Robert McElborough was a Belfast trade unionist and unflinching loyalist who worked on tramways and in the gas industry. This selection from his autobiography records Robert McElborough was a Belfast trade unionist of little education, who spent most of his life living in the Sandy row district and working on the tramways and in the gas industry. An active organiser in two loyalist trade unions, he fought proudly on the workers side for wages and conditions as a descendant of an Ulster Scot. This selection from his autobiography provides a unique record of Protestant working-class life, and a trenchant commentary on the mistreatment of workers by their masters. It also chronicles the tensions between English union bosses and Ulster trade unionists, and McElborough's support for Ulster-based unions uncontaminated by either red or green influences. The complexities of Belfast labour history are clarified in the author's introduction and notes. Subjective, sometimes unreliable, yet authentic, McElborough's narrative is an essential source for the study of both loyalism and labour in Belfast. Emmet O'Connor teaches history at the University of Ulster. His books include A Labour History of Ireland, 1824-1960 (1992).
Trevor Parkhill is Keeper of History at the Ulster Museum.