Do you remember The Word?

Part of the Hay and Woolfson Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Ephemera Collection, The Word is a left-wing magazine from the early seventies. Anti-establishment, in its first issue it promises to

“let you understand what is really going on”.

Printed around the time of the famous USC Work-In the magazine calls for “total social change” and denounces bureaucrats and property speculators. As well as printing articles and cartoons it gives listings for concerts, films and meetings in Glasgow.

The Word gives us an interesting insight into the left in Glasgow in the early seventies. It shows the kind of issues that it was focussed on and its take on current affairs, criticising the Glasgow press’ bias as ‘lies’. Housing and the welfare of Glaswegians is high on its list of priorities; it frequently attacks rising rents and substandard accommodation. Under the listings of events it even notes the rent tribunals,“see the landlords cut down to size- sometimes”. Although it appears to have had a limited readership it attracted some big names, interviewing the likes of Tariq Ali and Maggie Bell.

“see the landlords cut down to size- sometimes”

Woman’s Word, a regular column, shows many of the issues that the women’s liberation movement was concerned with. A column on marriage and divorce believes that the “economic burden” of children be shared equally. Particularly informative is a letter expressing an objection to the existence of such a column; this reader considers the magazine to be unisex and questions the need for a separate section for women. The writer replies that the column is necessary to represent an oppressed group and raise awareness of the oppression. This letter and response allows us to see the kind of debates around women’s liberation. There are also articles with a strong feminist vein, one advising on abortions and contraception which did not shy away from pros and cons of various forms of the latter. Groups such as ‘Women in Action’ were promoted, reports of which ended up replacing Woman’s Word. One such report confirmed the necessity of preschool provision in enabling mothers to continue working, sentiments which continue to this day.

Interestingly The Word shows just how linked different left wing groups were. Rather than being separate bodies, each focussing on a different issue, groups supported each other. Women in Action supported the Indian Workers Association in their struggle against an immigration bill. A spokesman for the Association explained how the bill was linked to the attack on trade unions, thereby including the rights of workers too. Nothing was seen in isolation, discrimination in all forms was condemned and fought against by anyone who experienced it.

However it is not entirely focussed on politics. One article describes a chance meeting with The Who, “talking nervously, smoking like chimneys” in the lobby of a hotel. Indeed a large part of the magazine is devoted to reviews with sections like, ‘Pub and Grub’ which promoted locals and a music section about gigs and new releases. The Word even put on a gig to raise money so it could continue publishing.

“for the young of Glasgow”

Although there are several people named as editors of The Word and the famous cartoonist Malcolm McCormick contributed artwork (as well as Chris Hanley), there is very little information about who it was actually for. Whilst it states it was “for the young of Glasgow” it would be fascinating to find out who actually read and contributed to it and why. There is also nothing to tell us why it stopped publishing, although it hints at financial difficulties. Do you remember reading The Word?

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2 replies

  1. I re-blogged this on

    Bill Telfer then got in touch (see comments) and said he used to write for The Word and that it was edited by Iain Fraser who now lives in Florence. Bill is going to get in touch with Iain for more history of The Word.

  2. Reblogged this on Radical Independence Dumfries & Galloway and commented:
    Glasgow’s radical alternative press in 1970.

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