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Willie Gallacher lived from 25 December 1881 to 12 August 1965. He was a trade unionist who served as a Communist Member of Parliament. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Willie Gallacher was born in Paisley. His father was Irish and his mother was a Highlander who supported the family by working as a washerwoman after his father died when Willie was seven. Willie started to work part time when he was ten, and left school for good two years later. His jobs included acting as a delivery boy for a grocer: he left after a dispute with his employer. He later worked as a steward on a transatlantic liner, as a scaffolding erector in Belfast, and at the Albion Motor Works in Glasgow. He spent much of 1913 visiting his sisters in Chicago, then returned to the Albion Motor Works.
During his youth, Gallacher became a supporter of the Temperance movement. He later briefly joined the Independent Labour Party before moving on to the Social Democratic Federation, where he met and was strongly influenced by John Maclean. Gallacher was opposed to Britain's involvement in the First World War and as President of the Clyde Workers' Committee used the house journal The Worker to give voice to his opposition. In 1916 The Worker was prosecuted under the Defence of the Realm Act and Gallacher was sent to prison for six months.
After the war, at the height of what later became called the "Red Clydeside" period, Gallacher campaigned to limit the working week to 40 hour. In January 1919 a mass strike was organised, and after police broke up a demonstration in Glasgow's George Square the British Government, fearing a Communist insurrection, sent the army onto the streets of Glasgow with tanks. The leaders of the strike were arrested and Gallacher was imprisoned for five months.
By 1920 Gallacher was a leading figure in the Communist Labour Party. In 1925 he was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment under the Incitement to Mutiny Act 1797. After a series of unsuccessful attempts in a number of different constituencies, Gallacher was elected to be the Communist Member of Parliament for West Fife in 1935. He lost his parliamentary seat at the 1950 General Election, and from 1956 to 1963 served as the President of the Communist Party of Great Britain. He died in 1965, having been one of only three Communist Members of Parliament to serve without the backing of the Labour Party.