I grew up with the story that my paternal grandfather, Jimmy Kemp, was a card carrying communist. I’ve never been able to prove it, partly because I’ve no idea how I could.

Recently I’ve spoken with a few of the older family members and heard some interesting family history stories. I love hearing family history stories from people, but I don’t necessarily believe them all. However they’re a good start point, and if lots of people independently tell you something it adds to the credibility.

Jimmy Kemp’s story

Tanks and soldiers deployed to the streets of ...
Tanks and soldiers deployed to the streets of Glasgow to prevent the threat of revolution in 1919 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My grandfather was Jimmy Kemp, he was born and died in Old Kilpatrick. He worked as a gardener at Dalnottar House, and during the war years he was an ARP volunteer. The family were bombed out in 1941, and lived in the Vale of Leven until the early 50s. He died in 1964, years before I was born, so I never knew him personally.

I got talking to one of my Dad’s older cousins about his Uncle Jimmy, my grandfather. He said some really interesting things. Notably that Jimmy Kemp used to look after the kids, often cut their hair and was a quiet atheist. My granny Kemp, his wife, was an active member of St. Patrick’s Church. So it was a bit of a surprise to me that Jimmy Kemp didn’t attend, and more to the point subverted others.

Some of Jimmy’s friends included someone called Boyle who ended up as a local councillor and another man who was a card carrying communist. Jimmy had a strong socialist tendency but it’s not certain whether or not he was also a card carrying communist. He’d certainly described himself as a communist before the 1956 crackdown in Hungary. Most of the locals recognised that socialism had left the communist party by that point and it’s popularity waned.

My Dad’s family all seemed to be devout Catholics, not only regularly attending mass but also helping out as volunteers for the parish. I was surprised to discover that Jimmy Kemp was an atheist, he apparently never went to church. Not only that, he used to tell anyone that asked that there were other ways to think about the world. My Dad’s cousin cited Jimmy Kemp’s influence as one of the reasons he left the seminary.

I’m still not convinced that Jimmy Kemp was a card carrying communist, but he certainly seems to have been a fellow traveller if he wasn’t. If I ever have time I guess I’ll go look up some of the others, mentioned, especially Baillie Boyle. I’ll also need to look up any ARP records for the Old Kilpatrick area, I know there are some in the national archives and some in Clydebank library.