Remembering the Past, whilst campaigning for the Future

“In what would have been the 200th Anniversary of the 1820 Radical Uprising, it was important to Yes Paisley activists that we spend some time remembering the struggles of those in the past who felt that Scotland should be independent,” said Bruce MacFarlane of Yes Paisley.

The Radical Uprising, also known as the Scottish Insurrection of 1820, was a week of strikes and unrest, a culmination of Radical demands for political reform under the banner of ‘Scotland Free or a Desert’.  Artisan workers, particularly weavers in Scotland, sought action to reform an uncaring government, however the gentry fearing revolutionary horrors recruited militia whilst the government deployed an apparatus of spies, informers and agents provocateurs to stamp out the movement.

The main leaders of the uprising were Andrew Hardie, John Baird and James Wilson who were executed for their actions. A monument to them stands in Woodside Cemetery, Paisley.

Normally the 1820 Society organise an annual commemoration at Woodside Cemetery but due to the current Covid-19 restrictions there was no event planned this year.  So a few Yes Paisley supporters felt that it was important to hold a brief event at the 1820 monument to pay our respect to the 1820 Martyrs.

Yes Paisley spokesperson Bruce MacFarlane continued:

“Alongside Paisley Tannahill SNP branch, Yes Paisley was planning an event to celebrate and commemorate the actions of the 1820 Uprising, where ordinary Scots stood up to the British state to try to fight for greater freedoms including a Parliament for Scotland.

Yes Paisley activists at the 1820 Monument in Paisley

“A number of people had contacted me about organising some sort of event that could still show our support for the 1820 martyrs while also respecting the current Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings.

Brian Lawson, former SNP councillor added:

“The world of 1820 was a different world than that of today. The normal working day started at 5.30am, and it was a 14hour day with child labour a common occurrence. But here today in modern Scotland, in modern Paisley, we see the modern scandal of the food banks. Where the poorest of our modern, rich, hi tech society queue up to receive food handouts to save them from the pangs of hunger which would have been familiar to many of Paisley’s residents in 1820. Some things change but some remain the same.

Brian Lawson with flowers and vase remembering the 1820 martyrs.

“In 1820 Baird, Hardie, Wilson and their comrades lit a torch that has passed down 200 years.  Their dream is still unfulfilled. Our dream is unfulfilled until Scotland is an independent nation.

“The choice is as clear today as it was in 1820 – Scotland free or a Desert.”

For further info: 1820 Radical War: