The Papers of William Gallacher (1881-1965)

Scope and Content

The William Gallacher papers held at the LHASC include correspondence files, manuscripts for his autobiography, plays, sketches and verses, material concerning Gallacher's parliamentary career and tributes for his 70th and 80th birthday along with obituaries. Most of the material dates from the 1940s to 1960s. The earliest piece of material is a photocopy of a German Police report, which advises that Gallacher should be watched closely.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Gallacher was born in Paisley, Scotland on 25th December, 1881. He began his working life as an engineering worker and was active in the temperance movement from the early 1900s, and became involved in the socialist movement around 1906. Gallacher was opposed to Britain's involvement in the First World War and was president of the Clyde Workers' Committee an organisation that had been formed to campaign against the Munitions Act, which forbade engineers from leaving the works where they were employed. In 1916 the Clyde Workers'' Committee journal, The Worker, was prosecuted under the Defence of the Realm Act for an article criticizing the war. Gallacher was sent to prison for six months.

In 1919 Gallacher was arrested when an open air trade union meeting arguing for a 40 hour week was broken up by the police. He charged with instigating a riot and sentenced to 5 months. In 1925 he was jailed again along with 11 other leaders of the CPGB for seditious libel and incitement to mutiny.

Gallacher represented the shop stewards' movement at the 2nd Congress of the Communist International, where he was persuaded by Lenin of the need to join the newly-formed Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). He was involved in forming the Communist Labour Party, a transitional body based in Scotland, which served to bring most of the membership of the Socialist Labour Party into the CPGB in early 1921. Gallacher served on the CPGB Central Committee from 1922 to 1963, and on the Political Bureau until 1945.

Gallacher attempted to be elected to the House of Commons at Dundee (1922 and 1923), West Fife (1929 and 1931) and Shipley (1930). He was eventually elected for West Fife in 1935, he held this seat until the general election of 1950. He was Chairman of the CPGB from 1950 to 1956, and President of the party from 1956 to 1965. He published numerous pamphlets and articles, a book and several volumes of autobiography. He was an alternate member of Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) from 1924, a full member and a member of the ECCI Presidium from 1926 - 1935, and an alternate member of the Presidium from 1935 to 1943. William Gallacher died on 12th August 1965.


The papers have been arranged into the following series:

Correspondence, 1940s-1960s;

Correspondence with press, 1950s-1960s;

Correspondence with CPGB and party bodies, 1940s-1960s;

Parliamentary career, 1941-1949;

Manuscripts (including memoirs, detective story etc.), 1960s;

Tributes and greetings, 1950s-1960s;

Plays, sketches and verse;

Photocopy of a German police report, 1922.

Access Information

Access by appointment.

Acquisition Information

In January 1994 the CPGB Archive Trust deposited the papers of the Communist Party of Great Britain at the People' s History Museum (formerly National Museum of Labour History) in Manchester. The collection is now held at the Labour History Archives and Study Centre, which is based at the head office of the People's History Museum and managed by the John Rylands University Library of Manchester.


Collection level description created by Janette Martin.

Other Finding Aids

The indexes of the William Gallacher papers can be searched online at A2A

The papers include a hand list (CP/IND/GALL/01/01) produced by CPGB Archive workers in 1982 and 1989/90, which records the main categories of Gallacher papers in the archive in 1982, and the letters available in 1989/90. These lists are now partly superseded, but still contain useful reference information.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents. Prior written permission must be obtained from the Archive for publication or reproduction of any material within the Archive. Please contact the Labour History Archive and Study Centre, 103 Princess Street, Manchester, M1 6DD Tel.: 44 (0)161 228 7212.

Appraisal Information

No further appraisal, destruction or scheduling is expected to take place.

Custodial History

The archive of the CPGB, which included the personal papers of Gallacher and other prominent Communists, was held at the Communist Party Library in Hackney, London, until 1994.


Accruals are not expected.

Related Material

The Labour History Archive and Study Centre (LHASC) holds the central records of the Communist Party of Great Britain along with the personal papers of other prominent Communists including Harry Pollitt, Wal Hannington and Rajani Palme Dutt. The LHASC, also holds large amounts of CPGB publications (pamphlets, leaflet and election material) as well as Communist newspapers.

The People's History Museum holds the Communist Party picture collection and CPGB artefacts and ephemera including a bug planted by MI5 at the CPGB's headquarters.

The Gallacher Memorial Library in Glasgow is an important centre for research into the life and work of William Gallacher. The Library, founded in 1968, was based on Gallacher's own collection, and grew rapidly as fellow comrades and friends donated books, pamphlets, papers, and photographs. Since 1997 the Library has been under the custodianship of Glasgow Caledonian University Library.

The Working Class Movement Library in Salford, which was established by two Communist bibliophiles, Ruth and Eddie Frow, holds a vast amount of printed material relevant to British Communism, as does the Marx Memorial Library in London.