Willie Thompson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1939 and was brought up in Shetland. He graduated from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1962 and moved to Glasgow, Scotland, in the same year when he also joined the Communist Party and the YCL (Young Communists League). Willie attended teacher training college before working as a teacher for three years and went on to study for his PhD at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, from 1966 to 1969. The subject was economic history and the title Commercial Connections between Glasgow and Africa 1870-1900. Next he went to Wigan College of Technology, Wigan, Lancashire, England, to lecture until he took up his position at the new Glasgow College of Technology, Glasgow in August 1971. He continued to lecture in History at the College for 30 years during which time the college became Glasgow Polytechnic and then, in 1993, Glasgow Caledonian University. Willie became a Reader and Professor of Contemporary History, specialising in Communist and related movements. He retired in 2001 but continues to work on various writing projects and is a visiting professor at the University of Northumbria.
Willie’s political activity within the Communist Party during the 1960s included branch secretary of Glasgow Committee and Scottish Committee YCL 1962-1966; branch secretary Strathclyde students; Glasgow Committee and Scottish Committee; Scottish student organiser; National Student Committee member; and Wigan branch member, editing Wigan Red. Willie had an editorial role in Scottish Marxist (1972-1980), Scottish Pensioner (1978-1982) and Marxism Today (1986-1991). He was a member of the CP Theory and Ideology Advisory Committee (1984-1986), member of the Scottish Committee (1986-1990) and Glasgow’s Kelvin branch chairperson (1988-1991).