Saturday, October 31, 2015

Socialist Dundee Toffee

July 1949

Toffee on the hearth

Sweets off the ration are hard to get and permission to sell cakes again at bazaars opens up the most enticing vista of profitable work for Daily Worker bazaars this year.

Its Vista has been barred by regulation ever since the war began in 1939.

In pre-war years it was pretty well explored in aid of the Daily Worker and I want readers to meet explorer in chief Margaret Stewart, wife of Bob Stewart whose speaking has won true socialists and made communists from land's end to north of Aberdeen.

In the 1920's Bob and Margaret were having a stiff struggle in Dundee to make ends meet and raise their family.

A militant socialist foundation member of the Communist party, could expect to spend in enforced spells away from wife and family in those days and Bob was no exception

Also his work demanded travel, but one thing he could be certain of however far and long had been his departure he would arrive home to the smell of toffee.

Toffee wasn't fair hearing it was unusual for the kiddies it was for the funds of the working-class movement, and a lot of money it made.

Margaret Stewart has told me the full story of it.

It began with a first-class recipe from a toffee boiler of Dundee and a metal pot for boiling which she had as a gift.

Ready customers all the year round where the girls who worked in the jute mills nearby from early morning until late evening yes, only 25 years ago

No eight hour work day then and it was thirsty heavy work and a toffee was extremely popular at three pennies a quarter

The children took it up to the Mill gates, mornings and lunch hours.

She started are you going to some other neighbours for sugar and a little flat and raised a few pounds this way, then the first boiling brought in enough money to buy more, and so it went on.

Sometimes the family tells me, the whole floor of the living room was covered with trays of the toffee, well and evenly scored by them and the appetising smell coiled up the street and brought the neighbours knocking at the door for a quarter

As the work prospered two pieces of special equipment were added, a large marble slab, perfect for pouring and setting and a pair of scales which she has kept to this day.

The threepences added into pounds and Mrs Stewart's reputation grew steadily for the best toffee in Dundee.

Barbara Niven
Daily Worker 4 July 1949 

Workers Notebook
Walter Holmes
11 August 1948

Of Bonny Dundee

Chance has brought me a delightful letter in response to my note of November 5 called in the death of Mrs Dalgity of Dundee sister of Bob Stewart leading member of the Communist party.

The letter tells so true tale of abuse so vivid picture of our struggles in Dundee that I quote it fully

" I rarely ever read the daily worker in my correspondence confesses but I was delighted when casually looking at it the other day to see mention of Bob Stewart

When the Communist Party started I was a kid running about Dundee half starved and in my bare feet like thousands of other kids, and I can still feel the horror that the name of "Bob Stewart, the  Communist" struck in my youthful heart

"He was a terrible man. He wanted to change everything". He wanted "five pounds a week to everybody" he said "never let a pane of glass stand between you and a half loaf" just imagine!

Bob and the cops

"I've been out of Dundee a good many years" continues my correspondence I left at the peak of Tory "prosperity" and my whole family was out of work.

I often saw Bob Stewart Communist passing down to Mr and Mrs Dalgity, the last time I saw him was a typical one
"he was being frogmarched into Bell Street police station by four burly policemen. At the court next day he was charged with assaulting a policeman."
"The bobby who stepped forward to tell the tale was none other than George Clark, world's champion hammer thrower and a weight lifter and all in-wrestler"
" as Bob said to the Bailie " if I ever decide to assaulting a policeman Mr Clark will certainly be the last one I shall try"
" however, Bailies don't get paid for seeing sense and Bob was found guilty. I forgot what sentence he got"

Well concluded, my correspondence, "although I'm not a communist I take off my hat to the Stewart's, The Dalgity's and the Stalkers who fought for the workers when I was believing every word in the Dundee Courier printed. " But I have since got sense ".

Daily Worker
Workers notebook
Walter Holmes