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Bob Purdie

“Tariq’s office at Pentonville Road… had a large psychedelic collage on one wall. I suggested to him that we put a photo of it in the next issue and accuse the Black Dwarf of breaking in and committing an act of vandalism.”

Bob Purdie did much to develop the IMG and Red Mole’s line on Ireland in the early 1970s.

He is the taller one in the picture to the right- the comrade in front is Pat Jordan.

His pamphlet ‘Ireland Unfree’ can be found on the Cedar Lounge Blog:

This is his account of his dealings with the Official IRA: REMEMBERING THE OFFICIALS

and his 1990 book Politics In The Streets can be found here:

Bob was to move away from revolutionary politics and now describes his politics as Scottish Nationalism and Christian Socialism.

48 Comments leave one →
  1. PhilW permalink
    March 25, 2011 8:42 pm

    Bob’s holding a placard about the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, so I suggest the photo is from 1968…..

  2. David Walsh permalink
    June 9, 2011 11:52 am

    I was told that the fellow in front of Bob is Pat Jordan. Might someone confirm or identify? It would be sooo helpful to drop the habit of not identifying photos! Thanks, great site.

  3. June 9, 2011 12:13 pm

    Yes, it is Pat Jordan.
    Photo was supplied by Keith Sinclair and was scanned from the cover of a Healyite pamphlet.

    • Bob Purdie permalink
      June 23, 2011 4:39 pm

      I can confirm that it is my old friend Pat Jordan, in fact I pointed this out to Rob when he posted the photo.

  4. Bob Purdie permalink
    June 23, 2011 4:45 pm

    PS it is a very rare photo, I only had that moustache for a few weeks, it was a transitional phase between being bearded and clean shaven. It was probably the onset of reformism, I remember (Lord) Gus MacDonald being moustached when all the other Young Socialists in Glasgow wore beards (except some of the women). He also wore a hairy Italian suit instead of jeans & combat jacket – a clear breach with the principles taught us by Comrades Fidel and Che. At least I adopted a kilt, reflecting my Jacobite sympathies.

  5. David Walsh permalink
    June 23, 2011 6:55 pm

    Thanks everyone! LOL

  6. The Keelie permalink
    May 31, 2013 4:13 pm

    I was really astonished to find that Bob went over to Christianity. I’m certain this did not involve any rightwingery but to find Bob of all people signing up for irrationality is breathtaking.

    As for the kilt, Bob will know that this is a Highland garment most often seen in Edinburgh at the Festival. As he knows, the Gael was only allowed his clothing back when he signed up in the army of those who banned it. Is Bob a Gael? I don’t think so. It’s now a bourgeois garment and slightly musichall.

    Still, best wishes to Bob and his excellent work at Ruskin, now become a shadow of its former self, and sliding into nothing.

    The Keelie.

  7. David Walsh permalink
    May 31, 2013 4:45 pm

    Well, never knowing Bob other than hearing of him thru G Foley and within the USSWP I was not much on his political wavelength. However, it seems to me that taking shots against a person trying to follow a road that we may disagree strongly with is very unfair. I’m glad Keelie mentioned “best wishes”, but it seems a contradiction to end with “become a shadow of its former self, and sliding into nothing.” I have been a trotskyist since late ’68 at the age of 12 and hope all the former comrades try to stay on the road of a vision of peace, justice and equality.

  8. The Keelie permalink
    August 2, 2013 7:46 pm

    Nobody is taking shots at anyone. Don’t be daft. And the comment on Ruskin ‘sliding into nothing’ was a comment on the previously excellent Ruskin, not Bob. He was a great asset there.

    You’ll need to read more closely if you want to comment coherently.

  9. Political Tourist permalink
    January 6, 2014 9:42 pm

    Trying not to laugh at the thought of a trot (IMG) chatting away to the leadership of one of the most Stalinist (official Sinn Fein, SFWP) groups in Western Europe.
    Forward 45 years, did Bob join the Freemasons before or after the SNP, yes or no?

  10. David Walsh permalink
    January 10, 2014 11:27 am

    To “Keelie”, I read the line ‘but it seems a contradiction to end with “become a shadow of its former self, and sliding into nothing.” and you quite right and I do apologize to you for that.

  11. John permalink
    September 20, 2014 3:25 pm

    I’d love to read Bob’s comments on arriving at Christian Socialism, because the man is so interesting. That was a long and unexpected road. Yes, it’s a surprise but life’s full of them.

    Whatever the reason, I’m certain that it’s honorable. As Bob is. I wonder what he feels about the neutering of Ruskin on which I could weep.

  12. Dave Purdie permalink
    November 18, 2014 3:16 pm

    I am Bob’s twin brother. Though our lives took very different paths, I love him and can vouch for his utter honesty and sincerity. He has never been a Freemason, the idea is ridiculous. I am sorry to tell you that Bob now has terminal cancer and has been given 6 months until the end.

  13. Kieran Anderson the raging Nationalist (more of a socialist really) permalink
    November 30, 2014 10:36 am

    I have only just found this page in searching up my friends past after his recent passing, I actually can’t believe that is a picture of Bob up top. I’ve only known him for the past five years, initially from church and then later in the SNP Kirkcaldy branch. One thing I would say on his Christianity, it would be that he did not become religious irrationally, he did so because he is a moral person and saw good in areas of the religion that are too often hid from public view, he found his faith in Iona as far as I know, I myself want to get to Iona all the more as a result. It should also be pointed out to those who don’t know that was never in any sense, right wing. Even socially, he was for all the time I’ve known him, a fervent supporter of equal marriage and was very happy when the law was passed allowing his friends such as myself to be married, I think he was a little annoyed at the Church of Scotland taking so long to see the light on this issue. Just so people know, I have still not had the time to read through his books; Politics in the street, or Hugh McDiarmid: Black, Green, Red and Tartan. Something I personally regret because now, any questions or confusion I have, I will not be able to have answered accurately, and my speculation will fall useless as I know that my mind does not work in a similar method to Bob’s. However, I’m sure The Keelie will do fairly well in helping me work things out. :)

    • ElaineS permalink
      December 5, 2014 7:49 pm

      Hi Kieran, it is indeed me. I can only imagine how deeply you feel Dr Bob’s loss, the short time I knew him, he was the type of person you felt so at ease with and enjoyed listening to. Hopefully see you on Thursday,I’m sure the Crem will be filled with such warmth and love towards Dr Bob and to his family.

  14. Dave Purdie permalink
    November 30, 2014 12:37 pm

    Keiran, thank you for your kind words about my late brother. To those who have not yet heard, Bob passed away in the Victoria Hospice, Kikcaldy, on Saturday morning. It is not just us, his family who will miss him but the many friends that he had and all those whom he helped at Ruskin. I personally have lost that other part of myself that only a twin can understand. It is deeply painful but knowing how well he was thought of is consolation. To David Walsh, it is patently obvious that you never knew Bob.

  15. ElaineS permalink
    November 30, 2014 3:31 pm

    So, so saddened to hear of Dr Bob’s passing, I only knew him for a short while and truly wished I’d have known him longer. What I found was a very honest, kind and fascinating person who having read this piece on him from an ex student, he was warmly thought of. In memory of this fine human being that was Bob, I intend to read his books. Scotland and my home town Kirkcaldy will have such a void spot where our Dr Bob once walked. May many follow in Dr Bob’s footsteps in human decency, kindness and passion in what you believe in and that students continue to read his works and get to know one of Scotland’s finest. RIP Bob.

    • Kieran Anderson the raging Nationalist (more of a socialist really) permalink
      December 1, 2014 2:49 am

      Hi Elaine, I take it this is Elaine from Labour indy, now SNP? I love that ou took the time to write here. Bob really was like a political mentor to me, thank you so much for your words, I’m glad you had the time to meet him and chat with him. It still hasn’t quite sunk in. I think when I go to church and see him not sitting there is when it’ll suddenly hit. Also, thanks Dave, I hope to meet you sometime soon, I sincerely hope his funeral doesn’t land on an exam day for me, as I would personally miss my exam and re-sit it. But I know Bob would be incredibly angry with me if I did that. So I will do what he’d want if the day does land on an exam day and go to my exam, but hopefully it won’t, good luck to you and your sister, Bob was a best friend and teacher to me in so many different ways, but I couldn’t possibly imagine how your feeling as a sibling. I hope to speak with you about Bob soon and meet the brother he always spoke fondly of. This is an unbelievable loss to me, but of course an unimaginable loss to you. My largest thoughts are with you, his family. Kieran

  16. George Kerevan permalink
    November 30, 2014 9:33 pm

    I am devastated by Bob’s passing. I last saw him on the Monday before the Scottish independence referendum at the launch of Tom Nairn’s new book of collected essays. Bob, Tariq Ali and myself reminisced about the old days in the IMG before getting down to a discussion about what to do to win the coming vote. I wrote a review of his MacDiarmid book for the Scotsman – a serious and scholarly work. I knew Bob since the 1970s and latterly spoke at his SNP branch. He never wavered in his belief we could build a better society. We will – standing on his shoulders. George Kerevan

  17. Richard Chessum permalink
    December 1, 2014 9:55 am

    Sorry to hear about Bob’s passing. Makes us all think of our own mortality as old comrades of the late 60’s and early 70’s keep passing from us. I met Bob when I was involved in the International Marxist Group and the Anti Internment League in those days. Later, I came across him again in Warwick University when I registered to do a Ph.D and he was there studying too, having previously been at Ruskin College. I lived locally at the time, but he had a room in the University residence on campus which he kindly let me use when he was away from time to time. Already at that time he was on his journey away from revolutionary politics and re-assessing his views on Ireland. I always got the impression that, although he was involved in the politics of Ireland, what really drove him was his passion for his native Scotland. I travelled the opposite way to Bob. I began as a Methodist lay preacher in a village and was active in the Christian Socialist Movement (the later Lord Donald Soper my mentor). Then I became an agnostic, got involved in Vietnam solidarity through CND, and eventually joined the IMG for a short time. Never a believer in democratic centralism and the Leninist theory of organisation, I did not last long. However, I remain a sort of dissident Marxist to this day. I understand Bob became devoutly religious and an elder of his Church.
    I never met him again after the days at Warwick in the 80’s, so feel a little doubtful about having the audacity to contribute to this correspondence. Just to say that people of his integrity are in short supply now and whatever our differences on the left we should treasure everyone who is an ally and regret their passing. Condolences to his family.

  18. Jacob Murphy permalink
    December 4, 2014 10:18 pm

    Very sad to hear that Bob died last weekend. It was only in July this year that I visited him in Kirkcaldy and interviewed him about his role in the Anti-Internment League, IMG and Troops Out Movement. When I found out he was very ill on Friday, I sent a letter to the Hospice but it never arrived to him on time. I feel honoured to be probably the last person to record his memories of his activism on Ireland in the 1970s. Through the last 6 months Bob had kindly given me extracts of his memoirs relating to Ireland which were fascinating. I do hope that someone finishes of his memoirs. He told me at his home how he wanted his memoirs to end so if anyone does take on this role then let me know and I’ll provide you with details. I hope to be able to attend his funeral. Condolences to Dave Purdie and his family and friends.

    • NollaigO permalink
      April 26, 2015 12:04 pm

      Have you published any work yet based on your research?

  19. December 5, 2014 12:32 pm

    My sincere thanks to all who have posted positive comments about my dear brother, it’s good to know that so many thought well of him. His funeral will be on Thursday 11th December at 3pm at Kirkcaldy Crematorium. There will be tea and sandwiches etc afterwards at the Victoria Hotel. I hope that any of you who have been so kind will make themselves known to me (NB I look a lot like him)

    • Tim Wilson permalink
      December 8, 2014 2:55 pm

      Dear Dave, also devastated to hear this news. Bob was always good to me and my family since we moved to Fife 3 years ago – I took up a lectureship at St Andrews, after knowing Bob from his Oxford days. In the academic realm, Bob was the archetypal gentleman scholar – an abiding memory is of his encouragement to younger scholars precisely because they had taken issue with his own (seminal) account of Northern Ireland’s Civil Rights movement in the late 1960s. He was just delighted to see the debate move forward. That profound generosity of spirit was the measure of the man.

      Condolences to you, Dave, and to all the wider family.

  20. December 9, 2014 5:56 am

    I knew Bob from the IMG, when he supported me in pushing for a Scottish Workers Republic. I was surprised when he took to Christianity and the Church of Scotland. He corrected me when I said he got the Hallelujahs whilst ill. Despite his lingering illness I am still devastated at the sad loss. He was a true comrade always.

    I lost contact with Tariq Ali many years ago and would like his email address.

    Donald Anderson
    Scottish Republican Socialist Movement.

    • George Kerevan permalink
      December 11, 2014 6:24 pm

      You’ll get him through his Facebook or Twitter pages.

  21. Political Tourist permalink
    December 10, 2014 9:25 pm

    Sorry to hear about Bob.
    Condolences to David and the family.
    Met him a couple of times at SNP conferences.
    Bob’s the second 1960/70s old IMGer to pass away this year.
    The other was Matt Montgomery who died last May, 2014.

    • George Kerevan permalink
      December 11, 2014 6:23 pm

      Sorry to hear Matt too has passed on. Still no serious history of the IMG.

  22. December 11, 2014 7:00 pm

    Was given Tariq’s email address, but he did not reply.

    Dave Leadbetter from that era died a few years ago.

  23. BigTam permalink
    December 11, 2014 7:03 pm

    Despite grim weather and travel conditions, Bob’s passing was marked today by a big turnout of his friends, his faith, his party (SNP) and his old comrades.

  24. December 11, 2014 7:07 pm

    Sorry I could not attend: purely for health reasons. Glad he had a good turnout. Feel like the last of the Mohicans.

  25. Jacob Murphy permalink
    December 11, 2014 9:38 pm

    Glad the funeral was well attended. RIP Bob Purdie

  26. Charlie McGuire permalink
    December 22, 2014 1:23 pm

    Bob was my tutor in Irish history at Ruskin College, during 1992-94. He could be a grumpy so-and-so at times, but usually did it with a twinkle in the eye. Underneath there was a warmth that shone through. I enjoyed my time at Ruskin and looked forward to discussions with Bob. We didn’t always agree but I found his tutorials to be really informative and helpful. He also took me to some of the postgraduate seminars in Irish history that were held at various Oxford University colleges, which I appreciated. I will remember him as a great tutor and someone who cared deeply about the education of working class students.

  27. Denis permalink
    March 1, 2015 2:36 pm

    I learned late of Bob’s passing. I was and I am greatly saddened by the news. I knew Bob at Ruskin, 87-89.

    Bob’s intelligence, warmth and honesty are memorable. What a loss.

    ”And if bad luck should lay my strength
    Into the shallow grave,
    Remember all the good you can;
    Don’t forget my love”.

    John Cornford

  28. March 25, 2015 4:05 pm

    For a poet, being able to write verse about something so devastating as a twin brother’s passing, is deeply therapeutic. I dedicate this poem to Bob Purdie’s memory and share it with all his friends and comrades


    David C Purdie

    The home you loved is locked and quiet.
    Your armchair sleeps before a dumb TV;
    the wound-down clock no longer chimes,
    its insistent tick is silenced.

    This summer,
    in the garden where you liked to sit
    on Fife’s scarce sunny days,
    the rasps will come to fruit again
    but someone else will pick them
    and savour their luscious sweetness.

    In your library, the books wait in vain
    for you to turn their pages;
    nor will you come home with new found treasure
    to add to the crammed shelves.

    In your study, abandoned papers
    lie scattered on the desk,
    but you won’t pick them up.

    You won’t look out from these windows again
    and feel happy to be home in Kirkcaldy.

    But … it’s only a building,
    and will accept new residents;
    it won’t miss you,
    no matter how much I always will.

  29. donald anderson permalink
    March 25, 2015 4:28 pm

    I too miss comrade Boab as well.
    A font of life’s true treasure
    Anent life’s deep knowledge well.
    Of which there is no measure.
    which leaves to think and dwell.

  30. NollaigO permalink
    April 25, 2015 8:10 am

    In his last few years, Bob wrote several autobiographical essays on his Facebook page.
    A wonderful collection IMO.
    There are over a hundred such essays. Many should be of interest to the readers of this page as several essays deal with Bob’s days in the IMG in the 1960s & 1970s (the heyday/ salad days* of the British USFI organisation). Also there are numerous essays on Irish politics in the 1960s,1970s and 1980s.
    All these deserve to be remembered and preserved. I have compiled a list of these essays with their internet links in a Word Document. I would be happy to forward this document to anybody interested.
    I was recruited to the IMG in 1970 by Bob having been impressed by a review he wrote in the Black Dwarf of a Michael Farrell pamphlet, The Struggle in the North. I left in 1978, around the same time as Bob left.

    Oscar Gregan

    * Salad days: A youthful time, accompanied by the inexperience, enthusiasm, idealism, innocence, or indiscretion that one associates with a young person! [Shakespeare]

  31. Richard Chessum permalink
    April 25, 2015 3:04 pm

    Hello Oscar. I would be interested to receive this document. Just have to find the time to read everything these days!

  32. NollaigO permalink
    April 25, 2015 8:52 pm

    I sent it to your Facebook message page. I hope that the links work.

  33. Bob Weatherhead permalink
    May 4, 2015 2:10 am

    I am helping to organise a commemoration for Bob at Ruskin College, Oxford, on Sat 20th June. The College will be open from 12 am to receive visitors and the event will start at 2pm. There will be various speakers, a slide show of Bob’s life, music and a bar. A plaque honouring Bob will be unveiled in the College’s Social & Political Studies Faculty. All are welcome. For further information feel free to contact me:

  34. May 4, 2015 2:52 am

    Apologies, Ruskin will be open to receive visitors from 12 noon, not 12am!

  35. Denis permalink
    June 6, 2015 2:44 pm


    Thank you for your truthful and beautiful lines on Bob; the sense of loss is tangible.

    Your fine words do him proud, yet deepen my sense of loss at his passing.

    Thank you.


  36. June 6, 2015 8:55 pm

    Denis, I’m deeply grateful to you and to all of Bob’s friends who have honoured him since he died. I’ve personally been through a bad time, it took a few weeks for the real grief to kick in, I think the SNP’s triumph in the General Election made me so sad that he wasn’t there to enjoy the moment. Especially since his home seat, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath came over to us at long last (as did my own home seat, Midlothian). I longed to share it with Bob and the fact that I couldn’t hurt deeply. All the best, I’m looking forward to hearing about the Ruskin ceremony.

  37. June 24, 2015 3:28 pm

    I have recently started to publish sections of my dissertation on the Troops Out Movement during the 1970s. You can find the ‘introduction’ on my blog page. I interviewed Bob in July 2014 for this dissertation so if any of you have an interest or recollections of British Left politics in the 1970s, and in relation to Ireland, then please have a read and feel free to comment.

  38. June 24, 2015 6:31 pm

    I haven’t see the piece on TOM. Just hope it does not suffer from the usual Brit left bouts of amnesia on Labour’s record, who not only sent the Troops IN, but introduced reactionary legislation that lead to Brit Lab being the worst offender of Human Rights in EU.

  39. July 2, 2015 2:53 pm

    Hi there, you can check out my introduction and first chapter at this link

  40. July 2, 2015 2:57 pm

    sorry wrong link, here’s the correct one –

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