The MacDonald Trail – By Duncan Harley

I see that as part of this weekends Doors Open Day, Ramsay MacDonald’s family home in Lossiemouth is to open to the public.
From humble beginnings he became not only the first ever Labour Prime Minister but also one of the first members of parliament to embrace aviation as a means of transport to and from his Lossiemouth home to the powerhouse of Westminster.

In pre-RAF Lossiemouth days he regularly flew out of grass airstrips on the outskirts of the town.

Born in 1866 he entered Parliament in 1906 as MP for Leicester following an early career as a journalist. A fierce opponent of the Boer War he was outspoken in his opposition to WW1. His pacifist convictions and unshakeable socialist stance quickly made him a hate figure both locally and nationally. He was blackballed by Moray Golf Club in 1916 and vilified in the likes of John Bull magazine as “A traitor and a coward, a libeller and a slanderer of his country … he is nothing more than the illegitimate son of a Scotch servant girl!”

As the war dragged on and the painful losses mounted, his public reputation recovered and he went on to serve two terms as Prime Minister.

Credited as a founder member of the Labour Party alongside Keir Hardie and Arthur Henderson, he was born in a modest end terrace cottage in Gregory Place and later lived at The Hillocks in Moray Street, a house he built for his mother. The Hillocks remains in family ownership.

Lossiemouth Fisheries and Community Museum on the harbour front contains a full-size replica of the great man’s study complete with personal effects and parliamentary dispatch case. He died age 71 in 1937 on board the ocean liner MV Reina del Pacifico during a sea cruise which well-wishers had hoped would restore his failing health. Following a Westminster Abbey state funeral, his ashes were buried alongside his wife Margaret in Spynie Cemetery.

The MacDonald trail around the town is well worth the effort and the prospect of touring The Hillocks during the Scottish Civic Trust Doors Open Days is surely the icing on the cake.

Tours are free but must be pre-booked via:

Words and images © Duncan Harley – Inverurie September 20th 2018
Duncan Harley is author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire plus the forthcoming title: The Little History of Aberdeenshire- due out in March 2019


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