Jul 142016
The Crew of Spanish steamer Eolo, which went on strike in Aberdeen in 1936

The Crew of Spanish steamer Eolo, which went on strike in Aberdeen in 1936.

By Nina C Londragan.

The Spanish Steamship Eolo, berthed in Blaikie’s Quay, Aberdeen Harbour exactly eighty years ago. From May – September 1936.

When its owners and Captain failed to comply with legislation granting Spanish seaman increased wages, the crew went on strike and turned off steam so their part cargo of grain could not be unloaded.

Aberdeen Dockers, in full sympathy, along with other workers and trade unionists rallied together to befriend, support and collect for the thirty three men.

Impressively the seamen held strong to their demands for higher wages, better food and working conditions for 15 weeks until full settlement had been made, cementing the Granite City’s bond of unity with Spain into the Spanish Civil War and beyond.

Surprising Sequel in Spain:

Nineteen men, strongly motivated by discussions with the seamen, courageously left Aberdeen to fight for freedom and democracy in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Five of these men made the ultimate sacrifice – giving their lives in the battle against Fascism.

Serving in the Anti-Tank battery, during the Battle of Brunete, John Londragan sustained severe wounds. Restless recuperating, he walked to a nearby village, Albares, where by amazing coincidence, it transpired that a local shop owner was the father of his friend – Juan Attaro, one of the crew from the Eolo. Juan had heard all about Aberdeen’s hospitality in “glowing terms”.

John Londragan (left) photographed in Spain 1937 with American Brigader, Peter Frye and Juan’s two daughters.

John Londragan (left) photographed in Spain 1937 with American Brigader, Peter Frye and Juan’s two daughters.

Still for me the story was not only a personal one, where my Grandfather John Londragan played a prominent role, but as an Aberdonian myself. I felt great pride in the Granite city’s demonstration of warmth and political strength, so it was a real honour to be able to compile this as a valuable piece of history to be displayed by Aberdeen Maritime Museum.

The project has gained strong support from Trade Unions, Aberdeen City Council and local media, as well as being positively welcomed by Scottish Parliament.

The opening took place on Saturday May 28th – with a very successful and well attended launch event organised by Tommy Campbell, Regional Officer of Unite.

Shades of Eolo:

Ironically the relevance of this poignant story, is still sharply reflected in current affairs today where in Aberdeen Harbour, the MV Malaviya Seven, an offshore supply vessel, has recently been impounded amid shocking allegations of “Modern Day Slavery”. Although the Indian crew are not on strike like the Spanish Seamen in 1936, they share similar issues such as working conditions and wages withheld by employers.

Again these are seamen stranded miles from home, without food or money. Luckily they have come to the right city as Aberdeen steps forward yet again, in solidarity to welcome and support them.

Remembering Aberdeen’s Solidarity with the Spanish Seamen’s Strike 1936:
Open until September 10th 2016 at
The Aberdeen Maritime Museum
52-56 Shiprow, Provost Ross House
Aberdeen, AB11 5BY

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 10am -5pm
Sunday 12 noon – 3pm

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Dec 132013

unison grampianWith thanks to Hall Hamilton Harper.

Due to the high cost of living in the Grampian Region, health union UNISON are campaigning for pay equality in the area to help alleviate recruitment and retention issues in the oil capital of Europe and provide local NHS workers with a reasonable living wage.

The matter of a High Cost Area Supplement for NHS staff in Grampian was raised during Portfolio Questions in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 11th December (question number 8).

In response, Health Secretary Alex Neil said:

 “I do not believe that a High Cost Area Supplement would be appropriate.

“I think that when you get into that you have to look at other parts of the country, for example one of the major shortages in the Western Isles is finding a maintenance engineer because of the renewable energy’s success in the Western Isles.

“Do we then introduce a high cost living supplement or a skills shortage supplement for the Western Isles?”

Responding to Mr Neil’s comments Laura McDonald, Branch Secretary for UNISON Grampian Health Branch commented:

“Our claim is for our members in the Grampian region who are struggling to make ends meet due to the very high costs associated with living in the area”

Ruaraidh MacKinnon, Branch Treasurer for UNISON Grampian Health Branch added:

“The Western Isles was a great example for Mr. Neil to use as it already has an allowance that is paid to all Western Isles staff – it’s called a Scottish distant islands allowance.

“The High Cost Area Supplement for Grampian is about much more than an isolated incidence of a difficult to recruit post, it is about the huge difference in the general costs of living within the Grampian area when compared to neighbouring boards.”

The figures produced by UNISON show that low paid NHS employees in Aberdeen only have, on average, £76.64 per month left to live on after deductions for rent, council tax and ‘bus travel compared with their counterparts in Dundee and Inverness who are left with £483.67 and £396.33 respectively.

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