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John MacLean

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Article by Abby Sale, and from an extract by Sorley MacLean, Craig Cockburn and Jack Campin

John Maclean was born 14 August 1879 (died St Andrews Day, 30-Nov-1923). He was Scotland's great turn-of-the-century labour leader. He is mentioned in two Hamish Henderson songs - Freedom Come all Ye and of course The John MacLean march. He was a schoolteacher and member of the Social Democratic Federation, who believed passionately in workers' education (his teaching of 'Marxian economics' attracted classes of over 1000 at times). He was anti-militarist, and was imprisoned four times between 1916 and 1921. His position as a socialist and a nationalist is unequalled in Scottish politicial history. Some history books fail to mention him at all and they can be judged on that. John MacLean has a street named after him in St. Petersburg.

The lyrics of the John MacLean march are at

Maclean's triumphant return to Glasgow from Peterhead Jail was 3 December 1918. See The biography by James D. Young, _John Maclean: Clydeside Socialist_ (Clydeside Press.) It's still available from AK Distribution, who have a US office:

Sorley MacLean wrote of John MacLean

Clann Ghill-Eain

Chan e iadsan a bhàsaich
an àrdan Inbhir-chéitean
dhaindeoin gaisge is uabhair
ceann uachdrach ar sgeula
ach esan bha'n Glaschu,
ursann-chatha nam feumach,
Iain Mór MacGill-Eain,
ceann is fèitheam ar sgeula.

The Clan MacLean

Not they who died
in the hateur of Inverkeithing
in spite of valour and pride
the high head of our story ;
but he who was in Glasgow
the battle-post of the poor,
great John MacLean
the top and hem of our story.

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Q-HTML V3.4 by Craig Cockburn created this page on 19-Jun-2012 at 08:06:28