Roland E Muirhead

                  

  BY

 

   ADRIAN THARME

Roland Eugene Muirhead

This is an updated version of an article I wrote for “Chatterbox” in 2008. In the

intervening years the political tapestry of Scotland has changed and there has been a referendum on independence. I’m not sure how Roland would have viewed the stridency and division endemic in this process but he would surely have delighted in the breadth of involvement.  No less interesting would be his thoughts on how businesses are managed today given the radical nature of the ideas he advocated and, indeed, implemented back in the day.

After the article appeared in “Chatterbox” there was interest in the mentions given to Muirhead’s friend and political associate, Douglas Young. Young was undoubtedly a major influence on political life in Scotland in the 1900’s and shared much of this with Muirhead. He did live at Muirhead’s farm  Meikle Cloak for some time and, indeed, that is where he met his future wife Helena Auchterlonie. But his is a rather tenuous link to the village so I’ve decided not to expand the original article to give greater coverage of Young.

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RENFREWSHIRE’S GREATEST PATRIOT SINCE WALLACE 

When family and mourners gathered at Gibson’s Tearooms in Paisley after the cremation service for Roland E. Muirhead on 5th August 1964, they heard an oration  given by his friend and fellow patriot, Douglas Young. In this speech Young used Jimmie Maxton’s words to describe Muirhead as “the greatest patriot Renfrewshire had produced since William Wallace“.

Roland E. Muirhead of Meikle Cloak, Lochwinnoch was born in 1868. Political activism came early. In his late teens he and his brother Robert organised a meeting in Glasgow at which the Russian Prince Kropotkin promoted his principles of anarchist socialism. By the age of twenty Muirhead was a friend and associate of Keir Hardie in the Scottish Labour Party of 1888 and subsequently the Independent Labour Party of 1893.

But it was the establishment of an independent Scottish Parliament which was to be his lifelong political aim. From his work with the Young Scots League before the First World War and in the 1920’s as Secretary to the Scottish Home Rule Assosciation, he was instrumental in securing widespread support for the Government of Scotland Bill which was moved at Westminster in 1926. 

In 1928 he left the broad-based

Home Rule Assosciation and helped

form the National Party of Scotland

which excluded members of any other

political party. This can arguably be considered the birth of the modern Scottish independence movement which has resulted in today’s minority SNP government in Edinburgh. But strangely Muirhead was later to consider the decision his biggest political mistake. 

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Mr & Mrs Roland Muirhead & A Ferrier

Muirhead was also a successful businessman; the family business being the tannery in Bridge of Weir. He brought the ideals of his political life into his business philosophy and introduced worker sharing in the ownership and management of the firm decades before the concept gained wider recognition.  

Many older residents will remember the tall distinguished man being dropped off by taxi at the subway to the station in Factory Street. The taxi which brought him from Meikle Cloak was supplied for many years by Dan Morrison’s Eagle Garage (on Calder Street immediately adjacent to the bank building). When his son “young Dan“ did the driving, Muirhead would always tip him with a silver threepence, never a “wooden“ thruppenny bit! Others will recall Muirhead’s principled argument with the Parish Church against paying “ teinds “

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This article is a very brief look at the life of Roland Muirhead but hopefully it will generate interest in a truly significant son of Lochwinnoch. Anyone who would like to read more about Roland Muirhead can, of course, find information on the Internet. However, there is a small archive file on Muirhead plus papers related to Douglas Young held in the Community Library. Go along and read what others have written about these two remarkable Scots who influenced Scottish political life throughout the 1900’s.

which landowners then had to do. There were also the handwritten posters on the trees outside Meikle Cloak proclaiming “ HOME RULE FOR SCOTLAND “. My own recollection is as a small boy, sitting very silently on a train to Glasgow in

the late 1950’s and listening to a conversation

my father was having with Mr Muirhead.

Instinctively I knew it was a thoughtful discussion

but not till later did I know that this was when

Muirhead invited my father, a quintessential

Englishman, to join the SNP. He very nearly

succeeded!

Meikle Cloak

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