Rolls Royce Avon Engine, South Lanarkshire College

Photograph taken by Craig MacLean and not to be reproduced without permission

This was unveiled on 25 October 2019 and is of a jet engine subject to a workers’ boycott in Scotland during the 1970s because it was to be used by Chilean dictator General Pinochet’s airforce.



Award winning film on the episode

La Pasionaria (Dolores Ibarruri) statue, Glasgow

Photograph courtesy of Craig MacLean and not to be reproduced without his permission

Glasgow’s memorial to the International Brigade volunteers from Great Britain who fought and died in the Spanish Civil War. It stands in Custom House Quay. Erected by City of Glasgow, 23 February 1980 and rededicated 23 August 2010.

Read a very good piece on it and the woman who it is named after – Dolores Ibarruri

La Pasionaria (The Passion Flower) was the pen name of Dolores Ibárruri, a Spanish Republican politician, communist, and prominent anti-fascist propagandist during the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939.

Mary Seacole statue, St Thomas’s Hospital, London

Photograph courtesy of Mark Thomas and not to be reproduced without his permission

On 30 June 2016, a memorial statue of Mary Seacole (1805 – 1881) was unveiled by Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE in the gardens of St Thomas’s Hospital – the UK’s first in honour of a named black woman.

Central to the successful campaign was the role of the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association, which is part of Unite the Union.

The Mary Seacole Awards provide an opportunity for individuals to be recognised for their outstanding work in the black and minority ethnic (BME) community.

Emmeline Pankhurst statue, St Peter’s Square, Manchester

Emmeline Pankhurst (née Goulden; 14 July 1858 – 14 June 1928) was a British political activist. She is best remembered for organizing the UK suffragette movement and helping women win the suffering right to vote.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Harvey of ID8 photography and not to be reproduced without permission

Unveiled in December 2018

Pankhurst is the name most associated with the struggle for women’s right to vote and the first meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903 was held at the family home of 62 Nelson Street, Manchester and where a blue plaque was mounted by Manchester City Council on 1 January 1987. 

Emmeline was born in 1858 in Manchester. Her grandfather had been present at the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 and her grandmother had worked to repeal the Corn Laws. Both her parents backed the movement for women’s suffrage. She married Dr Richard Pankhurst, a radical barrister. They had five children and of which three girls survived.  Living in London from 1889 to 1893, Emmeline helped to form the radical Women’s Franchise League, which supported equal rights for women in areas of divorce and inheritance. 

Richard died in 1898, leaving his wife in considerable debt. In 1903 her daughter, Cristabel, frustrated by the peaceful tactics of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, founded 1897, persuaded Emmeline to join her in advocating more direct action. The first WSPU meeting was held and the motto ‘Deeds not words’ was adopted. Those involved became known as The SUFFRAGETTES and they increasingly used militant tactics to raise awareness of their demands. Emmeline was arrested on many occasions. There were attacks on Churches after the Church of England had voiced its opposition to the concept of suffrage. MPs’ windows were smashed and politicians were harassed and their meetings disrupted. Winston Churchill and Sir Edward Grey were assaulted when speaking in Manchester. 

When many of those arrested refused to pay their fines they were imprisoned they continued their struggle by going on hunger strike and were force-fed.

Many suffragettes died following periods of incarceration, probably as a result of the horrific process of enforced nourishment that took place. In June 1913, Emily Wilding Davison, a WSPU activist, threw herself beneath the King’s horse as it took part in the Derby of that year. She was killed. The arson campaign continued to gain momentum but in August 1914, Britain was plunged into WWI.

The conflict resulted in Emmeline and Cristabel agreeing a truce with the government and WSPU militant suffrage activities were suspended for the following four years. Emmeline advocated for men to join the armed forces and encouraged employers to fill their vacant factory spaces by recruiting women to work in industry. She was a prominent figure in the white feather movement that was aimed at embarrassing men who had not already enlisted. 

As the war progressed the vital part that women were playing was grudgingly acknowledged. It became more and more obvious that arguments that women were not fit or clever enough to vote was a total misrepresentation.

Following the end of the carnage across Europe, the dissenters to suffrage were swept aside and the 1918 Representation of the People Act gave voting rights to women over 30. This was nine years older than rights for men. It was to be another decade before women were – under the Equal Franchise Act – granted equal voting rights at aged 21 with men. Emmeline, who died on 14 June 1928, lived just long enough to see a bill passed that achieved her lifetime ambition. 

Cristabel, who later spent many years in the USA, lived till 1958. As a young woman she obtained a law degree from the University of Manchester. Her sex meant she was unable to practise as a lawyer and she thus applied her legal expertise to highlight the inequalities and injustices experienced by women as well as organising large scale demonstrations. 

Sylvia Pankhurst was the second oldest daughter of the Pankhurst’s and proved to be the most militant. In 1906 she started working full-time for the WSPU. In the years leading up to WWI she was imprisoned on numerous occasions and when she moved to East London, she came to see that the struggle for women to have the vote was part of a larger struggle for equality. This was not something the WSPU, including her mother and elder sister Cristabel, were prepared to agree with.  In 1914, Sylvia broke from the WSPU to form the socialist East London Federation of Suffragettes. (ELFS) As a pacifist, Sylvia opposed the war, during which she also organised several practical initiatives such as a baby milk distribution centre and a cost-price restaurant chain. 

She later joined the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) but quit when she was asked to give the party the paper she had established, the Workers Dreadnought. In the lead up to WWII she became involved in the fight against the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and where she died aged 78 in 1960. 

There was also Adela Pankhurst, who was also active within the WSPU. She was imprisoned on many occasions. Concerned that her daughter might criticise the WSPU during WWI, Emmeline provided Adela with a one-way boat ticket to Australia. They never saw each other again. In 1920 Adela and her husband, Tom Walsh, set up the Australian Communist Party but she later became disillusioned with communism and abandoned left-wing politics altogether. Adele expressed some sympathy for fascism during WWII and was imprisoned for a year. She died in 1961.

Blockade runners to Spain memorial, Glasgow

Photograph courtesy of Craig McLean and not to be reproduced without his permission

After fifteen years of hard work by Glasgow RMT Shipping Branch, a memorial to the British seafarers who broke the fascist blockade of ports during the Spanish Civil War was unveiled in Glasgow on Saturday 2nd March 2019.

The memorial on the Clyde is dedicated to the seafarers who broke Franco’s blockade of Republican ports. Thirty-five merchant navy and eight Royal Navy seafarers died and scores were injured on vessels attacked by submarine, naval and aerial forces under fascist control between 1936-38. This memorial to seafarers stands as renewed testimony to the importance of international solidarity in the face of fascist aggression.

The memorial is on the Clyde walkway next to the Jamaica Street bridge and was unveiled by RMT Glasgow Shipping Branch members.

Millicent Fawcett Statue, London

Photographs are courtesy of Mark Thomas and not to be used without written permission

A statue in Parliament Square, London to Millicent Fawcett, the British suffragist leader and social campaigner, was unveiled in April 2018.

The names and images of 55 women and four men who supported women’s suffrage appear on the statue’s plinth.

They are as follows:

Kinder Trespass plaque, Kinder Road, Hayfield

Dave Toft, committee member of the Kinder Visitor Centre group

Photograph courtesy of Mark Harvey of ID8 photography and not to be reproduced without permission.

Part of the 1932 Kinder Mass Trespass Route of Kinder Scout

See my Unite Education booklet from 2016 on Benny  

See also the 13 minute documentary released  in 2018 on the Mass Trespass

At the end of World War 1 in 1918 returning British soldiers had been promised by prime minister Lloyd George a “land fit for heroes.” Landowners, represented in Parliament and the Lords by the Tories, were intent on ensuring that didn’t include the right for those soldiers and others to roam Britain’s mountains and moorlands.

Since 1884 there had been numerous unsuccessful attempts made for an Access to Mountains Bill to be presented in Parliament and with each passing year the chances of an Act being passed seemed to recede.

In this situation the British Workers’ Sports Federation (BWSF) that started in 1928 as a working-class movement to organise sport for workers decided to trespass on Kinder Scout. It was not a universally popular move amongst ramblers.

On a sunny Sunday, April 24, 1932, Benny Rothman, an active BWSF member, found himself thrust forward as the leader of 400 ‘Kinder Scout mass trespassers’.

Born in 1911 it wasn’t until Benny acquired a bike in his teens that he discovered life outside the overcrowded environment of working class Cheetham in north Manchester. He soon became a keen rambler and spent his 16th birthday climbing to the summit of Snowdon.

Together in opposition to a line of gamekeepers, the trespassers successfully crossed the Derbyshire Peak District’s ‘forbidden mountain.’ Stung by this deliberate defiance of the law the police arrested six of them.

If the authorities felt this would end the matter then they miscalculated by sending Benny Rothman, listed in court as a storekeeper, and four (John Anderson, Julius Clyne, Anthony Gillett and David Nussbaum) others to prison – where Benny used his time productively to learn shorthand – for up to six months. The public outrage that followed helped bring the issue of the countryside to the fore.

More importantly it emboldened many access campaigners who in subsequent negotiations with landowners over obtaining access for walks could point to the trespass when their requests were refused.

A radical post-war Labour government responded by introducing the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act in 1949. Lewis Silkin, the then Labour minister for town and country planning described it as, “a people’s charter for the open air, for the hikers and ramblers, for everyone who loves to get out into the open air and enjoy the countryside.”

The Peak District became the first designated national park and today there are fifteen. The passing of the Act also means there are over 50 designated areas of outstanding natural beauty and over 200 natural nature reserves that are there to protect what are seen as the most important areas of wildlife habitat and geological formations and as places of scientific information.

Th right to roam took much longer to obtain. Again, Benny played an important part. In 1982, with access still restricted on many hills, 2000 ramblers celebrated the 50th anniversary of the mass trespass by following the same path.

According to Terry Howard, Sheffield Ramblers chairman, “Benny Rothman addressed us in the quarry where the original trespass had started. He helped inspire a whole new generation like myself to finish what earlier campaigns had started.”

In 2000, under another Labour government, the Countryside Rights of Way Act established the right to roam on certain upland and uncultivated areas of England and Wales. Many new paths allowing open access have been created.

Benny died aged 90 in 2002. According to his son Harry, “he rarely spoke about Kinder Scout as he had far too much going on in his life as he was engaged in things that were immediately important such as trade union and Communist Party work.” His passion for a better world was shared by his wife, Lilian, a mill worker from Rochdale.

In the 1930s Benny played an active role in physically opposing Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts and over forty years later he helped to inspire a new generation of anti-fascists by speaking to them about the dangers of the National Front.

Benny worked as a fitter for most his life. He was regularly elected to represent his fellow members in the Amalgamated Engineering Union. (one of the forerunners to Unite)

At Metro-Vicks in the 1950s his reputation for winning the best piecework rates led to him being sacked and, sadly, his workmates did not support him. He was later victimised by his employers when the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 took place. He nevertheless continued to be an active trade unionist.

“There were always visitors to our home in Timperley such as guys who had been unfairly sacked.

“Dad was a clever bloke and had a good memory. He used his shorthand to keep good notes and so when it came to negotiations with management, I understand he would constantly refer back to them when someone might like to say something different.”  Professor Harry Rothman.

Throughout the 1984-85 miners’ strike, Benny was tireless in organising support for strikers. In 1990, Benny Rothman, who was a great friend of Hugh Scanlon, was given the Amalgamated Engineering Union’s highest award, the special award of merit. Six years later he was made honorary life member of the Ramblers Association.

Read more about the Hayfield plaque