25th November 1874

Birth of nationalist Lewis Spence

Journalist James Lewis Thomas Chalmers Spence (known as Lewis Spence) founded the Scottish National Movement, an organisation that championed the cause of Scottish independence and a Scottish Parliament during the 1920s.

It became part of the National Party of Scotland in 1928 when it merged with the Scots National League and the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association. The National Party of Scotland continued for a little under six years until, in 1934, it merged with the Scottish party to form the SNP.

Electoral defeats

Spence was the first nationalist to stand for election to Westminster, contesting the seat for North Midlothian in a January 1929 by-election following the death of Unionist MP George Hutchison. Hutchison had taken 55.2% of the vote at the 1924 general election, in which he had faced two opponents: the Liberal Mr Murray, and the Socialist candidate, Andrew Clarke.

However, in 1929 there were four names on the ballot paper, Socialist (Clarke again), Unionist, the Liberal association and the National Party of Scotland (Spence). Labour won the seat, which was perhaps not surprising as Clarke was the only candidate familiar to the majority of voters, having been the MP between 1923 and his defeat by Hutchison the following year.

While Clarke attracted 7,917 votes and a 42% share of the vote, Spence polled just 842, and 4.5%. As this was below 5%, he lost his deposit.

Political predictions

Although reluctant to predict the outcome, the Aberdeen Press and Journal of 29 January – the day of the poll – reported that “there is little confident prediction as to the result, except, perhaps, in the Socialist camp. The general view is that there may be a close fight between Major Colville [Unionist] and Mr Andrew Clarke [Labour]. The Liberals, it is thought, have more to fear than the other parties from the Nationalist, but Mr Spence may also attract some Socialist votes.”

In the end, this proved to be fairly accurate. Labour triumphed, the Unionist candidate was the runner up, and the Liberal and Nationalist parties split what remained, with the Liberal candidate taking 3130 votes – slightly less than half that of the Unionist candidate.

Life outside politics

Spence had been born in Monifieth, Angus, and educated at Edinburgh University. During his career as a journalist, writer and poet, he developed an interest in folklore and the occult. He “was an authority on Scottish history and folklore, and published many books on the faery traditions of the country districts,” reported the Arbroath Herald on 4 March 1955. “He considered Angus to be the cradle of many ancient customs and legends.”

He died in Edinburgh, in 1955, aged 80.



Other events that occured in November

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