Historian Mairtin O Cathain’s A Wee Black Booke pulls together reports of anarchism in and around Belfast in the years from 1867 to 1973. With no local movement for much of this period, the pamphlet looks at some individuals whose political activity merited mention in the media of the time. O Cathain’s work stops before the emergence in the late 1970s of the groups from which contemporary organisations Workers Solidarity Movement and Organise can trace their roots.
Some readers will be aware of the Irish Citizen Army’s Captain Jack White who became an anarchist after seeing the Spanish revolution in practice. The others will be unknown to all but historians. Bolton Hall and William Baillie emigrated to the USA, where Hall was involved in communal experiments, propaganda, and union organising. Baillie was more of an individualist, though he still realised that “personal freedom was tied inexorably to collective and economic freedom.”
John McAra was a Scottish anarchist who came to speak in Belfast, where he was arrested and jailed. A group did form from his activity, but appears to have died away after the First World War. Jack McMullen was a public speaker and socialist with anarchist sympathies, who campaigned against slum housing and unemployment in the 1920s and 1930s.
Finally there is John McGuffin, a founder member of the Belfast Anarchist Group, who was involved in the early Peoples Democracy and the civil rights movement.