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William Irvine fonds

1885-2008, predominant 1913-1962

Physical Description:
81 cm of textual records. -- 100 photographs

William Irvine, 1885-1962, was born in Gletness, Shetland, Scotland. He became a Christian socialist in his youth and worked as a Methodist lay preacher. He moved to Canada in 1907 when he was recruited by Superintendent James Woodsworth Sr. for ministerial work. After his ordination he was assigned to Emo, Ontario in 1914 but soon left to become a Unitarian minister in Calgary, Alberta. He became politically active and helped organize the Non-Partisan League and edited its publication the Nutcracker (later the Alberta Non-Partisan and Western Independent). Irvine established the People's Church in Calgary in 1919 and he also helped establish the Alberta wing of the Dominion Labor Party. He also helped the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) enter politics and published a book Farmers in Politics endorsing their policies. He was elected to the House of Commons in 1921 as Member of Parliament for the Dominion Labor Party. Defeated in 1925, he was then returned in the Wetaskiwin constitutency as a UFA MP from 1926-1932. His second book Cooperative Government was published in 1929. During the 1930s Irvine was active in establishing the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and remained involved with the party throughout the remainder of his life. He was again returned to Parliament from 1945-1949 as the MP for Cariboo. In 1910 he married Adelia Mabel Little, 1892-1980, known as Delia, and they had five children, Ronald William, 1912-1982, Harry Charles, 1914-1945, James Franklin, 1916-? , Vera Esther (Stevens), 1918-2013 , and Eric Melville, 1922-?. For further information see William Irvine and Radical Politics in Canada / John Edward Hart. -- PhD thesis, University of Guelph, 1972; William Irvine : The Life of a Prairie Radical / Anthony Mardiros. -- Toronto : J. Lorimer, 1979; Beyond the Social Gospel : A Study of the Intellectural Foundations of Radical Protest Politics in Early Twentieth Century Canada / Janice Staples. -- PhD thesis, Carleton University, 1985; and The Parlimentary Career of William Irvine, 1922-1935 / Lief Gordon Stolee. -- MA thesis, University of Alberta, 1969.

Custodial History:
The fonds was in the custody of Dawn Holmlund, the granddaughter of William Irvine. She donated it to the Unitarian Church of Calgary early in 2012 with the understanding that it would eventually be donated to Glenbow.

Scope and Content:
The fonds consists of biographical records and a family history (1885-2008); papers related to his religious education and ordination (1907-1925); files related to his long political career with the UFA and CCF (1922-1962); speeches (1916-1950s); his books, pamphlets, poems and other writings (1948-1962); newspaper clippings re his ideas and activities (1913-2000s); and photographs of his family (1896-1971). Includes several files related to J.S. Woodsworth (1929-1944).

Source of Acquisition:
Gift of Vera Stevens and Unitarian Church of Calgary, 2012.

The material is in English.

No restrictions on access.

Finding Aids:
Inventory available. Please consult before requesting material.

View finding aid / scanned documents:

Some of Irvine's archival papers are included in the Anthony Mardiros collection at the Provincial Archives of Alberta. His correspondence with Tommy Douglas has been donated to the Tommy Douglas Centre in Weyburn, Saskatchewan.
A copy of Irvine's sermon notebook, 1916-1921, is in the Unitarian Church of Calgary fonds at Glenbow (M-9499-25). His correspondence and election campaign papers, 1919-1922, are in the Jack Ford fonds at Glenbow (M-7366-163 to 167).

Further additions expected.

Call Numbers:
(M=manuscript; N&P=photos; R=sound recordings; S=slides; F=films)
M-9554, PA-3918

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