In 1936 the North Inch was the scene of a confrontation between members of the British Union of Fascists (BUF – Oswald Mosley’s Black-shirts) and thousands of people opposed to them. This event took place against the backdrop of the ascendancy of Nazism in Germany. The rally took place on the 16th of August, a Sunday afternoon. Perth Town Council after some protestation had given permission for the rally and the police both uniformed and non-uniformed were present in numbers.
About 20 fascists arrived for the open-air meeting in a ‘Black Maria’ type vehicle to hear their two speakers, a R.A. Plathe, the BUF National Inspecting Officer for Scotland and a C. Finucane. Despite BUF attempts and even with the introduction of a loud hailer, the four thousand people who gathered around the fascists succeeded in drowning out their voices. Slowly the crowd anxious to see off the Blackshirts moved forward against them. At this stage the non-uniformed police in the crowds surrounded the fascists. The police officer in charge of the event Chief Constable Stephen ordered the BUF to leave the Inch and abandon their rally.
This they did, but not before unveiling a Union Jack on top of their vehicle and giving a Nazi salute. Their retreat was made difficult by the crowds who followed them down the High Street and out of Perth. The anti-fascist groups which comprised members of the Labour Party, Independent Labour Party, Liberal Party, Trade Unions and other individuals held a counter demonstration in the then square outside the Museum. Amongst the speakers at this latter gathering called by the Perth Trades and Industrial Council was a young Manny Shinwell (1), then a councillor in Hamilton.
The British Union of Fascists had grown out of Oswald Mosley’s New Party, which had been active in Scotland for some years. It had held public meetings in Glasgow in as early as 1931. An open-air rally on Glasgow Green had led to pitch battles being fought with anti-fascists.
In Scotland the BUF was organised by a former Labour MP, Dr. Robert Forgen and a Captain Henry William Luttman-Johnson. Luttman-Johnson had been a member of the Indian Cavalry and lived at Black Park Lodge in Luncarty. He died February 13, 1983. Apart from being openly fascist the BUF supported policies of non-intervention in any potential war with Germany and abstained from the 1935 general elections.
The confrontation of the North Inch was a prelude to the events in October of that year when in Cable Street, Stepney in the East End of London, locals and political activists fought large scale battles with and prevented the BUF from marching. This event is historically popularised as ‘The Battle of Cable Street’.
Regulation 18b of the Defence Regulations introduced after Germany’s invasion of the Low Countries in 1940 put an end to overt fascist activity in Scotland and Britain. This legislation allowed for the arrest and detention without trial of BUF supporters, and some 750 of Mosley’s key personnel were imprisoned for the duration of the war at camps at Ascot and on the Isle of Man.
“We need no longer hesitate to create our trained and disciplined force. From today we are fascist.”
1 Emanuel Shinwell elected to Parliament in 1931, has been described as one of the “wild men of Clydeside”. He chaired the drafting of the 1945 election manifesto and became the minister within the Atlee government responsible for the 1946 nationalisation of the coal industry.