McKay Margaret

Margaret McKay

Born Margaret McCarthy in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, in January 1911, she was a Communist activist from the age of 16 for four years but ended up a pillar of the Labour and TUC establishment. In her autobiography `Generation in Revolt’ (1953), written under her maiden name Margaret McCarthy, she relates how in 1927 she joined the Accrington Weavers Winders and Warpers Association. Soon she was chosen to be part of the youth delegation which went to Russia for the 10th anniversary of the 1917 revolution. She had enrolled for classes at the local branch of the National Council of Labour Colleges.
On 29 October 1927 the delegations, both youth and adult, met on Tower Hill, London, where a farewell demonstration was held and the veteran trades unionist and Communist, Tom Mann, boarded the Soviet vessel moored at Free Trade Wharf "to carry us all away, and there kissed us a hilarious, beery God speed. At three o’clock next morning we sailed off to a Socialist new world, a load of gay enthusiasts. Will Lawther, then a young, laughing , handsome man, was the leader of the adult delegation." The young Margaret McCarthy was captivated by her treatment in Soviet Russia. She met Krupskaya, Lenin’s widow, Madame Sun Yat-Sen and Russians such as Rykov and Bukharin and the youth leaders Chaplin and Shatsky and attended the ballet.
She visited Germany in 1929 as the guest of the Communist Young Red Freedom Fighters Association. In the same year she was one of the leaders of a hunger march of Bradford textile workers to London. Then, under the cover name of Clyde, she worked in Moscow between 1931 and 1932 in the trade union section of the Comintern. But she then left the Communist Party, citing disagreements regarding Communist policy over fascism in Germany.
She was the TUC’s chief woman officer from 1951 to 1962, then a Labour MP for Clapham (1964-70). She then went to live the next quarter-century of her life in Abu Dhabi, where the local Sheikh was hospitable to her and she died, aged 85, on 1st March 1996.
Sources: The Independent March 6th 1996 and M McKay “Generation in Revolt”

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