Robert was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland on 4 January 1868. He was the second son of Robert Climie and Mary Climie (nee McGarvie). He was educated at the local Board School and served his apprenticeship in engineering at the Britannia Works, where he continued to work as an journeyman.


Early in his career he became involved in trade union activity and joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP). Despite previously being a sergeant in the Volunteer Brigade of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, when he became involved in socialist politics, he opposed the Boer War and spoke out regularly against it at the ILP's outdoor meetings from 1899 - 1902.


After that war ended he continued to be active in trade unionism and politics, and he was first elected as a local councillor for the ILP in 1905, serving for many years, with particular interest in public health and housing. It was during this time that Kilmarnock's first council house scheme, Middleton Park, was built.


As a nominee of Ayrshire Trades Council, he was a member of the Scottish Trades Union Congress’s Parliamentary Committee from 1910 to 1918 and from 1920 to 1923, and was Secretary to the Committee in 1914.


When he became president of the Scottish Trade Unions Congress (STUC), four months before the outbreak of World War I, Robert spoke in his presidential address on the need for the people to get control of Parliament and control of the army, in order to stop them being used against the workers.


He was elected to Parliament at the 1923 general election as Member of Parliament (MP) for Kilmarnock, having unsuccessfully contested the seat in 1922. As an MP he was part of the first Labour government, a short lived minority Labour administration that introduced the 1924 Wheatley Housing Act. This act increased government subsidies for local authorities building housing for rent to low paid workers. A hundred years later, it seems that there is a need for these types of policies again.


He was narrowly defeated at the 1924 general election, but won the seat back again at the general election in May 1929. However, he was already in poor health by this time and he died in office later that year, aged 61. He was survived by his wife, Jeannie McIldowie Meikle, herself an active Labour Party worker, six sons and a daughter.


He was an excellent speaker and formidable debater. In an obituary in the Kilmarnock Standard, 1929, he is described as:


A small man of medium build, with dark hair and moustache, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He was moderate in all things, always hard-working in the labour cause and a lifelong supporter of Ramsay MacDonald. Climie was teetotal although never formally attached to the temperance movement.


In Kilmarnock, Scotland there is a street, "Climie Place" named in his memory.


Robert Climie Jr

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