was their own, and there were embodied in the principles of Co-operation ideals and ideas far above mere moneymaking; their aspirations were far more than mere commercial prosperity, for they unhesitatingly asserted that they £28,000 divided annually among the members went a great way towards alleviating and solving many of the trials that surrounded the conditions of the working classes. During the 25 years the total dividend was £150,000 – money that proved a welcome friend to many who felt the pinch of straitened circumstances, especially in the times of labour strife and industrial depression. It was also mentioned that the Society had spent £3,000 during the quarter of a century of its existence on educational purposes. Pulling the ribbon to unveil the fountain Mr. Irvine said: “Giving this fountain is merely part of the benefits conferred upon the community by Co-operation. Had we more universal co-operation we would have fewer of the great industrial struggles which now and again enter into and break asunder the harmonious relations that should exist between employer and employed. Of all the agencies for the amelioration of the working class none is so much calculated to bring about a happy solution as the Co-operative Movement. Cooperation is not aggressive. Co-operation seeks no plunder. It creates no destruction in society. It means ‘self-help’ and ‘self-dependence’ and a fair share of the common competence the labourer is entitled to.” Acknowledging the gift Provost Taylor said he knew of no way whereby Cooperative Society could better celebrate its semi-jubilee than by such a gift. He added: “Clydebank is proud of its Co-operative Society. It says a great deal for the men of Clydebank that they have a set of directors who can control that Society so well as they do, and that the public of the burgh have so much confidence in them as to leave £70,000 in their hands and feel assured that it is well looked after.” A short speech was also delivered by Mr. D. H. Gerrard, who declared that the drinking fountain would be a standing monument to the generosity of heart and the public spirit which actuated the members of the Society, while it would also demonstrate the power of associated effort. The events of the day were followed by a reception in the evenening in the Town Hall. At that gathering a toast to “The Pioneers” was proposed by Mr. R. K. Flemming, the secretary, and one of the founders, Mr. Alexander Howie, replied. Mr. W. Montgomery, the manager also took part in the proceedings, and he described the growth of the Movement as “the wonder of the commercial world.” The Management Committee at the time of the semi-jubilee comprised:-President, Mr. George Irvine; vice-president, Mr John M’Pherson; manager, Mr, William Montgomery; secretary, Mr. R. K. Fleming; booking-keeper, Mr. Alexander Raeburn; cashier, Mr. Daniel M’Intyre; Board members – Messrs. Thomas Ashcroft, John K. Brown, Alexander Ewing, George Gray, Hugh Gray, Joseph G. Lyon, James Murray, William Scott, and David Robertson.


In the four years since the “coming-of-age” celebration membership had been doubled, the report for the quarter ended 5th September 1906 showing that the Society had 3,692 members. Sales amounted to £41,683; average weekly purchases per member were 17s. 4 ½d. Net profit of £7,135 gave a dividend of 2s. 9d. per £ of sales. Total distributive expenses, including interest on capital and depreciation, were 1s. 6d. per £. Share and loan capital totalled £68,869. Those figures gave the co-operators of Clydebank every reason to be proud of their Society and its achievements during the first quarter of a century of its existence. POINTER OF POWER So financially powerful had the Society become at the end of a quarter of a century that it was able to set out on the second 25 years with the generous gesture of lending £8,000 to Clydebank Town Council so that the civic fathers could proceed with the development of the burgh. It must be admitted that all the members did not support the Committee in making this far-seeing move. It was a new departure, both for the Society and the council, and like most new departures was not accepted without considerable controversy. When Councillor Mackenzie suggested to the Town Council the idea of obtaining a loan from the Society at 5 per cent. instead of paying 7 per cent. for an overdraft from the bank he was accused of seeking to push Co-operative interests – an unjust accusation that the anti-Co-operative clique on the council failed to push home. In their bias they even tried to prove that the difference in saving 7 and 5 per cent. was not 2 per cent.! Opposition inside the Society was numerically weak but vocally strong, and their contention was that the members’ money should not be loaned to public bodies at a cheap rate. They wanted their full “pound of flesh.” Public spiritedness prevailed, however, and yet another good deed goes to the credit of the Clydebank co-operators. “MARRIAGE” Annexation of the district of Radnor Park as part of the Burgh of Clydebank revived thoughts of a similar fusion between the two Co-operative organisations in the communities. A “marriage” between the co-operators on the hill and those in the valley had long been mooted, but an assortment of reasons, personal and parochial, selfish and sentimental, had always defeated the union. By 1908, however, the amalgamationists, had increased in number and influence and those worthy co-operators, imbued with the desire to provide the greatest good for the greatest number, determined to effect the desired unity. First move in the final act took the form of a special meeting in Clydebank boardroom on 10th April, when representatives of the two directorates met under the chairmanship of Mr. George Irvine, president of Clydebank. Heading the Radnor Park deputation was their chairman, Mr. John Crichton, who in a review of the situation referred to negotiations that had taken place three years previously. He admitted that then his society had been mainly responsible for the failure of the talks, but his committee had since come to realise that amalgamation was now not only advisable, but a necessity, and he had been


advised to request the conditions formerly proposed by Clydebank as a basis of mutual agreement. Their sales had not decreased since then, and if union took place £20,000 per annum would be added to the turnover of Clydebank Society. Radnor Park’s buildings had been erected at a moderate cost and were up-to-date in every respect. Mr. Crichton concluded by expressing the belief that the union of the societies would benefit greatly the cause of Cooperation in the district. Discussion on the 1905 proposals followed, and the meeting terminated with the acceptance by the Clydebank Committee of an invitation to inspect the Radnor Park property. As a sequel the question received notable attention a week later at the Clydebank quarterly meeting in the Lesser Town Hall, where a motion submitted by Messrs. Dunn and Kerr to empower the Committee to draft the terms of an amalgamation scheme was carried unanimously. No time was lost, and on 25th April a meeting of the joint committees was held in the boardroom of Radnor Park Society, when a statement of the proposed scheme of amalgamation was submitted by Mr. Irvine. It read as follows: PROPOSED SCHEME FOR THE AMALGAMATION OF CLYDEBANK AND RADNOR PARK CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETIES This Society and the Radnor Park Society shall be amalgamated under the following conditions:1. 2. 3.

4.

The name of the amalgamated society shall be the “Clydebank Co-operative Society Limited.” The rules of the amalgamated society shall be the rules of the Clydebank Co-operative Society Limited. All the members of the above-named societies at the date of the registration of this resolution shall be members of the amalgamated society, each of whom shall be credited in the books of the amalgamated society with the like amount of shares, share capital, loans, deposits, dividends, and interest as are standing to his or her credit in the books of the society of which he or she is a member, as per balance-sheet valuation at the date of such registration. The whole property and assets of the societies, both heritable and moveable, shall belong and be transferred to the amalgamated society at the date of the registration of this resolution, and the amalgamated society shall undertake all the obligation of the said societies at such date.

CONDITIONS TO BE MUTUALLY AGREED UPON BY THE TWO SOCIETIES 1.

2.

The stocks of the Radnor Park Co-operative Society shall be taken on 3rd June 1908, as may be arranged by the officials of the two societies jointly; and the books of the Radnor Park Society shall be closed and balanced up to the same date. So soon as stocktaking is completed the books of the said society shall be audited by the auditors of Clydebank Society and a balance-sheet of the affairs of the aforesaid society made out at date of stocktaking. Dividend and interest shall be paid by Radnor Park Society according to the results stated in the balance-sheet. That all debts due by members of the Radnor Park Society unsecured by share capital based on the value of the share, as per valuation, shall not be taken over as assets by the Clydebank Society.


3.

4.

5.

6. 7.

That the Radnor Park Society shall notify all its employees that the term of their engagement shall cease on the date of the registration of the special resolution, and it shall be optional to the Clydebank Society whether or not it shall take any of the said employees into the service of the society. That the Clydebank Society shall not be required to make good the salaries of the committees, officials, or any employee of Radnor Park Society for the unexpired period of their engagements. If so desired an arrangement shall be made whereby a member from Radnor Park district shall be appointed as soon as practicable to serve on the Board of Management of Clydebank Society for a period of 12 months. The total expenses incurred by the process of amalgamation shall be paid by the two societies in proportion to their membership. In the event of the registration of the special resolution, Radnor Park Society shall cease to exist as a separate society on 3rd June 1908, and shall immediately thereafter become part of Clydebank Co-operative Society Limited.

Having heard the terms the chairman, Mr. Crichton, stated that the preliminaries, as mentioned in the agreement, were quite in accordance with the requirements of the Act and would doubtless be accepted. He invited discussion on the clauses embodying the conditions. To only one of those – that dealing with members’ debts – did anyone raise objection. Bailie Donald (Radnor Park) suggested that £50 should be taken from the reserve fund to cover the entire deficit and thereby relieve the members of Radnor Park from the burden of an encumbrance for which they could not be held responsible. An assurance was given by Mr. Irvine that the Radnor Park plea would receive further consideration and that a way out suitable to both parties would probably be found. The question of dividends from federations was raised by Mr. Montgomery, Clydebank manager, who deprecated the payment of dividends before being declared by the federations, which had resulted in a depreciation of the reserve to £180. At the close of the sitting it was agreed to convene special meetings of the members of both societies on Tuesday, 5th May, at which the scheme would be submitted for approval or disapproval. Confirmation of the promise regarding the question of Radnor Park members’ debts was witnessed at the next meeting of the Clydebank Committee, and after some discussion, it was decided to agree to the request to deduct the sum of £50 from reserve fund to meet the deficit. Then came the special meeting of the Clydebank members in the Lesser Town Hall, at which the final decision to amalgamate was reached. Mr. Irvine, who presided, reviewed the large drawn-out procedure of the negotiations during the years when the attention, not only of the two societies chiefly concerned, but of the Scottish Section, had been circling round the prospect of a union. Dealing minutely with the details, he introduced the “fly in the ointment” – the Radnor Park debt difficulty – and informed the meeting of the Committee’s decision. Appealing on behalf of the interests at stake in both societies he wound up by advocating the application of that


unity which was now theirs to mould and which would consolidate the Movement within the burgh. Reading of the draft of the agreement was followed by some interesting expressions of opinion, and the meeting was kept on tenterhooks as clause after clause was carefully analysed and criticised. Ultimately, Mr. Daniel Hope moved that Clydebank Society agree to the amalgamation on the terms of the agreement submitted, and he expressed regret that the decision to unite forces had not been made three years earlier. The motion was seconded by Mr. Bulloch, supported by Mr. Neil, and passed without a dissentient voice. Thus was reached a goal of outstanding importance to Co-operation in Clydebank and one which has through the years justified itself in every respect. Radnor Park district has provided many of the most progressive men to guide the Society’s destinies, from the time Mr. Crichton, the last president of the Radnor Park Society, took his seat on the Clydebank board right up to the present day. The Radnor Park - Clydebank “marriage” was not the only red-letter event during 1908. HALL OPENED A month after the union there occurred another auspicious happening – the opening of the Hume Street hall and offices, the substantial suite of buildings which still serve the business conveniences of the Society. The premises provided – as they do to-day – a handsome red sandstone frontage in Hume Street. At one side of the block was constructed the doorway opening to the stair which leads to the hall; on the other side was the front entrance to the offices. The counting house and climax check office were placed on the ground floor, on the first storey was the manager’s room, general office, and telephone exchange, while on the top flat was the handsomely appointed Board and Committee rooms. The building was carried right through to join the dairy, a grocery store, and a grocery dispatch department. Since its erection the hall has proved a valuable asset to the Society as well as a boon to the burgh. The Co-operative Hall has house many varieties of meetings, and if walls could speak it could tell many an interesting tale – perhaps the most vivid of all being the night when all its windows were shattered by the blast from a German bomb. But that is a tale for a much later chapter. At the opening ceremony Mr. George Irvine, a president of the Society, mentioned that the scheme had cost the management a good deal of anxiety and the membership between £11,000 and £12,000; but they rejoiced that they could at last meet within their own walls and under their own roof, conscious of a much larger freedom and independence.


One of the pioneers, Mr. Alexander Howie, was given the well-merited honour of proposing the toast of “The Co-operative Movement,” and he recalled outstanding events in the 27 years since Co-operation was “launched” in Clydebank with a membership of 45. Annual sales had risen from £3,760 the first 12 months to £213,157 for the past year. The profit of £177 and dividend of 1s. declared on the initial 12 months trading were insignificant compared with their past year’s profit of £25,430 and average dividend of 2s. 8 ¼d. Since commencing business they had sold goods to the value of £1,127,822 and dividend a total surplus of £197,285 among the members. Those figures,” declared Mr. Howie, “speak for themselves as to what Co-operation has done for the working classes of the district.” The increase in membership and trade was still going on, and in the last 12 months had been phenomenal, the sales having exceeded the previous year’s total by £36,540. He ended his fascinating review by expressing the hope that in the future, as in the past, the Clydebank Society would go on and prosper, for the Co-operative Movement, unlike many other agencies, had more benefits to distribute as its members increased. Figures showing that the wider Movement was also expanding rapidly despite adverse industrial conditions, were given by Mr. D. M’Culloch, Scottish Section in replying. He remarked that the increasing strength of the societies and the enhancing of the sphere of Co-operative productions was stimulating the most formidable opposition from private trading concerns. “Every fresh start on the productive side of the Movement touches a fresh source of wealth, and at the same time creates a fresh set of opponents to the Movement,” declared Mr. M’Culloch, adding “Those opponents we will have to fight, and the close societies keep together the more able they will be for the fight.” The words of Mr. C. P. Leiper, bank agent, in toasting “The Clydebank Society” gave an incentive to Co-operative action at a time when the Movement had declared itself definitely committed to political action in furtherance of its principles. He expressed the “strong hope that the Society would be more and more a thriving ground for public men” as there were no retired merchants in the burgh able to look after public affairs, and he looked to the Co-operative society to provide wise, honest, honourable, and to assist in fighting what they had been finding too far too prevalent of late in the district. As subsequent years revealed, Mr. Leiper’s invitation was accepted, and from the Co-operative society the community has drawn some of its wisest and most enterprising councillors.


XI.

Dark Days

Waves of prosperity and adversity swept alternately over Clydebank. Some years the hammers clanged continuously in the shipyards; others the stocks were empty and the workless hung dejectedly around street-corners. Among the very black years was 1909. Clydebank Co-operative Society felt the chill blast. To tide them over the dark days of depression the members lifted no less than £6,000 in share capital, sales slumped by close on £20,000, and the management were compelled to suspend some of the employees, so few were the customers in some of the shops. Yet the depression provided the Society with one of its best advertisements. The fact that it was able to pay out £6,000 was not the whole story of the benefits of Co-operation in those troublous times. In the years prior to the depression the capital of the Society had been rising at the rate of £9,000 each year, and it is probable that practically all of that increase was made up of dividend which the members, having no immediate use for, allowed to accumulate. Thus not only were they able to use the thousands of pounds they would normally have invested in the Society but for unemployment. In those dreary months more and more of the people of Clydebank came to appreciate the Co-operation was the best system ever devised to enable man to follow the policy so beloved of Mr. Micawber – live within his income. Another gesture that did not pass unnoticed by the community was an offer by the Society to supply goods to the Parish Council at cost price – but because it would have shamed certain individuals it was not accepted. An active part was taken in combating the famous “Butchers’ Boycott,” which followed a decision by the Glasgow Corporation to rescind a by-law regulating the acceptance of all bona-fide bids in the Cattle Market. A deputation, sponsored by the Cooperative Defence Association, paid an unsuccessful visit to the Glasgow Corporation, and Clydebank co-operators took part in a demonstration of protest. There were also several domestic upheavals during the year. Irregularities in the central grocery led to the entire staff being summoned to appear before the board, who ultimately decided to sack the manager and three of the assistants. Grumbling about the buying policy led to Mr. Montgomery threatening to resign, but the Committee passed a unanimous vote of confidence in the manager’s policy, declaring that he had saved the Society a considerable sum of money. As a sequel, interviews were held


with various buyers of the S.C.W.S. and a number of improvements in the prices and services of the Wholesale Society were effected. First move to appoint an assistant manager was made in 1909, but the subcommittee appointed to investigate the matter were opposed to the project, They agreed, though, that Mr. Montgomery had too much to do, and he was relieved of some clerical work by the office staff, while a head salesman was appointed for the central fleshing shop. Another innovation was a conference between the Committee, the manager, and the heads of departments to interchange opinions and make suggestions beneficial to the Society. About this time, too, the employees had formed a flourishing dramatic club which was able to present Shakespeare’s “Othello.” COMPETITION FOR COMMITTEE Despite a lock-out of boilermakers which kept the town’s industrial life at a low ebb, trade improved during 1910 and reports showed that the Society was expanding in all directions, from Scotstoun to Dalmuir. With an increased membership competition for places on the Committee intensified, and that inspired one resolution which called upon candidates to give the members “an indication of their ability and fitness to fill such office efficiently.” The proposal was vigorously debated, and was lost by only a small majority. Installation of a milk pasteurising plant was talked about, a propaganda meeting was held to explain the benefits of giving milk precautionary treatment, and the members were invited to express their opinion on the question, but nothing definite was done at that time. The year 1910 was also notable for the adoption of the collective life assurance scheme and the abolition and replacement of the token system by a credit system introducing purchase books. CARTERS’ STRIKE Cracking the whip at the boss – even the Co-operative boss – was not a wise act in those days, as is illustrated by a strike incident in 1911. Following the settling of a strike by the Society’s carters the men informed the foreman on the Friday afternoon that they did not intend to resume on the Saturday unless they were paid for the time they had been off on strike. The Committee’s reaction was to tell the carters plainly that if they did not begin on the Monday their services would be dispensed with. The Committee obtained service from other sources, and while six of the men meekly returned in time for reinstatement all the older hands remained out. At a special meeting a unanimous vote of confidence was passed by the members in support of the Committee’s handling of the situation. On the following Wednesday the men asked to be taken back, only to be told that their places had been filled. “After lingering about the place for a time ,” a report states, “they quietly dispersed.”


By this time Clydebank’s population had swollen to 37,500 (approximately double the figure just 10 years previously), while the Co-operative membership had risen to 5,200. Many recruits were secured as a result of vigorous propaganda work by the women’s guilds, which had grown greatly in size and influence. With the days of an intertrading scheme yet afar off, a letter from St. Cuthbert’s Association suggesting that one of their members in temporary residence at Clydebank should receive the Edinburgh association’s rate of dividend for purchases made from the local Society was regarded with curiosity – and disfavour. The Clydebank answer was that if the member joined the local Society he would receive the full benefits of membership. Instead of the annual gala, which had become one of the red-letter days on the burgh, the Society decided to combine with the Town Council in celebrating the Coronation of George V., and the sum of £50 was granted towards entertaining the children and old folk of the town. INDUSTRY CRIPPLED Again in 1912 the workers had reason to bless the existence of the Co-operative Movement. A coal strike described as “by far the most remarkable and sweeping insurrection that Europe has seen since the great French Revolution” had crippling effects on British industry, and Clydebank, of course, as a centre of the heavy industries, felt the full force of the stoppage. The strike lasted so long that, not for the first of last time, it was predicted that the country was rushing to national ruin. The crisis passed, however without leaving any damaging effects on the Co-operative organisation, which aided the sufferers over unhappy weeks with grants as well as capital withdrawals. SALES SOAR Sales soared to within £4,000 of the quarter of a million mark, and at the member’s annual social the president, Mr. Samuel Maxwell, proudly claimed that “if the Society’s profits were distributed among the private traders in the district it would give them each £100” – not of course, that he suggested such and action! Because of Clydebank’s large trade in the Dalmuir area feeling between the town’s two Co-operative organisations became exceedingly bitter, and a proposal by Clydebank that the two should amalgamate was unceremoniously rejected by the Dalmuir members. A report of a Glasgow and Suburbs Association meeting reflects the acrimony. An allegation was made that “members of the Dalmuir committee were favourable to the amalgamation, but when it came to the vote they voted the other way,” and another Clydebank delegate asserted that his Society was going to work “as if Dalmuir did not exist.” Again, at a Dalmuir gathering their managing-secretary, Mr. A. W. Young, declared that Clydebank had opened up shops in Dalmuir “not for the benefit of Co-operation or co-operators, but simply and solely not to crush the Dalmuir Society out of existence, and in this it had signally failed.” (Clydebank opened three shops in Dalmuir in August 1912.)


EFFECTIVE WORK The celebrated Dr. Suprgeon once decalred: “No committee should have more than three members – and when any important business has to be done two of them should be absent.” The trio of Clydebank Board members charged with educational duties certainly sought to prove that three men could be effective, and the cultural and instructional activities of that committee reached a new peak of achievement in 1913. Four women’s guilds, with about 200 members, were in operation, numerous propaganda meetings were held, there was a book-keeping class for employees, a select female choir, and an Esperanto class. On the trading side, too, the year was highly satisfactory. On the occasion of a celebration to mark his 25th anniversary in the Society’s service, Mr. Montgomery gave some illuminating figures, stating that in a quarter of a century membership had grown from 280 to 6,500 and annual sales from £12,000 to £300,000, while expenditure of £74,500 on land and buildings had been depreciated to £55,000. Mr. Montgomery’s contribution to that success was highly praised, reference being made to “his keenness as a buyer, his shrewdness and wisdom, and his gentlemanly treatment of the employees.”


XII.

War In Europe

In April 1914 W. Martin Haddow, a prominent Glasgow Socialist, gave a lecture under the auspices of the Clydebank Society on “Saving God’s Children,” in which he extolled the virtue of the Germans in spending money on the education and cultural improvement of their children; four months later the Germans were smashing their way through Belgium and they and Britain were at war! The year had commenced quietly enough. With little or no indication that before many months they would be torn away from their homes to battle on the fields of France and Flanders, the male co-operators of Clydebank had formed the first Co-operative Men’s Guild in Scotland. The principal office-bearers of that pioneer branch, in which 42 members enrolled at the inaugural meeting in April, were Mr. J. Waterhouse, president; Mr. M. Hunter, vice-president; Mr. W. Lappin, secretary; and Mr. H. Burnett, treasurer. With no thoughts of the impending upheaval the Society had started the erection of a new £26,000 drapery warehouse in Alexander Street. The scene of the building operations was the first “shot” in a 600-feet film of the proceedings at the annual gala day. This was the first occasion the gala had been filmed, and a specially fine programme had been arranged. A feature was a parade of directors, heads of departments, the committees of the five women’s guilds and the men’s guild, and the “has-beens,” including pioneers and past directors of the Clydebank and former Radnor Park Society. The day was spent happily by old and young. It proved to be the burgh’s last merry gathering for four sad years. On 4th August the catastrophe of was fell upon Europe. The first reaction in business circles was one of panic, and the Co-operative Movement did not escape entirely. Fearing a shortage of supplies managers and buyers besieged the Wholesale Society’s grocery warehouse immediately it opened on the Monday morning after the fateful declaration of war. Sugar and flour were in particularly heavy demand, and in the course of the morning prices soared by 50 per cent. While the managers were alert the members were no less anxious to safeguard themselves against shortage, and all day the Clydebank shops, like those of other businesses, were crowed with people seeking to purchase large quantities of commodities. In many cases whole bags of sugar and flour were ordered, and there was much grumbling because only the normal weekly supplies were sold. The Clydebank management quickly sized up the position and refused to participate in the “get-rich-quick” policy of their competitors. In the few days of crisis when there was a feverish demand on the part of some people to buy at any price the Society maintained prices at the normal rate and


treated generously those members whose pockets were hit by the impact of the war on industry. In doing this at a time when other traders in the district were advancing their prices by between 100 and 200 per cent. the Society gave a greater impetus to the Movement’s prestige than scores of propaganda meetings could possibly have done. Consequently, sales for the first 10 weeks following the outbreak of war jumped by £6,214 and membership leapt to and beyond the 7,000 mark. Works that depended upon the European countries for a market closed down, and thousands of Singer’s workers were thrown idle, but the balance was restored somewhat by the demand for labour in the shipyards, which operated night and day. Nevertheless, many suffered by the industrial upheaval, and the Co-operative Committee gave consideration to those members upon whom idleness was enforced. In addition, they voted £100 to the local charities. A thoughtful gesture was made, too, to employees who volunteered for the Armed Forces; all married men and unmarried men with dependants were granted full pay less military allowances. POSTER APPEAL Loss of many young men to the Forces and to war industries was severely felt before many months of 1915 had gone. “Our employees have responded nobly to the call,” stated the Educational Committee in a window poster which called attention to staffing problems and urged members to show tolerance with the service. “Even our message boys are doing their bit,” added the poster, “They have left their grocers’ and butchers’ baskets aside to assist the Government in the munition factories and shipyards, therefore we sincerely trust that our members oblige us by conveying their own goods with the exception of weighty parcels, which we will endeavour to deliver.” Other difficulties loomed ahead. Discrimination in the allocation of supplies of commodities and profiteering led to the passing of a resolution that called upon the Government to take over the food and coal supplies and the shipping services with a view to prices being reduced to a level compatible with the wages received by the working class. Co-operators were closely associated with the formation for a Fair Rent League, Mr. Matthew Hunter, a prominent member of the Society, being the prime mover in the setting up of the organisation, which did valuable work in protecting the people from the greed of property owners. The Movement won many new adherents as the result of its endeavours to protect the consumers, and the Clydebank Educational Committee were not slow to follow up with propaganda work. On the occasion of the opening of new premises in Bannerman Street a novel and topical poster was issued. It said:


CLYDEBANK CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY LIMITED EDUCATIONAL COMMITTEE WE DON’T WANT CONSCRIPTION But what we do want is every available person to join the above Society in order to REPULSE EVERY ATTACK made upon the people’s food by the trusts and combines. You can be attested at any of the grocery departments or at the office, 11 Hume Street Clydebank.

Apart from these posters the committee organised a series of open-air propaganda meetings, at which addresses were given by directors. At the same time as the Great War was being fought out in Europe a minor Cooperative “war” was taking place to the north of Clydebank. Blairdardie Society was showing signs of foundering with the strains of the times, and envious eyes upon that area were being cast by the Anniesland, Clydebank and Milngavie societies. Representatives from Clydebank visited Blairdardie and had amalgamation talks with the local board, but without material result. Equally fruitless was an approach to Dalmuir, and the sequel to this failure was a majority decision by the Clydebank members to open a suite of shops, including grocery, fleshing, dairy, boot, fish, and fruit departments in the west of the burgh for the benefit of their Dalmuir members. BOOM TOWN No town in Britain benefited more than Clydebank from the boom in the iron and steel trade brought on by the war. Ships, submarines, shells, guns, tanks, mines – work on all those instruments and implements of destruction kept the townspeople toiling night and day, and the consequent steep stepping-up in the worker’s incomes was reflected in the sales of the local Co-operative Society. To serve the rapidly rising membership numerous new shops were opened, and by the middle of 1916 the Society had no fewer than 18 grocery, 13 fleshing, 13 dairy, 8 fish, 6 boot, 4 drapery, and 3 fruit branches. No opportunity of expanding was lost by the management, and Clydebank won the reputation, which it has never lost, of being one of the most go-ahead organisations in the country. Growth brought its troubles, though. A circular of protest showed how disproportionate was the amount of sugar supplied to the Society to the great increase in membership on the two years since the outbreak of war. So little satisfaction did representations evoke that the members were driven towards a greater realisation of the need for political protection. The local Educational Committee took the initiative in calling a conference to discuss political action in the constituency. At the meeting, at which Mr. Robert G. Yates presided and Mr. Matthew Hunter was the principal speaker, it was made


plain that the time had come when party traditions and prejudices would require to give way to support of a principle – the Co-operative principle. It was considered that the struggle for the Movement’s future existence had begun. The Excess Profits Tax had been applied, and the threat of taxing dividend had been made. Both those measure were regarded as deliberately organised attacks upon the Movement; therefore political action in some shape or form was regarded as an urgent necessity if Co-operation was to have the liberty to continue and develop. The result of the meeting was the formation of a federation of the Dumbartonshire societies for the purpose of defending their interests and organising their voting strength at the first Parliamentary election. The argument put up against the proposal to tax dividend was that co-operators could not make profit out of themselves; therefore noone was entitled to regard their trading surplus in the same light as the profits returned by private companies. With common enemies to confront the relationship between the neighbours, Clydebank and Dalmuir, developed more amicably – an indication of that pleasant change being the holding of a joint propaganda meeting to protest against the injustices being meted out of the Movement. Other noteworthy features of the year were the formation of the works department and the holding of a new type of function – an entertainment for new members.


XIII.

Submarine Menace

German submarines menaced the country’s food supplies in the early months of 1917, and with shortages intensified Co-operative efforts to secure a fair share of the available commodities had to be increased. No provision had been made for the drift of population caused by wartime industrial changes, and as the Clydebank district was one of the chief sufferers on account of this Government failure a deputation consisting of local co-operators and councillors travelled to London to put the facts before the Sugar Commission. They pointed out the injustice of basing the current allocation of supplies on the pre-war population. Mr. John Nicholson, chairman of the Society, produced figures to show the inadequacy of the supplies being received, and Mr. Matthew Hunter advocated the introduction of a system of rationing goods in short supply so that all would receive a fair share – a proposal which showed that co-operators, as always, had constructive proposals to present. Such fair play did not, however, make much appeal to those in charge of the nation’s food, and the newly-formed Dumbartonshire Defence Federation took a hand in the agitation by organising a procession. That demonstration marked the beginning of the realisation by co-operators that it was futile to secure justice without action inside the House of Commons. They were determined to win their way inside and to help control the political machinery themselves. At the demonstration the Dumbartonshire co-operators pledged themselves not to support any Parliamentary candidate who was not pledged to promote and protect the interests of the Movement by progressive legislation. They also agreed to organise the constituency (in accordance with the resolution passed a Swansea Congress) so as to ensure direct representation in Parliament and on local administrative bodies. A lead to others was also given when the Clydebank management decided to reduce the price of goods to little over cost – a bold experiment that was most successful and resulted in further stimulation of business, as well as in the avoidance of the Excess Profits Tax. Long delayed by wartime restrictions, the opening of the handsome drapery in Alexander Street was at last proceeded with in September of 1917. Three years had elapsed since the local Committee had been authorised to proceed with this £30,000 project, which was the outcome of an unsuccessful agitation for the opening of the S.C.W.S. drapery and furnishing departments on Saturday afternoons for the completion of the building the cooperators became the owners of the largest and finest business premises in the district – a


distinction they can still claim, for the drapery towers conspicuously above all the other shops in the burgh. Four storeys high, they building was designed in a simple and dignified Renaissance style, with a total frontage of 256 feet. An outstanding feature is the dome, which lughts the various floors by means of a circular well. The dome is supported by four large square columns with its gilded cornice forms and effective central feature. Following the opening ceremony a dinner took place in the Town Hall, where a number of interesting speeches giving details of the Society’s proud record were delivered. By then they Clydebank Society could claim that four out of every five householders in the town were within its ranks. At the function it was proudly reported that in the 36 years of its existence the Society had sold over £4,000,000 of goods and had returned £500,000 in dividend to the members. It had 70 shops, 421 employees, and a capital of £190,491. When a proposal to elect an Educational Committee separate from the Board of Management was submitted the chairman, Mr. John Nicolson, said that in view of the Society’s phenomenal growth he had had forced upon him the conviction that a separate committee was necessary; so on this occasion the members gave their consent. ANGRY HOUSEWIVES Before the calm the storm. Before the peace the strife. And who should create the storm in Clydebank in 1918, before the great day of rejoicing with the singing of Armistice on 11th November, but the vigilant co-operative housewives! They were thoroughly justified in taking drastic action to demonstrate against still another instance of anti Co-operative discrimination. On Saturday, 9th March, the Society’s fleshing shops had to close down because of the failure of the meat supply, thus leaving hundreds of members faced with the prospect of a meatless week-end. There was still no sign of supplies and the shops remained closed on Monday despite endeavours of the management, so in the afternoon 50 guildwomen set off for Glasgow determined to interview the Government’s food officials. They were sympathetically received, but there was still no meat in the shops on the Tuesday morning, so that evening the women called a meeting which filled the Co-operative Hall to capacity, while many were left outside. Mrs. Wilson (Radnor Park) took the chair amid great excitement, and after short speeches by Mrs. M’Gregor, Mrs. Pollock, Mrs. Macdonald, Mr. Nicholson (president), Mr. Montgomery (manager), and Mr. Grieve (Educational Committee member), a committee of 12 was appointed to co-operate with the Board of Management and put forward the views of the women who showed emphatically that they were determined to submit no longer to the injustices being meted out to the Movement. On the Thursday evening the general meeting was due. It had been the custom to allow the wives of members to be present in the gallery, but on this occasion the number of persons seeking admission was so great that it was impossible to transact any business and the meeting had to be adjourned. For the adjourned meeting the Town Hall was booked and there 1,700 members – a record number – assembled. There were no turbulent scenes, a


statement by Mr. M’Devitt, a member of the Society and agent for the Liberal Party in the district, satisfying the gathering. Trouble also broke out over the inequitable distribution of margarine, leading to a demand by the Board of Management for the resignation from the local Food Control Committee of a private trader who had allocated eight cwt. of margarine to himself and only two cwt. to the Society, although it comprised 60 per cent. of the total consumers in the town. A protest brought little satisfaction. Despite this unfair treatment, and the fact that the members agreed to a change of rule to allow the allocation of money for political purposes, the membership wavered in taking action to strengthen the Movement’s position in Parliament. They turned down a proposal to have a working agreement with the Labour Representation Committee to secure Parliamentary representation, whereupon the Society’s public bodies committee resigned, Mr. Robert G. Yates maintaining that such inconsistency made the committee’s work futile. This the public bodies committee disappeared, but from the ashes arose a more innocuous body, the vigilance committee, whose activities were confined to putting questions to candidates for Parliament. Soon after the Armistice that ended the four years of was the country was plunged into a General Election (Lloyd George’s “coupon” election), and those far-seeing, politicallyminded co-operators worked hard to return candidates who would give the Movement justice. Amid these major national happenings, events, concerning the Society during 1918 were insignificant, but it is interesting to note that a section of members showed their enterprise by suggesting that the Society should open a shop in far-off Rothesay! Scarcity of labour and the difficulty of obtaining supplies forbade such a project, however. BEATING THE TAX Like many other societies Clydebank was badly hit when in 1919 it was discovered that the method of computation of the Excess Profits Tax was based, not on the rate per £ of dividend, but on the gross profit, thus causing depletion of the reserve fund by over £3,000. By March the liabilities for E.P.T. reached the sum of £7,773. When it became known that provision was made for reclaiming sums paid in that way Mr. John M. Biggar, the auditor, strongly recommended selling at low prices with reduced dividend in order to recover what was generally considered an unjust tax. The Board readily agreed, as did the members, with the happy result that the Society received from the Assessor every penny paid in E.P.T. In politics the Society continued to be “wobbly.” By a very narrow majortity it was agreed to be represented in the annual May Day procession, while there was a prolonged and heated discussion as the result of a grant of £20 to the Labour College. The Committee were rapped over the fingers at the quarterly meeting for submitting the issue to arbitration without first consulting the members, and the part of the minute reporting the arbiter’s decision was erased from the minutes as being “out of place” and “entirely illegal.”


Again the Board was chastised when the members sent a telegram to the president of Carlisle Congress condemning the action of the Board in allowing the Clydebank delegates to have a “free hand” to vote on the question of conscription. Good work by the employees during the war is revealed in a report regarding the winding up of the relief fund. During the period from September 1914 till February 1919 the sum of £936 was subscribed by the employees, and £855 was disbursed in grants to serving employees’ widows and dependants and to various hospitals and charities. Twelve men gave their lives in the conflict, and their memories are perpetuated in a tablet at the entrance to the Hume Street Office. Those who died where:JOSEPH AIRD

HUGH SOMERVILLE

THEODORE BRADY

THOMAS RANKIN

THOMAS CALDWELL

WALTER THOMSON

ROBERT MORTON

ROBERT SPITTAL

ROBERT ROSS

JAMES GALE

JOHN WATSON

JAMES HOUSTON

Features of the first post-was year were the attainment for the first time of the 10,000 membership and £250,000 sales marks; the purchase of Auchinleck Farm; the inauguration of a magazine; and the purchase from the Liberal Association of clubrooms in Alexander Street. CORPORATION TAX “Non-belligerent” describes the role of the Clydebank Society when the Cooperative Movement’s fight with the Government over the Corporation Tax reached its climax in 1920. Those who believed that interference in politics would be harmful continued to wield the greater influence, with the result that the Society took no part in the agitation against the passing of the tax, which involved payment to the Government of 1s. for every £1 a Co-operative society devoted to the reserves, to depreciation of stocks, land and buildings, to education, to interest on shares – in fact, to any purpose other than payment of dividend. The failure of co-operators to organise their resources and return to Parliament representatives favourable to their cause had the inevitable result of the Corporation Tax being approved by Parliament. Their fight, however, was not entirely in vain, as the agitation was sufficiently powerful to mellow the Finance Bill and many of the harsher injustices originally drafted were left out. Another beneficial effect was that the opposition created a greater respect for the Movement among M.P.s. So disgusted were those in favour of political participation by Clydebank with the majority who supported neutrality – “the faint hearts” they were bitingly called – that they actually moved the rejection of resolutions they favoured. It was, for instance, Mr. Robert G. Yates, one of the most ardent Socialists among the members, who moved “In view of the fact that we make no effort to carry out the recommendations of Congress that we be not


represented at Bristol Congress and that we make no protest against the tax on Co-operative reserves, but just take our gruelling.� This backwardness, however, was confined to the political outlook, and in business and social progress there was no lack of enterprise. A £225,500 building scheme was embarked upon, and enlarged premises, consisting of a grocery and provisions department, pastry, fruit and confectionary counters were opened in Alexander Street, and the principle of direct labour in new building ventures was adopted. In education, too, there was no lack of initiative. In the new rooms in Alexander Street a gymnasium was fitted up, while no fewer than six choirs were conducted. The junior choir was particularly successful, winning the championship in their initial appearance in the Scottish Co-operative Musical Festival, also first places at the Dumbartonshire and Edinburgh festivals. The last of the 128 employees who had been called away on war service returned to their jobs and all were entertained as a token of the Society’s appreciation to their sacrifices.


XIV.

The Slump

Darkest period in Clydebank’s whole history began soon after the bells had ushered in the year 1921. The post-war boom played itself out, and the slump struck Clydeside with its full force, laying a deadly silence over the town of ships and sewing machines. It was then that Clydebank became known as “the town of stunted steeples,” because the slump stopped all building and left new churches half finished. Few of the male population enjoyed a full week’s work, and most were totally unemployed. To meet the distress the Clydebank Society management decided to cut prices of essential foodstuffs. Some of the comparisons with the private trade were:Co-operative

Private Trade

Sugar

-

-

-

-

8 ½ d. lb.

10 d.

lb.

Bread

-

-

-

-

1/3 4-lb. loaf

1/4 ½ 4-lb. loaf

Cheese -

-

-

-

1/4 lb.

1/6 lb.

Margarine

-

-

-

1/- lb.

1/2 lb.

Oatmeal

-

-

-

-3/8 stone

4/- stone

Sales, naturally, slumped, and gradually the Society moved into the shadow that shrouded the entire country. An impressive ceremony in March 1921 was the unveiling of a bronze and oak tablet in the entrance hall of the Hume Street offices to the memory of the 12 employees who fell in the Great War. The solemn ceremony was presided over by Mr. A. R. Raeburn, accountant. Unveiling the memorial, Mr. W. Montgomery, general manager, paid a moving tribute to “the men who did their bit in the great cause of liberty.” Mr. Montgomery added, “ They went forth to do their duty knowing that they went out on a dangerous and hazardous task.” Tribute was also paid to the brave deceased by Mr. Robert G. Yates, the newly-elected chairman, who declared the world had a great lesson to learn from such an occasion – the necessity of avoiding another such tragedy. Alas, as the years were to prove, the lesson was not learned. Another sad event in 1921 was the passing of the Society’s first president, Mr. Richard Livingston, and a man to whom the Society and town owed much.


The year ended on a brighter note, with the granted to Co-operative societies of exemption from the highly unpopular Corporation (Profits) Tax. It was an outstanding victory for the Movement and an indication of the decision to seek political influence. WAGES CUT Bleaker than ever became the industrial condition of the burgh in 1922. Commerce in Europe was at its lowest ebb since the signing of the Armistice, and the depression in Britain was intensified by the strife, first in the mining then in the engineering and allied trades. Backed by a short-sighted Government, the employer imposed heavy wage reductions upon the working classes, whose consequent impoverishment led to deflation of the home market demand. The workers were forced to confine their purchases to the bare necessities of life, a state of affairs that was vividly reflected in the trading returns of the Society. Nevertheless, the management were able to boast at the June quarterly meeting that “although Clydebank has been hit harder than any other district by the depression the Society shows robustness and vigour.” Events proved that contention. It was obvious that the Board were not prepared to accept adversity lying down. With great courage they planned and put into effect new ventures. High on steep Kilbowie Hill a handsome new store was opened to cope with the trade of the people in the north of the town. This suite of shops possessed 14 brightly dressed windows which quickly attracted many new customers from the corporation housing scheme. To meet dissatisfaction with the bakery service, the Board acquired premises containing two ovens, which were promptly put into working order and used for the production of morning rolls, teabread, and cakes. Thus for the first time the Society did its own baking and was able to capture trade that had been passing into other channels. Stamp trading was introduced, a motor charabanc and car-hiring service was started, and the first moves made in the provision of a funeral undertaking service. As capital decreased by £33,800 and quarterly sales by close on £48,000, it will be agreed that the men in charge were individuals with no mean degree or courage. Economies had to be made, however, and when the energetic Educational Committee reported in October that they were in debt to the extent of £450 drastic action was taken to curtail their activities. The issue was the subject of many hectic and heated debates. The Educational Committee members offered to serve without salary, but their gesture was rebuffed. They next asked the Society to wipe off the debt, but this suggestion the members also rejected. When the members of the committee tendered their resignations en bloc the monthly meeting refused to accept them. Another economy was effected by sacrificing membership of the Glasgow and District Conference Association. An interesting insight into the affairs of the Society is provided by the fact that towards the end of 1922 (the December quarter), the dividend declared was 7d. in the £ - the lowest ever paid – and it was only paid by raiding the reserves. Actually, little or nothing was


available for distribution, but the Board decided that they would be justified in nibbling at the reserves to retain the confidence of the members. LOW DIVIDEND While willing to use the reserves to tide the organisation through a crisis the Board were not prepared to do anything to endanger the financial stability of the Soceity, and the chairman, Mr. Yates, strongly resisted a move at the first half-yearly meeting in 1923 to augment the dividend by 3d. by raiding £3,000 from the allocation for depreciation. There had been some resentment among the members at the continuance of a 7d. dividend, but they accepted the explanation that the low rate of profit was due entirely to the continued unemployment and the abnormal demands for increased rents, rates, and taxes and not to mismanagement. Indeed, the opinion was expressed that the Board had shown commendable efficiency, and the chairman was strongly supported in his refusal to accept the motion proposing deduction from depreciation. At the same meeting the emoluments and expenses allowances of the Committee were cut. About this time the principle that all employees of the Society must be trade unionists was introduced. Many members left the country in 1923 in search of better conditions abroad. A notable departure for Canada (for a holiday only) was Mr. Matthew Hunter, who had been secretary during the three trying preceding years and one of the leading co-operators in the community since the start of the century. An energetic, diligent office-bearer, a fluent speaker whose services as a propagandist were in great demand, and a gifted writer of prose and poetry, Mr. Hunter is due special thanks for his work in compiling the first history of the Society. Some of Mr. Hunter’s poems were inspired by events in the Society’s history. Published in the Scottish Co-operator a month or so before Mr. Hunter’s departure was the following poem dealing with the development of the touring trade:Let me sing you a song of the charm of the road That leads away out of the town, Of the glens and the hills and the glimmering rills And the woods that are turning to brown ; Of the magical lure of the meadow and moor And the generous heart of the wild, Where eloquent silence of nature enchants The soul of the world-weary child.

Clydebank Society actually conducted the first bus service between the town and Dumbarton.


XV.

Union with Dalmuir

An important advance towards the consolidation and strengthening of the Co-operative forces in the area was the amalgamation of the Clydebank and Dalmuir societies in 1924. That union was one of the few good things arising from the slump. Left weak and wobbly by the severe blow of trade depression Dalmuir decided that it would be wise to sacrifice their long-cherished independence, and in the end the much-resisted fusion was approved, without much bother. On 15th May the ancient hatchet was buried, and the Clydebank Society was given a membership of 11,329, share capital of £104,094, reserves of £30,585, and trade of £470,840. At the Clydebank meeting, at which the amalgamation was approved - by 137 votes to 0 – it was announced that the Clydebank shares were worth 23s. 6d. per £ and the Dalmuir shares 12s. 1d. per £. This event marked the end of years of friction that might have been avoided away back in 1881 had the Dalmuir committee only agreed to open a branch in the tiny village of Clydebank. Had that happened, of course, no such society with the name of Clydebank would have existed to-day. With the town showing signs of emerging from the industrial slough the local Cooperative management, with the characteristic courage and enterprise of the predecessors, looked around for fresh fields of conquest. Most important of their decisions concerned the erection of a new and up-to-date creamery, for which 5,100 square feet of land was acquired in Chalmers Street. Another new venture was the opening of the first drug shop. At the same time agreement was reached with the United Co-operative Baking Society regarding the small bakery conducted in Alexander Street. A service satisfactory to the members was promised by the U.C.B.S., and from the deal the Society emerged with quite a profit. An increase of 3d. in dividend gave trade some impetus, as did an exhibition of Cooperative productions conducted by the S.C.W.S. in the Town Hall. At the opening of the exhibition Mr. David Kirkwood, who had entered Parliament as the burgh’s first Socialist M.P. two years previously, paid a warm tribute to the part played by the local Society in helping those who had been “up against it” during the worst of the slump. A notable event during the year was the honouring by the S.C.W.S. of Mr. Alexander Howie, one of the Clydebank pioneers, who was presented with an illuminated address – a gift which is popularly known as the Scottish Co-operative “V.C.”


At the presentation ceremony Mr. James Boag, president of the Society, declared truly that “Mr. Howie always worked for the benefit of the Society and not for money.” Handing over the address on behalf of the S.C.W.S., Sir Robert Stewart recalled that Mr. Howie had worked for Clydebank “when it was a very weak child,” and as the Society now had a splendid pile of buildings to its credit Mr. Howie had proved “a capital nurse.” He had belonged to a brand of workers who, with no practical experience or business training to guide them, had fought an uphill fight, but with patience and perseverance had laid the foundations of a structure that had proved a blessing to thousands of men and women. Acknowledging that well-merited tribute, Mr. Howie recalled his Co-operative interests since 1872 – as a director of Clydebank, the U.C.B.S., and the Co-operative Drapery and Furnishing Society; and, commenting on the development of the Movement locally and the recent amalgamation remarked: “Dalmuir’s first mistake was that instead of branching out in Clydebank they allowed a fresh society to be formed.” Another honour bestowed upon the Society in 1924 was the election of a former director, both of Clydebank and Radnor Park, Mr Samuel MacDonald, to the position of Provost of the Burgh. Reaching a crisis in the closing weeks of the year was an issue – the Rent Dispute – in which local co-operators took a leading part. For two years the attention of parliament and other local authorities had been almost continuously focused on Clydebank as the result of the stand taken by the citizens against rent increases permitted by the passing of the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest Restriction. Act. There was much agitation and non-payment of rent, and for many months tenants fought off the increases, but in the end most of the property owners had their cases upheld in the Court of Session. NEW CREAMERY Outstanding event of 1925 was the opening of the new creamery. It was an occasion for justifiable pride on the part of the co-operators. Increasing attention had been given in the early ‘20s to milk supplies from the public health point of view. The old standards depending largely upon the senses of taste and smell and the relative proportions of solids and cream were no longer regarded as the ultimate basis for a proper judgment of quality. Scientific investigation had revealed that there was a large amount of preventable tubercular disease in young children due to neglect of proper precautions. Reference to the commendable determination of the directors to ensure a healthful milk supply for the community was made at the opening on 5th September by Mr. Albert Hughes, vice-president, who expressed the Board’s belief that in such a matter of providing a modern creamery “the best was the cheapest.” All along the Society had striven to give the people the purest supply of milk that could be procured, said Mr. James Boag, president, in declaring the building open, but until then the supply had been just as it came from the farmers. It had been found that the supply


was not as clean and pure as it should be, and on learning that the directors had decided to purify the milk and give the people a supply guaranteed free from dirt and germs and disease. The name of Mr. John B. Walker was mention by Mr. Boag at the luncheon held later in the day. Mr. Walker, it appeared raised the cry for a creamery many years previously when he sat on the Board. Indeed, he came to be regarded by the other members as a kind of nuisance and acquired the nickname of “The Milkman” because no matter what the subject they started to talk about he always dragged them round to the need for a purer milk supply! Tribute to Mr. Walker’s persistency and foresight was also paid by Sir Robert Stewart, S.C.W.S. president, who expressed gratification that that day Clydebank’s “Johnny Walker” was “still going strong.” When it was opened the creamery had a bottling capacity of about 2,000 gallons of milk per day, and it also supplied the Renfrew, Anniesland, and Duntocher and Hardgate societies. GENERAL STRIKE Peculiar problems arose for the Co-operative Movement out of the General Strike, which paralysed Britain for 10 days in May 1926. The strike, which was declared by the Trades Union Congress General Council in support of the miners, who were locked out by the employers after refusing to accept an all-round wages reduction of 13 1/3 per cent. and an increase of one hour in the working day, involved Co-operative managers in a tremendous amount of worry and trouble. It often happens in a fight that the non-combatant suffers the heaviest blows, and in some respects that was the fate of Co-operative Movement during the General Strike. By adhering strictly to the trade union terms the Co-operative societies sometimes had to suffer delays that did not trouble their competitors. In some places there was irritation and trouble, but on the whole the people of Clydebank showed understanding. It happened that at the time of the strike Mr. William Montgomery, the general manager, was seriously ill, but his assistant, Mr. John B. Gillies, came through the test in a manner that made him the automatic choice as the next “G.M.” A second “V.C.” came to Clydebank from the S.C.W.S. in 1926, Mr. James Boag gaining that distinction. Unfortunately, Mr. Boag was unable owing to illness to attend the presentation and hear the tributes to his “integrity, honesty of purpose, and devotion to the Movement.” With the slump period past, sales, membership, and share capital rose steadily, and within a year the output from the creamery almost trebled. In six months 805 motor hires were provided, and 5,096 passengers were conveyed by the Society’s charabancs to various parts of Scotland during the second half of the year. Members had been slow to avail themselves of the funeral undertaking service started in 1925, but by the end of 1926 the reluctance was broken down and the business well


established, as well it might be as the entry of the “Co-op.” into the trade had caused a considerable drop in prices. SHORT MEMORIES Early in 1927 we find the chairman, Mr. Alexander Campbell, reproving members for having “short memories” because, after having been assisted by the Society during the industrial upheaval of the preceding year, they went outwith the Society for their requirements. From the statistics, however, it is apparent that there were only a few of those ungrateful “black sheep.” Average weekly purchases rose by close on 1s. and by the end of the year a 20 per cent. increase in sales was announced, taking trade beyond the half-million pounds mark. One innovation that accelerated this progress was the introduction of mutuality club for drapery, boot, and furnishing articles. Within a month the wisdom of this venture was proved by the fact that 1,200 members had joined the club. It had also the effect of cutting expenses I n the drapery warehouse – a problem that had given the management much worry, and there was a corresponding rise in the dividend from 1s. 3d. to 1s. 7s., which also stimulated trade. Capital came flowing back for the first time since before the slump, and in twelve months the amount owing to creditors for goods was reduced from over £30,000 to less than £7,500. The rate of recovery from the dark times of depression exceeded all expectations, and with the financial position completely restored there was a better tone and feeling among the membership than had existed for some years. Clydebank Co-operative Society had clearly staged a complete “come back,” and great credit is due to all those who steered it past the hazards that brought others to grief. Amongst those who fell was the nearby Lennox Society, to whose members Clydebank generously gave a grant of £50. One of those whose lived just long enough to see the restoration of the Society’s balance and its return to prosperity was Mr. Thomas Keenan, one of the pioneers. Mr. Keenan, whose death in September was deeply regretted, was the Society’s first representative on the U.C.B.S. board. He was also remembered gratefully as the chief instigator of the penny bank, one of the most popular and beneficial activities undertaken by the Co-operative organisation in the town. Despite the economic trails of the ‘20s the Society remained strictly neutral politically, and when the Co-operative and Labour Parties reached a working agreement at Cheltenham Congress and the members were informed at their monthly meeting that the decision in no way affected the Society. In the chairman’s words: “We have no entanglements with any shade of political opinion.”


XVI.

Fresh Fields

With new suburbs being built all round the fringes of Glasgow and the Clydeside towns, and the various societies anxious to capture new sources of trade, overlapping disputes intensified and multiplied, and early in 1928 the Scottish Sectional Board of the Co-operative Union sought to grapple with the problem. Schemes covering the whole of Scotland were drawn up, and Clydebank was among the 13 societies included in an amalgamation plan to cover the area North of the Clyde. But like many other well-laid schemes it went “agley” and remained just a paper plan. For the better part of the year discussions on the scheme took place, but there was little real support for it, and the Clydebank co-operators were no more willing than any of the others to be swallowed up in one huge North-Glasgow unit. The scheme was not finally killed until 1929. Something did result from the talks, however, so far as Clydebank was concerned, Blairdardie members deciding to throw in their lot with the co-operators from the shipbuilding burgh. Clydebank had many members in the new housing areas at Bankhead, Knightswood, and Yoker, where houses to accommodate a population of 10,000 had just been completed. Finding they could not cope with the demands for new services in the Bankhead area, the Blairdardie Society’s management made overtures for amalgamation. Like Barkis Clydebank was “willing,” and in November 1928 the scheme for union was submitted to the members meetings. There were no dissentients at Clydebank, but. Somewhat surprisingly and largely because of the apathetic attitude of their members, Blairdardie failed to secure the necessary three-fourths majority. The fact that only 17 voted for amalgamation and a mere 12 against indicates the lack of interest that prevailed in the village on the issue. Fusion was so obviously necessary, however, that a few weeks later, following visits to Blairdardie by representatives of the Clydebank Board, the decision was reversed, and with effect from March 1929 Blairdardie passed out of Co-operative history. One of the conditions of union was that the services of all the employees of both societies, at the date of amalgamation, would be retained. Another clause stated that if so desired an arrangement would be made whereby a member from Blaridardie district would be appointed as soon as practicable to serve on the Board of Management of Clydebank Society for a period of 12 months. Another outstanding feature of 1928 was the manner in which capital poured into the Society. Some of it was used to develop services and cater for new housing areas, but the flood of money was so great that most of it had to be reinvested; £19,000 went to Clydebank


Town Council to aid their large-scale building developments, £10,000 to Dumbartonshire County Council, and £21,000 to the Co-operative federations. A comparison with 1926 illustrates the extent of the Society’s “come-back.” Sales rose during the two years by 38 per cent., average weekly purchases by 50 per cent., membership by 8 per cent., and the rate of dividend by 125 per cent. It was an amazing recovery. Despite the tremendous improvement in the finances, which had led to economics such as withdrawal from membership of the Glasgow and District Conference Association, the Board did not consider the time ripe for renewing membership of that Association despite persistent approaches. Disposal of Auchinleck Farm for £4,000 marked the end of the Society’s venture into farming, while another enterprise – the cinema performances in the Hume Street Hall – terminated with the withdrawal of the licence. Innovations during 1928 included the inauguration of a competition amongst farmers for clean milk tests and butter fat, and the inception of a welfare scheme whereby a committee of 12 employees worked in conjunction with the Educational Committee to provide facilities for golf, tennis, bowls and football. OVERLAPPING Repercussions in the form of clashes with Anniesland Society followed the completion of the amalgamation with Blairdardie. Large-scale amalgamation in the area would have ended the dispute, but neither of the conflicting societies favoured union, although the Clydebank management indicated that they would not be averse to unions with the Duntocher and Westerton societies. Both Anniesland and Clydebank staked claims in Knightswood, and they formed a special joint committee to thrash the matter out. At one of the meetings the Anniesland president produced a map date 1903 giving all the allocations of the Glasgow and district societies, but such out-of-date evidence was made during the protracted discussions. Building schemes went ahead. Garscadden Road and Parkhall were among the places chosen for the opening of new premises. Within a few days over 400 customers were patronising the Garscadden shop, and it was immediately apparent that it would eb inadequate to meet the demand, and that plans would require to be prepared for a suite of premises to cope with the new purchasers. A RICH REWARD Despite a droop in the arc of employment the speed of the onward march of the Society was accelerated as the ‘30s began. The foresight and enterprise of the Board of Management were richly rewarded as the new shops in the various districts came into use. In the first six months of the year close on a thousand new members joined and enjoyed the benefits of Co-operation. This was a remarkable tribute to the Society’s efficiency,


particularly in the face of the increase in unemployment in the shipyards – an increase which, fortunately, was arrested in the closing months of the year with the placing of large shipbuilding contracts.


XVII.

Fifty Glorious Years

Reduced prices and reduced purchasing power caused a slight downward tendency in trade by the time the Society’s 50th anniversary was reached. Nevertheless, the organisation was thriving and in the fine fettle for the celebration of the jubilee, and it was with justifiable pride in the past and the present that representatives of all the Society’s agencies met on Wednesday, 20th May 1931, to observe the occasion. Memories of the early struggles were revived by Mr. Henry Burton the president, who narrated to those assembled the story of the rise of the Society. “Looking back over the 50 years we are inclined to ask ourselves if the Society has justified itself as a Co-operative organisation,” said Mr. Burton, adding, “Honestly we can answer ‘yes.’ It has been of immense value and benefit to the working people in the district.” Comparative figures for the 1st and 50th years showed how striking had been the advance:-

Membership

1881

1931

-

-

-

70

14,365

Sales

-

-

-

-

£3,760

£675,000

Capital

-

-

-

-

£158

£276,500

Dividend

-

-

-

-

£177

£44,000

The total trading surplus returned to the members during the 50 years was £1,172,944 – money which had been a boon to the inhabitants of the burgh during the many dark spells of idleness and the “dole” they had endured. One of the pioneers, Mr. Alexander Howie, was able to attend the celebration and hear the many eloquent tributes paid to him and his courageous early colleagues. Acknowledging a well-merited presentation of a wallet and Treasury notes, Mr. Howie declared: “ I have worked for this Society since it started to the best of my ability, and I never worked for the reward.” To Mr. Howie was also given the honour of proposing the toast of “Clydebank Co-operative Society.” He told of the many problems that had confronted him and his fellow committeemen, and he expressed his pride that the small organisation started 50 years previously had grown to become so healthy. The company was also fortunate in having one of the early employees, Mr. William Montgomery, general manager, to reply to the toast. Mr. Montgomery declared that in


addition to being successful as a business concern the Society had also achieved the object of improving the membership mentally and culturally. It took a healthy interest in the every-day life of the members, and he was justified in asserting that the Co-operative system of business had inculcated in the people a thrift and independence that they would not otherwise have shown. Others taking part in the toast list were Mr. John M. Biggar, whose financial advice as auditor had proved invaluable; Sir Robert Stewart, president of the S.C.W.S.; Mr. James Little, secretary; Mr. John M. Davidson, then chairman of the U.C.B.S.; Mr Alexander Campbell, Clydebank’s representative on the U.C.B.S. board; Provost M’Kenzie; and Councillor John Taylor. In addition to this gathering the jubilee was celebrated in other ways. Each member received a canister filled with one pound of tea as a memento of the occasion, and at a sale in the drapery warehouse a discount of 1s. 8d. in the £ was given. A special historical supplement was published by the Scottish Co-operator, and various donations were given, including £250 to the Co-operative Convalescent Homes and £100 to the Co-operative Veterans Association. Two annual bursaries were also presented, these being awarded to the winners of a competition open to children who had completed a three-years’ course of post-primary education and whose parents or guardian had been members of the Society for a year. By those gifts the co-operators of 1931 showed that they had inherited the fine community spirit that had prompted the pioneers’ efforts to improve the lot of the people. The jubilee year, alas, ended unhappily. A sequel to the resignation of the second Labour Government was the slashing of expenditure by their successors. Shipping was one of the first industries to suffer when the economy axe decended, and it was with justifiable dismay that they people of Clydeside heard that the intimation that work on the giant Cunarder, the Queen Mary, was to be stopped completely. It was a stunning blow to the community, and with thousands again joining the “dole” queues shop sales slumped and the rise in Co-operative trade was once more arrested. SILENT SHIPYARDS The hush that descended over the shipyards with the stoppage of construction continued throughout 1932. Always ready to adapt their policy to the times the Co-operative management engaged in price-cutting to aid the many members whose incomes slumped. Particularly helpful was the reduction in the price of bread decided upon in consultation and conjunction with the U.C.B.S. and neighbouring societies. The appreciation with which the public greeted that and cuts in other essential commodities was demonstrated by the consistent weekly rise in sales and membership. The members’ loyalty, it was state at one meeting, was “beyond praise.” In addition to price-cutting the mutuality club scheme proved a boon, while those in extreme distress were relieved by special grants from the Society. No fewer than 359 members benefited by these grants. The community generally had reason to


be thankful of the existence of the Co-operative Movement, whose policies and deeds had a beneficial influence in cushioning the crushing effect of poverty. There was not the same rush to withdraw capital that had taken place in previous depressions. In fact, to avoid the dangers of over-capitalisation, it was agreed to cease accepting share capital and to reduce interest. Important changes in the personnel took place during this difficult year. One of those arose, unfortunately, through the death of Mr. William Montgomery, the general manager. His passing was deeply regretted as he had performed valiant service in building up the organisation. Mr. Montgomery, who had served in the Society for 45 years – all but six of its existence – was not one who forced himself into the limelight, but his shrewdness and efficiency had a steadying influence, particularly during the years when he was general manager. To find a successor the Committee did not have to search far. In the absence during various illnesses of Mr. Montgomery, Mr. John B. Gillies, the assistant manager, had always proved an able deputy, and he was given the post of general manager while sharing joint control with Mr. Robert Mathieson, who had given valuable service as accountant. Throughout all the difficulties and changes the expansion of the Society continued, and an important development was the opening of a complete suite of new shops to serve members in the Boulevard area of Knightswood. STILL RUSTING When 1933 dawned the hulk of the Queen Mary was still rusting on the stocks and the ship cradles in other yards were like animal skeletons. As if the poverty caused by depression was not enough, the Government sought to apply another turn to the screw by hitting at the workers’ pockets through the Co-operative Movement. By accepting the Raeburn Committee proposals for the imposition of additional taxation on Co-operative societies, the Government created a situation to make every Cooperative member an Income Tax payer, even if he or she was on the Means Test. This oppression, however had the effect of making the Clydebank co-operators revise their opinion regarding participation in politics. They agreed to guarantee a sun “not exceeding ½ d. per member” to the Co-operative Union for the purpose of providing a fund for the Income Tax opposition campaign, and also to participate in the formation of a local vigilance committee consisting of two members from each of the educational organisations, two employees, and two directors to conduct the campaign in the district. The campaign was carried through with thoroughness and gusto. The main vigilance committee was divided into six sub-committees who were allocated districts for canvassing. Postcards of protest were sent to every household in the community. In conjunction with the 24 other societies in the area Clydebank decided to send a delegate to a special conference in London to protest against the proposals and to present a petition to all M.P.s. In support of this action it was unanimously agreed at the March quarterly meeting to protest against the Raeburn Committee’s report to the Government, which recommended a tax on Co-operative societies’


reserves and investments. “ We consider,” declared the Clydebank members, “that this is a violation of the existing law of mutual trading, and we reserve to ourselves the right to take what action we consider fit to resist this unjust imposition.” Another progressive step was the decision to rejoin the Glasgow and District Conference Association. The 10-year break with the “G. and D.” was not healed without difficulty. Voting resulted in 110 raising their hands in favour of reaffiliation, while 66 were opposed. The chairman ruled that a two-thirds majority was necessary and that the motion had therefore failed to carry, but after legal opinion had been taken the chairman admitted that he had erred, and he declared the proposal carried. So the fold was re-entered. Although the Society was catering for the distressed, a section of the members considered that prices could be cut still lower. They propagated that belief so successfully that there was a large majority in favour of a resolution instructing the Board of Management “to make full use of the Society’s reserves in order that they may pursue a competitive policy and reduce prices so that none of our members will have any excuse for buying outside their own Society.” Further, they urged the Board to take full advantage of that policy to prosecute an intensive publicity campaign with propaganda meetings and striking poster displays. Cutting prices, however, was easier said than done. Back in the Boardroom the directors asked the general manager to investigate the position, and after hearing his statement they reached the unanimous decision that in view of the small profit margins and the fluctuating state of the markets “the present low prices in operation in the Society could not be improved upon.” A promise was given however, that should there be any reduction in wholesale prices the full advantage would be immediately passed on to the members. That explanation was accepted. Incidentally, it was also pointed out at this time that what be purchased for 20s. a year previously cost only 16s. in 1933. Despite the hard times and the reduction in the cost of living, the Board decided not to accept a proposal for a 2 ½ per cent. reduction in the basic rates of employees’ wages. For that charitable decision they found themselves involved in a prolonged dispute with the Cooperative Wages Board. There was also some “family” trouble during the year. Following a series of disagreements with the president of Knightswood Women’s Guild there was a breakaway by a section of that guild – a break that, fortunately did not last long. Throughout those major and minor problems the Society continued to develop, and an important improvement was effected in the milk service by the installation of modern creamery plant. When opened eight years previously the creamery had been one of the best in the country, but in view of many new inventions in connection with pasteurisation of milk the Board of Management considered the time had arrived for the introduction of up-to-date machinery. That was done at a cost of £6,000.


Entry into the drysaltery business was another indication that the progressive tradition was not being lost. Death of Mr. Robert G. Mathieson in June was a blow, as he had done much in his capacity as financial manager to build up and preserve the Society’s finances during the lean years. Mr. Mathieson’s passing led to a reversal of the old arrangement of having an assistant general manager. For that position the Board again found no need to go outwith the Society, Mr. William Leitch being appointed, while Mr. J. Morrison was promoted to the position of cashier and accountant.


XVIII. A

Happy Morn

To the joyus skirl of a bagpipe band the gate of Brown’s shipyard opened one bright April morning in 1934 and thousands of happy men marched through to renew the task of completing their masterpiece – “Ship No. 534” – now known throughout the world as the Queen Mary. After two years and four months of neglect the giantess again began to receive ardent attention from the men of Clydeside, who eagerly moulded her into the beauty she is to-day. Resumption of work on the “Queen” compensated to some extent for the disappointment caused by the closing of Beardmore’s marine engine department at Dalmuir, and there was a marked spurt in trade. Clydebank Society resumed its arrested march towards the half-million pounds sales mark with a rise in trade for the first half of the year of close on £25,000 compared with the preceding six months. The trade barometer was set “fair.” Well-deserved tributes to the part played by the Society in the difficult days was paid by Provost Smart when he attended a spectacular Co-operative exhibiton held in the Town Hall towards the end of the year. “There is no doubt, “ declared the Provost, “ that during the troublesome period the Co-operative Society was a veritable godsend to the people and that the dividend was the saviour of many families.” The exhibition gave a tremendous stimulus to the Movement locally and by the end of the year the membership leapt to almost 17,000. Politically, too, the advance of Clydebank co-operators continued, the formation of a local branch of the Co-operative Party taking place in February. The bonds between the Society and the community were further strengthened when important Town Council contracts were secured, including the provision of groceries, milk, fish, and bread to the burgh hospital, and the job of painting 300 new council houses. A new feature was the issue of vouchers for attendance at members’ meetings, while plans were passed for a sausage factory, a boot repair works, and a receiving depot. FULL BLOOM With the population no longer impoverished Co-operation went into full bloom. Sales soared weekly. Every new shop more than justified itself. Yet, despite their comparative prosperity, the people did not forget their trials of the earlier ‘30s,and the political pulse quickened. Far advanced beyond their old attitude of neutrality, Clydebank sponsored and housed an area conference to intensify the agitation against the continuance of


the taxation imposed upon the Movement under the Finance Act of 1933. A strongly-worded demand was made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to withdraw the burden from workingclass institutions such as Co-operative societies. The same conference also protested against the Government’s policy of introducing Marketing Boards which gave producing interests complete control over the necessities of life with representation being afforded to consumers. Attacks were made, too, on the Government for surrendering to the demands of private enterprise for support through the medium of subsidies while at the same time the family lide of the nation was being upset by the Means Test and the provision of inadequate scales of unemployment relief. In spite of the taxation the Society opened at Dalmuir its fifth suite of new shops in the course of a few years. One of the largest ventures undertaken, this involved the complete reconstruction of the property taken over on the transfer of the former Dalmuir Society’s premises in the Glasgow – Dumbarton road. The suite included accommodation for a new line – a druggist shop. In the centre of the town the Society had the distinction of being the first in Scotland to provide a chiropody service. This pioneering venture, which was later emulated by others, consisted of the opening of a surgery and consulting rooms as an adjunct to the footwear department. During 1935 a superannuation scheme for the employees was introduced. A largescale amalgamation scheme with the Anniesland and St. George societies was attempted, but it came nowhere near securing the necessary three-fourths majority from the Clydebank members, who turned it down by 67 votes to 57. ANOTHER CONTRACT When Clydebank said “farewell” to the completed Queen Mary there were grave fears that many townspeople would lose their jobs and rejoin the “dole” queues. Great was the relief and the rejoicing, therefore, when the contract for a giant sister ship, “No. 552,” later christened the Queen Elizabeth, was placed with Brown’s by the Cunard White Star Company. It signified continued prosperity for many months. The town and its trade were “on the crest of the wave.” It was under those happy circumstances that the burgh’s jubilee was celebrated, and in those celebrations the Co-operative Society – formed five years before the community gained the status of “burgh” – played a worthy part. With the members of the Labour Town Council all Co-operative there was a close bond between the Society and the civic board, and the two bodies worked together to ensure that the occasion was fittingly observed. In the jubilee pageant the members of the women’s guilds took a particularly keen interest, and provided an excellent display that upheld the Movement’s prestige. In the jubilee brochure, issued as a souvenir of the occasion, the Society published its achievements, reporting that membership had soared past the 18,000 mark and that annual sales over £835,000 gave it the right to claim to be the largest trading concern in the district.


It had capital of £390,000, reserves of £60,000, investments of £347,000, including loans of £103,000 to the burgh, had 92 shops, and covered an area extending six miles. The main problem of the Board of Management at this time was to cope with the congestion caused by the rapidly rising membership, and throughout the year they were almost constantly considering schemes of extension. Important contracts, including the burgh’s public assistance contract, contributed towards the prosperity. The Society just missed the very high sales target of £886,000 set under the Cooperative Union’s Ten Year Plan of development, but the effort had beneficial effects acting as a spur to future development. Last of the pioneers, Alexander Howie, passed away in the closing month of the year, but he had lived to witness the organisation he had nurtured grow to tremendous strength. This pioneer well merited the tribute: “Well done, good and faithful servant . . .” RESPONSE TO THE CALL To detail all the developments that took place in 1937 would almost require a catalogue. It is doubtful whether any society has ever developed with such rapidity. Repeatedly the directors heard appeals from all districts and departments for more accommodation, and they showed no lack of enterprise in responding to the calls. This year there was no mistake about attaining the Movement’s Ten Year Plan target, the trade quota being exceeded by no less than £6,000. Week after week new sales records were established, and any rebuffs were felt as mere pinpricks. The sharpest jab was experienced when, just as the Society was on the eve of opening a new chemist shop, the famous dispute with the Proprietary Articles Traders’ Association began. That Association intimated to all Co-operative societies that they would only supply goods such as proprietory medicines provided an undertaking was given that dividend would not be paid on the article concerned. That interference with Co-operative practice and principle was strongly resented, and challenged with no lack of vigour if with no great success. During the year an approach was made to the Duntocher and Hardgate Society to reconsider the old question of amalgamation, but the request was turned down. Equally inconclusive were talks with St. George Society about development in the Kingsway area. No agreement was reached, and ultimately Clydebank made a successful application to Glasgow Corporation for a site, of which, as may be seen, they made excellent use. HALF MILLION REACHED The half-million mark in sales was reached for the first time in the Society’s history during the first half-year of 1938, the exact figure being £501,045, which was particularly satisfactory as a certain amount of depression descended over the town following the launching of the Queen Elizabeth. Introduction of trading restrictions and the operation of


marketing schemes also had a braking influence upon trade, but the Society kept marching on. In addition to the opening of the handsome suite of premises at Kingsway major schemes embarked upon were the £11,500 extension at the central warehouse to cope with the growing boot trade and the installation of new bottling and washing plant at the creamery. As a memento of the launching of the Queen Elizabeth a commemoration parcel consisting of S.C.W.S. productions was sold in the grocery branches, while the U.C.B.S. provided a special cake in honour of the occasion. This proved an excellent publicity scheme, and by the end of the year the membership had risen by 8002. That remarkable figure might have been exceeded had fresh attempts to secure union with Anniesland, Duntocher, and Westerton societies been successful, but the result of these negotiations was “as before.” Being unable to foretell the evil future the members supported a proposal to establish a diamond jubilee fund for a celebration in September 1941 – but that is a story for another chapter.


XIX.

War Clouds Burst

Unrest and uncertainty about the international situation had a disturbing effect on the town’s trade when 1939 opened. New work at Beardmore’s helped the Dalmuir area, but, on the other hand, many of Singer’s workers were placed on short-time. Nevertheless, the Society continued its ascent, and for the first time membership rose to and past the 20,000 mark. Meanwhile the black war clouds continued to gather, and when Nazi-dominated Germany went the vital step too far by invading Poland the British nation became involved, on 3rd September, in another calamitous European conflict that was to inflict great trials upon the people, and by no means lest of all upon the citizens of Clydebank. The declaration of war was not accompanied by the same near-panic that characterised the outbreak of battle in 1914. There was a rush on the part of consumers to buy sugar in larger quantities, but the local Society was well prepared and had the situation under control from the outset so that all members received equitable treatment. Preparations were quickly made to meet all possible emergencies – and these precautions were to stand the organisation in good stead when the time of ordeal arrived. The basement of the Hume Street premises was passed as suitable for a shelter under the Air Raid Precautions scheme; accommodation was provided in the hall to the Auxiliary Fire Service; the Society paid its first contribution of £1,200 to the War Risk Insurance Tax; the shops were closed at 6pm. (Saturday, 6.30 p.m.); and daylight delivery of milk was arranged. All the Society’s coal wagons were commandeered and within a month coal rationing commenced. In preparation for general food rationing 400 women members were addressed at a special meeting by Mr. J. B. Gillies, general manager, who explained the position. This appeared to give the members confidence, and when registrations for rationed goods were placed the Society was in a very favourable position. Indeed, the increase in the grocery trade following rationing was quite remarkable, indicating the faith of the people in the Movement’s ability to give them a square deal – a faith that was not misplaced. FOOD SHIPS SUNK In the opening months of 1940 – that period of military inactivity known as “the phoney was,” when the opposing armies contented themselves with sparring instead of striking – trade was good and supplies satisfactory. Consumers felt the first twists of the screw of shortage, however, when in May and June the German divisions rolled over the


plains of Holland, Belgium, and France, driving the British armies from Europe and leaving Britain to carry on the war alone. Established in coast bases, the submarines began to take heavy toll of the foodships bound for Britain, and soon some shortages in supplies became evident. Meat became scarce. To save paper shoppers were asked to carry baskets or shopping bags. Coal was needed to feed the war machine, and for a time domestic consumers were allowed to order only one bag at a time. Along with the commodity shortage scarcity of labour developed. With 39 employees in the Services the Co-operative society was compelled to introduce substitute and female labour in its shops. At the same time steps were taken to safeguard those who had been called to the Forces. Reinstatement of all employees joining the Forces or called to national service was agreed to, and a similar guarantee was extended to conscientious objectors. It was difficult even to secure boys for milk delivery, and to meet that problem Clydebank reached a mutual arrangement with Anniesland, St. George, and Westerton societies. Still, these difficulties were not regarded as a reason for mere entrenchment. The Society opened a new boot department and a new mantle salon as additions to the Alexander Street drapery warehouse. It was reported that the Society had received about 35,000 registrations for sugar and over 27,000 each for butter and bacon under the rationing scheme, and those figures rose steadily with each succeeding re-registration period. In October the Board were faced with the problem of the Purchase Tax, and they decided to pay dividend on the gross price, inclusive of the Tax, a policy in keeping with that prevalent throughout the Movement and with general Co-operative principles. Arrangements for fire-watching at the Society’s premises were made, and the Board placed their fleet of cars at the disposal of the police for use in the event of air raid emergencies. While the German bombers had begun to hammer London and other Southern cities and towns, they had practically ignored Scotland, and apart from a few fleeting visits to the vicinity had not disturbed the community of Clydebank. However, that immunity, unfortunately, was not to continue. DEVASTATION At 9.12 p.m. on Thursday, 13th March 1941, the air-raid sirens wailed their warning to the people of Clydebank that raiders were approaching the area. No-one felt unduly alarmed, as such warnings were fairly regular and had brought no dangers since 19 th July of the previous year, when a lone raider dropped a bomb on a Yoker tenement, killing three people and injuring eighteen others. The 13th, alas, was to prove an unlucky night. It was Scotland’s first experience of a full-scale terror blitz and Clydebank was to pay for its fame as a shipbuilding and munitions centre. As the first formation of bombers flew over the town their incendiaries, or fire bombs, fell on two highly imflammable places on either side of the burgh, the distillery at Yoker and Singer’s timber yard, and the leaping flames from those points provided the succeeding waves of raiders with easy targets.


The writer of this history spent that night of fire and blast in the Co-operative Hall, Hume Street, where a concert by the U.C.B.S. Party was rudely interrupted, and the scene there was described in the following passage written at the time for the Scottish Co-operator:A tremendous roar shook the building and shattered every pane of glass in the hall. There were hysterical shouts from women and children. The blackout curtains waved as the wind swept through the glassless windows. “Out with the lights,” came the order, promptly obeyed, for a light was a target for the raiders. Even in the gloom a few of the entertainers continued to strum and sing at the piano. But most of us crowed into the darkened ante-rooms and corridors beneath the platform and waited . . . Twice we felt the concussion from exploding bombs. Soldier appeared and took charge. Ultimately we were shepherded downstairs to the hall basement, glimpsing on the way the moonlit, firelit, flare-lit sky and hearing the ominous overhead drone. We stood in groups in the crowded cellar, hoping in each interval between the series of explosions that they had gone . . . One by one, as the hands of the clock crawled round, we sought rest on the floor, using old (I hope, for they were scrap by morning) ledgers and cashbooks as cushions. As watches showed 1 a.m. the 300 of us resigned ourselves to a night of it and sought rest. The cellar was a conglomeration of legs, arms and heads, weary and listless – until a sudden starling roar and a violent quiver convinced us that the building was about to tumble upon us. Up leapt everyone in alarm. I never saw a crowd jump with such precision. Then, as the walls stood intact and the noise died away we lapsed back to our uncomfortable positions on the floor and dozed, only to be roused to our feet soon afterwards by another “near miss” rocking the building. Between each wave of raiders and bang of guns and bombs there was a silence of about 10 minutes, during which we always listened hopefully for the shrieking, sustained note of the “all clear” – only to have our hopes dashed by another boom or thud. The long-desired wail liberating us from our cellar came sounding only after we had crouched there for over eight of the most unpleasant hours of our lives. What a different Clydebank met our eyes. It was still between dawn and daylight. The semi-dark sky was illuminated by the dull red glow of fires. Orange flames shot from burning buildings. Every window had been blown to pieces, and the streets were littered with smashed glass and broken telegraph and tram wires. Some tenements were shells; on a few of the last embers of fires were flickering; while others were just heaps of rubble. MORE SAVAGERY Those nine hours of terror transformed Clydebank into a town of death and desolation. That was only the first instalment of the savagery. Fires were still burning when the Luftwaffe returned the following night to renew the attack, when the “all-clear” sounded the morning of 15th March the town was terrible to behold. Only 12 buildings escaped


damage, 46,000 houses were damaged, and 4,300 completely destroyed, 534 people were killed, and 1,088 injured in Clydebank alone. (The respective figures for the Clydeside area were 1,100 and 1,600.) In such saturation bombing the Co-operative Society suffered severely. About onethird of the Society’s premises were rendered useless. Many were irreparably damaged, and some were reduced to heaps of rubble. At a hurriedly-summoned meeting of the Board the manager reported the loss of 38 shops, including 12 grocery branches, but he was also able to intimate that 55 branches were open for business – a tribute to the employees, three of whom lost their lives in the raids. Despite the tremendous dislocation the Society’s services never ceased. Within two hours of the “all-clear” following the initial attack the homeless in the relief food centres were supplied. Coal, milk, and bread were sold from lorries, and on the Sunday the food shops were kept open, services for which the Society was warmly thanked by the harassed Ministry of Food officials. Only a few of the wartime population of 55,000 remained in the town after the second raid. Fears of a rush to withdraw capital were not realised, and a decision to restrict withdrawals to £5 was quickly reversed in favour of the regular practice when it was seen that no panic existed. Loss of members was a bigger problem, but the co-operators of Scotland showed that while they might wrangle among themselves over details they could rise to the occasion and show the real spirit of the Movement in time of trouble. At the instigation of the Dalziel and Wishaw societies a meeting was held, at which a scheme to help Clydebank and other blitz-stricken societies was devised. They agreed to allow evacuated Clydebank members to trade under their own membership number and to pay dividend on purchases at the rate prevailing in the society in which the member traded. In this way continuity of Co-operative membership was preserved, and a 10 per cent. discount on purchases was allowed to the Clydebank Society. Some remarkable reconstruction feats were performed even with days of the orgy of destruction. One blast-damaged fish shop was made serviceable within three days. In ruined Radnor Park only a backshop remained intact, but rapidly and ingeniously by the use of old fittings and salvaged doors it was converted into a grocery and fleshing department. In the same area a three-storey block belonging to the Society was condemned for demolition, but following the intervention of the S.C.W.S. building department that order was cancelled and the houses were ultimately reoccupied. Other shops in the same suite, however, were smashed beyond recognition. Likewise, all that remained of four shops in Second Avenue, Radnor Park, were a barred window and a potato bunker! At Parkhall all that was left of three shops were parts of walls; even from those there was reconstructed a shop with a corrugated iron roof and plaster board ceiling and walls. Beyond the builders’ aid were the large premises of the old Dalmuir Society, but other shops were taken over and the service in this badly damaged district never stopped.


Besides property much money was lost, many notes being burned and much copper and silver being melted. This was found in the score or so of battered burned safes retrieved from destroyed buildings. One safe was so hot, a month after the blitz, that it had to be pulled out of the debris with chains, while another was warm even three months later! A wise precaution against the destruction of the members’ accounts had been taken by the cashier and accountant, Mr. Morrison, who throughout the war carried in his possession a small tube containing a film record of each account. Each tiny photograph included approximately seven hundred figures, and if the ledgers in the Hume Street office had been destroyed exact copies would have been available. Educational work was abruptly stopped by the blitz, but the members of the women’s guild saw to it that the interruption was not prolonged. No halls were available, so the guildwomen decided to continue their activities by meeting in small groups in each other’s houses. That was a typical example of the spirit in which the people generally tackled the problems arising from the devastation of their town. STRENGTH UNIMPAIRED Neither the strength nor the spirit was knocked out of the Society by the bombers’ blows. At the first general meeting after the raids it was announced by the auditor, Mr. J. M. Biggar, that the widespread damage to property had not impaired the Society’s stability, and that reserves were much more than the nominal value of the property. So much for the organisation’s strength. At the same meeting the members showed that their spirit was also unimpaired by rejecting a proposal by the directors that members’ meeting be suspended, and that the Board remain as constituted and take full powers to control the Society until the end of the period of emergency. Also defeated was a suggestion that the monthly meetings be held on Saturday afternoons from October till March. In May the Society attained its 60th anniversary. It had been intended to celebrate the occasion, but even before the blitz the idea had been abandoned, and the decision to disburse the diamond jubilee fund, amounting to £2,800, by paying a bonus of 4d. was most popular. Specially welcome was the money to the many members who suffered heavy loses in the air raids. Once again, on 5th May, the windows of several branches were blasted in an air raid which, however, was not nearly so severe as the March bombings. Arising from the blitz was a new service – a canteen in the Hume Street Hall, which still remains a popular service. The opening of the canteen was prompted by a deputation from the shop stewards at Brown’s shipyard, who requested facilities for the workmen. The U.C.B.S. agreed to undertake the catering, a licence was granted on condition that the canteen would be available to industrial workers only, kitchen facilities were installed, and since then the number of daily dinners has risen to as high as 750.


XX. Reconstruction

A “remarkable recovery” was reported at the first monthly meeting of 1942, and with the town left alone by the bombers, similar reports regarding the Society were made throughout the year, which, compared with its predecessor, was uneventful. Redevelopment work included the reopening of shops at North Kilbowie and Parkhall, where thousands of townspeople resumed residence. The trade and memberships graphs soared once more after the sudden plunge precipitated by the air-raids. Recovery continued despite a tightening in the food supply position and the introduction of a pool system for retail distribution which curtailed transport deliveries. Social and educational activity also revived, and on 24th April the first Clydebank Co-operative Youth Club was opened. Always mindful of those away on Service, the members decided to pay weekly allowances to all employees with the Forces, married men and those with dependents receiving 10s. and single men 5s. Their consideration for others was also shown by the institution of share numbers in the names of China and Russia, the proceeds from dividend being allocated to the Movement’s funds for the relief of war victims. Later, a similar scheme was adopted for the aid of returned soldiers. NEW MANAGER Important changes in the personnel of the management of the Society were made in March 1943, when Mr. J. B. Gillies broke 45 years’ continuous service by retiring from the position of general manager. During Mr. Gillies’s period of service membership rose from 1,437 to over 22,000, sales from £67,000 to £972,000 per year, share capital from £23,000 to £684,000, and the number of grocery branches from 2 to 26. For a successor to Mr. Gillies the Board found no need to search outwith Clydebank, the assistant general manager, Mr. William Leitch, being unanimously appointed to the chief executive post. (Mr. Leitch, incidentally, was the employee with the longest service in the Society, which he joined as an apprentice in 1903.) Mr. Hugh Allan, who had been manager of the former Blairdardie Society at the same time of its amalgamation with Clydebank, became the assistant manager. With those appointments from the Society’s own staff continuity of policy and the Society’s traditional progressive outlook were preserved. The work of rebuilding continued and soon sales rose again to the half-million pounds mark from which they had been tumbled by the “blitz.” It was a remarkable come-back. Few had considered such a revival possible, and the


fact that it was accomplished reflected highly upon the goodwill and faith of the members and the hard work of the employees and management. ROCHDALE CENTENARY Celebration of the 100th anniversary of Co-operation under the Rochdale principles was the outstanding feature of the Movement’s history during 1944, and Clydebank Society took a prominent part in the pageant held in St. Andrew’s Halls, Glasgow, during July. With Anniesland, Clydebank staged the second of the eight episodes depicting Co-operative progress throughout the years. That episode illustrated the conditions of the working people of Scotland in pre-Rochdale years, before 1800, when they were suffering from the effects fo the American Rebellions, the French Revolution, and the introduction of mechanisation in the textile industry. One of the scenes enacted by the Clydebank-Anniesland players dealt with the problems of the Fenwick Weavers, who founded Britain’s first co-operative society in the year 1769. The Clydebank players considered it a great honour to depict such a memorable episode in the history of the British working class, the birth of the Movement which has done more than any other to release the people from economic bondage and which now envelopes the world. The players in that episode were Messrs. W. Barron, D. Caldwell, R. Jones, W. Neish, I. Bain, and A. Duncan; Mesdames Hyslop and E. Bowie; and Mary M’Crae, Winnie Green, Rita M’Kee, Isobel Fryer, Daive M’Nicol, David Turnbull, N. Irvine, N. Bourie, J. Hamilton, H. Draper, C. Lindsay, R. Mills, I. O’Halleran, D. Bell, R. Hamilton, S. Gilchrist, F. O’Halleran, C M’Crae, G. M’Lachlan, C. Forbes, I. Forbes, A. Docherty, V.Moore, A. Moore, and C. Warrilow. Apart from the joint celebration with the other societies in the Glasgow area, Clydebank observed the centenary with gatherings of its own. In August all those with 50 years’ membership, including those who had been members of the Dalmuir, Radnor Park, and Blairdardie societies, were entertained and presented with £1 apiece. Those qualifying for that honour numbered 109. Joining in this celebration were Mr. David Kirkwood, M.P., Mr. Neil S. Beaton (president, S.C.W.S.), and Provost D. Low, who referred to the close cooperation between the Society and the Corporation and their efforts to rebuild the burgh, its trade and services. Twenty-nine superannuated employees and 76 employees with more than 25 years’ service were entertained and presented with gifts. Each was thanked individually for service to the Society by Councillor Thomas Davidson (the president), who complimented specially those who worked during the “blitz” period and he forecast that as a result of their fortitude Clydebank would “regain its glory.” A third gathering was that of past and present directors. Five former presidents, Messers. Maxwell, Nicholson, Burton, Campbell, and M’Clune, were present at the function. Some of the strain of wartime conditions was lifted following the successful invasion of France in June by the Allied Armies, and in September the members met for the


first time for five years free from “blackout” conditions. At that meeting optimism was expressed about the end of the war, and in preparation for that happy day the directors indicated plans for reconstruction and expansion. It was intimated that since the start of the war the Society had deposited the total sum of £230,000 in Government stocks as its contribution to the various savings campaigns. POST-WAR PLANS By the time the Allied troops overran Germany and brought the war to a close on 8th May 1945, the post-war plans of the Clydebank co-operators were well under way, and the records are almost a catalogue listing the acquisition of new properties and the opening of additional shops. Ground for premises to serve new housing estates was acquired at the Boulevard, Milton Mains, Milton Douglas, Dalmuir West, Whitecrook and Second Avenue; and the Clydebank Pavilion building was bought with a view to future development in the centre of the town. Mr. Thomas Davidson, who became the first chairman of the Society to be elected Provost of Clydebank, was able to announce at the half-yearly meeting that all the trade lost during the “blitz” of 1941 had been recovered and that, in fact, a new sales peak had been reached. Trade for the six months was over £656,000, an increase of £57,000 compared with the corresponding period of the previous year. One sad reflection on the conclusion of the war was that eight of the employees had died while serving with the armed Forces. Those young men who bravely gave their lives so that the Co-operative and other democratic movements might continue were: NORMAN ALLARDICE JAMES CLELLAND WILLIAM DUNSMORE ALEXANDER MACKAY

ALEXANDER M’CALLUM THOMAS MARSHALL ANGUS STEWART THOMAS WILLIAMS

The election of a Labour Government with a strong majority have hope to the workers of Clydebank that they would be protected from the periodic depressions that had assailed them in the past. The sudden termination by the United States of America of the lease-lend agreement was a less happy happening, however, and the food supply position again tightened. The faith of the people in the fairness of the Co-operative Movement in allocating available supplies was reflected in the large increase in the number of registrations (about 15,000) placed with the Clydebank Society. With the war over there was a revival in educational activity. A youth organiser, the first in the Society’s history, was appointed, and the junior choir was re-formed.


XXI. Things

To Come

Prosperity seemed assured of a long run in Clydebank when 1946 opened. The shipbuilding firms had orders in their books that guaranteed full employment in the yards for four or five years, and the prospect was equally bright at Singers and other factories in the burgh. Progress was being made in new housing schemes, and families who had been compelled to vacate the town during the 1941 catastrophe were returning at the rate of 30 a month. Almost as fast as they opened one new shop the management of the Society found themselves confronted with fresh demands for further accommodation and additional services to cope with the swelling sales. Although kept busy catering for immediate needs the directors found time to prepare for the future, and with “things to come” in mind they spent £25,000 on the acquisition of two excellent sites at Anniesland Cross. This was the culmination of amicable negotiations with the Anniesland Society regarding services in the Knightswood area. Talks also took place with Duntocher and Hardgate Society, and these led to the preparation of an amalgamation scheme. Provision was made for two of the “D. & H.” board members to sit for 12 months on the directorate of the proposed amalgamated organisation, and a guarantee of two years’ employment was given to all permanent employees. Clydebank members gave unanimous assent to the scheme, but it failed to win the approval of the smaller society.

NEW COLONIES Throughout the next 12 months the post-war plan of reconstruction and expansion took further shape, and the reports presented at the monthly meetings were similar in pattern, telling of reopened shops, newly-acquired properties, and new services. With the town’s industrial machine in top gear and new housing colonies springing up to replace the bombdamaged buildings in the centre of the burgh excellent opportunities for business development were offered, and the co-operators in the community showed their traditional enterprise and courage in pursuing and capturing new trade. Even the problems arising from the exceptional winter blizzards and coal supply shortage, which caused many industries to cease operations, did not stop the Society’s advance. To counter another difficulty during the year, a heavy increase in the tax on tobacco, an important departure was made from the ordinary Co-operative practice by the decision to cease payment of dividend on sales of cigarettes and tobacco.


Towards the close of 1947 negotiations for amalgamation of the Anniesland and Clydebank societies reached a climax with the presentation of a scheme to the respective memberships. At Clydebank a five-to-one majority favoured the fusion, but at Anniesland the proposal, although receiving 233 votes to 116, did not get the necessary majority. That rebuff was not accepted meekly, and almost immediately the two boards of management reopened negotiations and sought to find a scheme to meet all objections to union. A feature of the new scheme was a guarantee of five years’ employment to all employees. In the 11 months that elapsed between the two amalgamation attempts more members became favourable towards fusion. Unfortunately, the pendulum did not swing quite far enough. Clydebank members were unanimous, but Anniesland members failed by 11 votes to give the resolution the required three-fourths majority. Thus were months of patient negotiation rendered fruitless. Like all their predecessors right back to the pioneers the directors of to-day have had their disappointments, such as the Anniesland episode, but, also like those who have gone before, they are having triumphs far greater than any temporary setbacks. They are undertaking a rebuilding and development programme such as has never before been tackled by any society in Scotland. Many outstanding achievements stand to the credit of those who presently guide the Society. The Educational Committee, whose activities were rudely interrupted by the 1941 air raids, has been reformed with such success that the Society now numbers among its auxiliary agencies eleven branches of the Women’s Guild with over 1,500 members, bowling clubs, dramatic groups, choirs, and a youth club; while the children are being encouraged to take an interest in the Movement by means of an essay competition with a holiday at one of the Co-operative Union youth centres as a prize. Introduction of a hirepurchase scheme and a system for speeding-up milk delivery by a direct creamery-toconsumer service have proved popular. Equally acceptable to the members was the opening of a self-service grocery store (in the new Whitecrook suite of shops) aimed at accelerating service and abolishing queues. Clydebank was one of the first societies in Scotland to adopt that modern method of trading, and the venture was so successful that its extension was a matter for immediate consideration by the management. As this book closes the Society has on hand schemes costing close on £500,000 so that the citizens of the town of ships and sewing machines may have a Co-operative service second to none in the land. Si monumentum requiris, circumspice (If you seek his monument, look around). That inscription on the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren in St. Pauls Cathedral, one of the great architect’s masterpieces, might well be adapted and applied as a tribute to those who down the years have built that noble structure, the Clydebank Co-operative Society, which has done so much to ensure economic justice for the people, eased their burden when poverty oppressed, and provided many of the higher joys of life.


XXI. Things

To Come

Prosperity seemed assured of a long run in Clydebank when 1946 opened. The shipbuilding firms had orders in their books that guaranteed full employment in the yards for four or five years, and the prospect was equally bright at Singers and other factories in the burgh. Progress was being made in new housing schemes, and families who had been compelled to vacate the town during the 1941 catastrophe were returning at the rate of 30 a month. Almost as fast as they opened one new shop the management of the Society found themselves confronted with fresh demands for further accommodation and additional services to cope with the swelling sales. Although kept busy catering for immediate needs the directors found time to prepare for the future, and with “things to come” in mind they spent £25,000 on the acquisition of two excellent sites at Anniesland Cross. This was the culmination of amicable negotiations with the Anniesland Society regarding services in the Knightswood area. Talks also took place with Duntocher and Hardgate Society, and these led to the preparation of an amalgamation scheme. Provision was made for two of the “D. & H.” board members to sit for 12 months on the directorate of the proposed amalgamated organisation, and a guarantee of two years’ employment was given to all permanent employees. Clydebank members gave unanimous assent to the scheme, but it failed to win the approval of the smaller society. NEW COLONIES Throughout the next 12 months the post-war plan of reconstruction and expansion took further shape, and the reports presented at the monthly meetings were similar in pattern, telling of reopened shops, newly acquired properties, and new services. With the town’s industrial machine in top gear and new housing colonies springing up to replace the bombdamaged buildings in the centre of the burgh excellent opportunities for business development were offered, and the co-operators in the community showed their traditional enterprise and courage in pursuing and capturing new trade. Even the problems arising from the exceptional winter blizzards and coal supply shortage, which caused many industries to cease operations, did not stop the Society’s advance. To counter another difficulty during the year, a heavy increase in the tax on tobacco, an important departure was made from the ordinary Co-operative practice by the decision to cease payment of dividend on sales of cigarettes and tobacco.


Towards the close of 1947 negotiations for amalgamation of the Anniesland and Clydebank societies reached a climax with the presentation of a scheme to the respective memberships. At Clydebank a five-to-one majority favoured the fusion, but at Anniesland the proposal, although receiving 233 votes to 116, did not get the necessary majority. That rebuff was not accepted meekly, and almost immediately the two boards of management reopened negotiations and sought to find a scheme to meet all objections to union. A feature of the new scheme was a guarantee of five years’ employment to all employees. In the 11 months that elapsed between the two amalgamation attempts more members became favourable towards fusion. Unfortunately, the pendulum did not swing quite far enough. Clydebank members were unanimous, but Anniesland members failed by 11 votes to give the resolution the required three-fourths majority. Thus were months of patient negotiation rendered fruitless. Like all their predecessors right back to the pioneers the directors of to-day have had their disappointments, such as the Anniesland episode, but, also like those who have gone before, they are having triumphs far greater than any temporary setbacks. They are undertaking a rebuilding and development programme such as has never before been tackled by any society in Scotland. Many outstanding achievements stand to the credit of those who presently guide the Society. The Educational Committee, whose activities were rudely interrupted by the 1941 air raids, has been reformed with such success that the Society now numbers among its auxiliary agencies eleven branches of the Women’s Guild with over 1,500 members, bowling clubs, dramatic groups, choirs, and a youth club; while the children are being encouraged to take an interest in the Movement by means of an essay competition with a holiday at one of the Co-operative Union youth centres as a prize. Introduction of a hirepurchase scheme and a system for speeding-up milk delivery by a direct creamery-toconsumer service have proved popular. Equally acceptable to the members was the opening of a self-service grocery store (in the new Whitecrook suite of shops) aimed at accelerating service and abolishing queues. Clydebank was one of the first societies in Scotland to adopt that modern method of trading, and the venture was so successful that its extension was a matter for immediate consideration by the management. As this book closes the Society has on hand schemes costing close on £500,000 so that the citizens of the town of ships and sewing machines may have a Co-operative service second to none in the land. Si monumentum requiris, circumspice (If you seek his monument, look around). That inscription on the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren in St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of the great architect’s masterpieces, might well be adapted and applied as a tribute to those who down the years have built that noble structure, the Clydebank Co-operative Society, which has done so much to ensure economic justice for the people, eased their burden when poverty oppressed, and provided many of the higher joys of life.


Epilogue

Anyone

privileged to write an epilogue is rather fortunate, and the opportunity of

epitomising the history of Clydebank Society is a high honour of which I am extremely proud. The ideals of the Rochdale Pioneers are crystallised throughout the chapters of the book; the hopes and ambitions of the early stalwarts are clearly portrayed, and the expansion and development of our Society – an achievement which one can only wonder at – is later described. With the world drifting slowly to a planned democracy the Co-operative Movement assumes an importance in world affairs scarcely thought of a decade ago. In Britain, where the working-class movement is asserting itself and displaying to the world that it is fit to govern, a place must be found for a Movement whose ideals are so high and whose capacity to distribute the product of the worker cannot be disputed. In that place Clydebank Society must play its full part and be prepared to sacrifice local autonomy if necessary and become a strong link of the chain of Co-operation. With that glorious history behind us we who are members of Clydebank Society must and will take our full share. MURRAY D. BROWN President


Presidents R. LIVINGSTON

-

-

-

W. THOMSON -

-

-

-

A. HOWIE

-

-

-

-

-

1883-89

J. S. KERR

-

-

-

-

-

1889-90

J. HEMPSEED

-

-

-

-

R. ARNOTT

-

-

-

-

-

1891-94

R. B. CORNOCK

-

-

-

-

1894-95

D. GILMOUR

-

-

-

-

-

1895-98

J. BOAG

-

-

-

-

-

1898-1903

J. BURNS

-

-

-

-

-

1903-06

G. IRVINE

-

-

-

-

-

1906-08

S. MAXWELL

-

-

-

-

J. BOAG

-

-

-

-

J. NICHOLSON -

-

-

-

J. J. M’WILLIAM

-

-

-

-

1918-21

R. G. YATES

-

-

-

-

1921-24

-

-

-

-

-

1924-26

A. CAMPBELL -

-

-

-

H. BURTON

-

-

-

-

-

1929-32

J. SMITH

-

-

-

-

-

1932-35

T. DAVIDSON -

-

-

-

H. BRUNTON

-

-

-

-

-

1938-41

C. M’CLUNE

-

-

-

-

-

1941-44

T. DAVIDSON -

-

-

-

1944-47

M. D. BROWN -

-

-

-

1947

J. BOAG

-

1881-83 1883

1890-91

1908-12 -

1912-15 1915-18

1926-29

1935-38


General Managers W. MONTGOMERY

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-

-

-

1898-1932

J. B. GILLIES

-

-

-

-

-

1932-43

W. LEITCH

-

-

-

-

-

1943

How The Society Has Grown Reserve

Year

Members

Sales £

Capital

Dividend

Fund

£

£

£

1881-82

-

70

3,760

157

177

Nil

1886

-

185

6,319

2,236

730

48

1891

-

560

22,289

7,810

2,672

138

1896

-

1,200

59,633

21,622

7,243

589

1901

-

2,038

98,427

40,422

10,870

782

1906

-

3,871

175,705

72,544

23,061

1,835

1911

-

5,676

245,177

95,679

26,425

5,263

1916

-

8,523

549,971

202,577

61,445

10,000

1921

-

10,853

893,593

251,940

55,322

28,009

1926

-

11,278

467,705

162,519

22,060

21,997

1931

-

14,601

645,496

283,186

75,243

34,295

1936

-

18,330

863,058

406,095

100,364

49,936

1941

-

21,667

1,038,470

608,741

148,247

72,108

1942

-

21,925

971,628

684,096

106,841

76,679

1946

-

24,236

1,464,728

1,059,038

193,834

99,183

1947

-

25,021

1,634,659

1,130,314

230,606

104,599


A History of Clydebank Co-operative Society