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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer

XIV. Political and social unrest

96. Petition to the Secretary of State for Scotland for the Release of Clyde Workers’ Committee Leaders, April 1919

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1During the riot of 31 January 1919 in Glasgow many demonstrators and policemen were injured and the leaders of the 40-hour strike were arrested. At the trial in April 1919 at the High Court in Edinburgh, Emmanuel Shinwell and William Gallacher were sentenced to prison for incitement to riot. A petition was started asking for the release of the jailed strike leaders but the secretary of state for Scotland, Robert Munro, refused to release them.

2Glasgow City Archives, Glasgow Trades Council Collection, [​redclyde/​redcly155.htm], accessed 3 January 2009.


  • 10 A barrister appointed as counsel to the British crown. Used when the sovereign is a man.

To the Right Honourable Robert Munro, K.C10, M.P.

H. M. Secretary of State for Scotland,

Scottish Office,


We, the under signed, respectfully crave the release from prison and the cancellation of the sentences imposed in the High Court of Justiciary at Edinburgh on 18th April, 1919, on

(1)–EMMANUEL SHINWELL, 10 George Drive, Govan, Glasgow, sentenced to five months imprisonment,

(2)–WILLIAM GALLACHER, 43 Well Street, Paisley, sentenced to three months imprisonment,

(3)–JAMES MURRAY, 2 St. Andrews Square, Glasgow, sentenced to three months imprisonment, and

(4)–WILLIAM McCARTNEY, 1076 Argyle Street, Glasgow, sentenced to three months imprisonment.

We respectfully crave this on the following grounds:

FIRST. The evidence in the course of the Trial (which lasted for 11 days) showed that the mobbing and rioting of which the above noted were accused, was primarily caused by the unwarranted and unprovoked attack by the Glasgow Police on a crowd of at least 20,000 strikers lawfully assembled in George Square, Glasgow, on 31st January, 1919.

SECOND. That this is sufficiently borne out by the fact that, out of the 12 men accused of mobbing and rioting, only two of the above named were found guilty, while in the case of others, with regard to whom aggressive conduct was proved, the Jury granted an acquittal, apparently on the ground of their conduct being in self defence.

THIRD. That in the case of EMMANUEL SHINWELL and WILLIAM GALLACHER above noted who were found guilty—not of mobbing and rioting—but only of incitement, there was no evidence to justify the verdict.

FOURTH. That as the jury having been apparently satisfied that in most of the cases there was no proof of any mobbing and rioting, the charges of incitement to mobbing and rioting (on days prior to 31st of January 1919) were groundless.

FIFTH. That the charges of incitement to mobbing and rioting (with which six of the accused were charged) were held unanimously by the Jury to be without foundation in four of the instances.

SIXTH. That in connection with the charges of incitement against EMMANUEL SHINWELL it was conclusively proved that the only incidents founded on by the prosecutor consisted of (1) A correct report of what had taken place at an interview between a deputation of the strikers and the Lord Provost of Glasgow, and (2) A statement made innocently in the course of a speech on 30th January, 1919, to a small group of seamen that a meeting of the strikers was to be held in George Square the following day, and that said remarks could not reasonably be held as incitement.

SEVENTH. That in the case of WILLIAM GALLACHER, it was proved that at the time he was alleged to have uttered on 29th January, 1919, the incitement to assemble in George Square for a riotous purpose on 31st January, 1919, he as a matter of fact was unaware of the fact that such a meeting was to be held.

EIGHTH. That of the four charges of incitement of which the two first named accused were found guilty at least two of the charges were disproved by the evidence, and indeed were definitely negatived by the Jury’s own verdict which acquitted the accused of incitement on 27th January, being the only date when two of the items of incitement were alleged to be uttered.

NINTH. That the summing up of the judge was in favour of the accused, as is indicated by the sentence imposed and that the verdict of the Jury was contrary to evidence.

WE, THEREFORE, respectfully crave that the sentences in question be cancelled and that the above men be immediately released from prison.

And your Petitioners will for ever pray.


10 A barrister appointed as counsel to the British crown. Used when the sovereign is a man.

© Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2013

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