This month LHL is most grateful to John Halstead who has been kind enough to write a brief account of the origins of the Working Class Movement Library (WCML) in Salford and to outline just one or two areas of historical usage that the WCML provides. Like all who have been in and out of the WCML, all of us here at LHL would just like to say, long may she exist and prosper! Thank you John and mine's a Guiness next time! Peter.
The Working Class Movement Library Prior to the Second World War and for several years thereafter, museums, libraries and archives wholly dedicated to radical, working-class and labour history, or showing much interest in materials their movements generated, were rare. The women's' movement had its Fawcett Library and materials on Robert Owen and co-operation were housed at the Co-operative Union in Manchester, but interest in adding to the rich collection of trade union records, which Sydney and Beatrice Webb had placed in the library at the London School of Economics, had long lapsed. The material in county and other record offices was generally generated by landowners and prominent members of society, rather than by labour movement activity. The situation started to change after the war and especially from 1960, when the Society for the Study of Labour History was formed. Its object was and is, "to educate the public in the field of Labour History and to safeguard the preservation of labour archives". It formed an archives committee, which included the Labour Party and TUC librarians, for the discussion of archives preservation, but the most notable development was to rectify the neglect of trade union records by the formation of the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick. The funds for the MRC were secured from the Leverhulme Trust by Royden Harrison, formerly of the university of Sheffield and now Professor and head of Centre for the Study of Social History at Warwick, with Professor George Bain, formerly of UMIST. Ian MacDougal, a Scottish school teacher [for whom see https://sslh.org.uk/2020/08/10/ianmacdougal-1993-2020/], had already provided a magnificent example of what could and should be done in preserving labour records. Ian was not the only person outside of university staff making contributions to labour history through writing and collecting materials. Eddie and Ruth Frow, who met at a Communist Party school in 1953, started touring by car with a tent to scour bookshops for suitable material. They created a treasure trove in their house at Old Trafford that attracted many from outside Lancashire: John Saville from Hull, myself from Edale in Derbyshire, and many others.
Eddie, born in Lincolnshire in 1906, had joined the Communist Party in 1924 as a young engineer and was active in the General Strike. He became a leading workplace militant in the North West and became full time district secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in Manchester from 1961 to 1971. He became an active member of the SSLH during 1964. His great collection with Ruth of labour history materials, such as relatively obscure factory workshop and pit papers, was helpful in compilation of the invaluable Warwick Guide to British Labour Periodicals  and he was the Society's Treasurer between 1971 and 1981. Their labour history writing career, where - as they put it - Eddie did the reading and schoolteacher Ruth did the writing, commenced with
Michael Katanka in 1968: 1868 Year of the Unions. They produced a succession of pamphlets and books thereafter, culminating in their Political Women 1800-1950  and Radical and Red Poets and Poetry . A notable collaboration with Ernie Roberts was Democracy in he Engineering Union . 2 In the midst of all this activity, the house at Old Trafford ran out of walls for bookshelves or room the for archives that working-class activists wished to place with them. A charitable trust had been created for he collection in 1971, but the real solution was the move to a larger house in 1987, with the assistance of the Council to the Crescent in Salford This had generous room for collections and a flat for Eddie and Ruth, as well as an annexe for meetings on labour history. The numerous riches in the collections at the WCML can be explored by going to the online catalogue, but I will just provide two examples from my own experience. In the days when university libraries did not possess copies of Kelley reprints of Richard Carlile's Republican or Lion of the 1820s and they were not available digitally, it was to Eddie and Ruth's house that we went. Nowadays the Crescent at Salford is the place to go for much material from the English Jacobin period of the French Revolution that isn't easily available in the north.. One example is material on William Frend [1757-1841], which interests me because of research into Godfrey Higgins [1773-1833], his close friend and associate. The library contains Eddie and Ruth's copy of the Frida Knight biography, University Rebel , but also eight other less available publications from
dated 1788 to 1832. The first item among these is Frend's opening shot directed at the Reverend Henry William Coulthurst in a controversy about religious tests at the university of Cambridge. As it happens, Coulthurst married in Huddersfield, went on to be Vicar of Halifax, and is of separate interest in connection with work I am doing on manufacturers opposed to or supporting working-class movements around the turn of the century. But more relevant from the Higgins' point of view, is the WCML's Frend material that goes on to deal with his epic trial at the university in 1793 and his expulsion from St John's College. The crime was publication of his pamphlet Peace and Union recommended to the Associated Bodies of Republicans and Anti-republicans. Frend's politics were clearly expressed by
his membership of the London Corresponding Society on departure from Cambridge. This placed him beside prominent members, such as Horne Tooke and Thomas Hardy, who were put on treason trial, but famously acquitted, in 1794. The WCML contains Frend's application of 1795 to the Court of King's Bench for a review of similar cases to his own dealt with at the University of Cambridge. It ends with his reflections on the impolicy of religious persecution and the importance of free speech, thus uniting questions of political disagreement and those of religious controversy. Frend, as a Fellow of St John's had to be an Anglican communicant and a priest, of course, but he had become a Unitarian. His trial at the university was in the Vice-Chancellor's Court. The VC, who presided, was Isaac Milner, a Methodist, just as the Anglican Coulthurst was of an evangelical stamp! The final item in this collection is Frend's one hundred and twenty four page, A plan of universal education. This plan would have united Frend and Higgins. They were both against religious tests, joined the British Association at its formation in 1831 and may have attended together one or other of its first three meetings. But that is to note just one illustration of the riches at the WCML. Another comes from a visit of early 2014 to see material deposited by Bob Clark from Liverpool, a machine gunner in the British Battalion of the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. This is of interest because of his 3 recollection of a fellow gunner, Maurice Ryan - 'the best', according to Clark and Eugene Downing - who was shot and executed by Sam Wild, the battalion commander, at the Ebro on 6 August 1938. This material was helpful to Barry McLoughlin for his chapter on 'The Killing of Maurice Emmet Ryan', in Fighting for Republican Spain 1936-38: Frank Ryan and he Volunteers from Limerick in the International Brigades . On of the many strengths of the WCML is its library of Irish material. As to the Spanish Civil War more generally, the archive contains 1103 items, including a file on Sam Wild, which includes biographical information, photographs, a tape transcript, election leaflets, correspondence, press cuttings, obituaries and appreciations. There is a great amount of Lancashire material, apart from that of Bob Clark. One example is circulars and financial documents of the Manchester and Salford [Spanish Civil War] Dependants' and Wounded Aid Committee. The WCML's entire collection is a not insignificant complement to the 5993 items on the International Brigades available in the Marx Memorial Library and Workers' School archive at Clerkenwell Green. The SSLH had a serious financial problem in 1981, but this was successfully navigated. The Society is now in a strong position and is able to provide some financial help to the WCML.