Review: Thomas Muir Symposium: Scottish and Irish Radicals: Thursday 13th October 2016

The seventh annual Thomas Muir Symposium was held in Bishopbriggs Academy on 13th October. It was organised by the Friends of Thomas Muir and its Chair, Jimmy Watson. Provost Una Walker welcomed the delegates as did Mark Hanniffy, Consulate General of Ireland in Scotland. This year’s theme was Scottish and Irish Radicals. As usual there were contributions from academics and school pupils.

Professor Gerard Carruthers of Glasgow University spoke about Alexander Geddes and the Scottish Radicals. Geddes was a Roman Catholic priest who was sympathetic to the American and French Revolutions. An early supporter of women’s rights, he translated the Bible into English for Catholics. He was anti Henry Dundas and pro Thomas Muir. Geddes was a very liberal, enlightened Scot who saw good things in John Knox. He died in 1802. Professor Carruthers spoke with his usual authority and brought a rather bizarre man to life.

Dr Carol Baraniuk (also of Glasgow University) then spoke about Radicalisation in 1790s Ulster with an emphasis on the Scottish connection. Newspapers in Ulster spread the word about what was being said and done across the North Channel. In September 1793 the Belfast Newsletter published a report of Thomas Muir’s trial. The content of Dr Baraniuk’s paper was excellent but it was delivered in a very monotonous tone. It would have been an impressive essay but was an indifferent speech.

After the interval Brian Skillen spoke couthily about radicalism in Ireland and Scotland, having lived in both places. Bishopbriggs Academy pupils then played Scottish music, and acted out a short drama about the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320. The latter was performed by the school’s Advanced Higher history class who are studying the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Don Martin informed us about future Friends of Thomas Muir events. A book, Thomas Muir of Huntershill: Essays for the twenty-first century will be published in December. 

A short question and answer session brought an interesting afternoon to a close. 
Les Jenkins

Thomas Muir 1765-1799

Don Martin: Tom Johnston in Kirkintilloch: Thursday 3rd November 2016

The next Antiquaries talk, on 3rd November, will be entitled ‘Tom Johnston in Kirkintilloch'. Don Martin, the Society's Secretary, will describe Tom Johnston’s remarkable spell on Kirkintilloch Town Council during the period 1913-1922, when at his suggestion the Council introduced an impressive range of new services, including municipal pictures (cinema), municipal kitchen, municipal restaurant, municipal shower baths, municipal bank, municipal farming, municipal piggery and a municipal goat-herd. Some of these were approved unanimously by the Council, but it is fair to state that some had a somewhat chequered history. Don will show how lessons learned by Johnston in Kirkintilloch during World War I were put to good use when he later served as Secretary of State for Scotland, during Wold War II.