Obituary: Gilbert McClatchie

GILBERT MCCLATCHIE (GILMAC) died on 20th April at the age of 86 after a lifetime of activity in the SPGB. Only a few days earlier, on the Friday he had been present at the Annual Conference and had said now pleased he was to be there and how encouraging he found it. In recent years failing health and accidents had resulted in long periods in hospital and in his being largely confined to his home, but his interest in the Party and in companion parties abroad did not flag and he kept up continuous correspondence with members here and in USA and Canada.

He joined the Party in 1910 and was soon fully involved in a range of activities which was to include writing, speaking, conducting study classes and long years of service on the Editorial Committee and the EC. He was already writing articles for the SOCIALIST STANDARD before the first world war. After the 1939-45 war he was Party candidate in a Parliamentary election.

His father was a farmer in Ireland. Getting into financial difficulties, the family came to England when Gilmac was six years of age. Returning to Ireland in the war Gilmac did a variety of jobs including a long spell at timber felling. He got to know many of the men active in the Irish trade unions and Labour Party and the Republican movement, with all of whom he argued the SPGB case. Some of his articles (on occasion written jointly with Mick Cullen) dealt with the “Irish Problem”. He wrote valuable articles on the Russian Revolution.

His association with the Party was an outstanding example of mutual benefit. He brought his wide knowledge of history, economics and the working-class movement to the service of Socialism, but, as he explained, it was the stimulus of his membership that led him to study Marx and many other economists, to read Greek and Roman history and to tackle Hegel and other philosophers and the works of anthropologists. His first acquaintance with Marx’s Capital was seeing it in a bookshop and buying it under the impression that it would help him with his job as a book-keeper.

Gilmac married Hilda Kohn (sister of Adolph) and for many years they worked together in Party activities. Between the wars he was happily able to combine his love of books with travelling round the country buying and selling rare works on history, economics, etc. His bookshop, which gave him welcome opportunities to meet writers and collectors, was put out of action by the second world war.

His great knowledge served the Socialist movement well in the formulation over the years of the Party’s contribution to political and economic thought. He wrote a full-length book for the centenary of The Communist Manifesto in 1948, covering developments of organization and theory in a century of working-class history. Unfortunately no publisher could be found. He wrote the introduction to the Party’s edition of The Communist Manifesto and in 1975 had the pleasure of seeing in print the pamphlet on the Materialist Conception of History.

Late in life Gilmac obtained great satisfaction from several extended visits to USA and Canada where he renewed contacts with his many friends and gave radio and television talks on Socialism. The London Times published an obituary notice in its issue of 23rd April.

His many friends will miss him and remember his work for Socialism. Whatever upsets he had in life and with his health he never ceased to be optimistic for the Socialist future.

We offer sympathies to his daughter Jenny and brother Norman, and their families.


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