Papers of William Kemp, trade union and labour party activist, 1913-1997

Scope and Content

  • Labour Party Aberdeen South election campaign folder 1993-1997
  • Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions folder 1972-1990s
  • Labour Party: Scottish Council reports and related material 1974-1978
  • South of Scotland Electricity Board: Nuclear Questions and Answer 1976-1977
  • North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board files relating to Orkney and Shetland and other subjects 1952-1980
  • Scottish Labour Party and Trade Unions files 1936, 1961-1963, 1978
  • Central Aberdeenshire Divisional Labour Party: Culter Branch minutes 1945-1965
  • Ruskin College Fellowship Annual reunion papers 1937
  • Newspaper cutting regarding Labour Party 1980-1981
  • Labour Party published materials c1997
  • Material relating to Robert Gordon’s Institute of Technology, Aberdeen, and the University of Aberdeen 1978-1984
  • Material relating to the Humanist Society of Scotland 1995-1997
  • Department of Economic Affairs publications 1966
  • USDAW files 1960-1970
  • Trade union membership cards 1937-1977
  • Aberdeen Endowment Trust records 1952-1980
  • Aberdeen Trades Council records 1960

Administrative / Biographical History

William Kemp was born in  1913  in Aberdeen, Scotland. At the age of 14 he won a prize for an essay on the history of the Hazlehead and Birnieboozle areas of Aberdeen. In 1927, despite his obvious intelligence, he entered straight into employment when he left school working as a shipping agent and a vacuum cleaner salesman. His father had been a Marxist and William joined the Marxist Social Democratic Federation. At the age of 18 he joined the Labour Party and became an active Trade Unionist in the Shopworkers Union. In the 1930s, William won a scholarship to Ruskin College, Oxford, as his brother Chae had done. At this time he undertook a cycling tour of Nazi Germany to see conditions for himself. He became a full-time official with the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), working first in Leeds, England, and later in Glasgow, Scotland.

In 1938 he married Mary Baxter, also from Aberdeen and a former Ruskin student. They had two children, Mary Lois and William Charles. Mary later married Sandy Hobbs, a left wing activist and was politically active herself. In the  1940s , William returned to Aberdeen to the Union's offices there and continued to work for them until he retired in the mid-1970s. William was an active member of the Labour Party, serving both the local constituency party and for many years on the Scottish regions Executive Committee. William also stood for the Labour Party in the  1959  General Election in West Aberdeenshire. He was a member of the Consumer Consultative Committee for the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, Chairman of the Aberdeen Endowments Trust and served on the Court of the University of Aberdeen. He was awarded the MBE in  1973  for his services to the community. After his retirement, despite failing health and the death of his wife, he maintained his interest in public affairs and in the Labour Party. He was also an active member of the Aberdeen Humanist Group. William died in Aberdeen in December  1997 .

Source: Glasgow Caledonian University Library Special Collections, William Kemp homepage (Joe Fodey, 2002)


The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received

Access Information

Please contact the Research Collections Manager in the first instance. Some material is subject to current data protection legislation.

Acquisition Information

Received from the estate of William Kemp: c1998


Scotland is the location of all place names in the administrative/biographical history element, unless otherwise stated.

Other Finding Aids

Further information on the collection and its non-archival content can be found in Glasgow Caledonian University Library Special Collections  " at the William Kemp collection homepage.

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Research Collections Manager

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 1847 procedures

Custodial History

Held by William Kemp


None expected

Related Material

GB 1847 Hobbs Papers of Sandy Hobbs (Kemp’s son-in-law). For more infornmation on the William Kemp Special Collection see also Glasgow Caledonian University Library Special Collections

Location of Originals

This material is original


No known publications using this material

Additional Information

Compiled by David Powell, Hub Project Archivist, 11 October 2002

Personal Names

Corporate Names

Geographical Names