Tuesday 14 July 2009

Country Elections (West Stirlingshire) 1958

Country Elections

(West Stirlingshire)

By Honor Arundel

Country Standard Spring 1959

Last year (April 1958) we (The Communist Party) had our first experience of fighting a District Council election in the Tory backwoods of West Stirlingshire. Indeed it was the first time, as far as we could discover that such an election had been fought at all.

In the past one Tory nominee had painlessly followed another. No public meetings were held and most voters were extremely vague about the powers and functions of

District Councils at all.

Theoretically, this election is not, in this area, overtly political. No party labels are used. But when my husband (Alex McCrindle) was nominated by a roadman and a farmworker in opposition to a prosperous fruit farmer Everyone Knew.

Apart from one small branch of the Farmworkers' Union, there are no organisations of the working class in our district. Whist drives, film shows, public meetings and garden fetes are held from time to time by the Tories, but the Labour Party has not yet realised the value of such work and only makes spasmodic forays among us at General Election time.


So our election campaign committee consisted of my husband, myself and the energetic roadman, who has an extensive knowledge of local affairs and bullseye marksmanship in an argument. His daily discussion meetings in the smiddy (Blacksmith's) over lunchtime tea became famous and many a Tory supporter slunk away from them, purple with embarrassment and discomfiture.

We drew our own posters, duplicated and delivered our own leaflets, and canvassed as many of the 1,000 voters as we could. We held two public meetings; one was a flop because it coincided with another local event; but. the one in our village attracted a record attendance of 60 people. "I hope all they ———— are na' going to vote for him " said one disgruntled Tory supporter.

The local Conservative & Unionist Association treated it as a major battle and brought all their splendid organisation to bear against us. With a fleet of cars at their disposal they scoured the countryside to see" that every single able-bodied voter came to the poll.

Sitting outside the polling booth in the keen April wind I counted nine cars in action- and watched country ladies in tweeds and toothy grins trying to be affable and chatty, and strange feudal gentlemen in kneebreeches. They were all—very flattering to us—worried to death.

We managed to secure 160 (Communist) to 550 votes which, in the circumstances, was quite a triumph.

If there had been six of us instead of three, and we had had a couple of cars and a little more money for publicity, I think we could have doubled it.

But the real value of the campaign was not to be counted in votes. It was in the discussions, in the finding of new friends and supporters, and in giving a direction to the growing feeling in the countryside that " they " have had things their own way long enough and it is time for a change.

This is not yet a militant political feeling, but every time Tory rule is challenged, in however humble a way, we are preparing the ground for future advance.

Honor Arundel

October 15, 1919 - June 8, 1973

Children’s writer and Daily Worker film critic, Honor Arundel, along with Geoffrey Trease, are probably two of the best known Communist children’s authors.

Honor (Morfydd) Arundel was born in North Wales in 15th October 1919. She had a passion for poetry and writing, as did many members of the Communist Party. For, as Randall Swingler the Daily Worker literary editor (1939-1941), stated, “Poetry is the most intense … form of communication between man”.
As a result of her interest she became heavily involved in the development of the Left Book Club’s Poets Group, established in late 1937; its London group meet at Honor Arundel’s flat in BelsizePark.

By March 1939 there were over 20 Left Book Club Poetry groups outside London which included Manchester (Secretary Ray Watkinson), Cambridge (George Scurfield) and Hastings (F C Ball).

Under the initiative of the Communist Party, The Left Book Club Poetry Group was re established in July 1938. The group produced a duplicated monthly newsletter, entitled “Poetry and the people”. Its first editors being John Ongley, John Isserlis and John Manifold. “Poetry and the people” was an attempt by the Communist Party to build on the relative success of “Left Review” which had built up sales to about 5,000 but had little broad appeal beyond the Party by “bringing the poet and the people into as close a contact as possible for their mutual understanding and enjoyment”.

It is clear that not all in the Party felt that Swingler, Arundel and the other Communist Poets were necessarily spending their time productively. Maurice Cornforth, in the Daily Worker, wrote that there was “no point in treating communist poets as tender shoots which wilt at the first wind of critical comments from the working class”.

With the collapse of the Left Book Club at the beginning of WWII, Swingler and other Communist writers took the decision to establish a new “more professional” publication “Our Time”,.which would include architecture, medicine, education, art and literature.

The first edition of which appeared in Febuary 1941 and incorporated “Poetry and the people”. The editors were Swingler, James Boswell and Allen Hutt. the administrator was Charles Ringrose (see entries for all but Boswell), but when Ringrose was called up to national service he was replaced by Honor Arundel.

By 1943 Honor Arundel and Peter Phillips had become editors of “Our Time”, with a new format introduced in August 1943. Initially, sales hit the 5,000 mark, the maximum possible due to paper shortage and war time distribution restrictions. But the Forces clamour for cultural magazines, especially amongst ENSA, was such that by the end of the war it was selling 18,000 copies. With the end of the war and falling sales and political retrenchment Our Time” folded in August 1949, Swingler blaming Emile Burns, the Chair of Communist Party’s NationalCultural Committee for its demise.

Arundel married the Scottish Communist actor and Scottish Equity founder Alex McCridle (1911-1990), who played Jock in the popular radio programme Dick Barton, Special Agent (1946-1951), went on to become a regular television character actor and later appeared in the first `Star Wars’ film in 1977 as General Jan Dodonna, leader of the Rebel Alliance.

Their house became a hub of Communist Party activity and organisation. Doris Lessing notes in her autobiography, “In a garden on the canal known as Little Venice, now very smart, then dingy and run down, there were held ceilidhs, where Ewan MacColl sang [...].

The house belong to Honor Tracy (sic) [Arundel], an upper-class young woman whose education had destined her for a very different life, and her husband Alex McCrindle ... who was in a radio series of immense popularity.

There were people from the worlds of radio, music, and nascent television, and of course, women with children. Most of them were communists, but none of them were communists ten years later, except for Alex. And Ewan MacColl, the communist troubadour and bard.”

Arundel, as with so many writers who were members of the Communist Party was concerned about rural issues and as such was a regular contributor to the `Country Standard’, as well as being involved in the National Agricultural Workers Union. She was the Communist Party candidate in 1958 for the West Sterlingshire, Scotland, constituency.

As the Daily Worker’s film critic in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Arundel had In June 1949 attended the International Film Festival at Marianske Lazne, Czechoslovakia in June 1949. There, she met photographer and filmmaker, Paul Strand, who attended to present his film `NativeLand’. A life time friendship developed and, she accompanied on a visit to Uist prior to the making of his acclaimed photography study on Tir a'Mhurain /Outer Hebrides (1962) about life on the Scottish islands.

Arundel’s children’s books, many of which were set in Scotland and a number which became considerably popular, included: `Emma's island’, `Emma in Love’, `The Longest Weekend’, `The blanket word’, `A Family Failing’, `Girl in the Opposite Bed’, `The amazing Mr. Prothero’ and `Terrible Temptation’.
Arundel also wrote:
`The Freedom of Art’, Lawrence & Wishart (1965)
edited with Maurice Carpenter “New lyrical ballads, London: Editions
Poetry, 1945. Anthology.
Honor Arundel died on 8th June 1973.
Michael Walker
Sources: `A weapon in the struggle: The Cultural history of the CP in Britain by Andy Croft (strongly recommended; Paul Strand and the Atlanticist Cold War by Fraser MacDonald