William Adamson

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The Right Honourable
William Adamson
Cropped photograph of William Adamson.jpg
Adamson in 1911.
Leader of the Labour Party
In office
October 1917 – February 1921
Preceded by Arthur Henderson
Succeeded by J. R. Clynes
Member of Parliament for West Fife
In office
Dec. 1910 – 1931
Preceded by Sir John Gilmour, Bt
Succeeded by Sir Archibald Sinclair, Bt
Personal details
Born 2 April 1863 (1863-04-02)
Dunfermline, Fife
Died 23 February 1936 (1936-02-24) (aged 72)
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Alma mater None
The grave of William Adamson MP, Dunfermline Cemetery

William Adamson (2 April 1863 – 23 February 1936) was a Scottish trade unionist and Labour politician. He was Leader of the Labour Party between 1917 and 1921 and served as Secretary of State for Scotland in 1924 and between 1929 and 1931 in the first two Labour administrations headed by Ramsay MacDonald.


Adamson was born in Dunfermline, Fife, and was educated at a local dame school. He worked as a miner in Fife where he became involved with the National Union of Mineworkers. Between 1902 and 1908 he was Assistant Secretary of the Fife and Kinross Miners' Association,[1] and he thereafter served as its General Secretary.[2]

Political career

Active with the new Labour Party, Adamson was first elected to Parliament for West Fife in the December 1910 general election[3][4] and became leader of the party in 1917, a position he held until 1921.[1] In 1918 he was sworn of the Privy Council.[5] He served as Secretary for Scotland and Secretary of State for Scotland in 1924[1][6] and between 1929 and 1931[1][7] in the Labour governments of Ramsay MacDonald.

However, he split with MacDonald after the formation of the National Government. Adamson lost his seat in the 1931 election which he contested for Labour against MacDonald's coalition.[1] He stood again in the 1935 election but again failed to take the seat, losing on this occasion to William Gallacher of the Communist Party of Great Britain.[citation needed]

Personal life

Adamson was father of William Murdoch Adamson and, through him, father-in-law of Jennie Adamson, both Labour MPs.[8] He died in February 1936, aged 72. He is buried in Dunfermline Cemetery, just north of the roundel at the end of the entrance avenue.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk William Adamson
  2. "Adamson, William [Willie]", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. leighrayment.com House of Commons: Fairfield to Fylde South
  4. The London Gazette: no. 28449. p. 9558. 23 December 1910.
  5. The London Gazette: no. 30764. p. 7461. 25 June 1918.
  6. The London Gazette: no. 32901. p. 770. 25 January 1924.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 33505. p. 3856. 11 June 1929.
  8. "Jennie Adamson". Observatory. Centre for Advancement of Women in Politics, Queens University Belfast. Retrieved 17 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Torrance, David, The Scottish Secretaries (Birlinn 2006)

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Deans Hope
Member of Parliament for West Fife
Dec. 19101931
Succeeded by
Charles Black Milne
Party political offices
Preceded by
Arthur Henderson
Leader of the British Labour Party
Succeeded by
J. R. Clynes
Political offices
Preceded by
The Viscount Novar
Secretary for Scotland
Succeeded by
Sir John Gilmour, Bt
Preceded by
Sir John Gilmour, Bt
Secretary of State for Scotland
Succeeded by
Sir Archibald Sinclair, Bt