Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Scotland and the NAWU

The year 1918 saw a great development of the National Asylum Workers Union (NAWU) in Scotland . The first local NAWU branch in that country was formed at Hartwood Asylum, Lanarkshire, in March 1918, with Thomas Prentice as Branch Secretary.

The Union had, had a number of members at Kingseat Asylum, Aberdeenshire, in the Central (Head Office) Branch for many months (The union had a small membership in Aberdeen and Perth prior to WW1) but to Hartwood fell the distinction of starting on their own branch.

Montrose (John Nicholl NAWU Branch Secretary) and Kingseat (Gutherie D Connon NAWU Branch Secretary) speedily followed their example, and by the middle of the year there were eight or nine Scottish branches in full swing.

The last few months of 1918 and the early ones of the following year witnessed a marked development of the Union.

Following a request for official recognition by Hartwood, a conference of Scottish Asylum Authorities was held in Glasgow,on November 5th, 1918, at which seventeen (out of twenty) district asylums, and five (out of seven) Royal Asylums were represented.

During the discussion it was apparent that the district asylums were about evenly divided on the question of recognition of the (NAWU) Union, while of the Royal Asylums, one was in favour and three against recognition. There was general agreement in favour of a Conciliation Board representative of asylum authorities and asylum workers which could deal with all matters affecting Scottish Asylum Service. Ultimately an advisory committee was appointed to deal with the whole

This Committee met in Glasgow, on December 10th, and decided by twelve votes to six against the recommendation of granting official recognition to the N.A.W.U. They also made suggestions for the establishment of a Conciliation Board for Scotland on which the Union could not be officially represented.

On December 20th, 1918, a conference of delegates from the Scottish Branches of the Union was held in Glasgow, sixteen branches being represented. After addresses by Mr. Edward Edmondson, J.P, NAWU President, and Mr. Herbert Shaw, NAWU Acting Secretary, the following resolutions were unanimously agreed to :—

" That this meeting pledges itself to reject and to oppose any proposal for a Board of Conciliation between the Scottish Asylum Authorities and the Asylum Staffs until official recognition is conceded to the National Asylum Workers' Union and the Union is allowed full representation on such Conciliation Board.

" That a time limit of one calendar month be attached to the application for official recognition, failing the granting of which, steps be taken to declare a strike."

A copy of these resolutions together with the Union's national programme was forwarded to the Scottish Asylum Authorities on January 10th, 1919.


On January 31st, 1919, the Scottish Asylum Authorities held another conference, at the Central Station Hotel, Glasgow, on the question of recognition, at which Officials of the N.A.W.U. attended by invitation. Mr. Edmondson pointed out the serious position which would arise if recognition were refused. They desired, if they possibly could, to work harmoniously with the whole of the authorities throughout Great Britain and that harmony would be impossible if they were refused the right to speak on behalf of their members. He asked the meeting not to consider the point that it was an English Union. Their General Secretary was as much a Scotsman as any gentleman present; their General Treasurer was a Scotsman, and they had many hundreds of members who were Scotsmen or Scotswomen.

Mr. Shaw informed the meeting that during the last six months 1,200 members from nineteen out of the twenty-seven asylums in Scotland had joined the Union. After the Union Officials had retired the meeting discussed the matter at length.

A motion by Mr. Sharp, of Glasgow, " That this Conference recommends its Constituent Boards to recognise the Union," was lost by eight votes to ten who voted for an amendment that members should report to their individual Boards and get instructions.

A second conference of the Scottish Branches of the Union was held on February 7 to consider the position arising out of the expiration of the month's ultimatum of January 10. A plan of action was agreed upon, but what would undoubtedly have been a very serious situation was averted at the eleventh hour by the receipt of a message from the Acting General Secretary of the Union urging the members to refrain from taking the contemplated drastic action in view of the unanimous decision of the London Conference of Asylum Authorities of Great Britain to press forward the early establishment of an Industrial Council for the whole asylum service.

The NAWU faced fierce competition from the Municiple Employees Association (MEA) now GMB in Glasgow Asylums but by January 1919 the NAWU claimed to represent half of the 2,500 asylum workers in Scotland.

However, by September 1923 only five authorities remained on the employers side of the Scottish Joint Consulative Committee, (Dudee, Fife, Govan, Lanark and Kirklands) by 1924 it had disbanded.

In 1928 the NAWU in Scotland appointed a temporary "Lady organiser" to go around the asylums recruiting. The women appointed was Mrs Beaton, This was probably Kate Beaton, Glasgow City Labour councillor and well known union organiser for the Federation of Women Workers (along with Mary Barbour).

Mrs (Kate) Beaton was therefore COHSE's first woman paid official


Delegates to the NAWU conference of 28th September 1918 at Chandos Hall, The Strand, London included
Mr William Fraser representing Montrose, Morningside and Kirklands Asylums NAWU branches
Hartwood failed to send a delegate as Kingseat, and Woodilee

NAWU Branch Secretaries June 1920

ABBEY—Miss C. McDonald, 1, Craw Boad, Paisley.
ABERDEEN—Mr. W. Middleton, Royal Asylum, Aberdeen.
BANGOUR.—Mr. J. L. Wakelin. 41, Dechmont, West Lothian, Scotland.
BANFF—Mr. J. Gardiner, Ladysbridge Asylum, by Banff.
CUPAR—Mr. Thomas Melrose, The Retreat, Cupar. Fife.
DYKEBAR—Mr. Donald MacIver. The Cottages, Dykebar, Paisley.
DUNDEE—Mr. David Mackenzie, 9, Westgreen Cottages. Liff.
ELGIN- Mr. James George. District Asylum. Elgin, N.B.
GARTLOCH—Mr. P. J. Clark. Mid Cottage. Gartloch, Gartloch.
GREENOCK—Mr. William Cameron, 7. Smithson Cottages, Greenock.
HARTWOOD.—Mr. Thomas Prentice, The Asylum, Hartwood. Lanark.
HAWKHEAD—Mr. Malcolm McCormick. Hawkhead Asylum, Crookston, Glasgow.
INVERNESS.—Mr John McCrum, Asylum Cottage, Inverness.
KIRKLANDS—Mr. James Graham, 5, Kirklands Cottages, Bothwell.
KINGSEAT—Mr Gutherie D Connon, Cockcairns,Kingseat. Newmachar
LARBERT- Mr Charles Ritchie, Inches Cottages. Larbert,Sterlingshire
MELROSE- Mr John Fox, Asylum Cottages. Melrose. Scotland.
MIDLOTHIAN AND PEEBLES—Mr. M. Byrne,Rosslynee, Rosslyn Castle, Edinburgh.
MONTROSE—Mr. John Nicoll, Royal Asylum,Asylum Cottages,Montrose
MORNINGSIDE—Mr. J. Davidson. 44. Craighouse Gardens, Edinburgh
RICCARTSBAR—Mr. D. Campbell, District Asylum. Riccartsbar, Paisley
STONEYETTS—Mr. George Dickson, Stoneyetts Cottages, Chryston.Glasgow.
WOODILEE-Mr. H. MacDonald, 4, Loch Boad. Kirkintilloch, Dumbartonshirc.