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Commemorative Plaques Record Details

Bob Cooney (1908 - 1984)

Picture of the Palque

Location : x Castle Street

Area : Central Aberdeen

Plaque Type : Yellow

About Bob Cooney : Radical politician. Born in Sunderland in 1908. On the death of his father the family moved back to Aberdeen and Bob was educated at St Andrew's Episcopal School. After school Bob was apprenticed to a pawnbroker. He became involved in the street politics and debates in the Castlegate in Aberdeen and became a communist and bitterly opposed to poverty. Between 1931-2 he lived and worked in Russia. On his return to Aberdeen he fought hard, successfully, against the forces of the British Union of Fascists under William Chambers Hunter in Aberdeen. In 1937 he volunteered as part of the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil war, which he viewed as the front line against fascism. He served as a gunner for the duration of the Second World War. After the end of the war Communism became the main enemy and Bob found his position less tenable and spent a period in Birmingham. In these years he became increasingly involved in folk music and became a celebrity in that field. He died in Aberdeen in August 1984.

More Information : Bob was born to an Aberdonian family, of seven, who were living in Sunderland in 1908. Bob's father died a few months after his birth and the family returned to Aberdeen. Bob and his brother, Dod, were educated at St Andrew's Episcopal School. The brothers cleaned the school before and after each day and were members of the choir. On leaving school the children all entered a trade: in Bob's case he was apprenticed to a pawnbroker. During the period of apprenticeship he began to hate the pawnshop system and develop a hatred of poverty. At the time Aberdeen's Castlegate was the centre of street politics: debates raged here and it was a venue for views from all across the torrid political spectrum of the first quarter of he 20th century. Bob became a Socialist and then a Communist and a firm believer in revolution. Bob became involved, much to his mother's shame, in street speaking. This plaque has been placed in the Castlegate in part to commemorate the central role it played in Aberdeen's street politics, as well as the life and achievements of Bob himself. In 1930 Bob quit his job in order to devote himself full time to his politics. Between 1931-2 he spent 13 months in Russia, working at night and studying at the Lenin Institute by day. On his return to Aberdeen Bob threw himself fully into organising hunger marches, mobilising the unemployed and spoke at open air meetings across the country. During this period the local branch of the British Union of Fascists, under Oswald Mosley's Gauleiter for the North William Chambers Hunter, was becoming increasingly active. There were a series of running and pitched battles between the Communists and the Fascists from which Bob earned a reputation as a hero. Following the outbreak of hostilities between the democratically elected Spanish government and the Fascist and Nazi backed forces under General Franco in 1937 Bob planned to go to Spain and fight with the Socialist and Communist backed International Brigade. At first the Communist Party refused to let Bob go as he was so valuable an asset in Aberdeen. Eventually he was given permission and was initially appointed as Commissar of a training group eventually rising to the position of Commissar of the XV (British) Brigade. Bob was present at two major campaigns: one at Teruel in January 1938 and at Ebro from July to October 1938. After his return from Spain, amidst Franco's victory, Bob was enlisted as a gunner for the duration of the Second World War. After the cessation of hostilities in 1945 Bob became heavily involved in the squatter movement. Shortage of homes had been an issue before the war in Aberdeen and was an issue for many after its conclusion. Many squatted in the recently vacated army huts, camps and batteries around Aberdeen. By now Bob and his wife, Nan, had two daughters, consequently he took work as a builder. Due to his subsequent activities in unionising men he was effectively blacklisted from employment in Aberdeen and had to seek employment elsewhere for some 20 years. Also, during this period, after the death of Stalin in 1953 and with growing American influence, Communism acquired a particularly bad reputation. During the later years of his life Bob became increasingly involved in folk music and made a new name for himself in that field. He died in August 1984 at the age of 78. He is also remembered in Bob Cooney Court, a Housing Association development. There is possibly only one existing recording of Bob's later folk songs, on his contribution to the ‘Singing Campbells', released on Ossian Records.