James Welsh was born in Haywood, Scotland in 1880. After leaving school he worked as a miner. He eventually became vice-president of the Lanarkshire Miners' County Union.
Welsh joined the Independent Labour Party and began working closely with other socialists in Glasgow including John Wheatley, Emanuel Shinwell, James Maxton, David Kirkwood, Campbell Stephen, William Gallacher, John Muir, Tom Johnston, Jimmie Stewart, Neil Maclean, George Hardie and George Buchanan.
In the 1922 General Election Welsh was elected to the House of Commons for Coatbridge. Also successful were several other militant socialists based in Glasgow including David Kirkwood, John Wheatley, Campbell Stephen, Emanuel Shinwell, James Maxton, John Muir, Tom Johnston, Jimmie Stewart, Neil Maclean, George Hardie and George Buchanan.
A member of the the executive of the National Union of Mineworkers, Welsh was defeated in the 1931 General Election. After leaving Parliament he wrote several novels, short stories and volumes of poetry.
James Welsh died on 4th November 1954.
© John Simkin, May 2013
(1) David Kirkwood described his election to the House of Commons in his autobiography My Life of Revolt (1935)
From the outside circumference of the city to its very heart, Glasgow was ringing with the message of Socialism. Within a week of the election day, it seemed likely that the whole team of eleven would win, that Bonar Law would be defeated, and that Socialism would be triumphant. Such energy, enthusiasm, and earnestness had not been known in Glasgow for generations. There we were, men who a few years before had been scorned, some of us in jail and many more of us very near it, now being the men to whom the people pinned their faith.
When, at last, the results were announced, every member of the team was elected - except our champion of the Central Division. What a troop we were! John Wheatley, cool and calculating and fearless ; James Maxton, whose wooing speaking and utter selflessness made people regard him as a saint and martyr ; wee Jimmie Stewart, so small, so sober, and yet so determined ; Neil MacLean, full of fire without fury; Thomas Johnston, with a head as full of facts as an egg's full o' meat ; George Hardie, engineer and chemist and brother of Keir Hardie; George Buchanan, patternmaker, who knew the human side of poverty better than any of us; James Welsh, miner and poet from Coatbridge, John W. Muir, an heroic and gallant gentleman; and old Bob Smillie, returned for an English constituency though he was born in Ireland and reared in Scotland.
We believed that this people, this British folk, could and were willing to make friends with all other peoples. We were ready to abandon all indemnities and all reparations, to remove all harassing restrictions imposed by the Peace Treaties. We were all Puritans. We were all abstainers. Most of us did not smoke. We were the stuff of which reform is made.
© John Simkin, April 2013