Stalker George

George Stalker

George Taylor Stalker was born at ‘The Feus’, Kirriemuir, Forfarshire, on 20th September 1887 to John Stalker, a ploughman, later a jute weaver, and Jane Anderson. They had been married on November 7th 1884 in Forfar. The 1901 census shows the family living in Kirriemuir, with John, 43, a calendar worker, Jane, 37, and children James 15, George 13 (an apprentice at boot factory), Agnes 11, Emma 9, Mary 7, Harry 5, George, 3, Elizabeth also 3 and Arthur 9 months.  

George spent 7 years in the Black Watch, serving in India and Afghanistan, then emigrated to the USA, age 25, on the ship SS Columbia, sailing from Glasgow and arriving at Ellis Island, New York on 13th July 1913. In America he married Susan Montgomery who had emigrated with her family from Seaham, County Durham, aged about 12, in 1905 on the SS Marion from Liverpool. Susan had previously been married to Andrew Montgomery, an Iron Moulder. Her parents were Walter Cullingford, a coal miner, and Mary Elizabeth Rutherford. Walter and his eldest son, Walter Jr, had gone to the US in 1903 and, once settled, sent for the rest of the family to join them. Five of Susan’s siblings had died in infancy at Seaham. Walter Snr and Mary Elizabeth are buried in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania.

George joined the Communist Party in Sioux City, Iowa. The family appear there in the 1930 Iowa State Census. During the depression he lost his job in a coal yard. He and Susan were arrested and were thrown out of the state for their political activities, being marched to the state line by armed police. The area was in turmoil at the time due to the effects of the depression on poor farmers and labourers. The family moved to Omaha, Nebraska before George was again arrested. This time he was deported from the USA on 7th June 1933 for “trying to overthrow the United States Government by force or violence”.

Returning first to Kirriemuir, they eventually settled in Sandeman Street, Dundee with their three children; Margaret (the oldest), Florence Louise (b1920) and George Jr (b1924). Another daughter, Georgia (b1918), a member of the American Young Communist League, had died in America shortly before they left, following acute appendicitis. Mother Bloor, a major figure in the US labour movement, had conducted the funeral. An account of the service appeared in the Nebraska World Herald of Sept 6th 1932, describing it as ‘the first communist funeral in Omaha’.
Back in Scotland, George and his family camped for four months in the Sidlaw Hills and then in Dundee City Square, in a protest at not being housed by the Council. George joined the Communist Party in Dundee and became the Angus Organiser of the National Unemployed Workers Movement. The same year, 1934, daughters Margaret and Florence (14) joined the Dundee Young Communist League. Margaret later moved to London, where she maintained her YCL activity.

At a NUWM demonstration in Dundee in February 1935, five men and one woman were arrested including George and Susan Stalker. A family tradition, probably apocryphal, has it that George was detained for punching fascist leader Oswald Moseley.  Between September and November 1936, George went on the Hunger March to London as unofficial "march cobbler", taking his lasts, hobnails and scraps of donated leather to repair the marchers’ boots. Frank McCusker, another Dundee marcher and later an International Brigader, described him as ‘the leader o’ the march frae Dundee’ and said a contingent of around 40 from the city took part.

In November 1938 George and his son George, aged 14 at the time, participated in another Hunger March, from Dundee to Edinburgh.
On 12th December 1938 George presided at the rally in Dundee City Square to welcome home the last seven of Dundee’s contingent from the International Brigade. They had returned to the West Station that day after fighting against Franco’s forces in the Spanish Civil War and a march through the streets and a rally were hastily arranged to celebrate.

He died on 29th Sept 1958 at Victoria Hospital, Dundee aged 71. His occupation was given as a shoe repairer. Susan had died, age 61, on 25th April 1954 at Dundee Royal Infirmary with cancer of the pancreas. They had lived at 12 St Mary Place. Daughter Florence married William Taylor, lived for many years at Prestwick Court in Ardler, Dundee. She died in November 1997.

Mike Arnott


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