An Aberdeen academic will share the story of a farmer’s son who influenced one of the world’s most famous peace treaties at a prestigious event in Versailles.
Neil McLennan, a lecturer from Aberdeen University, has been invited to give the talk at the Palace of Versailles by the United States Centennial Commission.
He will speak about the north-east resident at the conference today which marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the document which officially ended the First World War.
Portlethen man James Duncan’s expertise on the labour market helped shape the rights of workers enshrined in the Treaty of Versailles.
He believed that universal and lasting peace could only be accomplished if it was based on social justice.
The granite cutter emigrated to America in 1880 where he worked his way up to be president of the Granite Cutters National Union, helping to turn it into one of the most effective unions in the country.
This led to him being asked to join a delegation formed by President Woodrow Wilson to Russia in the wake of the revolution. His achievements there led to his inclusion in the Paris peace talks.
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Evening Express newsletter
Mr McLennan, a senior lecturer in education, said: “When the president was preparing for the trip, he quickly realised that communist Russia would not be very responsive to a delegation made up entirely of business and military men and that he needed labour delegates.
“Duncan must have acquitted himself well, as two years later, he was invited to the talks in Paris. These were high-level discussions bringing together delegates from countries following the largest conflict the world had ever seen and ultimately resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.”
Mr McLennan said he was delighted to be able to bring greater awareness of the role played by Mr Duncan in establishing the International Labour Organisation a century after its creation.
“It is a real honour to be invited by US colleagues to be a delegate at this important and historic conference,” he added.
“A century ago James Duncan from Scotland was invited by President Wilson to play a part in peace discussions.
“To be in the Versailles Palace’s famous Hall of Mirrors where President Wilson and James Duncan stood with Prime Minister David Lloyd George and French Premier George Clemenceau will be quite remarkable.”
Mr McLennan highlighted that modern societies still had to consider similar issues in the world today, including philanthropy, co-operation, leadership and peacemaking.
He said: “Duncan is an important figure in our story of societal change and, now that commemorations for the centenary of the end of the First World War have finished, it is vital we give the same level of consideration to the subsequent ‘peace’, particularly on this important anniversary.”