Issue date
12 Mar 2001

Uniting miners

Alexander McDonald

The moving spirit behind the miners' unions who believed that `A man's a man, for a' that

Alexander McDonald, Scottish miners' leader (left)

IN 1856, Alexander McDonald came south from Scotland to England, as the envoy of the Scottish Miners' Association; and, travelling from lodge to lodge, he in due course brought into being the National Miners' Association-a looseknit body into which he infused his own fervent belief in the efficacy of bringing pressure upon governments as a means of getting things done.

Thus McDonald, and the conferences which he organised, played a decisive part in the campaign for the Coal Mines Act of 1872-as he had already the Glasgow Trades Council's campaign for the repeal of the Master and Servant Law in 1867.

G. D. H. Cole wrote of him:

"The craftsmen who laid down regulations for the conduct of their trade were affirming the dignity of their calling, as well as seeking to get a good price for their labour-power. To regard their rules simply as so many restrictions on the employer's right to turn their labour to such uses as he might please was to assume that the labourer could properly be treated as no more than an instrument of production, devoid of human claims."

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