Our Good and Faithful Friend: Tom Johnston (1881–1965)

  • Paul Ward


It is axiomatic that a party officially adopting the label ‘Unionist’ for half a century between 1912 and 1965 and adhering primarily to the concept of the Union since 1886 should be the site of constant and firm allegiance to the Acts of Union that held the United Kingdom together in the twentieth century. However, the Labour movement too, despite its adherence to the principles of Scottish Home Rule from the 1880s to the mid-1920s, and a continuing paper commitment to devolution until the 1950s, was as much a unionist movement as its main rival in Scotland.


Labour Movement Labour Government Labour Party Civil Defence Irish Immigrant 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    The best general source for Labour in Scotland is Ian Donnachie, Christopher Harvie and Ian S. Wood (eds), Forward! Labour Politics in Scotland 1888–1988 (Edinburgh: Polygon, 1989).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Graham Walker, Thomas Johnston (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988)Google Scholar
  3. and William Knox (ed.), Scottish Labour Leaders 1918–1939 (Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1984), pp. 149–58 provide good interpretations of Johnston’s life.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Michael Keating and David Bleiman, Labour and Scottish Nationalism (London: Macmillan, 1979), chapter 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 6.
    For the debates over nation and class within the British labour movement see Paul Ward, Red Flag and Union Jack: Englishness, Patriotism and the British Left, 1881–1924 (Woodbridge: Royal Historical Society/Boydell, 1998). This was not the only interpretation of the working class relationship to the nation in The Communist Manifesto. In the same place, Marx also wrote that ‘the struggle of the proletariat is at first a national struggle’ and that the proletariat ‘must constitute itself as the nation’. He said that differences and antagonisms between nations would vanish, but not necessarily the nations themselves.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Thomas Johnston, Our Scots Noble Families (Glendarvel: Argyll Publishing, 1999 [1909]), pp. xxxii. Johnston later repudiated the book as ‘historically one sided and unjust and quite unnecessarily wounding’: Memories (London: Collins, 1952), p. 35.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    For the new journalism and the social origins of the leaders of the ILP see Carl Levy, ‘Education and Self-Education: Staffing the Early ILP’, in Carl Levy (ed.), Socialism and the Intelligentsia 1880–1914 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987), pp. 135–210.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Rohan McWilliam, Popular Politics in Nineteenth-Century England (London: Routledge, 1998), p. 55.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    For a discussion of ‘varieties of populism’ in the late nineteenth century see Patrick Joyce, Visions of the People: Industrial England the Politics of Class, 1848–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 65–74.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    See Catriona M.M. Macdonald and E.W. McFarland (eds), Scotland and the Great War (Edinburgh: Tuckwell, 1999).Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    T.C. Smout, ‘Scotland 1850–1950’, in F.M.L. Thompson (ed.), The Cambridge Social History of Britain 1750–1950 Volume I Regions and Communities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 235.Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    See for example Iain McLean, The Legend of Red Clydeside (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1983).Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    Thomas Johnston, The History of the Working Classes in Scotland (Wakefield: EP Publishing, 1974, reprint of fourth edition, 1946 [1920]), p. 5.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    John Foster, ‘The Twentieth Century, 1914–1979,’ in R.A. Houston and W.W.J. Knox (eds), The New Penguin History of Scotland From the Earliest Times to the Present Day (London: Penguin, 2002), p. 434.Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    Gordon Brown, Maxton (Glasgow: Fontana, 1988), pp. 11–17 describes the scene.Google Scholar
  16. 25.
    Quoted in Knox, Scottish Labour Leaders, p. 151. Most of the Clydeside MPs were teetotallers. Johnston’s Kirkintilloch exercised the local option and was ‘dry’ between the 1920s and 1970s, and Johnston was one of the few who voted for a stern private member’s bill on licensing which would have imposed prison sentences on drink traffickers: W.W. Knox, Industrial Nation: Work, Culture and Society in Scotland 1800–Present (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999), p. 198.Google Scholar
  17. 29.
    For Labour and imperialism in the 1920s and 1930s see Partha Sarathi Gupta, Imperialism and the British Labour Movement, 1914–1964 (London: Macmillan, 1975)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. and Stephen Howe, Anti-Colonialism in British Politics: The Left and the End of Empire, 1918–1964 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 32.
    See G. Douds, ‘Tom Johnston in India’, Journal of the Scottish Labour History Society, 19 (1984), pp. 6–21.Google Scholar
  20. 34.
    See Antoinette Burton, Burdens of History: British Feminists, Indian Women, and Imperial Culture, 1865–1915 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  21. 39.
    It was not only the economics of Empire that developed popular imperialism in Scotland. MacKenzie has pointed out that the imperial missionaries David Livingstone and Mary Slessor were ‘celebrated by the auto-didacts of the trade union movement, the working-men’s clubs and left-leaning politicians’: John M. MacKenzie, ‘Empire and National Identities: The Case of Scotland’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th series, 8 (1998), p. 226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 45.
    Knox, Scottish Labour Leaders, p. 154. See Johnston’s The Financiers and the Nation (1934).Google Scholar
  23. 46.
    For different interpretations of the place of planning in Scottish politics see Richard J. Finlay, ‘Continuity and Change: Scottish Politics 1900–45,’ in T.M. Devine and R.J. Finlay (eds), Scotland in the Twentieth Century (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996), pp. 80–81 and Foster, ‘The Twentieth Century,’ pp. 448–9.Google Scholar
  24. 48.
    See Jack Brand, The National Movement in Scotland (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978), p. 52.Google Scholar
  25. 51.
    For Labour debates over appeasement and preparation for war see Paul Ward, ‘Preparing for the People’s War: Labour and Patriotism in the 1930s,’ Labour History Review, 67 (2002), pp. 171–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 55.
    Churchill was heard to say ‘Ah, here comes the King of Scotland’ as Johnston approached him: T.M. Devine, The Scottish Nation 1700–2000 (London: Allen Lane, 1999), p. 552.Google Scholar
  27. 58.
    Michael Lynch, Scotland: A New History (London, Century, 1991), pp. 436–7.Google Scholar
  28. 60.
    Quoted in Report of the Official Committee on the Machinery of Government, on the Machinery of Government in Scotland, 24 December 1943, in Ian Levitt (ed.), The Scottish Office: Depression and Reconstruction 1919–1959 (Edinburgh: Scottish History Society, 1992), p. 101.Google Scholar
  29. 64.
    See Richard J. Finlay, ‘Scotland in the Twentieth Century: In Defence of Oligarchy?’ Scottish Historical Review, 73 (1994), 103–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 65.
    Quoted in Murray G.H. Pittock, Scottish Nationality (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), p. 112.Google Scholar
  31. 68.
    Richard Weight, Patriots: National Identity in Britain, 1940–2000 (Basingstoke: Pan, 2003), p. 203.Google Scholar
  32. 70.
    Quoted in Ben Pimlott (ed.), The Second World War Diary of Hugh Dalton, 1940–45 (London: Jonathan Cape/BLPES, 1986), p. 224.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Paul Ward 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Ward

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations