Research Collections


Papers of William Kemp

Labour Party Activist and Trade Unionist

Reference codes, titles and dates of Archive

Reference Code: GB1847 SH
: Papers of William Kemp
Date of Creation of material
: 1936-1997
Level of description
: Fonds
: 0.5 metres

Biographical history

Name of Creator: William (Willie) Kemp.
Biographical history
: William Kemp was born in 1913 in Aberdeen, Scotland. At the age of 14 he won a prize for an essay on the history of the Hazlehead and Birnieboozle areas of Aberdeen. In 1927, despite his obvious intelligence, he entered straight into employmentUSDAW election flyer when he left school working as a shipping agent and a vacuum cleaner salesman. His father had been a Marxist and William joined the Marxist Social Democratic Federation. At the age of 18 he joined the Labour Party and became an active Trade Unionist in the Shopworkers Union. In the 1930s, William won a scholarship to Ruskin College, Oxford, as his brother Chae had done. At this time he undertook a cycling tour of Nazi Germany to see conditions for himself. He became a full-time official with the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), working first in Leeds, England, and later in Glasgow, Scotland.

In 1938 he married Mary Baxter, also from Aberdeen and a former Ruskin student. Mary was active in the Labour Party throughout her lifetime and served for a time as a local councillor. They had two children, Mary Lois and William Charles. Mary later married Sandy Hobbs, a left wing activist and was politically active herself. In the 1940s , William returned to Aberdeen to the Union's offices there and continued to work for themWilliam and Mary in 1973 until he retired in the mid-1970s. William was an active member of the Labour Party, serving both the local constituency party and for many years on the Scottish regions Executive Committee. William also stood for the Labour Party in the 1959 General Election in West Aberdeenshire. He was a member of the Consumer Consultative Committee for the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, Chairman of the Aberdeen Endowments Trust and served on the Court of the University of Aberdeen. He was awarded the MBE in 1973 for his services to the community. After his retirement, despite failing health and the death of his wife, he maintained his interest in public affairs and in the Labour Party. He was also an active member of the Aberdeen Humanist Group. William died in Aberdeen in December 1997 .

Archival history: Retained by Lois and Sandy Hobbs.
Immediate source of acquisition:
Lois and Sandy Hobbs, September 1998.

What is in the Archive

Scope and Content abstract: Willie's papers reflect his areas of activism and have been listed below in chronoligical order by first date.

  • Scottish Labour Party and Trade Unions files 1936, 1961-1963, 1978
  • Ruskin College Fellowship annual reunion papers 1937
  • Trade union membership cards 1937-1977
  • Central Aberdeenshire Divisional Labour Party: Culter Branch minutes 1945-1965
  • Aberdeen Endowment Trust records 1952-1980
  • North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board files relating to Orkney and Shetland and other subjects 1952-1980
  • Aberdeen Trades Council records 1960
  • USDAW files 1960-1970
  • Department of Economic Affairs publications 1966
  • Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions folder 1972-1990s
  • Labour Party: Scottish Council reports and related material 1974-1978  
  • South of Scotland Electricity Board: nuclear questions and answer 1976-1977
  • Material relating to Robert Gordon’s Institute of Technology, Aberdeen, and the University of Aberdeen 1978-1984
  • Newspaper cuttings regarding Labour Party 1980-1981
  • Labour Party Aberdeen South election campaign folder 1993-1997  
  • Material relating to the Humanist Society of Scotland 1995-1997
  • Labour Party published materials c1997

Appraisal, Destruction and Scheduling Information: This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 1847 procedures.
Accrual: None expected. 
System of Arrangement: The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received.

Getting & using the Archive

Conditions Governing Access:  Open by arrangement with the Archivist.
Copyright/Conditions Governing Reproduction: Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.
Language of Material: English.
Physical Characteristics: None which affect the use of this material.
Finding Aids: Handlist to item or folder level.

Other collections of similar subject matter

Location of Originals: This material is original.
Existence of Copies:
No known copies.
Related units of description
: Part of Glasgow Caledonian University Research Collections -   

Publication note: None to date.

Archive contact

Carole McCallum (University Archivist)
Telephone - +44 (0)141 273 1188
Email -  

Notes relating to the preparation of this description

Description Compilation Details: Compiled by Carole McCallum, University Archivist, 5 June 2007.

Last Updated: 18 August, 2009
Edited by:

William Kemp, early 1960s