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Mary Brooksbank (nee Soutar) was born in Shiprow, Aberdeen, Scotland on 15th December 1897, in what Mary recalled was "one of the worst slums in the city". Mary was one of ten children of Sandy and Rosie Soutar. Her father was from St Vigeans, Abroath, near Dundee, and had been an active trade unionist amongst the dock workers, working with James Connolly (Sandy Soutar died in 1953, aged 86), while her mother Rosie Brown was a `fisher lassie' and domestic servant. It was said that the Soutar family was effectively blacklisted in Dundee because of their trade union activities.
Along with the large band of dedicated Communists in Dundee, Mary was heavily involved, in October 1934, with the National Unemployed Workers Movement county march to Forfar, to lobby the County Council; contingents were raised from Dundee, Blairgowrie, Montrose, Ferryden, Arbroath. The period was full of such liveliness, locally. At a Dundee NUWM demonstration in February 1935, five men and one woman were arrested, (Bob?) Stewart, McCaffrey, Edward Mathers, George Stalker (NUWM organiser, NE Scotland) and his wife Mrs Stalker. Whilst in March 1935, a 25,000 strong demonstration from Dundee waved off a Hunger March which had marched from Aberdeen, Fraserburgh, Peterhead on route to Glasgow under the slogan `down with the slave act'.
Oh, dear me, the mill is running fast
Oh, dear me, I wish the day were done;
Oh, dear me, the world is ill-divided;
"Oh dear me, the world's ill-divided
Them that work the hardest, are wi the least provided
But I maun bide contented, dark days or fine
But there's no much pleasure livin affen ten & nine"
Sources: Interview with Mary Brooksbank by Hamish Henderson: SA 1968.317, Mary Brooksbank, A4, School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh; The Sunday Herald November 15th 2009
Further reading: thesis on Mary Brooksbank by Siobhan Tollard, "Bonny Fechters"; also, "Women in Scotland, 1900 - 1950" by Sheila Livingstone; Dundee Courier - Obituary 17th March 1978. Thanks to Tim on Mudcat web site and Mike Arnott of Dundee Trades Union Council.