Esther Clark, the great granddaughter of Ayrshire’s Miners’ MP, Sanny Sloan, shares her research with us into his life and times.

When he became an MP in 1939, Sanny was almost 60.

He carried on working for a better life for ordinary folk like him as he had always done. He worked really hard, making 640 speeches, long and short, during his six years in Parliament, which was an average of two per week.

He had a 14-hour train journey home every Friday, arriving in time to get the bus to Kerse Road End which left a six mile uphill walk to Rankinston. He could have taken a short cut on the railway line but with the dark and his one eye, he was better on the road despite the wartime potholes.

Sanny raised all sorts of issues in Parliament. His first speeches were against military training and the war. Right through the war he defended the welfare and rights of our fighting men.

An example was that after the withdrawal at Dunkirk, the soldiers wanted to visit home and he raised the issue in Parliament that they had not been given travel warrants.

He was always interested in child labour and he raised the fact that children from Ayrshire were sent to Fife to pick potatoes. He argued for press freedom, for more power for Scotland and the other British nations.

Another issue he was passionate about was constitutional reform, while he argued for the continued development of Prestwick Aerodrome which was greatly increased due to wartime — however he worried it would return to oblivion when peace returned.

Indian and colonial freedom generally, as well as supporting a homeland for Jewish people, were also high on the Sloan agenda. There was little that he left out of his sphere of interest, however eduction and housing featured largest in his life.

One of his major interests in parliament was the coal industry and miners.

He negotiated extra rations of cheese for miners early on in the war because of the physical hardship of their work

In Ayrshire a cheese piece or sandwich was known as a ‘Sloan’ for a while.

It was around this time as he was keeping a constant watch on the industry that he became known as The Miners’ MP. During World War II, the mines remained privately owned and owners were in charge. However under Order 1305 the miners’ wages were frozen and striking was illegal.

An example of the abuse of power exercised by the mine owners was illustrated in Cardowan Colliery in Lanarkshire. A young man was told to do the work of two men. He refused unless he got paid extra and was sacked.

His 30-odd colleagues came out on strike, were fined and then sent to Barlinnie for refusing to pay. Ten thousand miners across Central Scotland came out in sympathy for two weeks until a union official settle the matter and paid their fines.

Sanny instigated a two day debate in Parliament. He movingly denied that miners would let the soldiers down, indeed they were their own kith and kin.

It was the mine-owners who were exploiting their extra powers and, for example, producing coal from hard to mine seams so that easier more profitable seams would get better compensation later if the mines were nationalised or if the owners were allowed to retain them, would bring more profit.

Recognising that it would result in better safety in the pits, Sanny made a plea for nationalisation which would also bring more investment and better industrial relations. This in fact is what happened within a year of his death.

Perhaps he would have favoured more industrial democracy, as the creation of a board of directors running the pits and other nationalised industries was not exactly what he would have chosen.

Despite being very ill when he fought the 1945 election, Sanny conducted a vigorous campaign. He attended the election, but was too ill and was in hospital for the counting of votes. He returned to Parliament briefly.

When he died, he was about to visit the horrors of Belsen. He had pressed for the UK to allow more Jewish refugees to come here when Hitler came to power.

He had always supported a Homeland for the Jewish people. This must have been a terrible prospect for him.