Mary Brooksbank

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Mary Brooksbank

20th Century

“I have never had any personal ambitions. I have but one: to make my contribution to destroy the capitalist system.”

So said Mary Brooksbank, mill-worker and life-long socialist and Communist, several times imprisoned for her campaigning activities.

Born in an Aberdeen slum, the oldest of five children, Mary came to Dundee when she was eight or nine years old and began work in the mills – illegally – at the age of 12.

At 14, she had her first taste of what could be achieved by standing up to the bosses – the girls marched and won a 15% pay rise.

At 21, she rejected Roman Catholicism, became an atheist and was inspired by ‘Red’ John McLean to join the Communist Party to fight for women’s rights and equality, as well as the demise of capitalism itself.

She was also a musician and poet whose songs are still sung today. Although she never worked at Baxter’s Mill, now Weavers Yard, King Street, where you will see her plaque, she wrote one of her most famous songs about a mill girl’s life set there.

Images of the poem, A Dundee Lassie, reproduced with kind permission from University of Dundee Archive Services