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George Ballinger, Dissident of Dundee

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We are out for Revolution!
- George Ballinger, Dundee resident and 'revolutionary'

George Agustus1 Ballinger was born in St Austell, Cornwall, in 1887, the son of Charles Ballinger and Sarah Backhouse. George and his family moved north to the city of Dundee, Scotland, sometime during George's infancy and he settled and lived in Dundee for the rest of his life. The 1901 Scottish Census shows a 13-year-old George as living at an address in the St Mary's housing area of Dundee, along with his mother Sarah, father Charles, and brothers Harry (21) and Arthur (18).

The Great War

George was a working class family man who later became disgruntled with the lack of work and a means to support his family after returning from fighting in the First World War. He saw action in both France and Russia, during which he was the victim of a serious gas attack, and he was also buried alive at one point - being rescued by being dug out and then spending three months in a military hospital recuperating.

Before the outbreak of the war George had been a foreman in one of Dundee's jute mills, but had left this position to enlist. He became a sergeant in the newly formed 14th Battalion, Tank Corps, and was awarded the Military Medal2 for 'gallant devotion to duty'.

However, on demobilisation, George found it very difficult to find work back home in Dundee. He eventually managed to gain temporary work for the local Corporation (council), repairing roads as a labourer. He kept this position for nine months and then two days after the birth of his twin children he was laid off. George was said to have become very depressed at this point. As well as having his new twin children to take care of, he also had another daughter, who was two years old.

The 'Rebel Army'

George soon started to voice his opinions on the high unemployment rates in Dundee, and became an official for the Dundee faction of the National Unemployed Workers' Movement (an organisation set up in 1921 by members of the Communist Party of Great Britain). On 6 October, 1921, George (then aged 34) took part in a speech in Dundee City Square to more than 500 men and women (even though he was not a member of the Communist Party) in which he was quoted as saying,

We are out for Revolution! Get out your notebooks! We are out for Revolution! Join up in the Red Army for you will have to fight! You will have to be the Iron Division. It depends on the capitalists whether it will be a bloody revolution or not. If it is a bloody revolution, let them have it! Get hold of all the machinery of production. We want the whole damn lot! It is ours. We produced it!
The following week, on 14 October, at another open-air meeting in front of up to 1,000 people, George gave another address in which he said,

I am out for red revolution - red revolution. Yes, and for the benefit of the spies and traitors, red revolution. You will never get anything by constitutional methods. We must carry this war on. I have seen it in Germany, France and Russia. In Russia 98% of the people are uneducated. Yes, and the Red Army overthrew the Tzar, all his assassins, the Cossacks and White Guards. And for you sneering Zacharites on the outside of the crowd, you who have 'coshy' posts, such as you were hung from the lamp-posts in Russia!

I tell you revolution will come. It will be a bloodier revolution than what was in Russia. Yes, it will come here too. This country will flow with rivers of blood if we don't get the right to live. Organise, get into this army, and fight as our brothers and sisters in Russia did, and after you have taken possession of the machinery of production and minerals of the earth, which belong to you, the revolution will be complete. Organise the Red Army! March shoulder-to-shoulder to victory!

Into the Courts

George was soon arrested and charged with the crime of sedition, and his trial began on Monday, 17 October, 1921. George pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 60 days imprisonment by the presiding judge, Sheriff Malcolm. George had spoken of Russia in his rhetoric, and Sheriff Malcolm remarked on passing sentence that if George had 'done the same there he would have been executed without hesitation'.

On Sunday, 27 November, 1921, while George was still serving his prison term, one of his infant twins died. George was granted permission to attend the funeral which was held on the Wednesday. He was accompanied to his home by a prison warder and a police detective. He was allowed into the house alone, where his wife, Margaret, greeted him, holding the remaining twin girl. He then carried the small white coffin containing his dead infant out to the waiting car. The car was followed to the local graveyard by hundreds of members of the unemployment movement, and the interment was witnessed by many more.

George and his wife, Margaret (nee McCabe), had seven children in all. Of these seven children, only three daughters survived into adulthood; Margaret, Grace, who was the remaining twin, and Elizabeth.

War Once More

At the outbreak of the Second World War, George was in his early fifties, but this didn't stop him trying to re-enlist and fight again for his country, even after his experiences in the First World War. He was turned down for active service, but was reinstated to the rank of sergeant and put in charge of a unit of men. They became known in the Beechwood area of Dundee as 'George and his boys'.

George Ballinger died on 26 August, 1949.

The quotations provided in this Entry were taken from The Evening Telegraph 17 October, The Dundee Advertiser, 18 October, The Evening Telegraph 24 October, and The Dundee Advertiser, 30 November, all from the year 1921.

1His little-used middle name.2As shown on his medal card, available from the National Archives.

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