Scottish Republican Socialist Mourned

Bill Johnston

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The following was released by the Irish Republican Socialist Committees, North America upon learning of the death of Scottish Republican Socialist Bill Johnston:

Bill Johnston, after a lifetime of service to Scottish independence and the international working class, died in Raigmore Infirmary on April 30, 1995.

Born in 1924, Johnston became active in working class political activity while still in his youth, becoming a "runner" for the Independent Labour Party in Glasgow's Bridgeton district, often cycling ahead of police to warn of police raids. He was an engineer by trade, and active in the trade union movement. In the 1960s, when many of Scotland's independent trade uions were merging into English unions, Bill formed the Association of Scottish Nationalist Trade Unionists in opposition to the trend.

Bill Johnston always viewed the British Labour Party as the left-wing of Unionism, and when the Labour government successfully pushed through a national wage freeze, and policed it on the shop floor through the TUC, he waged a campaign to end the forced political levy on workers from their Union dues to support the Labour Party. Bill fought the bosses and the corrupt trade union officials with equal zeal, and after moving to the United States, he joined the Industrial Workers of the World to continue that fight. He remained in correspondence with the IWW until his death.

Johnston returned to his native Scotland in the early 1970s, and served as Scottish Nationalist Party Provost of the Clydebank in 1974. He retired early as the result of having a brain tumor removed, and moved to Invergarry. Despite his disability, Bill remained active, leading campaigns against the Poll Tax and Fuel Tax, as well as against capitalism and British imperialism in general. He pushed to get the Anti-Poll Tax Federation active in the highlands, to no avail, and when his goods and caravan were impounded for refusing to pay the Poll Tax, he applied for a beggars license and threatened to wear a placard reading: "Victim of the Modern Highland Clearances."

Bill was active in the John MacLean Society (named for the most reknowned Scottish Republican Socialist of this century, and devoted to promoting his memory and his political outlook) and in recent years served as the Society's Covener. He wrote the preface to a biography of Harry McShane published by the John MacLean Society, and worked as an editor on other publications of the Society.

He helped to found the Scottish Republican Socialist Party, and served as the Highland Covener for the SRSP for a number of years. As recently as this April, just before his death, he spoke at an SRSP rally commemorating the Declaration of Arbroath, during which he tore into the English official of the Scottish Historical Society for refusing to allow the Scottish Saltire to be flown on Independence Day instead of the "Butcher's Apron."

He corresponded with the Marxist Humanist publication "News and Letters," published in Chicago, and an article he wrote for the publication, "Scotland, Socialism and the National Question," appeared in May, too late for Bill to see in print. In the article, Johnston drew upon Marx, Engels, Connolly and MacLean, as well as contemporary Scottish history, to argue that it is necessary to establish an independent Scotland in order to achieve the struggle for socialism. He concluded with a quote from John MacLean:


Johnston's obituary was carried by the "Scotsman," "Scots Independent," "News and Letters," "Scottish Workers Republic," and the Irish Republican Socialist Committee publication, "Irish Workers' Republic." He was laid to rest in the local cemetery of his beloved Invergarry, his coffin draped with a Saltire, a blue and white wreath from the SRSP laying on top of it. Donald Anderson of the SRSP delivered the oration, followed by folk singer Gerry MacGregor, also of the SRSP, who sang "Joe Hill" and "Scots Wha Hae."

Cards or token donations can be sent to his widow, Agnes Johnston, 11 North Laggan, by Spean Bridge, Invernesshire; or send donations to the SRSP c/o Alba Publications, 133 London Road, Glasgow G2 2AW, Scotland.

The Irish Republican Socialist Committees of North Ameria salute the memory of this tireless Republican Socialist activist. We toast his memory with the words of an old ballad in honor of the Calton Martyrs:

In a small green grave down by the Calton,
Spare a thought and a prayer as you pass on,
These were the pioneers of Freedom,
And heralds of a brighter Dawn.


Inclusion of material in this web site does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of The Clan MacKay Society of New Scotland, or clansfolk living in Nova Scotia.

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