Papers of James Leatham (1865 - 1945), author and publisher

Scope and Content

Small collection (67 items) of correspondence and printed papers of and relating to James Leatham (1865 - 1945), author and publisher, 1911 - 1958.

Correspondents represented in the collection include Henry Alexander (1875 - 1940), MA, LLD, journalist, Aberdeen; P.J. Anderson, Librarian, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen; Leslie Hore-Belisha (1893 - 1957), MP, London; A. Benzie, London; Robert Boothby (1900-1986), MP, London; John Burns (1858 - 1943), London; Walter Hampson (c 1865 - 1932), alias Casey, fiddler, political writer and playwright, Stockport; Professor Henry Chellew, MA, PhD, DSc, London; Prince Nicholas Barclay de Tolly, Haslingborg, Sweden; Rt. Hon. Anthony Eden (1897-1977), MP, London; Rt. Hon. Walter E. Elliot (1888 - 1958), MP, Secretary of State for Scotland; M. Buxton Forman, London; J. Bruce Glasier, Cheshire; C.M. Grieve (1892-1978), alias Hugh MacDiarmid, Montrose; James Ramsay MacDonald (1866 - 1937), MP, London and Lossiemouth; J.M. Martin, Office of the Prime Minister, London; May Morris (d 1938), Gloucestershire; R.F. Muirhead, Glasgow; Ben Riley, MP, London; A.H. Moncur Sime, Hertfordshire; Herbert Watson, London; Edward W. Watt (1877 - 1955), MA, LLD, Lord Provost of Aberdeen, 1835 - 1838, Aberdeen; and Rev. Canon J. Wilkinson, Ballater.

The contents of the letters are varied. Several were written to Leatham in his capacity as Provost of Turriff; but most relate to his various publications, and contain debate on politics and socialism, in particular, criticism or commendation of Leatham's political views espoused therein. The correspondence with James Ramsay MacDonald (1866 - 1937), MP, which extends to 14 letters written in the period 1911 - 1937, contains several references to MacDonald's political career, and the state of British politics in the late 1920s - early 1930s, including defence of his decision to serve in the coalition government of 1933, and his decision to refuse an earldom for political service, 1937. Seven letters from May Morris, 1924 - 1936, discuss her father, William Morris (1834 - 1896), material she is collecting for the centenary of his birth, her fundraising efforts for the Morris Memorial Hall, Kelmscott, travels to Iceland, and meetings with Leatham's family.

A small volume of printed papers deposited with the correspondence includes draft article by James Leatham re. the proposed Murray Memorial, in memory of Charles Murray (1864 - 1941), poet, for the encouragement of activity in the Scottish vernacular, n.d., [post - 1941]; article by Leatham, The Decay of the Cacoethes Scribendi, originally published in The Socialist Review, with annotations for re-publication in The Gateway, n.d.; cuttings from The Buchan Observer, re. lecture given by Leatham to the Peterhead Literary Society, 3 Feb 1931; cutting from Aberdeen Press and Journal with photographs of the Provosts of Huntly, Macduff, Turriff (Leatham) and Inverurie, 14 Jul 1934; cutting from Turriff and District Advertiser with appreciation of James Leatham, 21 Dec 1945; photograph of James Leatham re-printed from Aberdeen Bon-Accord and Northern Pictorial, 9 Dec 1943; and copy of leaflet describing activities of the William Morris Society (est. Sept 1955), 25 Mar 1958.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Leatham, MBE, JP, was born in Aberdeen on 19th December 1865. He completed his apprenticeship as a printer and compositor there, before working in the north of England and in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, where he founded and edited the Peterhead Sentinel. He set up the Cottingham Press in Yorkshire from which he edited and published The Gateway, a monthly magazine with a wide circulation amongst Scots at home and abroad, first issued in 1912, which he continued to publish from the Deveron Press, Turriff until a few months before his death in December 1945.

Leatham was a member of Turriff Town Council, with short breaks, for 22 years, and served several terms as Provost; he received the award of MBE in 1942. The author of many books and pamphlets on political, social and literary subjects issued from his own presses, he also contributed to the Aberdeen Press and Journal and to political periodicals. Over 60 of his works are to be found in the Local Collection in Aberdeen University Library, including local titles such as James Leatham and others, Petri Promontorium: or, Peterhead and the Howes o' Buchan (Peterhead: Sentinel, 1900); a biography of his friend, David Scott, Daavit: the True Story of a Personage, 2nd ed. (Turriff: Deveron, 191-?); The Style of Louis Stevenson, 3rd ed. (Turriff: Deveron, 1925), which he wrote with Gavin Greig (1856-1914), ballad collector; and a complete run of The Gateway, from 1912 - 1945. He was in correspondence with many persons well known in political and literary circles who contributed or subscribed to The Gateway, including James Ramsay MacDonald (1866 - 1937), Miss May Morris (d 1938), daughter of William Morris (1834 - 1896), and Lord Boothby (1900-1986).

For further details see Bob Duncan, James Leatham (1865-1945) (Aberdeen: Aberdeen People's Press, 1978)


Correspondence arranged alphabetically by author, and chronologically therein

Conditions Governing Access

Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet

Acquisition Information

Gifted to the University in May 1971, by James Leatham's daughter, Mrs. Mabel M. Leatham Aiken, of Manitoba, Canada

Other Finding Aids

Descriptive list available in the Reading Room, Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail:

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online

Alternative Form Available

No copies known

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to the condition of the original, copies may be supplied for private research use only on receipt of a signed undertaking to comply with current copyright legislation.

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

This collection is a selection from Leatham's papers and correspondence, presented to Aberdeen University Library in May 1971, by his daughter Mabel M. Leatham Aiken, of Manitoba, Canada. Other - more personal - items were retained by her at time of deposit. Additional material, known to be in existence in Turriff shortly before her father's death, cannot now be traced.


No accruals expected - but see Custodial History, above.

Related Material

Correspondence with John and Katharine Bruce Glasier (Liverpool University: Special Collections and Archives)


No known publications using this material

Additional Information

This material is original