HELENSBURGH was quick to respond to the national campaign to give more people the vote in 1884 — by staging only the second demonstration in Scotland.
This was revealed by Edinburgh University history and classics lecturer Mark Nixon when he spoke to Helensburgh Heritage Trust's final 2013 open meeting last Wednesday evening (November 27).
His topic was ‘The 1884 Reform Act Agitation in Helensburgh and Dunbartonshire’.
He said that, following the Reform Acts of 1832 and 1867, pressure for further reform in 1884 led to the largest series of demonstrations in British history.
The 1867 Reform Act granted the vote in parliamentary elections to working class men in the towns but not in the counties.
Liberal Party leader William Gladstone, who became Prime Minister for the second time in 1880, pledged that people living in towns and in rural areas should have equal rights.
However Lord Salisbury, leader of the Conservative Party, opposed any increase in the number of people who could vote.
Salisbury's critics claimed that he feared that this reform would reduce the power of the Tories in rural constituencies.
There were over 270 demonstrations in Scotland in 1884, with the first in Edinburgh and the second in Helensburgh on July 14, organised by Helensburgh Liberal Association.
The biggest was in Glasgow, where some 600,000 people turned out.
The campaign forced the Tory-controlled House of Lords to allow the reform, which gave the vote to two million more men.
To commemorate the demonstrations medals were cast, and Mr Nixon passed round several examples.
He was introduced by Heritage Trust chairman Stewart Noble, who also proposed the vote of thanks.
The Trust winter open meetings in Helensburgh Tennis Club in Suffolk Street resume on Wednesday January 29 when John Birch will talk about the Gareloch-based boys training ships Cumberland and Empress.
Meetings start at 7.30pm, with tea and coffee served afterwards. Non-members are welcome.