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JOHN FERGUSON, 1836-1906
Irish Issues in Scottish Politics

Elaine McFarland

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Subject: Biography
120pp Demy octavo
Illus: b/w plate section
Paperback £20.00
ISBN: 1 86232 164 7

Filling an important gap in our knowledge of nineteenth-century Irish nationalism and the early Scottish labour movement, this book considers the continuing impact of the Irish presence in Scotland in the nineteenth century, examining the mobilisation of the migrant community behind Irish nationalism and the implications which this development had for the emergent Scottish labour movement.

These issues are addressed through the medium of political biography. The subject is John Ferguson, a colourful figure and one of the leading personalities of nineteenth-century Irish nationalism. Yet, despite ranking almost equally with Charles Stewart Parnell and Michael Davitt as a practical politician and strategist, Ferguson has been seriously neglected by historians since most of his adult life was spent organising the Irish in Scotland. An Ulster Protestant, he arrived in Glasgow in 1860 and flirted with physical force Irish nationalism in the shape of Fenianism. He later shifted to public, constitutional campaigning through the Irish National League and as proprietor of a flourishing publishing business, providing ‘Patriotic Entertainment’ to the Glasgow Irish, he chaired nearly every important Irish Home Rule meeting in the city from 1871 to 1906. He was a co-founder of the Scottish Labour Party in 1888. Indeed, his own political career was emblematic of the gradual re-orientation of the Irish vote away from nationalism and behind indigenous labour organisations. Ferguson is worth a biography in his own right, but the book also aims to set his life in the context of the growth of the Irish community in Scotland and its adaptation to Scottish politics and society.

Author: Elaine McFarland is Head of the Department of History at Glasgow Caledonian University.