Mary Doherty was born on April 27 1908 in Cowdenbeath, where much of her political work was carried out. Her father was variously a miner and foundry worker. When unemployed as a result of his union activities he sold firewood to help support his family of three daughters.
Mary attended the ILP Sunday School, and the more Marxian Proletarian Sunday School, also doing well at school, passing the exam to enable taking the ‘Higher Grade’ but left to do shop work in 1922, later entering domestic service to a doctor and his wife.
She joined the Communist Party in 1926 and would remain an active stalwart her entire life. But she was often in poor health in her youth and developed TB. When she visited Soviet Russia with the Young Communist League, she was obliged to spend time in a sanatorium. Returning to Britain recovered, she was unable to get a reference but eventually found work as a cleaner in hospital and then back in service.
During the period of the Spanish war, she worked in the Aid Spain group in Cowdenbeath. She was also the treasurer of a women’s fund which collected money for the local wives of Brigaders. In the Second World War, she worked at the Crombie Munitions factory near Rosyth as a nightshift worker.
Seeing herself as a Communist engaged in an anti-fascist war, she was a model worker. She broke all production targets laid down for her department, and tolerated exposure to great risk, when filling and wrapping fuses in the Fuse Department with yellow toxic and explosive powder that got everywhere. For this reason, especially the unpleasant night shift, was a volunteer shift. Mary ended up with industrial dermatitis, as well as other injuries from her wartime employment, including a long-term injury to her ankle.
Later she was employed in child care in a hostel in Rosyth and then, for a full fifteen year period in the latter part of her working life in the Co-op Bakery. For much of the post-war period, she was the Party’s Women’s Organiser in the Cowdenbeath area.
In 1992, near to the end of her life she published her memoirs “A Miner’s Lass” (Lancashire Community Press)