Purdie, Bob

First name/s: Robert McGovern
Last name: Purdie
Known names / nicknames: Bob
Date of birth: 09/09/1940
Year of birth: 1940

Life before Ruskin

Date and place of birth: 9th September 1940 Edinburgh

Family:Father was a skilled cabinetmaker. Bob was an identical twin (brother David

Work: Left school at 16 undertaking various jobs including joiner, ironmonger and lathe operator

Politics/Trade union activity:

Bob was in the Socialist Labour League in Scotland but by 1968 he was living in London and active in the International Marxist Group in which he was London organiser in the early 1970s. Committed to civil rights, republicanism and a united Ireland he wrote the pamphlet Ireland Unfree when in the IMG. He was active in the Anti-Internment League and then Troops Out and the Irish Solidarity Campaign. He stood as candidate for the IMG in the February 1974 election in the Glasgow Queens Park constituency. He subsequently left the organisation.

Trade Union membership (at time of entry to Ruskin)

Life at Ruskin

Dates at Ruskin: 1974-6

Source of funding:

Campaigns/political activity:

Subjects studied at Ruskin: History



Life after Ruskin

Education: BA Warwick, MA and then PhD Strathclyde.

Work: Adult education tutor in the north of Ireland; 1988 – 2005 Politics tutor Ruskin College and resident tutor 1989 -2001.

Politics/trade union activity: He repudiated his previous support for Republicanism. SNP member and activist. One time convenor of the SNP’s London branch, subsequently political education officer for Kirkcaldy branch.
A Christian socialist, supporter of the Iona ecumenical movement. Asst secretary Irish Labour History Society 1982 – 6, cttee member 1981, 1987 -8, editorial board of the society’s journal Saothar from 1982 to which he contributed many articles and reviews. Founder of the Belfast branch of the society when he lvied there in the 1980s.Vehement supporter of Scottish independence in the referendum debate of September 2014. On its defeat he wrote “Last night the Kirkcaldy SNP gathered for some intensive group therapy over a few pints. It’s worth reflecting that the losers in most liberation struggles don’t communicate by meeting in a pub, they tap the pipes in their cells.”

Family:  Long-term relationships with women comrades

Place & date of death: Kirkcaldy, Fife, from cancer

Date of death: 29/11/2014
Year of death: 2014

Achievements / Publications

On his 72nd birthday in 2012, he listed five things that happened to him which he never anticipated. They were: being held for questioning in connection with the Great Train Robbery; meeting the man who was first into the room after Trotsky was assassinated; staying in the home of the head of the Official IRA in Belfast; being paid £3.00 by a CIA agent; and – his pride – earning a PhD in history.’ (Scotsman obituary)

Honorary Research Fellow in the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies, University of Aberdeen

His book Politics in the Streets is regarded as a key book on the Civil Rights movement.

Ed with Austen Morgan Ireland: Divided Nation, Divided
Class, (Ink Links, London, 1980)

Politics in the streets: The origins of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland (Blackstaff Press, 1990)

Hugh MacDiarmid: Black, Green, Red and Tartan (Welsh Academic Press,2012)

Pamphlet: Ireland Unfree (IMG 1972)

Articles include:
The Friends of Ireland in Contemporary Irish Studies eds Tom Gallagher and James O’Connell MUP 1983

The Irish Anti‐Partition League, South Armagh and the abstentionist tactic 1945–58 Irish Political Studies
Volume 1, Issue 1, 1986

Was the Civil Rights Movement a
Republican/Communist Conspiracy? Irish Political Studies 3
Irish Political Studies Volume 3, Issue 1, 1988

“Long haired intellectuals and busybodies”: Ruskin, student radicalism and civil rights in Northern Ireland in Ruskin College. Contesting Knowledge, Dissenting Politics, eds Geoff Andrews, Hilda Kean, Jane Thompson, Lawrence & Wishart 1999


Material in archives or already published articles

Material on subject in archives or already published articles

Shortly before his death, Bob penned his own epitaph: “I am a Scottish Nationalist as well as a socialist. My socialism began with the radical democratic ideas I learned from Robert Burns, and the ethical values of the Gospels, which I learned within a nation which is deeply imbued with Christianity. In democratic struggle socialism ceases to be abstract, it comes alive in the minds and hearts of human beings who are striving to create a truly human society. Socialism lives and is still relevant. I pledge myself anew to my beliefs of 40 years.” (Scotsman obituary)

https://redmolerising.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/182-pentonville-road/?relatedposts_hit=1&relatedposts_origin=725&relatedposts_position=1 (Bob’s account of working for the IMG in Pentonville Road)

https://redmolerising.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/bob-purdie-on-ireland-remembering-the-officials/?relatedposts_hit=1&relatedposts_origin=510&relatedposts_position=2 (Bob’s memoir of the Official Republicans)

https://redmolerising.wordpress.com/people/bob-purdie/ (Various obituaries /memories)

George Kerevan Obituary The Scotsman 7 December 2014 http://www.scotsman.com/news/obituaries/obituary-dr-robert-bob-mcgovern-purdie-historian-1-3627764

Stephen Howe Obituary http://sluggerotoole.com/2014/12/18/sluggersoapbox-in-praise-of-bob-purdie-1940-2014/

Connal Par Obituary Dublin Review of Books http://www.drb.ie/blog/comment/2014/12/12/bob-purdie-1940-2014

D.R.O’Connor Lysaght Obituary http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2015/01/21/bob-purdie-1940-2014/
¬Image or where can be found in published material

Addressing the haggis on Burns night INSERT (https://redmolerising.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/bob-purdie-on-ireland-remembering-the-officials/?relatedposts_hit=1&relatedposts_origin=510&relatedposts_position=2)


Notes on Image/s


it is a very rare photo, I only had that moustache for a few weeks, it was a transitional phase between being bearded and clean shaven. It was probably the onset of reformism, I remember (Lord) Gus MacDonald being moustached when all the other Young Socialists in Glasgow wore beards (except some of the women). He also wore a hairy Italian suit instead of jeans & combat jacket – a clear breach with the principles taught us by Comrades Fidel  and Che. At least I adopted a kilt, reflecting my Jacobite sympathies. (Bob Purdie 23/6/2011- https://redmolerising.wordpress.com/people/bob-purdie/)

Comment of contributor/s and sources


Ken Jones

created 25/05/2015 at 9:04 pm, updated 03/06/2015 at 8:45 am

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