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Ethel MacDonald


1909 - 1960

Radical, who became known as the Scottish Scarlet Pimpernel. Born in Bellshill (North Lanarkshire), MacDonald left home at sixteen, moving to Glasgow to undertake a variety of jobs but soon suffered unemployment. Initially she joined the Independent Labour Party but became convinced that parliamentary democracy had failed working people, and adopted an anarchist stance.

On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, MacDonald travelled to Barcelona to support the Republicans against Franco's facist Nationalists. Here she became known for her passionate nightly radio broadcasts, heard around the world. At the same time she wrote accounts of the war for the Evening Times in Glasgow. However the Republican side were badly divided, and MacDonald fought alongside her fellow anarchists when they were attacked by the Communists. When her comrades were imprisoned, she helped them escape, becoming known as the Scottish Scarlet Pimpernel. She was herself arrested on two occasions and then went into hiding until she could escape from Spain in September 1937.

Scotland had followed her exploits in the press and, on returning to Glasgow, she received a hero's welcome. Thereafter, she was deeply involved with the Strickland Press, which published the anarchist news-sheet The Word. MacDonald died in Knightswood Hospital (Glasgow) having suffered from multiple sclerosis.


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