Category Archives: Geographical Area

Spiorad a’ Charthannais (The Spirit of Kindliness), by the Lewis poet Iain Mac a’ Ghobhainn (John Smith)

Just book marking this all here for future reference

#highlandclearances
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernera_Riot

From https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2022/02/23/community-of-contested-discourse-in-the-gaelic-development-debate/

And in his great poem Spiorad a’ Charthannais (The Spirit of Kindliness), the Lewis poet Iain Mac a’ Ghobhainn (John Smith) wrote about island soldiers coming back from the Napoleonic wars, only to find their homes burned to the ground in similar Highland Clearances. Their persecutors, not Napoleon, but domestic oppressors, who:

…reckoned as but brittle threads
the tight and loving cords
that bound these freemen’s noble hearts
to the high land of the hills.

The grief they suffered brought them death
although they suffered long,
tormented by the cold world
which had no warmth for them.


From Gaelic poetry and the British military, 1756-1945 by Wilson McLeod

An atypically incisive example of such rhetoric can be found in the Lewis poet Iain Mac a’ Ghobhainn’s (John Smith) (1848-81) powerful ‘Spiorad a’ Charthannais’ (‘The Spirit of Kindliness’), composed in 1874, at the beginning of the Land Agitation:

A bheil neach beò san linn seo
leis an cuimhn’ an latha garbh
’s na chuireadh an cath uamhann —
Waterloo nan cluaintean dearg?
Bu tapaidh buaidh nan Gàidheal ann,
nuair dh’èirich iad fo’n airm;
ri aghaidh colg nan treun-fheara
gun ghèill ar nàimhdean garg.


Dè ’n sòlas a fhuair athraichean
nan gaisgeach thug a’ bhuaidh?
Chaidh taighean blàth a’ charthannais
’nam baidealaich mu’n cluais;
bha ’m macaibh anns an àraich
’s iad a’ teàrnadh tìr gun truas;
bu chianail staid am màthraichean,
’s am fàrdaichean ’nan gual. . . .


A Bhreatainn, tha e nàireach dhut,
ma dh’àirmhear ann do sgeul,
Gun bhuin thu cho mì-nàdarrach
ri t’fhìor-shliochd àlainn fhèin;
an tìr bha aig na gaisgich ud
a theasairg thu ’nad fheum,
a thionndadh gu blàr-spòrsa
do na stròdhailich gun bheus.


Is anyone presently alive
who recollects that awful day,
on which was fought the fearful fight —
Waterloo of the bloody plains?
A fine victory was won by Gaels
when they rose in battle-arms;
faced with the blade of bravest men,
our fierce foes yielded fast.


What joy came to the fathers
of those who won the fray?
The warm homes of kindliness
towered round their ears in flames.
Their sons were on the battlefield
to save a heartless land;
their mothers were in the saddest plight,
and their homes reduced to ash. . . .


O Britain, it is a disgrace,
should we recount your tale,
relating how hard you dealt
with your own and truest race.
The land that those heroes had,
who saved you in your straits,
has now become a field of sports
for those wasters without morals.


(Meek 2003: 362-5)

Bàrdachd – Spiorad a’ Charthannais

Tha structar teann agus reusanachadh soilleir san dàn seo. Tha sin, le cainnt gheur agus rannaigheachd shiùbhlach a’ bhàird, a’ fàgail gur e seo ionnsaigh cho làidir is a gheibhear ann am bàrdachd Ghàidhlig air na Fuadaichean.

Sa chiad chòig rannan tha am bàrd a’ beachdachadh air gnè spiorad a’ charthannais agus an diofar a dhèanadh e don t-saoghal nan leanadh daoine an dòigh-beatha seo: airson notaichean air seo cliog air Spiorad.

Anns an ath chòig rannan tha e a’ leudachadh air a’ chron a tha dìth carthannais a’ dèanamh anns an t-saoghal san fharsaingeachd: cliog air Dìth airson seo.

Às dèidh rann far a bheil e a’ cur an cèill amasan an dàin, tha Mac a’ Ghobhainn anns an ath chòig rannan a’ càineadh nan uachdaran agus nam bàillidhean airson a bhith cho cruaidh air an t-sluagh: cliog air Uachdarain airson seo.

Anns na ceithir rannan deireannach, tha e a’ toirt ionnsaigh gu h-àraidh air Dòmhnall Rothach, bàillidh Leòdhais: cliog air Crìoch airson seo.

Lean na comharran airson a’ bhàrdachd a mhìneachadh. Nuair a nì thu sin, theirig air ais agus leugh a’ bhàrdachd air fad a-rithist.

Spiorad a’ Charthannais

O Spioraid shoilleir shàr-mhaisich,
A Spioraid ghràsmhoir chaoin
Tha riaghladh anns an àros sin
Tha uile làn de ghaol,
Nan gabhamaid gu càirdeil riut,
Gad fhàilteachadh gu caomh,
'S e siud a bheireadh àrdachadh
Do nàdar chloinn nan daoin'.

Nam b' eòl dhuinn thu nad mhaisealachd
'S nam b' aithne dhuinn do luach,
'S e siud a bheireadh inntinn dhuinn
Os cionn an t-saoghail thruaigh;
Gur sona iad fhuair eòlas ort,
'S len còmhnaich thu gu buan –
'S ann tromhad tha na sòlasan
Tha 'n Tìr na Glòire shuas.

'S tu phàirticheadh gu h-èifeachdach
Rinn gnè nam flaitheas àrd;
An àite greann na h-eucorach
Bhiodh maise 's sgèimh nan gràs;
'S tu sheargadh gnè na truaillidheachd
'S a nuadhaicheadh ar càil;
'S tu thogadh chum nan nèamhan sinn
Le tarraing threun do ghràidh.

O Spioraid chaoimh nan gràsalachd,
Nam biodh tu tàmh nar còir,
'S tu dh'fhuasgladh oirnn 's a shlànaicheadh
An dream tha cnàmh fo leòn;
'S tu thogadh crìdh' nam bantraichean
Gu seinn le aiteas mòr,
'S nach fàgadh gu neo-choibhneil iad
An gainntir dorch a' bhròin.

'S tu mhùchadh teine 'n nàmhaideis
'S an t-sùil as gràinde colg;
'S tu rèiticheadh 's a chiùinicheadh
A' mhala bhrùideil dhorch;
'S tu thogadh neul na h-aingidheachd
Bharr gnùis nan aintighearn' borb
'S a bheireadh gionach saidhbhreis uap'
'S gach aimhleas tha nan lorg.

Ach 's eagal leam gun d' thrèig thu sinn
'S do nèamh gun d' theich thu suas –
Tha daoin' air fàs cho eucorach
'S do ghnè-sa fada uap';
Tha seiche ghreannach fèinealachd
Gan eudachadh mun cuairt –
Chan eòl dhomh aon nì reubas e
Ach saighead Dhè nan sluagh.

A shaoghail, 's fada tuathal thu
On uair sin anns na thrèig
Do charthannas is d' uaisleachd thu,
'S a ghabh thu Fuath is Breug;
Mar inneal-ciùil neo-cheòlmhor dhut,
Gun teud an òrdugh rèidh,
Cha seinn thu pong le òrdalachd
'S cha deòin leat dol air ghleus.

Gur leatsa neart nan aintighearnan
Is gèimhlichean nan tràill;
Gur leat guth treun nan ainneartach
'S guth fann an fhir tha 'n sàs;
Gur leatsa spìd is uabharrachd
An t-sluaigh tha 'n ionad àrd,
'S a mheasas cho mì-fhiùghail sinn
Ri sgùileach air an tràigh.

Gur leat an creideamh buaireasach
A dhùisgeas gruaim is greann,
An creideamh nach dèan suairce sinn
'S nach dèan ar n-uabhar fann;
An creideamh th' aig na diadhairean
Lem miann a' chòmhstri theann –
Nan làimh-san dh'fhàs a' Chrìosdalachd
Mar bhiast nan iomadh ceann.

An searmonaiche prèisgeil ud,
'S ann dh'èigheas e le sgairt
Gur mallaicht' sinn mur èisdear leinn
Ra chreud-san - an tè cheart;
An àite bhith sìor èigheach rinn
Mur dleasdanas 's gach beart,
A dhèanamh daoine cèillidh dhinn
An làthair Dhè nam feart.

O Charthannais, gur h-àlainn thu,
A ghràis as àirde luach!
Ach 's lìonmhor nach toir àite dhut
Gu bràth nan cridhe cruaidh.
Nan deònaicheadh a' cheòlraidh dhomh
Mo chomas beòil car uair,
Gun innsinn pàirt de ghnìomharan
Nam biast thug dhutsa fuath.

Cha robh do ghnè-s' an Dòmhnall bochd,
Am fear bu rògaich goill,
Bha 'n dùil gum biodh gach Leòdhasach
Air fhògaradh don choill;
Ach phàigh e pàirt de dhò-bheartan
Is gheibh e 'n còrr a thoill –
Gun aithnich e gu dòrainneach
Gur feàrr a' chòir na 'n fhoill.

Cha robh do ghnè-s' a' riaghladh
Ann am broilleach iarainn cruaidh
Nam bàillidhean 's nan tighearnan
Chuir sìos an tìr mu thuath;
Bu charthannach na fàrdaichean
Bha seasgair, blàth innt' uair,
'S tha tìr nan daoine còire 'n-diugh
Na fàsach dòbhaidh truagh.

Gun chuir iad fo na naosgaichean
An tìr a b' aoigheil sluagh;
Gun bhuin iad cho neo-dhaonndachail
Ri daoine bha cho suairc';
A chionn nach faodte 'm bàthadh,
Chaidh an sgànradh thar a' chuain –
Bu mhiosa na bruid Bhàbiloin
An càradh sin a fhuair.

A Bhreatainn, tha e nàrach dhut,
Ma dh'àirmhear ann do sgeul
Gun bhuin thu cho mi-nàdarrach
Rid fhìor-shliochd àlainn fhèin –
An tìr bha aig na gaisgich ud
A theasairg thu nad fheum,
A thionndadh ga blàr-spòrsa
Do na stròidhealaich gun bheus.

Nach dìblidh cliù ar mòr-uaislean,
Na fir as neònaich' mèinn –
Carson a tha iad mòr-chùiseach,
'S iad beò air spòrs gun chèill?
Nan còmhdaicheadh na ruadh-chearcan
Lem buachar uachdar slèibh,
'S e siud a b' fheàrr a chòrdadh riu
Na sràidean òir air nèamh.

O, criothnaich measg do shòlasan.
Fhir fhòirneirt làidir chruaidh!
Dè 'm bàs no 'm pian a dhòirtear ort
Airson do leòn air sluagh?
'S e osnaich bhròin nam bantraichean
Tha sèid do shaidhbhries suas;
Gach cupan fìon a dh'òlas tu,
'S e deòir nan ainnis truagh.

Ged thachradh oighreachd mhòr agad
'S ged ghèill na slòigh fod smachd,
Tha 'm bàs is laghan geur aige,
'S gum feum thu gèill da reachd;
Siud uachdaran a dh'òrdaicheas
Co-ionann còir gach neach,
'S mar oighreachd bheir e lèine dhut,
'S dà cheum de thalamh glas.

'S e siud as deireadh suarach dhut,
Thus', fhir an uabhair mhòir,
Led shumanan 's led bhàirlinnean
A' cumail chàich fo bhròn;
Nuair gheibh thu 'n oighreachd shàmhach ud,
Bidh d' àrdan beag gu leòr;
Cha chluinnear trod a' bhàillidh ann
'S cha chuir maor grànd' air ròig.

'N sin molaidh a'chnuimh shnàigeach thu,
Cho tàirceach 'sa bhios d' fheòil,
Nuair gheibh i air do chàradh thu
Gu sàmhach air a bòrd;
Their i, "'S e fear mèath tha 'n seo
Tha math do bhiast nan còs,
On rinn e caol na ceudan
Gus e fhèin a bhiathadh dhòmhs'."

The Poetry of the Clearances by Sorley Maclean

I was just slipping down an internet wormhole on Scottish land rights poetry and song, and came across this juicy nugget:

…the impact of Sorley MacLean’s paper on ‘The Poetry of the Clearances’ – the most powerful piece of socio-political and literary criticism I have ever read

from https://meekwrite.blogspot.com/2013/03/nineteenth-century-studies-third.html

Sounds great, hey? He was a acclaimed Scottish poet, but this paper is not about his poetry but those who came before him and who wrote in Gaelic. I haven’t had a chance to read it in full yet but did a quick flick through after finding a pdf of it here. If this link goes dead then you can also find it hosted here on our website too.

Just parking this all here so I can find it when time comes to do more research on Scottish shazzle and you never know, someone else might find this useful too!

(1948) Ballad of the Men of Knoydart by Hamish Henderson

By Seumas Mor Maceanruig (Hamish Henderson) to the tune: ‘Johnston’s Motor Car’.

The Seven Men of Knoydart was the name given, to a group of squatters who tried to appropriate land at Knoydart in 1948. The name evoked the memory of the Seven Men of Moidart, the seven Jacobites who accompanied the Young Pretender on his voyage to Scotland in 1745. Comprising seven ex-servicemen, their claim was to be the last land raid in Scotland – from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Men_of_Knoydart

‘Twas down by the farm of Scottas,
Lord Brocket walked one day,
And he saw a sight that worried him
Far more than he could say,
For the “Seven Men of Knoydart”
Were doing what they’d planned–
They had staked their claims and were digging their drains,
On Brocket’s Private Land.

“You bloody Reds,” Lord Brocket yelled,
“Wot’s this you’re doing ‘ere?
It doesn’t pay as you’ll find today,
To insult an English peer.
You’re only Scottish half-wits,
But I’ll make you understand.
You Highland swine, these Hills are mine!
This is all Lord Brocket’s Land.

I’ll write to Arthur Woodburn, boys,
And they will let you know,
That the ‘Sacred Rights of Property’
Will never be laid low.
With your stakes and tapes, I’ll make you traipse
From Knoydart to the Rand;
You can dig for gold till you’re stiff and cold–
But not on this e’re Land.”

Then up spoke the Men of Knoydart;
“Away and shut your trap,
For threats from a Saxon brewer’s boy,
We just won’t give a rap.
O we are all ex-servicement,
We fought against the Hun.
We can tell our enemies by now,
And Brocket, you are one!”

When he heard these words that noble peer
Turned purple in the face.
He said, “These Scottish savages
Are Britain’s black disgrace.
It may be true that I’ve let some few
Thousand acres go to pot,
But each one I’d give to a London spiv,
Before any Goddam Scot!

“You’re a crowd of Tartan Bolshies!
But I’ll soon have you licked.
I’ll write to the Court of Session,
For an Interim Interdict.
I’ll write to my London lawyers,
And they will understand.”
“Och to Hell with your London lawyers,
We want our Highland Land.”

When Brocket heard these fightin’ words,
He fell down in a swoon,
But they splashed his jowl with uisge,
And he woke up mighty soon,
And he moaned, “These Dukes of Sutherland
Were right about the Scot.
If I had my way I’d start today,
And clear the whole dam lot!”

Then up spoke the men of Knoydart:
“You have no earthly right.
For this is the land of Scotland,
And not the Isle of Wight.
When Scotland’s proud Fianna,
With ten thousand lads is manned,
We will show the world that Highlanders
Have a right to Scottish Land.”

“You may scream and yell, Lord Brocket–
You may rave and stamp and shout,
But the lamp we’ve lit in Knoydart
Will never now go out.
For Scotland’s on the march, my boys–
We think it won’t be long.
Roll on the day when The Knoydart Way
Is Scotland’s battle song.”

Ask The Fellows who Cut the Hay by George Ewart Evans

I’ve already documented my love for George’s book Where Beards Wag All, which he wrote fifteen years later and is far more concentrated on the role of the oral tradition in rural settings.

I’ve been meaning to write up about this book for ages and now I come to do so, what I learnt from it has quite slipped my mind… but just looking at the contents pages is more than enough to wet the intellectual appetite. I mean it has chapters called ‘Beer’, ‘Field Names’ and ‘Bacon and Ham Curing’ and a whole section titled ‘Various Old People’. Ha!

As climate change starts to bite and we continue looking for ways to work the land with nature rather than by fighting against her, books like this will be valuable resources indeed.

The Economist review on the inside cover just about sums it up:
‘Original, arresting and always human… The book is a mine of information, but this is offered so unpretentiously that it reads as easily as a quiet book of memoirs’

(1769) The Death of Bill Brown

A.L. Lloyd includes this song about poaching as resistance to enclosure in his book Folk Song in England where he noted that it was “obtained by Frank Kidson from a singer in Goole, Yorkshire” and comments:

There are two distinct broadsheet songs which tell of the unhappy death of Bill Brown, a poacher shot by the gamekeeper at the village of Brightside, near Sheffield, in 1769. That a version of one of them might still be collected from tradition as late as the beginning of this century should be attributed to the extraordinary vitality which many of the broadside ballads had in the minds and hearts of the commons of England. Certainly the character of Bill Brown and the desire to avenge his death was sufficient to raise the necessary sympathetic bond between street singers and their audiences.

A.L. Lloyd further commented in the sleeve notes of Roy Harris’s 1972 record The Bitter and the Sweet:

When the practice of enclosing common-land for the benefit of lofty landlords was stepped up in the 18th century, it caused hardship and fierce resentment over the broad acres. For some reason, resistance to this injustice was specially fierce in the triangle roughly bounded by Sheffield, Lincoln and Nottingham, and within this area for more than half a century there was virtual guerrilla was between poacher and keeper. The sullen bloodshot ballad of Bill Brown, who was shot dead at Brightside, near Sheffield, in 1769, is characteristic of the poacher broadsides that moved the disaffected villagers of the time (and for long after). The tune was noted in Lincolnshire by Frank Kidson’s devoted informant, Mr Lolley, about eighty years ago.

You gentlemen, both great and small,
Gamekeepers, poachers, sportsmen all,
Come listen to me simple clown,
I’ll sing you the death of poor Bill Brown,
I’ll sing you the death of poor Bill Brown.

One stormy night, as you shall hear,
‘Twas in the season of the year.
We went to the woods to catch a buck,
But in that night we had bad luck,
Bill Brown was shot and his dog was stuck.

Well, we got to the woods, our sport begun,
I saw the gamekeeper present his gun,
I called on Bill to climb the gate,
To get away, but it was too late,
For there he met his untimely fate.

Well, we got to the woods, our sport begun,
I saw the gamekeeper present his gun,
I called on Bill to climb the gate,
To get away, but it was too late,
For there he met his untimely fate.

I dressed myself next night in time,
I got to the wood as the clock struck nine;
The reason was, and I’ll tell you why,
To find that gamekeeper I did go try,
Who shot my friend, and he shall die.

I ranged the woods all over, and then
I looked at my watch and it was just ten.
I heard a footstep on the green,
I hid myself for fear of being seen,
For I plainly saw it was Tom Green.

I took my gun all in my hand,
Resolved to fire if Tom should stand;
Tom heard a noise and turned him round.
I fired and brought him to the ground,
My hand gave him his deep death wound.

Now revenge, you see, my hopes has crowned.
I’ve shot the mam that shot Bill Brown.
Poor Bill no more these eyes will see;
Farewell, dear friend, farewell to ye,
I’ve crowned your hopes and your memory.

An Atlas of Rural Protest in Britain 1548-1900 by Andrew Charlesworth

We get sent, given and recommended a lot of books by people who’ve seen the show. They are nearly always very useful and often even get read. Every so often one comes along that wins. This is such a book. What a title! And full of lovely maps and considered prose too. Copies come up 2nd hand for about the £20 mark fairly often, well worth it.

Needless to say this book is a glorious source of academically thorough research into peasant struggles against the greed and tyranny of the aristocracy.

(1860s) Poetry of the Lancashire Cotton Famine

https://cottonfaminepoetry.exeter.ac.uk/database/listfiles.html

This database from the University of Exeter brings together poems written in response to the Lancashire Cotton Famine of 1861-65.

The crisis was caused by the American Civil War and, as well as poems from British local newspapers, poems published in America are included commenting on the relationship between the US, Britain, cotton, and slavery.

Whilst not technically Three Acres And A Cow canon, it is a great resource and useful to get a sense of the way language is used in this period of history.

The Ballad and The Plough by David Kerr Cameron

That there are algorithms out there on the internet that know so much about us all is shit scary. Some days it can be annoyingly useful though, like the day when it suggested that I might want to buy a 2nd hand copy of this book and I did… and was grateful for the recommendation. Grrrrrrrr….

The book is very geographically focussed on the north east lowlands of Scotland and explores advances in technology and the repercussions for workers through the medium of bothy ballads. Sounds ace, doesn’t it?

It covers the 1800s in detail and really helped me to understand the transition from women working the fields with a sickle, to men working the fields with scythes, and oxen pulling rudimentary ploughs, to a paid of horses pulling a far more modern device. It also explores the beginnings of automation, steam power and machines. All evidenced by songs. Brilliant.

Last Acre (12 mins)

Lovely short film about a plotlands settlement on the salt marshes of Lowsy Point near Barrow-in-Furness in northwest England. Watch via https://vimeo.com/wurstundgritz/acre or embedded below. Read Colin Ward’s Arcadia for All to learn more about the Plotlands.

Last Acre from Nick Jordan on Vimeo.

Deserted Villages by John Wood and Trevor Rowley

This is a really short and enjoyable read; for us, worth the print price alone for p19’s:

Emparking reached its zenith in the eighteen century , when the removal of villages to create or enlarge parks was a widespread phenomenon.

It then goes on to list a number of examples and features the story of Milton Abbas in Dorset which was dismantled over a period of fifteen years to make way for Baron Milton’s new park.

Trevor Rowley is an Emeritius Fellow at the University of Oxford, so this book can’t easily be dismissed by revisionist ‘historians’ who often seek to play down such occurances when defending the reputation of the British ruling class.

Originally published in 1982, this new third edition is an invaluable aid to recording and identifying the remains of past settlements and placing them in their total landscape context. As well as tracing the processes that led to desertion, this book provides a guide to the type of remains to be expected and describes some good examples

How Profits From Slavery Changed the Landscape of the Scottish Highlands

Money earned through enslavement played a key role in the eviction of Highlanders in the 18th and 19th centuries, study finds

Between roughly 1750 and 1860, wealthy landowners forcibly evicted thousands of Scottish Highlanders in order to create large-scale sheep farms. Known today as the Highland Clearances, this era of drastic depopulation sparked the collapse of the traditional clan system and the mass migration of Scotland’s northernmost residents to other parts of the world.

As Alison Campsie reports for the Scotsman, new research argues that this pivotal period in Scottish history had close ties to the enslavement of people in British colonies, with a cadre of individuals enriched by slavery evicting at least 5,000 people from their property and buying up more than one million acres of land relinquished during the clearances.

Read full article via https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/new-research-investigates-how-enslavement-profits-changed-landscape-scottish-highlands-180976311/

A History of the Welsh Land Settlement Society by Roland Ward

The land settlement societies and land settlement association, are along with the Plotlands movement, important forgotten parts of recent British history. They stand as highly useful and inspiring examples of post war movements of people back to the land and the countryside. The Plotlands were bottom up and anarcist in nature (although I highly doubt the participants would have identified as anarcist!), whilst the land settlement movement was far more top down with state and non state actors involved.

This book is short, sweet and very detailed about facts, figures and costs whilst making keen observations about the surrounding politics. The sub title ‘something must be done’ is a quote from Edward Windsor when he was part of the British royal family which in part antagonised the government to take action on the huge number of unemployed people in Wales by supporting them into running smallholding businesses. Edwards words were seen as inflamatory, and inappropriate meddling by the supposedly a-political monarchy at the time.

A History of Allotments in Sheffield by Margaret Boulton

This is a really great deep dive into local Sheffield history whilst at the same time providing lots of context which I imagine would make it still of interest to those further afield.

I drank it down and revelled in the geekery, for example, did you know that Mount Pleasant is the name for the part of each town or city where all the night soil (aka human poo) was taken every morning so farmers could transport it to their land for fertiliser?

The Same Sky over All by David Smith

An account of farming in the Chelmsford area of Essex

Another book in the same genre as ‘Where Beards Wag All‘ which perfectly and poetically captures the last days of pre mechanised peasant agriculture in Essex and the first steps of the transition into fossil fuel fuelled farming. Simply and beautifully written, a good way to look back to look forward

Dadabhai Naoroji – Britain’s first Asian MP in 1892

Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917) was the first Asian to sit in the House of Commons, a hugely important leader in India before Mahatma Gandhi, as well as being an anti-racist and anti-imperialist of global significance. Well worth learning more about his inspiring life via:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dadabhai_Naoroji

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-52829458

Farming While Black by Leah Penniman

Farming While Black is the first comprehensive “how to” guide for aspiring African-heritage growers to reclaim their dignity as agriculturists and for all farmers to understand the distinct, technical contributions of African-heritage people to sustainable agriculture.

This is a truly epic piece of work which includes some compelling history lessons alongside being a cultural and practical manual for acquiring, working and thriving on the land in America. There is so much to learn here for land workers of colour as well as white people on an anti-racism journey.

We have included some of the things we learned from this book into recent performances of the show.

If you don’t want to dive straight into the book, Leah Penniman’s podcast with Farmerama is a good place to start or one of these blogs:

Memo: Land Access for Beginning and Disadvantaged Farmers

We Need a Green New Deal for Farmland

In 1910, one in seven farmers were African-American and held titles to approximately 16-19 million acres of farmland. Over the next century, 98% of Black farmers were dispossessed through discriminatory practices at the USDA and various federal farm programs. These farmers were often denied loans and credit, lacked access to legal defense against fraud, and experienced “outright acts of violence and intimidation” resulting in a 90% loss of Black-owned farmland in the US.

Today, 98% of private rural land is owned by white people, while less than 1% is Black-owned. The USDA’s systemic bias against Black and minority farmers “is well documented” and affirmed by the 2010 Pigford vs. Glickman class action lawsuit, which resulted in a $1.25 billion settlement. Black farmers continue to experience discrimination in access to credit, seeds, and other assistance, and face foreclosure at six times the rate of their White counterparts.”

(1985) The Battle of the Beanfield by The Levellers

I loved this song as a teenager but knew nothing about the subject matter, nor would I have known where to find any in my Daily Telegraph reading Thatcher-lite household and community. But now we have wikipedia and easy to find interviews with the band about writing it.

I thought i heard someone calling me
I’ve seen the pictures on TV
And i made up my mind that i’d go and see
With my own eyes

It didn’t take too long to hitch a ride
With a guy going south to start a new life
Past the place where my friend died
Two years ago

Down the 303 at the end of the road
Flashing lights – exclusion zones
And it made me think it’s not just the stones
That they’re guarding

Hey hey, can’t you see
There’s nothing here that you could call free
They’re getting their kicks
Laughing at you and me

As the sun rose on the beanfield
They came like wolf on the fold
And no they didn’t give a warning
They took their bloody toll

I see a pregnant woman
Lying in blood of her own
I see her children crying
As the police tore apart her home
And no they didn’t need a reason
It’s what your votes condone
It seems they were committing treason
By trying to live on the road

(1915*) Mrs Barbours’ Army by Alistair Hulett

If I could marry a song it would probably be this one. Alistair Hulett on fine form writing about Mary Barbour and the Glasgow Women’s rent strike at the start of the 1914-1918 war.

Mrs Barbour’s Army by Alistair Hulett

In the tenements o’ Glesga in the year one nine one five
It was one lang bloody struggle tae keep ourselves alive
We were coontin’ oot the coppers tae buy wor scraps o’ food
When the landlords put the rent up just because they could
A’ the factories were hummin’, there was overtime galore
But wages they were driven doon tae subsidise the war
Oot came Mrs. Barbour from her wee bit single end
She said, I’ll organise the lassies if I cannae rouse the men

‘Cos I’m from Govan and your from Partick
This one here’s from Bridge o’ Weir and they’re from Kinning Park
There’s some that’s prods, there’s some that’s catholic
But we’re Mrs. Barbour’s Army and we’re here tae dae the wark

Mrs. Barbour made a poster sayin’, We’ll no’ pay higher rent
Then she chapped on every door of every Govan tenement
She said, Pit this in the windae when you hear me bang the drum
We’ll run oot an’ chase the factor a’ the way tae kingdom come
When the poor wee soul cam roon’ he was battered black and blue
By a regiment in pinnies that knew just what tae do
Mrs. Barbour organised the gaitherin’ o’ the clans
And they burst oot o’ the steamie armed wi’ pots an’ fryin’ pans

Mrs. Barbour’s Army spread through Glesga like the plague
The maisters got the message and the message wisnae vague
While our menfolk fight the Kaiser we’ll stay hame & fight the war
Against all the greedy bastards who keep grindin’ doon the poor
If ye want tae stop conscription stand and fight the profiteers
Bring the hale big bloody sandpit crashin’ doon aroon’ their ears
We’ll no’ starve, said Mrs. Barbour, While the men we care for ain
Are marchin aff to hae their heart’s blood washed like water doon a drain

Well it didnae take the government that lang tae realise
If you crack doon on the leaders then the rest will compromise
They arrested Mrs. Barbour and they clapped her in the jile
Then they made an awfy big mistake, they let her oot on bail
She called men out the factories on the Clyde and on the Cart
They marched up tae the courthoose sayin’, We’ll tear the place apart
Mrs. Barbour’s Army brought the maisters tae their knees
Wi’ a regiment in pinnies backed by one in dungarees