Perth Typographical Society
PTS (a printing union whose lineage can be traced back to the General Typographical Association of Scotland (established in 1836 (the Perth branch of which was formed c1837); amalgamated with the National Typographical Association in 1844; collapsed in early 1848) maintained a branch in Perth from 1 April 1855. PTS formed part of the Scottish Typographical Association (STA) which had been founded in 1853 and afterwards grew steadily in numbers, though not rapidly, from 2100 in 1857 to 3,000 in 1892. In 1898, STA membership passed 3,500; it stood at 4,700 in 1910. In the early 1870s, PTS had members in the Perth Advertiser; Perth Courier; Dundee, Perth & Forfar People’s Journal, and the Perth Constitutional and in many other printing establishments. These would eventually include Mitchell & Company, Young & Sons, Smart & McKinlay, Leslie, Miller & Smout, Taylor & Company, David Wood & Son, Henry Munro Ltd, Farquhar & Son Ltd, and Milne Tannahill & Methven.
Minute Book 1868-1899
[Print Firms: Young & Sons, Perthshire Constitutional, Smart & McKinlay, Milne, Tannahill, & Methven, Leslie, Miller & Smout, Taylor & Company.]
Half-yearly Meeting April 1868 – Mr Peddie in the Chair
Half-yearly Meeting April 1869: Mr Miller is the President; Mr Crow sat in the Chair
Special Meeting June 17 1870 Appointment of delegate to Meeting of Delegates at Edinburgh 15 July 1870 ‘The feeling of the meeting being in favour of the advance of wages, the reduction of the hours of labour, and shortening the period of apprenticeship’ On-going discussion as regards advances in wages.
Half-yearly Meeting 7 October 1870: Memorial to be given to the various employers viz. an advance in wages
Special Meeting 3 November 1870: ‘It appeared that (with the exception of Mr Cowan) all would comply with the xxx of the Memorial, should it not be opposed by any of their number.’ Branch to go back to Cowan and gain support of the Central Board
Special Meeting 10 November 1870: Vote on Cowan’s offer of 1s on the wages – opinion split, 2 motions – a majority voted for the rise as opposed to rejecting it in favour of the 2s asked for in the Memorial.
Special Meeting March 1872: ‘Mr Gullen moved that a memorial be drawn out and presented to the Masters asking for a reduction of the working hours to 51 per week.’ Agreed also to ask for an advance of 2s per week.
Special Meeting 30 March 1872: Response from most masters was to treat the union with contempt and by some only to partially accede to terms. Resolved to return to employers with the ultimatum that unless terms agreed they would strike from 13 April 1872
Special Meeting 4 April 1872: Cowan and Messrs Mitchell & Co. still refusing terms – unanimously agreed that ‘unless we get the promise of the 51 hours, to commence on the 1st of May, we cease to work on the 20th April.’
Half-yearly Meeting 26 April 1872: Some men forced to come out on strike 22 April and will receive strike support – includes 10 men at the Advertiser. The 51-hour week is a national issue.
Special Meeting 10 May 1872: Issue of too many apprentices at the Advertiser – this goes on for some time, into 1873
Special Meeting 30 November 1872: Discussion as regards the strike in Edinburgh -Representative of the Edinburgh society spoke, the branch resolved to support the strikers and to seek strike donations from the other trade societies in the town.
Special meeting 14 December 1872: Raised the issue of setting up a general meeting of the trades – deemed unnecessary it was instead resolved to set up a concert and send delegates to the various societies.
Special meeting 18 November 1873: Definite split in the branch between the militants and more conservative members – proposal for a Memorial asking for 3s a week advance; eventually meeting agreed to let each individual Chapel decide.
Half-yearly Meeting 8 May 1873: Again, the issue of the growing use of apprentices in the Advertiser Chapel – agreed that the branch needed to strengthen its membership before it could act.
Special Meeting 31 July 1876: A dozen members at the Advertiser office called the meeting at which the Wages Question was discussed – demand to raise wages from 24s to 28s a week and an advance on overtime payments. Some members urged caution due to the state of trade. An amendment to reduce the advance to 2s garnered only 3 votes and so the motion was carried by a large majority.
Special Meeting 29 August 1876: The Union Executive had rejected the proposal and amendment advising caution due to the dullness of trade.
Half-yearly Meeting 20 November 1876: Thos. MacDonald again raised the Wages Question and asked that the Memorial be re-submitted to the Executive/Central Board. This proposal was carried unanimously
Special Meeting 29 November 1876: This time the Executive agreed.
Special Meeting 9 December 1876: Responses from employers – MacDonald who works at the Advertiser informed the meeting that Cowan had ‘refused to give any advance whatever.’ Issue of involvement of non-union men in dispute – leads to dispute with central union – to be continued. Not a strike as yet but all employers refusing to give an advance.
Special Meeting 15 December 1876: Rebuke from union leadership over branch involvement of non-union men in a dispute. Also, recommended that every branch member should ‘tender his notice the following day.’ In other words, all the unionised printers in Perth should resign.
Special Meeting 30 December 1876: Consider whether any employer has agreed to advance in wages. Constitutional – offer of 3s agreed and ratified by branch. Courier – again 3s accepted. Advertiser – no offer made – so strike here, no worker go in on Monday until agreement. Number of people leave Perth during the strike.
Special Meeting 26 March 1877: Strike etc. and printers leaving has taken its toll. Members of the Central Board of the union come to the meeting to try and ‘resuscitate the branch and encourage them to go on as usual.’ Numbers are small now. Gap between meeting poignant.
Special Meeting 6 November 1878: Issue of treasurer not being able to produce the branch funds has been running for some time, and after repeatedly offering to bring the money to the branch, the treasurer then offers to pay it to the branch at ten shillings a week. The money is not forthcoming and at the Half-Yearly Meeting of 12 November 1879, the branch considers legal action. By the Special Meeting of 24 April 1880, the money is recovered though with some expenses.
Lots of normal business – new members, benefits, delegate conferences etc. for several years.
Special Meeting 24 February 1886: Notice posted on the Perthshire Advertiser Office declaring that ‘on and after Monday 8th March, the working hours of the establishment should be 54 per week, instead of 51 as hitherto.’ Meeting has large attendance and is unanimous in resisting this change to the working week. At a Special Meeting 3 March 1886 Executive Council of the union send a deputation to a well-attended meeting. Battersby (Association Secretary) admonishes ‘the action of Mr Cowan in attempting – especially at this time, when a shorter day’s labour seemed to be the desideration to relieve the existing general depression of trade – to increase the working hours in his establishment.’ Correspondence sent to Cowan requesting his continuing 51 hours – branch resolve to leave his employ otherwise. Special Meeting 5 March 1886, Cowan refuses to see deputation. However, when all printers threaten to leave, he ‘acknowledges his error, and offered to sign an agreement not to increase the working hours for at least three years to come.’ Branch write to Cowan over this and also requesting no reduction in wages and no more girls into the machine-room.
Special Meeting 23 June 1886: Issue of machines still running during meal breaks at the Advertiser. This is a dispute.
Special Meeting 2 November 1886: Mention of two female compositors placed in the Perthshire Advertiser office.
Special Meeting 6 December 1886: Two interesting issues – one that someone in the Branch is believed to have been reporting back to Cowan as to who was the ‘ringleader’ in the machine room, and, tow that Battersby, in attendance at the meeting, ‘counselled moderation and caution during these dull times when unemployed men were plentiful.’
Special Meeting 8 January 1887: Cowan once again trying to raise the weekly hours to 54. Meeting agreed that while waiting for Central guidance they leave work as normal. By the Special Meeting of 10 January 1887, Battersby is advising that the men work the 54 hours for a fortnight (a rush of work) and then to make every effort to reduce it to 51. Refused by the Advertiser men and the branch. Special Meeting 12 January 1887: mention that female compositors also against the 54 hours and that they should seize this opportunity and ‘make a bold stand for the 51 hours.’ Special Meeting 15 January 1887: Cowan is persuaded but plans to terminate the contracts of all in the machine room, then re-engage all ‘with the exception of one or two, it was alleged, had behaved in a disorderly manner towards the new manager of the machine Department.’
Special Meeting 9 November 1887: Branch and members of the PA office over Cowan’s declaration that on 21 November working week goes from 51 to 54 hours. Mr Johnstone the Association secretary had written to the Cowan asking him to reconsider. Research had shown that the other printing masters in the town were looking to follow suit if Cowan successful. All but one member against Cowan: one dissenter who pointed out that Glasgow and Edinburgh still worked 54 hours.
Special Meeting 12 November 1887: Johnstone and other the other two members of the Glasgow delegation to Perth to see Cowan. Johnstone reported on his meeting with Cowan. Three new members recruited from the PA machine-room.
Special Meeting 18 November 1887: Large meeting to hear Templeton and Glasgow delegation. Johnstone outlined the case, his conversations with Cowan, and the latter’s intransigence. Branch and Advertiser staff steadfast in their resistance. Resolved to strike the next day and stay out until Cowan moves on the issue.
Special Meeting 19 November 1887: Another full branch meeting on the 51-hour question. ‘It was intimated that, as resolved, the Advertiser staff – 19 journeymen, compositors and machinemen and 15 apprentices and layers-on – had left their situations leaving only the female compositors and a few apprentices with Mr Cowan who was bringing in new people the following Monday. Union geared up to thwart this.
Special Meeting 25 November 1887: Strike ends in victory for the printers at the PA. Cowan held out for a week before giving in and summoning the union’s officials to talk.
Quarterly Meeting 9 November 1891: ‘Mr R. Ferguson (the President) then rose and addressed the meeting on the Apprentice Question as affecting the town generally, but particularly the Constitutional, in which office, he said, 13 boys were employed and only 6 journeymen.’ Agreed to survey the whole of Perth.
Special Meeting 21 December 1891: Branch cannot decide whether the most pressing issue to tackle is Wages (14 votes) or Apprentices (13 votes) – many abstentions. Having won the day wages became the issue and the employers were to be memorialised for a 3s advance weekly and equivalent piece rate advance.
Quarterly Meeting 9 May 1892: Results of memorial sent to employers, all but Cowan agreed to raise the wages from 27s to 30s a week taking it into line with the Edinburgh scale.
Special Meeting 11 June 1892: Glasgow deputation arrange to meet Cowan who does not turn up. The meeting is adjourned until later that day and meets with Cowan for two hours being in their own words ‘fruitless.’
Special Meeting 18 June 1892: Primarily of PA employees – ‘six of Mr Cowan’s staff had to-day been served with a fortnight’s notice.’ ‘Advertiser Crisis’
Special Meeting 20 June 1892: Other union members submit fortnight’s notice.
Special Meeting 21 June 1892: Cowan now backs down, agrees to the 30s and cancelled the notices given to the men. ‘Great praise was due to the machinemen who had firmly stood by their brethren, the compositors, in this struggle.’
Special Meeting 11 July 1892: Cowan denies that he agreed the Edinburgh Pay Scale with the Glasgow Deputation. The men as a consequence down tools. Eventually the Glasgow leadership arrive and negotiate with Cowan who agrees to original terms providing the strikers ‘express regret for their hasty reaction.’ Union leadership admonish strikers who are angry, but nonetheless comply with Cowan’s request.
Half-Yearly Meeting 1 July 1895: Perthshire Courier to be approached over its continued employment of non-Society members. Continuing and growing problem at the PA over use of apprentices.
Committee Meeting 2 March 1896: Mention of female printers introduced to Messrs Woods office. PTS to send deputation to the manager. In May, a deputation form Glasgow sent twice, the first time Woods refuse to see them. The central union is trying to keep the local men out of the frame.
Special Meeting 16 May 1896: Dispute at Messrs Wood & Son of Perth. Also, discussion as regards females at the PA, the work undertaken by them and Rule 28. Discussion at branch meeting very heated and got personal.
Quarterly Meeting 1 June 1896: resolved to take no further action in the Wood’s dispute until executive considered the matter.
Quarterly Meeting 2 November 1897: Agree to join the Trades Council.
Half-Yearly Meeting 11 August 1898: Committee met to discuss letter from John Templeton stating that committee was due to meet Cowan 13 August to discuss female labour at the PA.
Special General Meeting 13 August: Leadership from Glasgow and Edinburgh reporting on their lengthy talks with Cowan.
Committee Meeting 26 September 1898: ‘Read letter from J. Templeton, about female importations from Edinburgh to Advertiser.’ Cowan agreed to reduce the number of apprentices in machine-room ‘as their time expired’ and not to increase the number of female workers.
Annual General Meeting 4 March 1901: ‘It was agreed to read minutes from the last quarter meeting only.’
Meetings in March, April, and May constant reference to strike a/c, overpayments, and sorting out strike expenditures and auditing the strike accounts.
Special Committee Meeting 20 August 1901: On-going discussions with Mr Hunter of the Perthshire Constitutional – proposed 5s rise, 2s 6d offered, but the President made the case that this was not acceptable and below the pay rates in various other towns. Agreed to go back to Hunter with 5s demand.
Monthly Committee Meeting 6 October: ‘The Secretary stated that as instructed at last Committee meeting, he had written Messrs Hunter and Wright with regard to receiving a deputation to discuss the hours and wages of line operators in the city.’ No response from Wright but meeting with Hunter went ahead. Hunter refused, attacked union for interfering, and threatened to dismiss men in his employ for grumbling. A meeting with Bailie Wright was held eventually (after this meeting) but he did not accept the need to raise line operators’ wages.
Quarterly General Meeting 12 November 1901: ‘It was agreed to take some action in the matter of non-union printing being executed for the [Education Committee of the] Co-operative Society; and a committee was drawn up to see what could be done.’
Special Committee Meeting 20 November 1901: ‘The operators employed in the Constitutional office were also present, but none of the Courier.’ Resolved to pursue a 5s pay rise and reduction in hours, but settle for 3s if hour reduction acceptable.
Special Meeting of a Committee Charged with Meeting Education Committee of the Co-operative Society: Made their case, listened to, result awaited.
Monthly Committee Meeting 27 January 1902: 48 hours a week the norm.
Special Committee Meeting 10 March 1902: On-going issue of linotype operators’ wages at the Courier. Wrote to EC to ask if they would support industrial action. Normal practice to gain 12½% for linotype work or to be granted less hours and more wages.
Special Committee Meeting 30 April 1902: Eventually Mr Hunter agrees to see the deputation from the STA and after negotiations, Hunter offers 1s 6d. This is discussed by the branch, though attendance is low, and despite the EC’s recommendation to hold out for 3s, the branch resolves to accept the offer in a vote 12 for and 2 against.
Quarterly General Meeting 12 May 1902: Attendance low and despite issuing of fines for non-attendance no difference. Discussion took place over the fines and by two votes it was agreed to abolish fines. £1 sent to Norwich branch for their strike fund – a practical expression of sympathy.
Special Committee Meeting 29 May 1902: Issue of men on stab rates being put on piece rates at the Constitutional and at the Courier. Eventually both matter settled by negotiation over the next few months.
Meeting 11 August 1902: Abandoned due to insufficient numbers.
Monthly Committee Meeting 29 September 1902: ‘It was also agreed to grant some little assistance financially to aspiring labour members of Town Council if required.’
Quarterly Meeting 10 November 1902: Report by Mr Mitchell and Mr Smith – delegates to PTC. Various issues: Shop Assistants’ Association recruitment going well; Taff Vale decision and petitions/campaigns against it; strong performance of the labour candidate in the School Board elections. Money given towards the candidates’ expenses.
Monthly Committee Meeting 29 June 1903: Discussion of setting up a branch in Crieff.
Special Committee Meeting 27 July 1903: A dispute is ‘feuding’ at the Perthshire Advertiser.
Quarterly Meeting 9 November 1903: ‘It was decided that 5s be granted to help to defer the expenses of the labour member who had contested a seat for the Town Council but had not been successful.’
Monthly Committee Meeting 30 November 1903: Ballot: For (39), Against (4), Declined to Vote (8) for an advance movement of 50 hours and 2s, 6d.
Special General Meeting 21 December 1903: Replies form employers as regards memorial for advances as voted for. ‘It was signed by Mr Hunter, junior, in name of the other employers.’ Mr Hunter owns the Perthshire Constitutional. ‘Master Printers of Perth’ – evidence of a masters’ association in existence. Refusal due to economic considerations in Perth. Branch reply – ‘That we do not see our way to entertain the reply.’ A conference with employers sought.
Special General Meeting 12 February 1904: Templeton and the STA not happy to support branch saying that strength of feeling too low in the branch and attendance at discussion meetings too low. Eventually by this meeting, the matter is agreed to drop.
Committee Meeting 29 February 1904: Problem with Young’s taking on additional apprentices.
Committee Meeting 28 March 1904: ‘A letter was also read from J. A. Boath, secretary of the Perth Independent Labour Party, drawing attention to the recent inauguration of a branch of that party in Perth, and trusting that many of our members would take an early opportunity of involving themselves in the cause of labour and social reform.’
Special Meeting 12 December 1904: Discussion concerning a Special Delegate Meeting to be held 17/18 February 1905 in Glasgow on the ‘Female Question’. Glasgow were the ones behind the Special Delegate Meeting. R Robertson, President: ‘A resolution had been passed at Dumfries that females who had served for seven years at the trade were entitled to receive standard wages. Perth was the only branch which had really tackled the question. Edinburgh had been very lax, and only in a feeble way had tried to solve the matter. In Aberdeen, he understood, females were practically employed in every office at dis., but it would be strange if they did not work on case also.’ ‘The agenda was therefore considered in detail. Proposals were put forward by Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kilmarnock, Paisley, but none of these showed any reasonable way out of the difficulty.’ Two resolutions on the matter put forward by the Perth branch and passed 11 to 2.
Committee Meeting 27 February 1905: Mention of the death of John Montgomery.
Committee Meeting 27 March 1905: Issue of Co-operative Pioneer being produced in non-union print shop.
Committee Meeting 29 July 1905: Deputation met with the Education Committee of the CPCS and successfully got the Co-operative Pioneer moved from Wood & Son to the unionized Smart & McKinlay’s.
Special Committee Meeting: 20 October 1905: Continued correspondence with Mr Hunter, Secretary of the Employers’ Association.
Committee Meeting 28 January 1908: ‘The Secretary submitted Circular and Voting Papers received from Secretary of Perth & District Trades and Labour Council about Perth Parliamentary Vacancy, requesting, requesting the cooperation of the Branch in taking a vote of the Members on the important subject of Direct Labour Representation.’ Unanimously agreed to issue the voting papers.
Annual General Meeting 11 February 1907: Applications to join from printers working in non-Society shops continually told to join Society offices. Problem with apprentice ration in the Perthshire Constitutional office raised.
Committee Meeting 25 February 1907: Mr Hunter writes to apologise for inadvertently breaching the rules on apprentices and will make the adjustment as soon as possible.
Committee meeting 25 March 1907: Discussion about the boycott of the Co-operative Society and the effect this might have on PTS members. A later meeting (30 April 1907) received guidance for the EC of the STA saying that the matter was out of their remit, but stressing the CPCS should fight the matter strenuously.
Quarterly General Meeting 11 May 1908: Unanimously agreed to affiliate to local LRC.
Quarterly General Meeting 2 November 1908: Unanimously agreed to affiliate to the local Workers’ Election Committee with the aim of obtaining direct labour representation.
A lot of time and effort spent in attempting to get local government, churches, and other organisations to use union offices for their printing and/or Fair Wage Clauses introduced into contracts. PTS very strict about its members working in union listed offices.
Committee Meeting 1 February 1909: New proprietor at the Perthshire Advertiser ‘intended retaining the females, although he had made preparations for the introduction of machines at a future date.’
Quarterly General Meeting: 9 August 1909: Continued attempts to reduce ‘Female Question’ by attrition. In opening up contrary the printing firm of Wood & Sons the EC of the PTC were looking for ‘an agreement to the effect that when any of the females who were at present employed with him [the owner], left, whatever may be the reason, no further introduction [of female labour] would be made.’ This fell afoul of the membership who wished to see the end of female labour at the office.
Special Meeting 20 October 1909: Wood & Sons agree to dispose of all female labour, which they do, and the office becomes a union one.
Committee Meeting 29 March 1910: Firm of Cowan & Company still employing females as in their words, ‘as he was the only printer in Perth who competed for the London book trade he was compelled to employ females.’
Monthly Meeting 27 February 1911: Attempt to organise printers in Crieff ends in failure.
Special General Meeting 9 October 1911: Proposed Forward Movement – after debate and series of votes agreed to ask employers for 3s. Described as ‘one of the most enthusiastic meetings in the history of the Perth Branch,’ the meeting saw a shift towards the militants against the leadership. For example, the Chairman’s suggestion ‘that a Committee be appoint to prepare a Memorial and carry out the necessary work’ was defeated by 42 to 4 in favour of a motion: ’the Branch Committee along with a representative from the office of Wood & Son, be appointed.’ The seconder of that motion, Mr Laing, was subsequently elected to be that representative. It was also voted by 47 to 3 ‘that we go forward at once.’
Special General Meeting 23 October 1911: A well-attended meeting hears that the employers have failed to reply to the memorial by date set. Motion that members be balloted on strike action agreed.
Special General Meeting 26 October 1911: For strike 59; Against 8, Spoilt Papers 4.
Monthly Meeting 30 October 1911: Master Printers’ Association announce that no overtime given until dispute settled.
Special Committee Meeting 6 November 1911: Committee appoint Deputation to meet Printers’ Association.
Special General Meeting 8 November 1911: ‘An exception was taken by several members to Committee’s action in appointing a Deputation to meet employers. Meeting moved and won ‘that 4 members from Committee and 4 members from meeting (including one lino operator) be appointed.
Special General Meeting 9 November 1911: Employers’ offer of 1s 6d put to the meeting and accepted 53 to 2.
Quarterly General Meeting 13 November 1911: Large attendance sees some of those who opposed the Committee such as J. Laing voted onto it.
12 February 1912: Rae of PTC still prominent committee member and PTS still active on that body.
Look at 13 June 1917. ‘Letter from Mr R R B Watson re female employment … to consider the question of rate of wages for females (that is those who are employed on what is considered men’s work). … to consider the strain put upon the employers by what he called “unprofitable labour”.’
‘PTC had now abandoned its Liberal links and were demanding a Labour PPC for the next election.’ Perthshire Courier, 17 December 1917.