Gallacher Collection


Gallacher Collection


The Willie Gallacher Memorial Library was founded in December 1968 as a tribute to the life and work of Paisley-born William (Willie) Gallacher (1881-1965), a founder member of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920-1921. He made a major contribution to the trade union and labour movement in Scotland as a key figure in the Red Clydeside movement during and after the 1st World War. He opposed Britain's involvement in the War and campaigned to improve working conditions for workers in war-related industries. He was elected as Communist MP for West Fife in 1935 and held his seat until 1950. After serving as party chairman between 1950 and 1956, Gallacher became honorary president of the Communist Party of Great Britain until his death. He built up a large collection of books, pamphlets, manuscripts, ephemera, posters and photographs during his lifetime. After his death in 1965, his executors gifted it to the Communist Party in 1968.

Additions were made to the collection from 1968 to 2013 through purchase, donation and deposit. In 1987 the collection was moved from the Communist Party premises in Glasgow to the headquarters of the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Glasgow, and then in 1997 it was deposited in Glasgow Caledonian University Library. In 2013 a dispute arose over the ownership of the collection between Audrey Canning, who had acted as the part-time volunteer librarian to the Memorial Library from 1979 onwards, and Democratic Left Scotland, an organisation formed seven years after the dissolution of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1991. In 2015, following a court case, Mrs Canning, who had organised the previous moves to safeguard the collection, was granted decree as the person entitled to care, custody and control of the collection. It now consists of over 3,000 20th-century publications as well as manuscript collections. It covers topics such as: John Maclean, Red Clydeside, the Spanish Civil War, biographies and reminiscences, the Communist Party, the Irish labour movement, trade union history, women workers and suffrage, and workers’ literature, poetry and songs.


The collection is not yet catalogued but has been assigned the shelfmark 'Gallacher.'. Lists of the collection were made by Audrey Canning and these will be digitised and a link provided within the catalogue record to enable access to the wider collection. The printed items will be catalogued individually; the original 'Canning' box numbers will be added as a note in the catalogue record, with an additional note for the smaller 'named collections' included within the collection.


Audrey Canning and the other trustees of the Memorial Library donated the collection to the Library and also gifted £10,000 to support it. The collection was received in November 2017.

Related collections

The manuscripts cover Willie Gallacher’s life and legacy, and also contain around 30 small collections of archival material and ephemera covering 20th-century Scottish labour and trade union history, the women’s movement, Red Clydeside, the General Strike, the Spanish Civil War, and Communist community organising and commemorations. The collection also contains some records of the work of Scottish branches and sub-committees of the Communist Party, and political organisations including the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly. The manuscripts are not yet catalogued.

An additional series of Willie Gallacher’s personal papers was collected by the archives of the Communist Party of Great Britain at their London offices and in the homes of Party librarians. They are now held in the Labour History Archive and Study Centre in Manchester. They include files relating both to his parliamentary work and to his later spell as party chairman between 1950 and 1956.


'Revolt on the Clyde: an autobiography', 5th ed., W Gallacher, London, 2017.




Socialist literature