It is easy to understand why the We Care food bank founder turned film-maker Raymond Woolford became intrigued by the story of Kath Duncan, writes Peter Lane.
Their lives, though nearly 100 years apart, share many similarities.
They are both lifelong activists and protesters, both part of the LGBTQ+ community, though for neither has it been the focus of their campaigning, and for both the focal point of their campaigning is Deptford.
Mr Woolford came across the story of Kath Duncan while researching the history of Deptford.
Since then, he’s completed a play called Liberty, a book called The last Queen of Scotland, and is in the shooting stage of a documentary under the same name.
Mr Woolford said: “She is the most important civil rights leader in British history for the past 100 years because of the diversity of the leadership.
“Most people we know politically are famous for one thing or another, now we have Marcus Rushford famous for food poverty.
Yet, Kath Duncan led on the Spanish Civil War, the hunger marches, the anti fascist movement, poor housing, welfare reform, low jobs, anti war, the suffragette movement.”
Kath Duncan, originally from Scotland, moved to Deptford after the First World War.
As a gay woman, she was first drawn to progressive Hackney before moving to politically charged Deptford.
Mr Woolford said: “She arrived in 1930. It was the docks. It was really as diverse as it is today. It was a booming area. There was huge wealth and huge poverty in equal measures.”
Kath Duncan grew to fame as an activist, lobbying the council for workers rights and against housing prices.
She organised protests and, according to Mr Woolford, was instrumental in the Hunger Marches, a nationwide protest against widespread hunger in the working classes.
In the late 1930s, her role in protests attracted the attention of the authorities.
On one occasion, after a crowd refused to disperse, a march turned violent and the police baton-charged the protesters, arresting hundreds.
The protest and violent police response, became known as the The Battle for Deptford Bridge, and galvanised the then splintered political left into union.
This led to the creation of the still active advocacy group, Liberty.
Kath Duncan’s prominence soon led to her arrest.
Billed to speak at a protest in Telegraph Hill, she was arrested as she mounted the stage on grounds of causing civil unrest.
The event earned her the nickname The Last Queen of Scotland a nod to Mary Queen of Scots, who was also arrested for her potential to incite revolution.
The documentary under the same name follows Kath’s life-long activism career and hopes to conclude filming in September.
Mr Woolford said that the similarities with today were remarkable and hopes that the documentary will not just serve only as a historical insight to Deptford history but highlight parallels civil rights struggles today.
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.