Some good stuff in these PDF’s by Sing London
Just currently looking at the ‘Petition of the Pigs in Kent’ ballad from the Kent book… https://media.efdss.org/resourcebank/docs/EFDSS_Education_RecentProjects_SingingHistoriesKent.pdf
Some good stuff in these PDF’s by Sing London
Just currently looking at the ‘Petition of the Pigs in Kent’ ballad from the Kent book… https://media.efdss.org/resourcebank/docs/EFDSS_Education_RecentProjects_SingingHistoriesKent.pdf
Bill Finney was an ancestor of Duncan’s. His son (William) was born in Ireland and for a long time he thought that the Finneys were of Irish decent. Given that Finney is also an Irish surname. However further research revealed a long standing Staffordshire branch of Finney.
The Land Corporation of Ireland arose out of the 1879 – 1882 Land War, which saw the rise of Irish Nationalism and gave us the word “boycott”. From the summer of 1879 the Land League carried out various activities aimed at preventing the forced eviction of tenants who had fallen into arrears due to recession. These activities ranged from ostracism (the boycott), protests at the sale of leases, riots and, although not officially sanctioned, assassinations. One organiser Michael Boyton advocated that land grabbers (people who took the land of evicted tenants) should be “given the pill” ie. shot. By 1882 the Land League had been suppressed and the Reform Bills of 1884 & 1885 gave voting rights to tenants as well as the promise of reduced rents, though these did not always materialise. The Land Corporation of Ireland was set up to work land that had fallen idle due to evictions but due to the Land War it was nigh on impossible to recruit from the local population and so “caretaker” farmers were recruited from England through letters sent to local parishes. Bill Finney was one such farmer.
I come from Wootton, Staffordshire Bill Finney is my name
And I sought employment where I could you name it, I was game
I started down the Holly Bush serving in that drovers inn
And through talking with those droving lads my travels did begin
Come all you eager labouring lads keen for some work to do
The Land Corporation of Ireland has just the job for you
I tried my luck in the Potteries towns but my efforts came to nought
So I travelled up to Middlewich and worked there with the salt
T’was there I saw a letter requesting men to farm
For the Land Corporation of Ireland and I thought, “well what’s the harm?”
Come all etc.
We’ll pay you ten to fifteen bob to work some idle land
Where used to live a family evicted out of hand
You’ll have a house and garden and a free allowance of fuel
But don’t expect a social life your reception may be cruel
Come all etc.
So I went to Tipperary away from England’s shore
And I learned about the hardship caused by the old Land War
I learned about the ‘Boycott’ and the giving of the ‘Pill’
And of the broken promises caused by the Reform Bill
Come all etc.
And so I am a caretaker on land of sorrows shame
Don’t blame me for being English sir there’s Irish in my name
My name it is Bill Finney come drink with me a while
The Land Corporation of Ireland are the ones you should revile
Come all etc.
This looks amazing – can someone please organise a screening and invite us?
This article provides a nice example of how we are conditioned to think in a certain way from the youngest age! Greedy factory owner vs the workers and the king has to intervene…
Wow – this website is amazing – http://gerald-massey.org.uk/
I found it when looking for the full words of ‘Our Summons’ by Ernest Jones which took me to here – http://gerald-massey.org.uk/jones/c_poems_2.htm – he wrote most of his poetry in his own blood whilst in prison. What to say. Lost for words.
Beautiful and achingly sad, I personally wonder if it needs another few verses, as I felt from The Cheviot The Stag and The Black Black Oil, that there were a number of defiant pockets of (mostly female) resistance to the Clearances which this song doesn’t touch on.
Hush, hush, time tae be sleepin
Hush, hush, dreams come a-creepin
Dreams o peace an o freedom
Sae smile in your sleep, bonnie baby
Once our valleys were ringin
Wi sounds o our children singin
But nou sheep bleat till the evenin
An shielings stand empty an broken
We stood, wi heads bowed in prayer
While factors laid our cottages bare
The flames fired the clear mountain air
An many lay dead in the mornin
Where was our fine Highland mettle,
Our men once sae fearless in battle?
They stand, cowed, huddled like cattle
Soon tae be shipped owre the ocean
No use pleading or praying
All hope gone, no hope of staying
Hush, hush, the anchor’s a-weighing
Don’t cry in your sleep, bonnie baby
Catherine Shoard came to see the show on Saturday and has given us a nice mention in her Guardian column:
“One downside of increased mass political activism is all the loudspeakers. There are few noises more grating than an elderly megaphone hectoring out some battle cry, chanted back by croaky crowds. On repeat, for hours, it can get a bit wearying.
Here’s where musicians ought to come in. The protests of the past were often soundtracked by song. Not just any old tunes, but brilliantly inventive ballads and broadsides, like some of those I heard last Friday at a folk history of land rights called Three Acres and a Cow. This included ditties such as Ewan MacColl’s The Manchester Rambler, dreamed up in 1932 to commemorate the Derbyshire mass trespass – and so fantastically catchy I’d somehow retained it from when I traipsed up Kinder Scout on a 60th anniversary walk in 1992.
Best of all, though, was an 1880s song the show takes its name from, whose chorus runs: “Don’t you wish you had it now, three acres and a cow / Oh you can make good cheese and butter when you get the cow”. To be so excited at the prospect of dairy products that you’re willing to forgo a rhyme is truly inspirational stuff.”
There is a good series on BBC Radio 4 at the moment called ‘Against The Grain’. They are 15mins each and worth a listen.
Below are links to two of them i listened too and a few of my notes and comments
>>>>>>against the grain – farming westminster – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08bb9wk
new labour = defra – word agriculture removed from government department – upset a lot of farmers and people who lived in rural areas
90s – grain mountains and food lakes – BSE – foot and mouth – farming perceived as a problem – farmers go on a PR offensive
farming a more important sector for french politicians even though it is still relatively small 2-3% of population
UK agriculture is tiny = 0.7% GDP produced by farming even though 70% land is farmed
an EU perspective – problem with UK is voting system first past the post leads to very little coalition government so marginal votes and voices such as farmers cannot make a difference
>>>>>>against the grain – the CAP years – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08bb202
professor tim lang
1840s repealed corn laws fixing corn prices – decision made to import cheap food from the empire rather than support our own farmers = farming declined
WW1 shock can britain feed itself then 1920/30 recession again + WW2 – WTF
By 1947 never again – let’s support our farmers – subsidies = protecting farmers via productionist approach
over generously – horrific surpluses of food – export subsidies to get rid of the stuff
CAP bundle of contradictions – good vs bad
1960 70 80 bad for nature
since then = paying farmers to do some nice things whilst allowing them to be brutal
professor allan buckwell
CAP stop market intervention
change to pay farmers to provide things market wants but doesn’t pay for
CAP has kept people on the land longer – moderating or slowing rate of out flow from agricultural sector
to keep UK competing in the world commodity market you need scale no a few tens of acres
a tale of two halves
farmers given money for things they produce even if this is a disaster for nature
separating subsidies from production – environmental land management
CAP encouraged specialisation which brought problems around environmentalism and sustainability
CAP holds back the forces of consolidation and industrialisation
danish are farming mink – raised for fir – need high quality feed – dry warm nest
CAP to stabilise farmers income and prevent corporations taking over
small farmers are the lifeblood of the countryside
How Much Land Does a Man Need?
An elder sister came to visit her younger sister in the country.
The elder was married to a tradesman in town, the younger to a
peasant in the village. As the sisters sat over their tea talking,
the elder began to boast of the advantages of town life: saying how
comfortably they lived there, how well they dressed, what fine
clothes her children wore, what good things they ate and drank, and
how she went to the theatre, promenades, and entertainments.
The younger sister was piqued, and in turn disparaged the life of a
tradesman, and stood up for that of a peasant.
“I would not change my way of life for yours,” said she. “We may
live roughly, but at least we are free from anxiety. You live in
better style than we do, but though you often earn more than you
need, you are very likely to lose all you have. You know the proverb,
‘Loss and gain are brothers twain.’ It often happens that people who
are wealthy one day are begging their bread the next. Our way is
safer. Though a peasant’s life is not a fat one, it is a long one.
We shall never grow rich, but we shall always have enough to eat.”
The elder sister said sneeringly:
“Enough? Yes, if you like to share with the pigs and the calves!
What do you know of elegance or manners! However much your good man
may slave, you will die as you are living-on a dung heap-and your
children the same.”
“Well, what of that?” replied the younger. “Of course our work is
rough and coarse. But, on the other hand, it is sure; and we need
not bow to any one. But you, in your towns, are surrounded by
temptations; today all may be right, but tomorrow the Evil One may
tempt your husband with cards, wine, or women, and all will go to
ruin. Don’t such things happen often enough?”
Pahom, the master of the house, was lying on the top of the oven,
and he listened to the women’s chatter.
“It is perfectly true,” thought he. “Busy as we are from childhood
tilling Mother Earth, we peasants have no time to let any nonsense
settle in our heads. Our only trouble is that we haven’t land
enough. If I had plenty of land, I shouldn’t fear the Devil himself!”
The women finished their tea, chatted a while about dress, and then
cleared away the tea-things and lay down to sleep.
But the Devil had been sitting behind the oven, and had heard all
that was said. He was pleased that the peasant’s wife had led her
husband into boasting, and that he had said that if he had plenty of
land he would not fear the Devil himself.
“All right,” thought the Devil. “We will have a tussle. I’ll give you
land enough; and by means of that land I will get you into my power.”
Close to the village there lived a lady, a small landowner, who had
an estate of about three hundred acres. She had always lived on
good terms with the peasants, until she engaged as her steward an
old soldier, who took to burdening the people with fines. However
careful Pahom tried to be, it happened again and again that now a
horse of his got among the lady’s oats, now a cow strayed into her
garden, now his calves found their way into her meadows-and he
always had to pay a fine.
Pahom paid, but grumbled, and, going home in a temper, was rough
with his family. All through that summer Pahom had much trouble
because of this steward; and he was even glad when winter came and
the cattle had to be stabled. Though he grudged the fodder when
they could no longer graze on the pasture-land, at least he was free
from anxiety about them.
In the winter the news got about that the lady was going to sell her
land, and that the keeper of the inn on the high road was bargaining
for it. When the peasants heard this they were very much alarmed.
“Well,” thought they, “if the innkeeper gets the land he will worry us
with fines worse than the lady’s steward. We all depend on that estate.”
So the peasants went on behalf of their Commune, and asked the lady
not to sell the land to the innkeeper; offering her a better price
for it themselves. The lady agreed to let them have it. Then the
peasants tried to arrange for the Commune to buy the whole estate,
so that it might be held by all in common. They met twice to
discuss it, but could not settle the matter; the Evil One sowed
discord among them, and they could not agree. So they decided to
buy the land individually, each according to his means; and the lady
agreed to this plan as she had to the other.
Presently Pahom heard that a neighbor of his was buying fifty acres,
and that the lady had consented to accept one half in cash and to
wait a year for the other half. Pahom felt envious.
“Look at that,” thought he, “the land is all being sold, and I shall
get none of it.” So he spoke to his wife.
“Other people are buying,” said he, “and we must also buy twenty
acres or so. Life is becoming impossible. That steward is simply
crushing us with his fines.”
So they put their heads together and considered how they could
manage to buy it. They had one hundred roubles laid by. They sold
a colt, and one half of their bees; hired out one of their sons as a
laborer, and took his wages in advance; borrowed the rest from a
brother-in-law, and so scraped together half the purchase money.
Having done this, Pahom chose out a farm of forty acres, some of it
wooded, and went to the lady to bargain for it. They came to an
agreement, and he shook hands with her upon it, and paid her a
deposit in advance. Then they went to town and signed the deeds; he
paying half the price down, and undertaking to pay the remainder
within two years.
So now Pahom had land of his own. He borrowed seed, and sowed it on
the land he had bought. The harvest was a good one, and within a
year he had managed to pay off his debts both to the lady and to his
brother-in-law. So he became a landowner, ploughing and sowing his
own land, making hay on his own land, cutting his own trees, and
feeding his cattle on his own pasture. When he went out to plough
his fields, or to look at his growing corn, or at his grass meadows,
his heart would fill with joy. The grass that grew and the flowers
that bloomed there, seemed to him unlike any that grew elsewhere.
Formerly, when he had passed by that land, it had appeared the same
as any other land, but now it seemed quite different.
So Pahom was well contented, and everything would have been right if
the neighboring peasants would only not have trespassed on his corn-
fields and meadows. He appealed to them most civilly, but they
still went on: now the Communal herdsmen would let the village cows
stray into his meadows; then horses from the night pasture would get
among his corn. Pahom turned them out again and again, and forgave
their owners, and for a long time he forbore from prosecuting any
one. But at last he lost patience and complained to the District
Court. He knew it was the peasants’ want of land, and no evil
intent on their part, that caused the trouble; but he thought:
“I cannot go on overlooking it, or they will destroy all I have.
They must be taught a lesson.”
So he had them up, gave them one lesson, and then another, and two
or three of the peasants were fined. After a time Pahom’s
neighbours began to bear him a grudge for this, and would now and
then let their cattle on his land on purpose. One peasant even got
into Pahom’s wood at night and cut down five young lime trees for
their bark. Pahom passing through the wood one day noticed
something white. He came nearer, and saw the stripped trunks lying
on the ground, and close by stood the stumps, where the tree had
been. Pahom was furious.
“If he had only cut one here and there it would have been bad enough,”
thought Pahom, “but the rascal has actually cut down a whole clump.
If I could only find out who did this, I would pay him out.”
He racked his brains as to who it could be. Finally he decided: “It
must be Simon-no one else could have done it.” Se he went to
Simon’s homestead to have a look around, but he found nothing, and
only had an angry scene. However’ he now felt more certain than
ever that Simon had done it, and he lodged a complaint. Simon was
summoned. The case was tried, and re-tried, and at the end of it
all Simon was acquitted, there being no evidence against him. Pahom
felt still more aggrieved, and let his anger loose upon the Elder
and the Judges.
“You let thieves grease your palms,” said he. “If you were honest
folk yourselves, you would not let a thief go free.”
So Pahom quarrelled with the Judges and with his neighbors. Threats
to burn his building began to be uttered. So though Pahom had more
land, his place in the Commune was much worse than before.
About this time a rumor got about that many people were moving to
“There’s no need for me to leave my land,” thought Pahom. “But some
of the others might leave our village, and then there would be more
room for us. I would take over their land myself, and make my
estate a bit bigger. I could then live more at ease. As it is, I
am still too cramped to be comfortable.”
One day Pahom was sitting at home, when a peasant passing through
the village, happened to call in. He was allowed to stay the night,
and supper was given him. Pahom had a talk with this peasant and
asked him where he came from. The stranger answered that he came
from beyond the Volga, where he had been working. One word led to
another, and the man went on to say that many people were settling
in those parts. He told how some people from his village had
settled there. They had joined the Commune, and had had twenty-five
acres per man granted them. The land was so good, he said, that the
rye sown on it grew as high as a horse, and so thick that five cuts
of a sickle made a sheaf. One peasant, he said, had brought nothing
with him but his bare hands, and now he had six horses and two cows
of his own.
Pahom’s heart kindled with desire. He thought:
“Why should I suffer in this narrow hole, if one can live so well
elsewhere? I will sell my land and my homestead here, and with the
money I will start afresh over there and get everything new. In
this crowded place one is always having trouble. But I must first
go and find out all about it myself.”
Towards summer he got ready and started. He went down the Volga on
a steamer to Samara, then walked another three hundred miles on
foot, and at last reached the place. It was just as the stranger
had said. The peasants had plenty of land: every man had twenty-
five acres of Communal land given him for his use, and any one who
had money could buy, besides, at fifty-cents an acre as much good
freehold land as he wanted.
Having found out all he wished to know, Pahom returned home as
autumn came on, and began selling off his belongings. He sold his
land at a profit, sold his homestead and all his cattle, and
withdrew from membership of the Commune. He only waited till the
spring, and then started with his family for the new settlement.
As soon as Pahom and his family arrived at their new abode, he
applied for admission into the Commune of a large village. He stood
treat to the Elders, and obtained the necessary documents. Five
shares of Communal land were given him for his own and his sons’
use: that is to say–125 acres (not altogether, but in different
fields) besides the use of the Communal pasture. Pahom put up the
buildings he needed, and bought cattle. Of the Communal land alone
he had three times as much as at his former home, and the land was
good corn-land. He was ten times better off than he had been. He
had plenty of arable land and pasturage, and could keep as many head
of cattle as he liked.
At first, in the bustle of building and settling down, Pahom was
pleased with it all, but when he got used to it he began to think
that even here he had not enough land. The first year, he sowed
wheat on his share of the Communal land, and had a good crop. He
wanted to go on sowing wheat, but had not enough Communal land for
the purpose, and what he had already used was not available; for in
those parts wheat is only sown on virgin soil or on fallow land. It
is sown for one or two years, and then the land lies fallow till it
is again overgrown with prairie grass. There were many who wanted
such land, and there was not enough for all; so that people
quarrelled about it. Those who were better off, wanted it for
growing wheat, and those who were poor, wanted it to let to dealers,
so that they might raise money to pay their taxes. Pahom wanted to
sow more wheat; so he rented land from a dealer for a year. He
sowed much wheat and had a fine crop, but the land was too far from
the village–the wheat had to be carted more than ten miles. After
a time Pahom noticed that some peasant-dealers were living on
separate farms, and were growing wealthy; and he thought:
“If I were to buy some freehold land, and have a homestead on it, it
would be a different thing, altogether. Then it would all be nice
The question of buying freehold land recurred to him again and again.
He went on in the same way for three years; renting land and sowing
wheat. The seasons turned out well and the crops were good, so that
he began to lay money by. He might have gone on living contentedly,
but he grew tired of having to rent other people’s land every year,
and having to scramble for it. Wherever there was good land to be
had, the peasants would rush for it and it was taken up at once, so
that unless you were sharp about it you got none. It happened in
the third year that he and a dealer together rented a piece of
pasture land from some peasants; and they had already ploughed it
up, when there was some dispute, and the peasants went to law about
it, and things fell out so that the labor was all lost.
“If it were my own land,” thought Pahom, “I should be independent,
and there would not be all this unpleasantness.”
So Pahom began looking out for land which he could buy; and he came
across a peasant who had bought thirteen hundred acres, but having
got into difficulties was willing to sell again cheap. Pahom
bargained and haggled with him, and at last they settled the price
at 1,500 roubles, part in cash and part to be paid later. They had
all but clinched the matter, when a passing dealer happened to stop
at Pahom’s one day to get a feed for his horse. He drank tea with
Pahom, and they had a talk. The dealer said that he was just
returning from the land of the Bashkirs, far away, where he had
bought thirteen thousand acres of land all for 1,000 roubles. Pahom
questioned him further, and the tradesman said:
“All one need do is to make friends with the chiefs. I gave away
about one hundred roubles’ worth of dressing-gowns and carpets,
besides a case of tea, and I gave wine to those who would drink it;
and I got the land for less than two cents an acre. And he showed
Pahom the title-deeds, saying:
“The land lies near a river, and the whole prairie is virgin soil.”
Pahom plied him with questions, and the tradesman said:
“There is more land there than you could cover if you walked a year,
and it all belongs to the Bashkirs. They are as simple as sheep,
and land can be got almost for nothing.”
“There now,” thought Pahom, “with my one thousand roubles, why
should I get only thirteen hundred acres, and saddle myself with a
debt besides. If I take it out there, I can get more than ten times
as much for the money.”
Pahom inquired how to get to the place, and as soon as the tradesman
had left him, he prepared to go there himself. He left his wife to
look after the homestead, and started on his journey taking his man
with him. They stopped at a town on their way, and bought a case of
tea, some wine, and other presents, as the tradesman had advised.
On and on they went until they had gone more than three hundred
miles, and on the seventh day they came to a place where the
Bashkirs had pitched their tents. It was all just as the tradesman
had said. The people lived on the steppes, by a river, in felt-
covered tents. They neither tilled the ground, nor ate bread.
Their cattle and horses grazed in herds on the steppe. The colts
were tethered behind the tents, and the mares were driven to them
twice a day. The mares were milked, and from the milk kumiss was
made. It was the women who prepared kumiss, and they also made
cheese. As far as the men were concerned, drinking kumiss and tea,
eating mutton, and playing on their pipes, was all they cared about.
They were all stout and merry, and all the summer long they never
thought of doing any work. They were quite ignorant, and knew no
Russian, but were good-natured enough.
As soon as they saw Pahom, they came out of their tents and gathered
round their visitor. An interpreter was found, and Pahom told them
he had come about some land. The Bashkirs seemed very glad; they
took Pahom and led him into one of the best tents, where they made
him sit on some down cushions placed on a carpet, while they sat
round him. They gave him tea and kumiss, and had a sheep killed,
and gave him mutton to eat. Pahom took presents out of his cart and
distributed them among the Bashkirs, and divided amongst them the
tea. The Bashkirs were delighted. They talked a great deal among
themselves, and then told the interpreter to translate.
“They wish to tell you,” said the interpreter, “that they like you,
and that it is our custom to do all we can to please a guest and to
repay him for his gifts. You have given us presents, now tell us
which of the things we possess please you best, that we may present
them to you.”
“What pleases me best here,” answered Pahom, “is your land. Our
land is crowded, and the soil is exhausted; but you have plenty of
land and it is good land. I never saw the like of it.”
The interpreter translated. The Bashkirs talked among themselves
for a while. Pahom could not understand what they were saying, but
saw that they were much amused, and that they shouted and laughed.
Then they were silent and looked at Pahom while the interpreter said:
“They wish me to tell you that in return for your presents they will
gladly give you as much land as you want. You have only to point it
out with your hand and it is yours.”
The Bashkirs talked again for a while and began to dispute. Pahom
asked what they were disputing about, and the interpreter told him
that some of them thought they ought to ask their Chief about the
land and not act in his absence, while others thought there was no
need to wait for his return.
While the Bashkirs were disputing, a man in a large fox-fur cap
appeared on the scene. They all became silent and rose to their
feet. The interpreter said, “This is our Chief himself.”
Pahom immediately fetched the best dressing-gown and five pounds of
tea, and offered these to the Chief. The Chief accepted them, and
seated himself in the place of honour. The Bashkirs at once began
telling him something. The Chief listened for a while, then made a
sign with his head for them to be silent, and addressing himself to
Pahom, said in Russian:
“Well, let it be so. Choose whatever piece of land you like; we
have plenty of it.”
“How can I take as much as I like?” thought Pahom. “I must get a
deed to make it secure, or else they may say, ‘It is yours,’ and
afterwards may take it away again.”
“Thank you for your kind words,” he said aloud. “You have much
land, and I only want a little. But I should like to be sure which
bit is mine. Could it not be measured and made over to me? Life and
death are in God’s hands. You good people give it to me, but your
children might wish to take it away again.”
“You are quite right,” said the Chief. “We will make it over to you.”
“I heard that a dealer had been here,” continued Pahom, “and that
you gave him a little land, too, and signed title-deeds to that
effect. I should like to have it done in the same way.”
The Chief understood.
“Yes,” replied he, “that can be done quite easily. We have a scribe,
and we will go to town with you and have the deed properly sealed.”
“And what will be the price?” asked Pahom.
“Our price is always the same: one thousand roubles a day.”
Pahom did not understand.
“A day? What measure is that? How many acres would that be?”
“We do not know how to reckon it out,” said the Chief. “We sell it
by the day. As much as you can go round on your feet in a day is
yours, and the price is one thousand roubles a day.”
Pahom was surprised.
“But in a day you can get round a large tract of land,” he said.
The Chief laughed.
“It will all be yours!” said he. “But there is one condition: If
you don’t return on the same day to the spot whence you started,
your money is lost.”
“But how am I to mark the way that I have gone?”
“Why, we shall go to any spot you like, and stay there. You must
start from that spot and make your round, taking a spade with you.
Wherever you think necessary, make a mark. At every turning, dig a
hole and pile up the turf; then afterwards we will go round with a
plough from hole to hole. You may make as large a circuit as you
please, but before the sun sets you must return to the place you
started from. All the land you cover will be yours.”
Pahom was delighted. It-was decided to start early next morning.
They talked a while, and after drinking some more kumiss and eating
some more mutton, they had tea again, and then the night came on.
They gave Pahom a feather-bed to sleep on, and the Bashkirs
dispersed for the night, promising to assemble the next morning at
daybreak and ride out before sunrise to the appointed spot.
Pahom lay on the feather-bed, but could not sleep. He kept thinking
about the land.
“What a large tract I will mark off!” thought he. “I can easily go
thirty-five miles in a day. The days are long now, and within a
circuit of thirty-five miles what a lot of land there will be! I
will sell the poorer land, or let it to peasants, but I’ll pick out
the best and farm it. I will buy two ox-teams, and hire two more
laborers. About a hundred and fifty acres shall be plough-land, and
I will pasture cattle on the rest.”
Pahom lay awake all night, and dozed off only just before dawn.
Hardly were his eyes closed when he had a dream. He thought he was
lying in that same tent, and heard somebody chuckling outside. He
wondered who it could be, and rose and went out, and he saw the
Bashkir Chief sitting in front of the tent holding his side and
rolling about with laughter. Going nearer to the Chief, Pahom
asked: “What are you laughing at?” But he saw that it was no longer
the Chief, but the dealer who had recently stopped at his house and
had told him about the land. Just as Pahom was going to ask, “Have
you been here long?” he saw that it was not the dealer, but the
peasant who had come up from the Volga, long ago, to Pahom’s old
home. Then he saw that it was not the peasant either, but the Devil
himself with hoofs and horns, sitting there and chuckling, and
before him lay a man barefoot, prostrate on the ground, with only
trousers and a shirt on. And Pahom dreamt that he looked more
attentively to see what sort of a man it was lying there, and he saw
that the man was dead, and that it was himself! He awoke horror-struck.
“What things one does dream,” thought he.
Looking round he saw through the open door that the dawn was breaking.
“It’s time to wake them up,” thought he. “We ought to be starting.”
He got up, roused his man (who was sleeping in his cart), bade him
harness; and went to call the Bashkirs.
“It’s time to go to the steppe to measure the land,” he said.
The Bashkirs rose and assembled, and the Chief came, too. Then they
began drinking kumiss again, and offered Pahom some tea, but he
would not wait.
“If we are to go, let us go. It is high time,” said he.
The Bashkirs got ready and they all started: some mounted on horses,
and some in carts. Pahom drove in his own small cart with his
servant, and took a spade with him. When they reached the steppe,
the morning red was beginning to kindle. They ascended a hillock
(called by the Bashkirs a shikhan) and dismounting from their carts
and their horses, gathered in one spot. The Chief came up to Pahom
and stretched out his arm towards the plain:
“See,” said he, “all this, as far as your eye can reach, is ours.
You may have any part of it you like.”
Pahom’s eyes glistened: it was all virgin soil, as flat as the palm
of your hand, as black as the seed of a poppy, and in the hollows
different kinds of grasses grew breast high.
The Chief took off his fox-fur cap, placed it on the ground and said:
“This will be the mark. Start from here, and return here again.
All the land you go round shall be yours.”
Pahom took out his money and put it on the cap. Then he took off
his outer coat, remaining in his sleeveless under coat. He
unfastened his girdle and tied it tight below his stomach, put a
little bag of bread into the breast of his coat, and tying a flask
of water to his girdle, he drew up the tops of his boots, took the
spade from his man, and stood ready to start. He considered for
some moments which way he had better go–it was tempting everywhere.
“No matter,” he concluded, “I will go towards the rising sun.”
He turned his face to the east, stretched himself, and waited for
the sun to appear above the rim.
“I must lose no time,” he thought, “and it is easier walking while
it is still cool.”
The sun’s rays had hardly flashed above the horizon, before Pahom,
carrying the spade over his shoulder, went down into the steppe.
Pahom started walking neither slowly nor quickly. After having gone
a thousand yards he stopped, dug a hole and placed pieces of turf
one on another to make it more visible. Then he went on; and now
that he had walked off his stiffness he quickened his pace. After a
while he dug another hole.
Pahom looked back. The hillock could be distinctly seen in the
sunlight, with the people on it, and the glittering tires of the
cartwheels. At a rough guess Pahom concluded that he had walked
three miles. It was growing warmer; he took off his under-coat,
flung it across his shoulder, and went on again. It had grown quite
warm now; he looked at the sun, it was time to think of breakfast.
“The first shift is done, but there are four in a day, and it is too
soon yet to turn. But I will just take off my boots,” said he to himself.
He sat down, took off his boots, stuck them into his girdle, and went on.
It was easy walking now.
“I will go on for another three miles,” thought he, “and then turn
to the left. The spot is so fine, that it would be a pity to lose
it. The further one goes, the better the land seems.”
He went straight on a for a while, and when he looked round, the
hillock was scarcely visible and the people on it looked like black
ants, and he could just see something glistening there in the sun.
“Ah,” thought Pahom, “I have gone far enough in this direction, it
is time to turn. Besides I am in a regular sweat, and very thirsty.”
He stopped, dug a large hole, and heaped up pieces of turf. Next he
untied his flask, had a drink, and then turned sharply to the left.
He went on and on; the grass was high, and it was very hot.
Pahom began to grow tired: he looked at the sun and saw that it was noon.
“Well,” he thought, “I must have a rest.”
He sat down, and ate some bread and drank some water; but he did not
lie down, thinking that if he did he might fall asleep. After
sitting a little while, he went on again. At first he walked
easily: the food had strengthened him; but it had become terribly
hot, and he felt sleepy; still he went on, thinking: “An hour to
suffer, a life-time to live.”
He went a long way in this direction also, and was about to turn to
the left again, when he perceived a damp hollow: “It would be a pity
to leave that out,” he thought. “Flax would do well there.” So he
went on past the hollow, and dug a hole on the other side of it
before he turned the corner. Pahom looked towards the hillock. The
heat made the air hazy: it seemed to be quivering, and through the
haze the people on the hillock could scarcely be seen.
“Ah!” thought Pahom, “I have made the sides too long; I must make
this one shorter.” And he went along the third side, stepping
faster. He looked at the sun: it was nearly half way to the
horizon, and he had not yet done two miles of the third side of the
square. He was still ten miles from the goal.
“No,” he thought, “though it will make my land lopsided, I must
hurry back in a straight line now. I might go too far, and as it is
I have a great deal of land.”
So Pahom hurriedly dug a hole, and turned straight towards the hillock.
Pahom went straight towards the hillock, but he now walked with
difficulty. He was done up with the heat, his bare feet were cut
and bruised, and his legs began to fail. He longed to rest, but it
was impossible if he meant to get back before sunset. The sun waits
for no man, and it was sinking lower and lower.
“Oh dear,” he thought, “if only I have not blundered trying for too
much! What if I am too late?”
He looked towards the hillock and at the sun. He was still far from
his goal, and the sun was already near the rim. Pahom walked on and
on; it was very hard walking, but he went quicker and quicker. He
pressed on, but was still far from the place. He began running,
threw away his coat, his boots, his flask, and his cap, and kept
only the spade which he used as a support.
“What shall I do,” he thought again, “I have grasped too much, and
ruined the whole affair. I can’t get there before the sun sets.”
And this fear made him still more breathless. Pahom went on
running, his soaking shirt and trousers stuck to him, and his mouth
was parched. His breast was working like a blacksmith’s bellows,
his heart was beating like a hammer, and his legs were giving way as
if they did not belong to him. Pahom was seized with terror lest he
should die of the strain.
Though afraid of death, he could not stop. “After having run all
that way they will call me a fool if I stop now,” thought he. And
he ran on and on, and drew near and heard the Bashkirs yelling and
shouting to him, and their cries inflamed his heart still more. He
gathered his last strength and ran on.
The sun was close to the rim, and cloaked in mist looked large, and
red as blood. Now, yes now, it was about to set! The sun was quite
low, but he was also quite near his aim. Pahom could already see
the people on the hillock waving their arms to hurry him up. He
could see the fox-fur cap on the ground, and the money on it, and
the Chief sitting on the ground holding his sides. And Pahom
remembered his dream.
“There is plenty of land,” thought he, “but will God let me live on
it? I have lost my life, I have lost my life! I shall never reach
Pahom looked at the sun, which had reached the earth: one side of it
had already disappeared. With all his remaining strength he rushed
on, bending his body forward so that his legs could hardly follow
fast enough to keep him from falling. Just as he reached the
hillock it suddenly grew dark. He looked up–the sun had already
set. He gave a cry: “All my labor has been in vain,” thought he,
and was about to stop, but he heard the Bashkirs still shouting, and
remembered that though to him, from below, the sun seemed to have
set, they on the hillock could still see it. He took a long breath
and ran up the hillock. It was still light there. He reached the
top and saw the cap. Before it sat the Chief laughing and holding
his sides. Again Pahom remembered his dream, and he uttered a cry:
his legs gave way beneath him, he fell forward and reached the cap
with his hands.
“Ah, what a fine fellow!” exclaimed the Chief. “He has gained
Pahom’s servant came running up and tried to raise him, but he saw
that blood was flowing from his mouth. Pahom was dead!
The Bashkirs clicked their tongues to show their pity.
His servant picked up the spade and dug a grave long enough for
Pahom to lie in, and buried him in it. Six feet from his head to
his heels was all he needed.
1. One hundred kopeks make a rouble. The kopek is worth about
half a cent.
2. A non-intoxicating drink usually made from rye-malt and rye-flour.
3. The brick oven in a Russian peasant’s hut is usually built so
as to leave a flat top, large enough to lie on, for those who want
to sleep in a warm place.
4. 120 “desyatins.” The “desyatina” is properly 2.7 acres; but in
this story round numbers are used.
5. Three roubles per “desyatina.”
6. Five “kopeks” for a “desyatina.”
On 15th November 1884 a dozen European nations gathered in Berlin to divide up the African continent like young children dividing up a pizza. With no concern for the culture or the families of the continent, the map was redrawn and lands claimed. What followed was the systematic undoing of Africa.
I recently had this correspondence with Alistair who saw the show in Norham, Northumberland last month back. He gave us permission to post our exchanges online which I wanted to do as they made me cry (in a good way).
15 October 2016 21:52
Hi Robin and Naomi,
Good performance. Thank you for coming to Norham. Tweed Valley is a conservative area, and your message is revisionist of establishment posturing, so I wonder if you got a positive reaction? Seems like Marion Shoard is a gatekeeper person: if she was for you, who could be against you! It was an interesting evening for us, in lots of ways. We saw the ad for your show in Berwick High Street, but we live three miles north of Norham, across the border into Scotland at Horndean, the next settlement beyond Ronnie, your guest singer, who lives at the first settlement north of Norham Brig and over the border, at Ladykirk.
Interesting for me. When I worked in agricriculture as a farm worker, I was a NUAAW rep and had training at Southend where I bought ‘The Painful Plough’ way back then. That was 1975.
Interesting for me because I studied at Oxford University Institute of Agricultural Economics 1969-72. In those days, the Common Agricultural Policy was at an early stage, and was seen as a device to 1. Protect the small acreage farmers of France by holding up prices with subsidies and 2. Reducing the European tendency to overproduction with quotas for each commodity and 3. Withdrawing produce from the marketplace into storage when there was overproduction e.g. the grain mountain. In those early days it was seen as adverse to British Interests. I’ve been away from agriculture for years now, apart from a family farm extended family owns, and I haven’t really followed the single farm payment developments closely, so I was really interested in your summary, and in the views of the Welsh farmers you have spent time with, and I do not doubt, knowing the general mindset of the preset Westminster elite, that the direction is to consolidate into larger land units that then become attractive to fund managers and insurance interests, and cease to produce food as their prime concern.
Interesting for me because I am quite close to the Scottish Greens, and have followed Andy Wightman’s work in recent time. Following your exposition, I will look more closely at his site.
Interesting for me because we ramble, and have enjoyed the Right to Roam in Scotland, which as I have understood it permits access onto all PRIVATE open spaces unless and until the landowner requests that you leave the site for a genuine and defensible reason e.g. timid or frightable stock. Your summary of the Right suggested it referred to PUBLIC open spaces, which are surely not 80% of Northumberland? Clarification needed for me here.
In general your narrative was well supported by facts, and was not long on opinions, which made it enjoyable, as one could think, and buy in with one’s own conclusions. Too many facts, too fast, can become a barrage, and the mind closes, hence of course the value of your songs. Anyhow, in general you got it right. At the end, saturated with impressions, we needed a more stark arrival point i.e. the Land Reform groups names and logos appearing on your string line.
Anyhow, I really mustn’t criticise your content, as it was original (in its collected form), and superbly researched and presented. You are both immensely multi-talented, and I will certainly do my best to commend your presentation to contacts wherever you go. What you are doing is most worthwhile – to rightly judge the English and other UK countries, and Eire, in our past internal struggles, and in our past overseas activities, is a proper road to understanding ourselves and our place in the world today. For me you did not put a foot wrong, and my over-riding reflection is your positivism – you were not embittered as many revisionists are, or grinding axes at us, which is the angry face of revolution. You were, I think, true revolutionaries, seeking sound values for yourselves and offering them as tenets of worth to those willing to accept them. That is a most civilised and companionable modus vivendi, and I am sure it will win you many friends.
So, I thank you for your cultural contribution of “Three Acres and a Cow”.
On Sunday, October 16, 2016 11:07am, Robin wrote:
Thanks so much for your letter – it was a delight to receive. So good to get feedback from someone with a depth of knowledge on the topic.
We got a good reaction from the people we talked too… As it was our third day on the road and I was knackered, I prioritised singing songs with the people who had traveled a long way and missed some of the first half, rather than trying to gather as much feedback as I could have. The messages in our guest book were positive.
Ronnie, Gail and Joan enjoyed the evening hugely and as most of the audience were known to them, I am sure that they will collect more reactions and feedback in the coming weeks.
The show has been performed to conservative audiences in the past, but not in such a rural area. I must confess to being quite nervous about this, but am growing in confidence now due to the feedback from so many people from extremely differing backgrounds over the years. I also know that the Norham area has traditionally elected Liberal MPs, and that land reform has historically always been a cornerstone of Liberal policy.
You will be glad to know that Marion Shoard and I have been in conversation and are about to start exploring making podcasts and radio shows together. She is very happy to hear that people are talking about land again and that more singing is involved this time around! I also encouraged her to get a wikipedia page which she has – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marion_Shoard.
I am so glad to hear that you know of Roy Palmers book ‘The Painful Plough’… His work has been a huge source of information and inspiration over the years, and I was incredibly lucky to have him mentoring me and sending unpublished ballads he’d collected, the last few years of his life. Sadly, he does not have a wikipedia page and I am yet to work out how I can make this happen, as his contribution to English culture has been huge and largely unrecognised outside of certain niche circles.
I have read and heard that the CAP was set up as a behind-the-scenes face-saving way of Germany compensating France for war time damage and was indeed never framed in British interests. It has morphed into quite a different beast since then. I generalise this into supporting farmers as i hope this is a useful summary of what is a hugely complicated topic (as they all are under the microscope!!)
Our statistics on Northumberland rambling %’s is taken from the Ramblers Association factsheet ‘The Right to Roam’ which can be found here – http://www.ramblers.org.uk/~/media/Files/Go%20walking/AccessFactSheet-FS8.pdf – It states in a table on the 2nd page that the amount of publicly accessible open land in Northumberland went from 19% to 85% in 2003 and I trust them on these figures. Please do let me know if you interpret this differently.
Thanks for your thoughts on the pacing and balance of the piece – a conscious effort has been made to keep opinions to a minimum and deliver it in as gentle and fun way as possible, allowing people to make their own conclusions. There are a few topics where I do offer my own opinion sometimes and I am glad you think we get the balance largely right.
The ending – ha… if there was anything resembling an English land reform movement we would indeed be signposting people to it! but there isn’t really yet… we are trying to support one into being under the rubric of ‘Land for What?’ but alas are a long long long way behind Scotland – http://landforwhat.org.uk/.
I usually mention the Landworkers’ Alliance and Ecological Land Coop (and their names are on the line) who are doing ground work to challenge the status quo around land but I was super tired and did not talk about them at the Norham show you saw.
Your last paragraph or two were very nourishing, thank you. At times, it can be a long and lonely road that we’ve been walking and if you’ll forgive me mixing metaphors, words such as yours give wind to our sails.
Hi again Robin,
Appreciate your full response to my letter, thanks.
What you say about the origins of the CAP does ring true to my understandings. I spent time in Germany in the early seventies, as secretary of the United Kingdom and Ireland Agricultural Students Association, representing UK at the 15th International Agricultural Association of Students at Stuttgart and Kiel, and also in a hosted group of international ambassadors for change allied to a group called MRA, visiting the Ruhr industrial area which had been the scene of much conflict. There was still a vast dammed reservoir of guilt in Germany about the events of the thirties and forties, and it drove much of what they were doing at that time.
Also, I note that my confusion about the Right to Roam in Northumberland is entirely cleared up by your reference to source material.
Like yourself, I have down the years been at first surprised, and then more often scandalised, by revelations about “Great Britain’s” past. We have had an extraordinarily selfish and cruel ruling class, possibly from the Norman Conquest onwards, as your overview suggested.
My own clan were Highlands and Islands folk in the C17th, C18th and C19th centuries, and were forced by a combination of malicious social forces to emigrate to the Southern States (where there is a Clan Reunion for 350 of them each year now) to Canada where one of my great, great grandfathers was born in Nova Scotia (and your description of the ships which took them there was spine chilling), and to South Africa, and to Australia where John MacKichan blew himself up at Lobo whilst clearing land with dynamite. The decision to move to lands of opportunity was driven not by ambition, but by desperation, and the terrible injury inflicted on the aboriginal native peoples as a result is a crime by proxy by those who forced the emigrations.
The sharp thrust of your delivery in Three Acres and a Cow is that there are areas of the world in which the UK establishment, and you were not specific, is still connected to genocidal activity. That was a telling insight about the repetition of learnt behaviour, and it should arouse indignation among our people to think that the worst we have known is now being dealt, perhaps in our name, to others.
Your summary on Ireland named one Englishman viewing the Irish potato famine as “An Act of God”. I have read that there was stored grain available in England, and that it was indeed promised to the desperate Irish, but then deliberately withheld, which corroborates your judgement of genocide of a million Irish who died in those years. There is a loch in Ireland where a wandering, starving band inscribed their heart feelings on a stone – I have visited it and seen it but do not remember detail, except to note that it is most moving. The Gaels are a different race, driven in early centuries AD to the “Celtic Rim”, and in culture and values see themselves as different from the English. That is not a antagonistic difference, but a dignified ontology and identity. You will have felt it in your time in Wales, and for what it is worth, in my own performing days I sang a national celebration in Welsh in Bangor Cathedral, “Ee gumree ganav. uist tervisk dwicht a don” (phonetic spelling now – a distant memory) and I felt the rose and bloom of the Welsh culture then.
For the self-interested English to exploit, and to dishonour, other racial groups than their own seems to have been a terrible and constant theme of history. This inter-necine animosity strays from your main points of Land Rights and food security, but they are strongly linked in our history. One of my clansmen, starving, was imprisoned for the act of stealing one turnip, from the owner of a field he had toiled in all day, in an attempt to feed his family. That harshness was imposed not by the native clan system, but by the annexing of lands after 1745 by a vindictive English oppression. The tales go on.
All power to you, always find the performer’s balance between intensive output and gentle restoration!
Peggy Seeger also sent over this track called ‘Bring The Summer Home’ from Ewan MacColl’s 1998 reissue compilation album Antiquities.
It is about the Peasants’ Revolt (or the Great Revolt as it should be know!), the 100 Year War with France, the first attempt at an English Poll Tax and the Black Death.
Someone on the Mudcat forums has a bash at working out the lyrics here – http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=141748.
You can hear it online via this youtube mix tape…
Peggy Seeger just pointed us at this old poaching ballad called The Bold Poachers or The Oakham Poachers.
If you look at this page you can see how most versions have a poacher killing a keeper but in one, the keepers kill one of the poachers… https://mainlynorfolk.info/martin.carthy/songs/theboldpoachers.html
Digging into Roy Palmer’s Ballad History Of England, the first poaching song I come across again had the keepers killing a poacher… Which makes one wonder which is the ‘correct’ version of the The Bold Poachers or The Oakham Poachers!
Last week Robin was interviewed on Greenhorns Radio by Severine Von Tscharner Fleming about music, land rights, Three Acres And A Cow and the upcoming Land for What? weekend.
You can have a listen to the show here – http://heritageradionetwork.org/podcast/robin-grey/
“Changing the story isn’t enough in itself, but it has often been foundational to real changes. Making an injury visible and public is usually the first step in remedying it, and political change often follows culture, as what was long tolerated is seen to be intolerable, or what was overlooked becomes obvious. Which means that every conflict is in part a battle over the story we tell, or who tells and who is heard.” Rebecca Solnit
I have yet to read this book but have it on authority that it will blow my socks off so I thought I might take the step of telling you all about it asap as my backlog of books is somewhat chronic as of late!
This is an excellent read by Jonathon Porritt exploring the overlap between land, agribusiness, war and migration. It includes the following quote by Megan Perry:
“The (Syrian) Government had been pursuing a policy of agricultural intensification and economic liberalisation, based on the expansion of irrigated crops for export such as wheat and cotton that were reliant on chemical fertilisers. The chemical inputs and monocultural cropping contributed to the degradation of Syria’s soils, while poor irrigation infrastructure led to salinization, particularly in areas such as the Euphrates. And with the Government’s decision to cut subsidies to fertiliser, diesel, pesticides and seeds in the 2000s, many small-scale farmers could no longer afford the inputs on which their crops had come to depend.
Syria’s grazing land also struggled under intensification. Former Bedouin commons had been opened up to unrestricted grazing, turning the fragile ecosystem of the Syrian steppe, an area that covers half the country’s land mass, into an eroded desert. In 1950, there were three million sheep grazing the steppe, but by 1998, there were over fifteen million.”
That particular tale is all too familiar in all too many countries – and there are many experts in the world of mainstream agribusiness who are still keen to do exactly the same across the whole of Africa, regardless of the vast weight of evidence we now have as to the calamitous consequences of that process of intensification.
The calamity in Syria could not be starker, with 80% of the remaining population facing dire poverty, with sky-rocketing food prices, and with all factions involved in the conflict using ‘food as a weapon’ to secure their military objectives.