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A SLATER’S STORY
Edited by Gordon Stewart
(Flashback No 16)

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Subject: Scottish History
Demy octavo
Illustrated: 8pp b/w plate section
120 pages
ISBN: 1 86232 225 2
paperback £7.99


‘What will our society be like without that large body of men who, in one way or another, had a sense of the dignity and self-respect of difficult, good, and socially useful manual work, which is also a sense of society not governed by market pricing and money: a society other than ours and potentially better? E.J.Hobsbawm ‘Worlds of Labour’.

The purpose of this book is simple; it is to tell one person’s story of his life using his words wherever possible. The contents are limited, somewhat, in that a whole life cannot possibly be told in a small book like this, and it is hoped that the episodes herein do justice to the subject of the book – Robert McDougall.

Historical background has deliberately been kept to a minimum, as this book is primarily one man’s perceptions of the development of his life, of the work he did, and of the times he lived through. Robert McDougall, born in 1904, lived through some of the most momentous periods of twentieth-century history; the Great War, the Depression and the Second World War, and he describes them as they appeared to him. The text uses his words exactly as he said them.

A large part of this book concerns Robert’s life as a roof slater. ‘Work’ as a concept should not be examined on its own, devoid of any links to life in general and that is not the intention here. But work plays an important part in the way we live our lives. Employment is essential to most individuals for the wage itself, with which to survive. It is also important, however, psychologically; a person’s identity and self-esteem are greatly influenced by their occupation. When an individual loses employment, his or her feeling of self-worth can collapse quickly. The reminiscences in this book hint at how hard life in a particular trade could be, but Robert’s sense of pride and personal achievements should be kept in mind. How many people stop to consider the workmanship in the roofs over their heads? Hopefully, this book might make a few more look up! ‘We used to sing a lot in slating.’