Charity & social welfare

Carmichael, Kay and Donnison, David (10 of 14) National Life Stories: Pioneers in Charity and Social Welfare

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  • Subjects

    Politics; Homelessness; LGBT Rights; Anti-nuclear movement; Poverty

  • Recording date

    2008-04-08, 2008-04-10

  • Recording locations

    interviewee's home, Glasgow

  • Interviewees

    Carmichael, Kay 1925-2009 (speaker, female) and Donnison, David 1926- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Brodie, Louise (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 10: [1:34:44] 10 April 2008. When KC became politically involved at the end of the second world war, she was involved with conscientious objectors, including her first husband. Description of her feelings towards pacificism. Helen Steven and Ellen Moxley were committed to activism against nuclear weapons. The men drifted away from the group and the women developed a great bond. They felt an emotional experience as well as practical. They went out to Faslane and Coulport which were the two bases. It was a happy group in spite of the terrible implications for the world. Planting the bulbs was to say that this was their land. KC reads from a poster dated 1996. [9:00] In 1994 three women took a petition to Malcolm Rifkind. He refused to meet them. The petition asked the government to remove the nuclear weapons from the Clyde. The first time they cut the fence at Coulport. They had some good relations with the police, but in big demonstrations the police could be afraid and therefore violent towards the protesters. KC's piece for the Glasgow Herald was important as she was well known. It was a good way of spreading the message. Cutting the fence would get them sent to court, or going on to Ministry of Defence land. They would have decided which one was to be taken in. Then they would refuse to pay the fine and so be sent to prison. [18:45] Court appearance was an opportunity to make a statement. You have to do something that makes you feel you are still trying. At the moment there are demonstrations about the Chinese in Tibet. There is a core of people feeling they are doing something worthwhile with their lives. Nuclear weapons in Scottish waters was an evil feeling. Helen described the Trident as a great grey slug. Ellen once took a little boat and got out to one of the tenders. Her trial went on for months. [23:47] KC went to Cornton Vale prison. Incident of what the prison officer called her. KC was only there for a week as somebody paid her fine. She was furious. Years later she discovered it was Joe Haines. Their group of women was very clear about what they were doing, and to some extent it was playing games. It is different for most women, unpleasant. Each member of their group handled prison in a different way. [31:44] KC chose to exist within the system. The food was difficult for KC as she is basically a vegetarian. Nature cure at the Kingston clinic had taught her this. She will occasionally eat chicken and fish with some reluctance. Many of the group are vegans, their lives are lived with a more complete view of the planet and human beings. [36:29] One of the most important actions was in 1987. KC describes a flyer to mark international women's day, a sit down demonstration at Faslane. Details. It finished with a public meeting. KC reads co-ordinator Agnes Walton's words. Another paper concerns the internal organisation to gather people for the protest. It was cold, wet, misery and they slept overnight. Last year they had the 365 Movement when they had someone there all the time throughout. Local people going to work at the base complained sometimes. [42:59] They call themselves the "Horties" from horticulturists. Within the group one of the discussions was where they should do demonstrations, and this brought them in to the city centre. One took place at St Enoch Square. They made boxes like ballot boxes. They had beautiful silk banners and leaflets and asked people to vote on how they wanted their money to be spent. They mostly chose health and education, not weapons, it was successful in interesting young people in the subject. A Valentine's day action was also successful and fun. Street theatre took place in Oban with a sort of Punch and Judy show, getting over the anti nuclear weapons message. It was public education. Feedback. [52:25] People were referred to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Members to the group had to be vetted. They all had their phones tapped from time to time. They learnt to be careful. Fundamental Christians opposed them, as did the respectable establishment people. Story. [58:00] They tried to do actions on relevant days, like that on Holy Innocents day using the outline of a child. The Women in Black demonstration too. They would walk in a circle in George Square. They were sensitive of doing things in front of war memorials, and avoided the customary rituals by gathering on the Saturday night and lighting candles for civilians killed during war. Mention of a news item of horror from the Congo, with a sadistic, sexual element. [1:5:43] They want to keep up the pressure. The SNP has rejected Trident. KC is thinking of joining the SNP. She feels that her actions have helped awareness. In Scotland there is more anti-American feeling than in England which carries the empire mentality. [1:10:53] KC's group is very loving towards each other. They are planning a party to celebrate 25 years of the group. Rituals described. They discuss things before problems arise. For KC's 80th birthday party the Horties sang and played the drum. KC will have an ethical funeral and it will be an important moment for the group, as it will be linked to the cause. She is the oldest, the youngest is in her thirties. There are roughly ten members. [1:17:04] When the G8 meeting took place at Gleneagles, they took food to share with passers-by and the police, to draw attention to the fact that we must all share the world's food. David is an honorary Hortie. KC has to take a stool with her to the street actions now as she can't stand for long periods. The group is like the family she never had. One, who is a nurse, will lay her out after her death. They have raised money for disabled relatives of the group. The group would close without the political cause. Discussion of new members. They have to devote time and energy. They must understand the issues around nuclear weapons [1:25:09] When they hold demonstrations they always tell the police and ask permission where necessary. Tesco in Oban refused. They are open about what they are doing. There has been a lot of opposition to Gordon Brown spending all this money on replacing Trident. Helen has a marvellous collection of records of the group. KC has doubts about nuclear power because of global warming. America, China and India will make the important decisions on this. KC can't really stop it and recycling at home is a very small thing. KC and David were in Spain recently, looking across at Africa. There will be a great movement of populations. The thing that has held the group together is love, laughter and food and a shared passion to effect change.

  • Description

    Life story interview with the late Kay Carmichael (1925-2009), Labour advisor who led progressive reforms in Scotland. Her husband, Professor David Donnison (b.1926), former chair of the supplementary benefits commission, speaks in part 14.

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