Alan Boylan on the streets of Dundee selling Scottish Socialist Voice

In 1996, when socialists and communists across Scotland formed the Scottish Socialist Alliance, a larger-than-life figure came into our lives. Alan Boylan was at that time a member of the SNP Trade Union Group. A loud, brash, working class Dundonian, Alan was looking for answers and was being drawn towards revolutionary politics. As part of that process, Alan became a stalwart of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and a valued, dedicated member of the Republican Communist Network (RCN).

Alan would never claim to be a great political intellectual, but he was in essence a class fighter. He was motivated always by his intense sense of injustice and an innate desire for equality for all.

Alan had a huge heart. His generosity was renowned. Despite being unemployed or on low income, Alan would insist on his “right to struggle”. For him this meant more than paying his dues, he would donate to various causes and insisted on buying the first ever RCN banner.

During various campaigns, Alan’s voice would be heard booming across Dundee city centre urging people to vote for a “party of the millions not the millionaires”.

Amiable, good company and with a laugh you could never forget, Alan could come across to folks as confident and raucous but he was also sensitive and thoughtful.  He was devastated by the demise of the SSP which he believed offered a real socialist alternative to the mainstream parties. He felt deeply betrayed by “class leaders” who ultimately shafted the working class for their own ends.

Within the RCN, Alan found a safe space to develop his ideas. He firmly believed in RCN practice particularly its Comradely Conduct Policy. While participating in robust debate, he would not tolerate disrespectful behaviour towards comrades.

His political journey from nationalism to republican communism was not always easy for him. Sometimes, particularly online, he would post comments that needed to be challenged. But Alan would always listen. He understood the value of comradely criticism and was prepared to change. Internationalism from Below made sense to Alan. His strong belief in an independent Scotland was married to his support for struggles for independence and liberation across the planet.

In the last few years, Alan’s health, both physical and mental, was poor. He was unable to physically participate in the political activism that enthused him. However, via Zoom, he was an active member of Radical Independence Campaign and Republican Socialist Plarform (RSP) and was a dedicated attender and contributor at on-line meetings. He was inspired by the diversity of the RSP and really admired the commitment and tenacity of younger comrades.

Alan was a good human being – a comrade and a friend. We will miss him in our lives.

Mary and Nick

Mary McGregor; Nick Steff


Alan Boylan was not the usual person to be found in revolutionary politics. Born in Dundee, a city with few opportunities for a school leaver with few educational qualifications he joined the British army. He saw active service in Belize. Yet, using his own personal experience he was able to highlight the class divide, even within this key institution of the UK state and the possibilities for oppositional activity.

An Ex-Soldier Responds To The Jailing And Dismissal Of Protesting Soldiers

Given Alan’s own Irish background, and his knowledge of the Irish community in Dundee, he was staunch supporter of Irish Republicanism. He eagerly joined the James Connolly Society (JCS) marches in Edinburgh. It would be fascinating to know how Alan would have reacted whilst he was still in the army, if he had been posted to Northern Ireland.
Later Alan was opposed to the Downing Street Agreement, which he understood to be a new form of Partition and British rule. He eagerly read a wide range of critical material including that from dissident Republicans.
Another distinctive feature of Alan’s Republican politics was his support for Scottish independence.  This was not usual for those from an Irish background at that time. This led him to join the SNP and become active in its Trade Union Group. But he soon saw the limitations of an SNP committed to a constitutional road to independence under the Crown, NATO and the City of London. It was this which drew Alan to the Republican Communist Network (RCN) (later the Republican Communist Forum – RCF) and joint work within the Scottish Socialist Party. He quickly saw the significance of James Connolly’s and John Maclean’s break-up of the UK, ‘Internationalism from Below’ challenge to the UK state and British Empire.
Later Alan was to become involved as worker with the homeless in the voluntary sector. He wrote a passionate article which had to be anonymous, because of the threat of dismissal.
Homelessness- Who Really Cares?
Alan became very enthusiastic about whole new elements of revolutionary politics, including the environment, opposition to Brexit and LBGT+. Recognising the challenging nature of such issues, he demanded comrades work through them in an open and democratic manner, which he associated with the best practice of the RCN/RCF He asked for the help of other comrades to write a piece on the Environment.
Red on Green, Green on Red
Saddened by the loss of the SSP, Alan later threw himself into the Republican Socialist Platform (RCP) the successor of the RCN which attracted many young people in the Radical lndependence Campaign (RIC mark 2). He was enthused by their ideas and eager to learn anew, whilst handing things over to a new younger generation.
Ironically, Alan who latterly became disabled and very much trapped at home found the Zoom meetings which developed under Covid a refreshing forum he could engage in. But I will still remember Alan as the ebullient figure on the streets, as well as the more measured character in face-to face meetings.
Alan we will miss you.
Allan Armstrong

I first met Alan Boylan, or Mr B as he usually styled himself, while walking up the steps to Constitution Rd Campus of Dundee College. As you often saw him then, a paper in one hand, cigarette in the other and cheery grin in-between. We’d blether about politics, and occasionally I’d buy a Voice. Later we would bump into each other at Abertay where he passed on fresh off the press copies of Republican Communist, then Emancipation & Liberation, and as ever, the Voice.

We’d talk and joke and rant about “baskets” and whatever this or that political story of the day was. Frequently all that was in one sentence, all him, interspersed with loud belly laughs.

But of all the interactions, nothing was more common, loud, or memorable as that laugh. A daft joke, innuendo, or a look from Auntie Mary {Mary MacGregor} after he said something and off he’d go. An unstoppable force that never met an immovable object.

A tireless worker, always first to volunteer for any task that didn’t come with a title “dinna pit me in cherge”. Out in sun, rain or shine, always wanting to be the face of a political organisation, talking to people.

He seemed most active and enthused during the anti-war work after the invasion of Iraq. Furious about the armed forces being deployed in yet another senseless war, he wanted to tell others of his experience and show that not every veteran was pro-invasion.

He infrequently wrote articles, but when he did you had to read them for the mix of humour, fury, and suggested actions. And more importantly, so you could know what joke he would drop into a long monologue – Red on Green/Green on Red clearly influencing his much raised “back to the fields” suggestion. It is unknown how many took him up on the offer.

Always willing to be open about his faults or past mistakes, and be open to the possibility he was making more today. “maybe I’m wrong, but why don’t we…” was a common start to any topic he brought up. His stories of his previous political history, the ideas he had had while in the armed forces, and how he had changed his perspectives left him open to learning new ones and changing his mind.

He loved meeting visitors from other political climates and hearing their stories, Oaxaca, Zapatistas, Colombia, friends from Ireland, France, Spain. He’d read about struggles overseas, but seemed to take in so much more when he got to hear a story straight from someone’s mouth. He’d bring up these chats years later when a story about the country came up. Such a lasting impression they had made.

Embracing of new technology, he used to contact me, probably monthly, to go and fix his computer. No idea what he was doing, but he always found a new way for it to not work. But he was determined and nothing could keep him away from his email for long. He consistently argued for greater democracy, and participation, I’m comforted that online meetings helped stop some of the isolation in his final years of political work. Sadly, for the last time, you’re on mute Alan.

Alan G, “young man” as Mr B called me from my teenage years until even last year.

Alan Graham


Thinking of Alan Boylan

Let our revenge be the laughter of our children

Bobby Sands

Republican Socialist and IRA volunteer

When I think of comrade Alan Boylan I think of his loud and hearty chuckle which often accompanied his comments and contribution to debates.

I remember this despite knowing that he was often depressed and struggling with his mental health.  There was something about him always trying to offer his best self to the struggle and his comrades.  His willingness to be open about his own issues reflected his courage and integrity in the face of adversity.  He was later able to use his own experience and insights in his work with homeless folk many of whom were struggling with their emotional health.

He cared about people.

He was also physically brave, taking part in illegal demonstrations and often ‘standing guard’ outside our meetings when they were threatened by loyalist or fascist forces.  I can see him now in his great coat clutching a bundle of our latest publication, happily trying to persuade folk to buy them whilst keeping a watch full eye on the street.  He probably holds the record as SSP/RCN ‘paper seller’.

Alan developed from a squaddie to a republican socialist and internationalist all of which were underpinned by a love and loyalty to the land of his birth.  This love and fierce loyalty extended to his class, the political organisations that he helped create and to his comrades.

He was big hearted and generous of spirit.

Alan would, I think, acknowledge that he was no great theorist but he recognised and had a deep respect for those who were.  He would listen intently to political debates (which he insisted were conducted in a comradely manner).  From these he sought to discern the correct moral, ethical, political and above all human approaches to life’s challenges.  He was fuelled by a desire to find the ‘right’ way forward.

He was an instinctive and visceral communist.

So Alan in writing this I have shed a few tears but when our day comes, as it surely will, I will hear your booming laughter amongst the sounds of joy.

Your comrade,

Bob Goupillot


Alan Boylan is a name no-one will easily forget; he was a larger than life character in many ways.

Others have described important aspects of his political journey and contribution, here are a few more comments on his personal qualities.

Sincerity and commitment were always behind his sometimes rough and often direct manner of expression. His friendship was real and was an important part of his politics. The political is personal was not simply a slogan to be agreed with, for Alan it was a way of living his life. He always took an interest in the ups and downs in the lives of his comrades. He enjoyed the social side of his political activity.

He was a Dundonian through and through – nowhere did it show more than in his dialect and accent both of which became increasingly fulsome as the pints flowed. We won’t be able to listen uncomprehendingly again and that is a loss to those of us who knew him.

Iain Robertson


Alan Boylan, Connor Beaton, Republican Socialist Platform



also see:

Remembering Charlie Rees

Deirdre McCartin, 1944 – 2009



1 Comment

  • All very fine contributions for Alan. I had wanted to meet Alan in the ‘real world’ after many a zoom meeting but sadly that will not happen.

    George Mackin