Working Class Movement Library

A blog from the Working Class Movement Library in Salford

Archive for January, 2010

“The typist with a Webley”

Posted by wcmlibrary on January 22, 2010

I met a remarkable woman when I was working at the Working Class Movement Library last Tuesday and she came to me in the pages of a biography by Helga Woggon called Silent Radical.

The woman was Winifred Carney, 1887-1943.

She was an active participant in labour, feminist, suffrage and republican movements in Belfast. Helga Woggon tells us that she became the personal secretary and highly trusted comrade of James Connolly before and during the Easter Rising of 1916. On the 14th April 1916 James Connolly sent Winifred a telegram and asked her to travel to Dublin immediately and throughout that week she helped in the preparations for the Rising, typing Connolly’s plans of action and orders.  She joined the insurgents in the General Post Office, equipped with typewriter and gun.  She was one of the few women in the GPO and one of the last to leave, as she refused to leave with the other women insisting on staying with the wounded Connolly.

An obituary in ‘The Torch’ by Cathal O’ Shannon describes her as ‘quiet, studious type more built for the role of good comrade, loyal follower and silent good worker than for leadership …. Beneath her placid almost timid exterior burned fires that could scorch when anybody provoked her … Above all she was deep and loyal in her friendships and allegiances, political as well as personal … a great and trusted custodian of confidences’.  Helga Woggon tells us that ‘ she did not share in the vanity or jealous greed for fame …. and she never ceased refusing to dramatise events connected with the Easter Rising’.

I had never heard of Winifred Carney and was fascinated by this story. Other more flamboyant characters of the time such as Countess Constance Markievicz are well known. You can read more about Winifred at the library: Silent radical – Winifred Carney, 1887 – 1943: a reconstruction of her biography by Helga Woggon.


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Notes from a new volunteer

Posted by wcmlibrary on January 18, 2010

After my first day last Thursday as a volunteer (which I really enjoyed) I discovered, cleaning books in the Thomas Paine Room, that there is nothing new under the sun –  in a book from 1794 I discovered that the House of Commons and the House of Lords were discussing members’ expenses, members’ corruption and war expenses!

I would also like to pass on something I discovered in the book called ‘Secret Committee of the House of Commons and the House of Lords’,  1794.  This book once belonged to a man called Henry D Byng and it said:

This book belongs to

Henry D Byng

If thou art borrowed by a friend

Right welcome shall he be

To read to study – not to lend

But to return to me.

Not that imparted knowledge doth

Diminish learning’s store.

But books I find if often lent

Return to me no more.

Read slowly, pause frequently

Think seriously

Keep dearly, return duly

With the  corners of the leaves not turned down!

What a wonderful way to start reading a borrowed book!  If this keeps up I’m sure I am really going to enjoy my time as a volunteer cleaning books in the Thomas Paine Room! Thanks so much for allowing me to do this!


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‘Invisible Histories: Salford’s Working Lives’ launches at WCML

Posted by wcmlibrary on January 13, 2010

Today the Library launched the exhibition Invisible Histories: Salford’s Working Lives. Artist Lawrence Cassidy worked with a group of local people, discovering items from the Library that relate to Salford’s labour history.  Themes included Chartism, mining in Salford, the life of Friedrich Engels, the Battle of Bexley Square and Salford Docks.

Despite the snowy weather 40 people came along to eat cake and help celebrate the launch, including many of the people who’ve made it happen, plus Mayor of Salford Roger Lightup.  Local singer Albert Thompson made an already cheery occasion into something even more special by performing three Salford songs, two of his own plus ‘Dirty Old Town’ with an extra verse of Albert’s own devising.

It’s been brilliant to see this exhibition take shape, with people taking the trouble to keep coming along for so many weeks while it was being developed.  Many thanks are due to Lawrence for keeping the momentum going – it’s taken a lot of graft by him, alongside the creative side of producing the displays.  The exhibition is open until at lesat late summer – everyone is welcome to drop in any time Wednesdays to Fridays from 1pm to 5pm, or by appointment at other times.

Lawrence said ‘The Library has done an excellent job, retaining these archives for use by future generations. Projects of this kind connect local people to archives which directly relate to their lives’.

A series of talks on a Salford theme will take place alongside the exhibition, every second Wednesday at 2pm, starting on 27 January with ‘Salford in Love on the Dole: an illustrated guide to Walter Greenwood’s 1933 novel’.  The talks are free, and open to all.  Further details of the series of talks at

The exhibition was developed with the support of a grant from The Booth Charities.


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Communist Party collection

Posted by wcmlibrary on January 12, 2010

Finally – I have started to fine-tune the catalogue of the Communist Party of Great Britain pamphlet collection – which may take some time as there are over 20 boxes (or 1927 individual items)!

Hopefully I will find some gems among the collection and if (when?) I do, I’ll highlight them here.  In the meantime you can check out what we have in the collection by searching the catalogue for Communist Party of Great Britain under publisher.

Project Librarian

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