Scotland’s First NUJ Branch

Our Union was founded in 1907 after various meetings around Britain. The Union as we know it was founded at a Conference in Birmingham on 30 March that year, and was officially registered on 15 August in the same year.

Joining fee was 5 shillings (25p) with an annual subscription of £1/12/6d. (£1.62).historic typewriter

Two years later in 1909, Jimmy Aitken, a young reporter, and two fellow juniors, Frank Dobson and John Gordon at the Dundee Advertiser, decided to join the fledgling union and form a branch. At the same time, and unknown to them, a handful of journalists in Glasgow were doing the same thing. Aitken wrote later, “After long cogitation, and much wordy discussion, we solemnly came to the conclusion that the only way in which journalism could be made fit for journalists, was to organise on a trade union basis.”

Aitken contacted George Lethem, a Scot who had been responsible for founding the Leeds NUJ branch, who agreed to travel to Dundee, stipulating that the meeting should take place in the afternoon, allowing him to go to Glasgow for the evening meeting that would result in a branch being founded there.

Dundee has a doubly special place in NUJ history. After the General Strike in 1926, both daily newpapers in the city banned trade unionism among their employees. DC Thomson thereafter remained resolutely anti union, and the focus of many NUJ campaigns.

The union set up a Scottish council in 1989, upgraded to an Executive Council 10 years later in partial recognition of the enhanced status of the Nation, after the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

So, I suppose we should be grateful to DCs for the foundation of our branch over 112 years ago.

Jim Symons, Branch Secretary, March 2019