Family shares Lord Provost’s historic VE Day address to crowds in George Square

By Ian Marland at

The original transcript of a VE Day speech made in George Square by Glasgow’s wartime Lord Provost James Welsh is being shared by his family to mark the 75th anniversary commemorations.

David Welsh is the grandson of James, a Scottish Labour Party politician who served as the city’s Lord Provost from 1943-45.

Lord Provost James Welsh

Lord Provost James Welsh. Photo: Courtesy of Welsh family.

Through research over the past decade, retired headteacher David, 81, has compiled a comprehensive life story of his grandfather, who was a cinema proprietor, including his years in public office.

The family retain the original copy of the 660-word speech, which was written and signed on Tuesday, 8 May, 1945.

The address is believed to have been read to the public in George Square the following day, in the midst of three days of civic celebration.

‘Historic’

David, of Kelvindale in Glasgow, said: “This is an historic and precious speech which I take great pride in preserving.

“The original papers remain in excellent condition and the attention to detail is quite something, such as the use of ellipses to show where to pause briefly during the speech.

“The 75th anniversary of VE Day was always going to be a significant milestone in relation to this speech but now that’s even more so the case.

David Welsh

Retired headteacher David Welsh has researched his grandfather’s public life. Photo: Welsh family

“It is impossible not to read the speech today, a speech about the end of the deadliest conflict in history, and not relate it to our experiences at present.

“In particular, the speech paints a picture of the many heroes of that time – mirroring the debt we today owe to those supporting the country’s efforts against this current, albeit very different, challenge.

“As my grandfather’s thoughts that day were with those who had lost loved ones, so are mine today.

“When we emerge from this current crisis I would echo the words of James Welsh 75 years ago today – ‘Let us use this Freedom and the power that comes with it, for a noble purpose.’”

David plans to publish his life story of James Welsh, 1881-1969, including his VE Day speech later this year.

The speech by James Welsh

The original transcript of the speech by James Welsh

* Read the full speech by Lord Provost James Welsh:

“We gather to-day as citizens of Europe, to mark the ending of hostilities in Europe.

“It is a great and historic occasion, but we do not forget that our kith and kin are still enduring the hardships and dangers of War in the East.

“Because of this, our feeling must be one of thankfulness that Victory in Europe will bring final and complete Victory nearer.

“The struggle to achieve this Victory has covered a long and anxious period, and our thoughts go to the relatives and dependants of those who have made the supreme sacrifice and will never return.

“Many who come back will bear the marks of the ordeal which they have come through, and it is an obligation on all of us to see that those who do so are given every opportunity to recover lost capacities.

‘Terrible possible consequences’

“Looking back over the perils and difficulties that have been surmounted, we pay tribute to the Prime Minister, whose courage and leadership – sometimes under the most depressing circumstances – has imbued everyone with confidence and the will to win.

“For the three Fighting Services and their Auxiliaries no praise can be too great – First, by preventing an Invasion, the terrible possible consequences of which we are only now beginning to realise.

“Then by great Offensives, in conjunction with our Allies, taking the War into the heart of the Enemies’ territory.

“To accomplish all this the three Services had to be moulded into one Combined Fighting Force, which, with the help of the Merchant Navy, secured a series of triumphs, the conclusion of which we have just witnessed.

“We do not forget what we owe to the Civil Defence Services and the Police. While their duties were not as onerous in this area as they were in some other parts of the Country, they gave to the civil population a sense of security that helped to maintain the high morale of the Citizens.

“The National Fire Service also played a great part in this work, and were ever ready to bring aid in any direction it was needed.

Lord Provost Welsh

Lord Provost Welsh

“There are also those who spent many weary hours carrying out their duties in the Observer Corps, as well the various Voluntary Services made up of men and women imbued with a high sense of Civic responsibility.

“We in this great industrial city can claim to have made a great contribution to the National effort in many ways. Our sons and daughters have played their part in the Fighting Services – on the sea; on the Land; and in the air – and have been marked out for distinction on many occasions.

“Ship and Munitions of War have been produced in ever increasing numbers with a skill and craftsmanship for which Clydeside had always been famed.

“In this connection the work of our women-folk has been of great value, and they have taken their place in many processes which would have been unthinkable in normal times.

‘Self-sacrifice’

“An essential factor in this great industrial effort of the City was the services provided by the Civic Public Utilities.

“The Transport Services needed for this vital effort have been well maintained in spite of the great difficulties, due to climatic and other causes.

“To the Workers on the Railways; in Road Transport; and at the Docks, belongs the credit for this achievement.

“While we can be proud of all this as the response of a free people to the great peril of enslavement, let us remember that we stand here as free men and women, primarily because of the bravery, resolution, and self-sacrifice of our Fighting Forces, and the skill and courage with which they have been directed and inspired.

“Let us use this Freedom and the power that comes with it, for a noble purpose.

“To build a civilisation in which War will be made impossible and the peoples of this world live together in Peace and Concord.

“Nothing else will save Civilisation from Destruction and Humanity from Extinction.”