Tribute to Comrade John McDermott

Balladeer; Citizen of the World; Internationalist & Socialist

John McDermott

Comrade John McDermott

of Clydebank & Partick, Glasgow, Scotland    

17th April 1944 – 9th November 2009




We regret to inform comrades and friends of the death of Comrade John McDermott of Partick, Glasgow, Scotland who died on Monday 9th November 2009.  Born in Clydebank, Scotland, John was a committed Socialist, an Internationalist and a valued member of the Workers’ Party of Ireland for almost five decades.


A comrade of integrity and loyalty John was part of the development of the party from a narrow nationalist movement to a class conscious party of the working class.  Whether under attack from narrow sectarian bigots or under threat from opportunists one always knew that John McDermott could be relied upon to defend the party.  Always very clear as to his political allegiance John took great pride in recalling the words of another famous Irish/Scottish revolutionary James Connolly who stated “It is not the extent of your march but the direction in which you are marching which ultimately matters”.


John recognised, as did James Connolly and the great Scottish revolutionary John McLean, that the working class struggle to win freedom and justice would be long and difficult.  Despite setbacks and betrayals John McDermott never lost his optimism and confidence that the working class of the world would achieve this victory.  Over the past decade John worked along side many wonderful comrades whom he admired  greatly as they in turn admired him, comrades such as Liam McMillan, Malachy McGurran , Jim “Solo” Sullivan, Peter Kane, Peter Doyle, SeŠn ” Cionnaith and Cathal Goulding.


Through his music and songs, most particularly with the Laggan Folk Group, John McDermott brought great pleasure and enjoyment to many thousands of people throughout the world.  He was part of that great international movement of solidarity in the 1960s with the people of South Africa fighting the repressive Apartheid regime, in support of the Vietnamese people against US imperialism and always, up to the day he died, he was a firm and steadfast supporter of the Cuban people and party in the struggle against the reactionaries in the United States who sought to defeat the Cuban revolution.  John was a long-time activist and supporter for the struggle of the Palestinian people for justice and an independent State.


Whether the struggle was in Scotland, Ireland, Africa, Asia or Latin America, wherever reaction and repression raised its head, John McDermott was on the side of the oppressed and for Justice and Freedom.  His password was that of the French Revolution, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.  He held these principles and ideals to be constant and until they were realised the struggle would continue.


His death leaves a large gap in our ranks.  For us, his comrades and friends, we owe it to his memory and his lifelong struggle to intensify our activities in every area of life, to win new members and supporters so that we fill John’s place in our ranks with hundreds of new comrades who will make the aims and principles of John McDermott’s life a reality in our time.


A fierce opponent of sectarianism which had been fostered and promoted for generations in Scotland and Ireland by the ruling class of church and State, John McDermott recognised that the unity of the working class of all countries was the most important weapon in our struggle.


John was one of the founders of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in Scotland.  He saw the potential of NICRA to mobilise and unite people around the Civil Rights Programme and he played a major role in building a strong support organisation in Scotland for Civil Rights in Northern Ireland.


We convey our deepest sympathy to his partner Meg who was his devoted companion, friend and comrade for many, many years.  We send our condolences to all his family, his sisters and brothers - Mary, Elizabeth, Dick, Danny, Michael and Martin and to his extended family.


Among many of John’s interests in life politics, music, love of the Highlands ranked near the top. He took every opportunity to be in and part of the Highlands, as for instance, two days before he died, on the Saturday, he left his hospital bed to travel with his partner and friend  Meg, as he well knew for one last time to his beloved Glencoe. Here he met old friends and spent the day with them enjoying their company and the beautiful tranquil setting of Glencoe.


From his mother Lizzie and his father Michael, John McDermott inherited fundamental values, a recognition that all people are equal and that each and every one has an obligation to build a society which places humanity at its centre, that we are all bound together.  He learned from his parents to reject the selfish, greedy doctrine of Thatcherism with its shrill cry that there was no such concept as society.  He saw in his own lifetime how capitalism had degraded and humiliated workers on every continent.  He spent his life endeavouring to make a better society for all.  He was not blind to the problem and difficulties facing workers and their families and the present ongoing crisis in capitalism reinforced for him Robert Burns's great line 'Such a parcel of rogues in a nation" - a statement which as we have seen in these times is still so applicable today.


The past few weeks have been very difficult ones, for John realised that it was too late to defeat the illness that had come upon him.  He was not afraid to die and he was surrounded by a loving family, loyal and generous friends and comrades.  He will be long remembered for his kindness, his sharp wit and humour, and his concern for so many others with whom he had lived and worked with over many years.  Knowing him as we did over a lifetime he would not want any of us – family, friends and comrades to be mournful or sad at his passing.  We will grieve for him but let us celebrate his life as a very worthwhile contribution to the continued development of humanity in the long struggle for emancipation.  The famous Wobblie song tells us how we should honour John McDermott.


Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie

Dust unto dust

The calm sweet earth that mothers all who die

As all men must;

But rather mourn the apathetic throng –

The cowed and the meek –

Who see the world’s great anguish and its wrong

And dare not speak!


-         Workers’ Party Ard Comhairle  11th November 2009


           We will be organising a memorial evening in December for our friend and comrade  John McDermott.  We invite all of John's family, comrades and friends to join us on that occasion.  Details will be posted later on our website. 

Peace, Work, Democracy, and Class Politics