'Rotten Prod': James Baird and Belfast Labour

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James Baird (1871-1948), a boilermaker in Harland and Wolff’s shipyard, was one of hundreds of ‘rotten Prods’, and thousands of Catholics, driven from their place of work by loyalists in 1920. The expulsions marked the end of Belfast’s ‘two red years’, distinguished by the massive engineering strike in 1919 and the municipal elections in 1920. Baird’s case offers a rare insight into the city’s brief radicalisation, the mentality of Protestant workers who opposed the partition of Ireland, and the reasons why loyalists targeted Labour as their most insidious enemy. As a Labour councillor on Belfast Corporation and leader of the expelled workers, Baird spoke to the Irish and British TUCs, but Irish Labour had no practical policy on the North and British trade unions feared that confronting loyalists would lose them members. Subsequently, Baird worked for the National Sailors’ and Firemen’s Union and the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, and emigrated to Australia in 1924.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-43
Number of pages21
JournalSocialist History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 5 Nov 2021


  • James Baird
  • Belfast
  • Protestants
  • Labour
  • Ireland


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