Farquhar McLay Collection.

Reference Code

GB243 T/SOR/42


Farquhar McLay Collection

Dates of Creation



8 archive boxes and 724 MB

Name of Creators

Farquhar McLay

Level of Description


Administrative History

Farquhar McLay was born John Farquhar McLay on 10th October 1934 in the Gorbals. He was a Glasgow writer and anarchist.

Many of his early works were semi-autobiographical accounts of his childhood in the Gorbals, where he recognises how poverty coarsened and limited peoples lives. In the 1950s/60s he had plays, poems, and speeches broadcast on BBC Radio.

He loved reading and literature and as a young man discovered anarchist writers such as Guy Aldred who confirmed in him an anarchist suspicion of political authority and a belief in grassroots organisation. Throughout his writing he was influenced by anarchist thinking and was a member of Glasgow anarchist groups from the early 1960s onwards.

In the 1980’s at the time of the Miners strike, he was a frequent speaker at Glasgow anarchist meetings. He helped distribute Glasgow anarchists group funds, donated to help miners families. Around this time a number of his speeches on anarchism and its significance to art, culture and education were published in pamphlet form.

He is chiefly remembered for his involvement in the Workers City group in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. He edited the two anthologies, Workers City (1988) and The Reckoning (1990) and contributed articles to The Glasgow Keelie. In the late 1980’s he was also a member of the Free University Network.

Many of his short stories and poems were published in literary anthologies and magazines including: The Listener; Words; Variant; New Writing Scotland; the Glasgow Magazine; Chapman; Edinburgh Review; Streets of Stone (Salamander Press 1985); Streets of Gold (Mainstream 1989); Another Book to Burn (Clydeside Press 1998) and MacAllan Shorts (Polygon 2000). His novel, Easy Cases (Clydeside Press 2002) both satirised the Glasgow political establishment, and gave a Glasgow character study in the absurdity of the indignities, and the meanness experienced, within a society manipulated by power.

Throughout his adult life, Farquhar McLay made significant contributions to the anarchist movement and writing in Glasgow and beyond. He died on 24 March 2011.

In his introduction to Voices of Dissent he says, ”…And don’t think dissent is just saying No. At its deepest and most passionate it is a Yea saying: an affirmation, a shouting of YES to life and all that enhances life.

Scope and Content

This collection has a wealth of materials which provide a fascinating insight into the life of a self-educated writer and anarchist from Glasgow. From anarchist literature which influenced his thinking, to his own manuscripts, plays and poems. His personal letters over many years, scrapbook, newspaper cuttings and diaries add more volume to his writing and thoughts as well as giving an insight into his personal life. There is also photographs, ephemera from meetings and actions he took part in and correspondence with the BBC, other broadcast media outlets and publishers where he submitted work.

System of Arrangement

Items have been arranged according to subject and record type.

Custodial History

Material collected by Farquhar McLay.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

David McLay.

Appraisal, Destruction, Scheduling

Appraised according to the Spirit of Revolt appraisal policy.


Further accruals expected.

Access Conditions


Copyright Reproduction

Application for reproduction should be made to the archivist.

Existence of Copies

Scottish Theatre Archive holds the scripts of the following McLay works which were broadcast on BBC Radio:

– Liftman (GB 247 STA Km 7/5)

– Poems (GB 247 STA Ky 6/6)

– The travellers (GB 247 STA Kn 9/9)

– The Visit (GB 247 STA Je 3/8).

They also hold Correspondence relating to the Writers and Actors Workshop, 17 August-23 November 1984 (GB 247 STA Mn 32/2/99) which Farquhar McLay took part in..

Finding Aids

Descriptive list available at Glasgow City Archives and on the Spirit of Revolt website.

Publication Note

No known publications.

Archivist’s note

Arrangement and description prepared by Paula Larkin with advice from and the assistance of David McLay.

Related collections

Other Spirit of Revolt (Ref: T/SOR) collections held at Glasgow City Archives and Scottish Theatre Archive.

Date(s) of Description

Compiled by Paula Larkin (Project Archivist) February 2020.