Article by Gloria Findlay in `Scottish Marxist’ 1998/1999
Pat Devine was born November 22nd 1898 in Motherwell, the eldest of eight children and four orphaned cousins, he left school at 13 to go down the pit. He stuck this for six months and then worked for Colvilles.
He was in the Royal Flying Corps stationed in Dublin when the news came on his crystal set of the storming of the WinterPalace. This news changed his life. I shall always remember the expression of joy that lit up his face when he told me this story. I have seen this same look on other veterans who told me of the same experience.
Pat became one of the Foundation Members of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920 coming from the Independent Labour Party as many others did. In 1922, Pat with two other comrades, was elected to the Motherwell council for the Dalziel Ward The following year he and his comrades were suspended for denouncing the Council as "baby-starvers" .
Above: Pat Devine in 1936
Then he was sent to New York to help the young Communist Party of the United States of America. Back in in Motherwell he played an active part in the 1926 General Strike. Afterwards he returned again to America, continuing his activity in the Party and taking part in the protests against the Murder of Sacco and Vanzetti (executed on August 23, 1927).
He became General Secretary of the communist-led National Textile Workers Union, leading a strike at the Lawrence Textile Mills (which in 1912 had been the centre of the famous Bread & Roses strike). He was arrested and sentenced to 15 years, being detained in the New York Penitentiary before being sent to Atlanta Prison.
Pat organised a strike of the prisoners. After a year in prison he was deported back to Scotland. Within months, Pat was again in prison, this time Saughton for his involvement in the unemployed struggles (with the NUWM) in Kirkcaldy.
In 1933 he was in Ireland where his comrades elected him as the Irish Referent in Moscow. It was at this time he met Dimitrov who arrived after being freed by the Nazis.
Back in England he worked with Isobel Brown in the Aid for Spain Movement. Then he became East London Organiser against fascism. Mosley was concentrating on a march through East London on 4th October 1936. Thanks to thousands of Londoners, including Pat, Mosley was unsuccessful. The full story of that day – the Battle of Cable Street – would take a whole article!
Later Pat became Communist Party District Secretary for Lancashire and Cheshire and stood in Preston as Communist candidate in 1945 and 1950 – bottom of the poll, I believe – a position he would get accustomed to when he stood 15 times in local elections !
At this time Pat was contributing articles to the Irish Democrat – the newspaper of the Connolly Association which stood for (and still does) a United Ireland by peaceful means. This cause was very dear to Pat and he continued writing and working for the Connolly Association until his death.
When the People Press Printing Society was formed Pat was asked to be organiser and after enrolling everyone at the Party Executive, and himself as members set about a series of tours to encourage other communists and non-communists to take shares in the Daily Worker. Pat continued to work in various Jobs at the paper which became the Morning Star in 1966. He formally retired in 1970, though stayed as a member of the management committee until 1971.
Pat considered himself very fortunate to have been able to serve the "finest cause in the world" and to have enjoyed
Above: Pat Devine in 1950
doing so. It is not given to many comrades the privilege of being on the executive committees of the Communist Parties of Great Britain, Ireland and the USA. He was in fact a red rover!
Pat encouraged me to be active in the Party (which I joined eight years before marrying him) and to speak in public. He retired after 15 local council elections to make way for a younger comrade. The local party chose me! Pat was delighted and became my election agent and for the sixteenth time the Communist candidate came bottom of the poll, getting two votes less than the previous elections. How we laughed !
Personally I am the child of good fortune since I loved and admired Pat Devine, whose wife I had the honour of being for thirteen and a half years. He died peacefully on 22nd July 1973. Twenty five years now since his death I can see and hear him clearly. Our love for each other never wavered in spite of differences of opinion (very few), the outstanding one being on the vote to change the name of the Daily Worker to Morning Star. He opposed the change at the Management Committee meeting which voted to change. At the shareholders’ AGM he decided he had to vote for the decision of the Management Committee as a member of it. I argued that he should vote for what he believed in as I did.
NB Pat Devine also produced an autobiography