Category Archives: Time period

Let’s Lock Ourselves Here For A While

We had the pleasure of singing for Frack Free Lancashire and Reclaim The Power on Friday. During the show, Robin had an excuse to teach the audience a song he wrote for Newham Woodcraft Folk group last year called ‘Let’s Lock Ourselves Here For A While‘. Here are the lyrics and a recording so anyone who wants to learn it can:

 

D G
I’ve a hundred old bike locks and they won’t undo
A D
Any idea who I could give them to?
D G
It’s a nice sunny day in the countryside
A D
Lets lock ourselves here for a while

So sorry Mr Big Truck what is that you say
Something quite cross about us being in your way
The birds are enjoying the day from the trees
Lets lock ourselves here for a while

No we ain’t going nowhere, let’s climb up the trees
Someone must stick up for the birds and the bees
The poor have no lawyers, the trees have no rights
Lets lock ourselves here for a while

Mr blue badge and truncheon is also upset
Doesn’t seem that grace has quite got to him yet
Filmed by a smart phone as he beats up Dave
who locked himself here for a while

They arrested our Caroline it made the lead news
One day the greens will out number the blues
Well in the meantime we’ll do what we must
Lets lock ourselves here for a while

Chorus

Mr suit and tie construction has a seat in the Lords
Our tattered democracy just filed for divorce
One day the people will speak out as one
until then we’ll be locked here a while

Slavery and the foundations of modern day economics

The evolution of capitalism in England and resulting land grabs both here and abroad can be arguably simplified to sheep, slavery and fossil fuels…

I found this (long read) article an excellent overview of the abominable role slavery took in the founding of modern day economics.

https://aeon.co/essays/why-the-original-laissez-faire-economists-loved-slavery

Petition of the Pigs in Kent

More info at a folk song a week blog – https://afolksongaweek.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/week-103-petition-of-the-pigs-in-kent/

Original text in 1809 magazine can be found here

Petition of the Pigs in Kent

Ye owners of woodlands, with all due submission
We humbly beg leave to present our petition
That you will be recall this your latest decree
Which tells us that acorns no longer are free

In Sussex and Surrey and Middlesex too
Pigs may ramble at large without much ado
So why then in Kent should pretences be found
To drive us like culprits and thieves to the pound

Since we and our fathers and others before ‘em
Have ranged in your woods with all proper decorum
No poachers are we for no game we annoy
No hares we entrap and no pheasants decoy

Contented are we if an acorn we find
Nor wish for a feast of a daintier kind
Besides we are told and perhaps not mistaken
That you and your friends love a slice of good bacon

But if of good bacon you all love a slice
If pigs are to starve, how can bacon be nice?
For these and for other wise reasons of state
We again our petition most humbly repeat

Ye owners of woodlands, with all due submission
We humbly beg leave to present our petition
That you will repeal this severest of laws
So your woods shall resound to our grunting applause

Duncan Bourne’s Land Corporation of Ireland song

Severine from The Greenhorns just sent me this ace song about the Land Corporation of Ireland by Duncan Bourne.

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.

Lyrics

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.

Excellent website on the Chartists with poems and songs

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.

Smile In Your Sleep – song about Scottish Highland Clearances

Ewan McLennan just suggested this song ‘Smile In Your Sleep‘ to me, written by Jim McLean about the Highland Clearances.

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

Ewan MacColl – Bring The Summer Home – 1381 The Great Revolt

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…

The Bold Poachers (The Oakham Poachers)

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!

On 1st January 2026, old footpaths and bridleways that are not recorded will be lost

People have been asking us for links about this – here are some links:
http://www.ramblers.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/dont-lose-your-way/historic-paths-and-definitive-maps-timeline.aspx

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/25/countdown-begins-to-prevent-loss-of-thousands-of-footpaths-and-alleyways

http://www.oss.org.uk/what-we-do/rights-of-way/the-deregulation-act/

A place called England – Maggie Holland

I was lucky enough to hear The Young’Uns open with ‘A Place Called England’ at a gig in Bristol last night. Here’s the original version by Maggie Holland – it won the award for Best Song at the BBC Folk Awards 1999. It’s all about gardens and English soil and has a nice reference to the diggers!

I rode out on a bright May morning like a hero in a song,
Looking for a place called England, trying to find where I belong.
Couldn’t find the old flood meadow or the house that I once knew;
No trace of the little river or the garden where I grew.

I saw town and I saw country, motorway and sink estate;
Rich man in his rolling acres, poor man still outside the gate;
Retail park and burger kingdom, prairie field and factory farm,
Run by men who think that England’s only a place to park their car.

But as the train pulled from the station through the wastelands of despair
From the corner of my eye a brightness filled the filthy air.
Someone’s grown a patch of sunflowers though the soil is sooty black,
Marigolds and a few tomatoes right beside the railway track.

Down behind the terraced houses, in between the concrete towers,
Compost heaps and scarlet runners, secret gardens full of flowers.
Meeta grows her scented roses right beneath the big jets’ path.
Bid a fortune for her garden—Eileen turns away and laughs.

So rise up, George, and wake up, Arthur, time to rouse out from your sleep.
Deck the horse with sea-green ribbons, drag the old sword from the deep.
Hold the line for Dave and Daniel as they tunnel through the clay,
While the oak in all its glory soaks up sun for one more day.

Come all you at home with freedom whatever the land that gave you birth,
There’s room for you both root and branch as long as you love the English earth.
Room for vole and room for orchid, room for all to grow and thrive;
Just less room for the fat landowner on his arse in his four-wheel drive.

For England is not flag or Empire, it is not money, it is not blood.
It’s limestone gorge and granite fell, it’s Wealden clay and Severn mud,
It’s blackbird singing from the May tree, lark ascending through the scales,
Robin watching from your spade and English earth beneath your nails.

So here’s two cheers for a place called England, sore abused but not yet dead;
A Mr Harding sort of England hanging in there by a thread.
Here’s two cheers for the crazy diggers, now their hour shall come around;
We shall plant the seed they saved us, common wealth and common ground.

A good New Statesmen article on Land Value Tax

This is worth a quick read. It is to the point and well written.

http://www.newstatesman.com/society/2010/10/land-tax-labour-britain

“It will be said that in a world of internationally mobile capital and people it is counterproductive to tax personal income and corporate profit to uncompetitive levels. That is right. But a progressive alternative is to shift the tax base to property, and land, which cannot run away, [and] represents in Britain an extreme concentration of wealth.”
Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat conference, Liverpool, 22 September 2010

Whiteway Colony in the Cotswolds

whiteway colony

A group of socialists bought 41 acres of land in the Cotswolds in 1898 and then burnt the deeds… Pretty radical stuff and one of the only ones still keeping many of its ideals alive today, largely as they have no choice!

We’d like to visit Whiteway Colony very much indeed – if anyone knows someone who lives there please do give them a nudge 😉

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiteway_Colony

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/3310858/What-a-carry-on-in-the-Cotswolds.html

The Land – The Liberal’s Land Value Tax song

“The song became a Liberal radical anthem in the aftermath of David Lloyd George’s “people’s budget” of 1909 which proposed a tax in land. During the two general elections of the following year, ‘The Land Song’ became the governing Liberals’ campaign song.” (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Land_%28song%29)

Sound the blast for freedom, boys, and send it far and wide,
March along to victory, for God is on our side,
While the voice of nature thunders o’er the rising tide:
“God made the land for the people”.

The land, the land, ’twas God who made the land,
The land, the land. The ground on which we stand,
Why should we be beggars with the ballot in our hand?
God gave the land to the people.

Hark! The shout is swelling from the east and from the west!
Why should we beg work and let the landlords take the best?
Make them pay their taxes for the land, we’ll risk the rest!
The land was meant for the people.

The banner has been raised on high to face the battle din,
The army now is marching on, the struggle to begin,
We’ll never cease our efforts ’til the victory we win,
And the land is free for the people.

Clear the way for liberty, the land must all be free,
Britons will not falter in the fight tho’ stern it be.
‘Til the flag we love so well shall wave from sea to sea,
O’er the land that’s free for the people.

Michael Perelman and the Invention Of Capitalism

michaelPerelmanSome interesting brain food here which resonates with much else of what I have read:

“Perelman outlines the many different policies through which peasants were forced off the land—from the enactment of so-called Game Laws that prohibited peasants from hunting, to the destruction of the peasant productivity by fencing the commons into smaller lots—but by far the most interesting parts of the book are where you get to read Adam Smith’s proto-capitalist colleagues complaining and whining about how peasants are too independent and comfortable to be properly exploited, and trying to figure out how to force them to accept a life of wage slavery.”
http://www.filmsforaction.org/news/recovered_economic_history_everyone_but_an_idiot_knows_that_the_lower_classes_must_be_kept_poor_or_they_will_never_be_industrious/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Perelman
https://is.vsfs.cz/el/6410/leto2013/BA_ETD/um/3968033/The_Invention_of_Capitalism.pdf

Hey Ho, Cook and Rowe by Peggy Seeger

This song by Peggy Seeger is about the St Pancras rent strikes in 1960

HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE! (Or The Landlord’s Nine Questions)
In 1960, the local council of the Borough of St. Pancras raised the rents of municipal flats.    Many working people found it difficult to meet the increased financial burden imposed upon them by these rents and, under the leadership of two “desert rats”   (Don Cook and Arthur Rowe), they organized a rent-strike which in a matter of two or three weeks became a national topic of conversation. The council’s bailiffs were sent in but were repelled after a preliminary skirmish and from that time on the rent strike took on the character of a military siege.

The tenants barricaded the buildings with barbed wire, old pianos and junk of all kinds, and from sympathisers the country over came a constant supply of canned food. The television coverage provided Britain with one of its most popular daily shows. An army of the police finally battoned their way through demonstrators to find that their only possible point of entry was through the roof. A group of intrepid police officers effected an entry and were greeted with the offer of a cup of tea from the strikers’ general staff.

See also http://www.ccradio.org/programmes/StPancrasRentStrike.html
http://www.islingtontribune.com/reviews/features/2010/oct/feature-st-pancras-rent-strike-1960-50-years
http://www.andrewwhitehead.net/nw5-and-around.html (at the bottom of the page)

HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!
(or: The Landlord’s Nine Questions)
Words and Music by Peggy Seeger

As true a story I’ll relate
(With a) HEY HOI COOK AND ROWE!
How the landlord told Don Cook one night,
(With a) HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!
You must answer questions nine
(With a) HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!
To see if your flat is yours or mine
(With a) HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!

CHORUS:
Hey, ho, tell them no
With a barb-wire fence and a piano,
Took a thousand cops to make them go,
Three cheers for Cook and Rowe!

What is higher than a tree? (With a, etc.)
And what is lower than a flea?
My rent is higher than a tree,
And the landlord’s lower than a flea.
(CHORUS)

What goes on and never stops?
And what is gentler than a cop?
The tenants’ fight will never stop
And the devil is gentler than a cop.
(CHORUS)

What is stronger than a door?
And tell me what a roof is for?
Barb-wire is stronger, here’s your proof,
The bailiffs came in through the roof.
(CHORUS)
Will you get off my property?
Or will you pay the rent to me?
We’ve settled in as you can see,
Now, won’t you stop for a cup of tea?
(CHORUS)

O, now I’ve lost my board and bed,
I’ll barricade the streets instead.
So all you tenants, settle in,
Keep up the fight, you’re bound to win.
(CHORUS)

Bristol Radical History Group pamphlets

brhgI have been really enjoying reading a number of pamphlets which I picked up recently from ‘Bristol Radical History Group‘ who seem to do a lot of great work down in the south west.

This one on Anglo-Saxon Democracy is of particular interest, although there are many others which I will write up at some point soon.

These few paragraphs are good food for thought, the italics in the last paragraph are mine:

———————————-

The Rise of the Church

If the major cause of the retreat of Anglo-Saxon democracy is the increasing use of charters to create bookland beyond the control of the local courts and thus the local community then it also has to be accepted that the use of charters to gain rights and privileges at the expense of the local populace was first introduced by the Roman Catholic church and all of the charters of pre-Conquest England were denrived from the form of the private charter of the later Roman empire.

In the late 7th century, the English church began to centralise and introduce a hierarchy of ecclesiastical authority that matched that of Rome which since the 4th century had created an organisation that had a bureaucracy based on the Roman army.

This was a level of organisation considerably more structured and bureaucratic than the secular English kingdom had managed. The missionaries from continental Europe who converted the English south of the Humber also brought with them their own views about the nature of political authority. Increasingly ideology from the Late Roman Empire and its early medieval successors under the Franks influenced how royal government was practiced in England.

The Anglo-Saxon view of a king as being chosen by the witan and whose most important duty was to maintain the peace and to ensure the security of the people was becoming replaced by the Frankish view of kings being chosen by God to protect the Christian faith and convert the pagan.

Edward Thomas writing about the state of the land and rights of access

southcountryEdward Thomas writing about the state of the land and rights of access taken from ‘The South Country’ (1906).

You can buy a lovely edition of the book from Little Toller here – http://littletoller.co.uk/bookshop/nature-classics/the-south-country/ or see a digital version here – https://archive.org/stream/southcountry00thomuoft/southcountry00thomuoft_djvu.txt

CHAPTER XVI

255-7 THE END OF SUMMER KENT BERKSHIRE — HAMPSHIRE SUSSEX THE FAIR

The road mounts the low Downs again. The bound-less stubble is streaked by long bands of purple-brown, the work of seven ploughs to which the teams and their carters, riding or walking, are now slowly descending by different ways over the slopes and jingling in the rain. Above is a Druid moor bounded by beech-clumps, and crossed by old sunken ways and broad grassy tracks. It is a land of moles and sheep.

At the end of a shattered line of firs a shepherd leans, bunched under his cape of sacking, to watch his black- faced flock dull-tinkling in the short furze and among the tumuli under the constant white rain. Those old roads, being over hilly and open land, are as they were before the making of modern roads, and little changed from what they were before the Roman. But it is a pity to see some of the old roads that have been left to the sole protection of the little gods.

One man is stronger than they, as may be known by any one who has seen the bones, crockery, tin and paper thrown by Shere and Cocking into the old roads near by as into a dust-bin; or seen the gashes in the young trees planted down Gorst Road, Wandsworth Common; or the saucy “Private” at the entrance to a lane worn by a hundred generations through the sand a little north of Petersfield; or the barbed wire fastened into the living trees alongside the footpath over a neighbouring hill that has lately been sold.

What is the value of every one’s right to use a footpath if a single anti-social exclusive landowning citizen has the right to make it intolerable except to such as consider it a place only for the soles of the feet? The builder of a house acquires the right to admit the sunlight through his window. Cannot the users of a footpath acquire a right, during the course of half-a-dozen dynasties or less, to the sight of the trees and the sky which that footpath gives them in its own separate way?

At least I hope that footpaths will soon cease to be defined as a line — length without breadth — connecting one point with another. In days when they are used as much for the sake of the scenes historic or beautiful through which they pass as of the villages or houses on this hand or that, something more than the mere right to tread upon a certain ribbon of grass or mud will have to be preserved if the preservation is to be of much use, and the right of way must become the right of view and of very ancient lights as well.

By enforcing these rights some of the mountains of the land might even yet be saved, as Mr. Henry S. Salt wishes to save them.^ In the meantime it is to be hoped that his criticisms will not be ignored by the tourists who leave the Needle Gully a cascade of luncheon wrappings and the like; for it is not from a body of men capable of such manners that a really effective appeal against the sacrifice of *’ our mountains ” to commercial and other selfishness is like to spring.

And those lone wayside greens, no man’s gardens, measuring a few feet wide but many miles in length- why should they be used either as receptacles for the dust of motor-cars or as additions to the property of the landowner who happens to be renewing his fence ? They used to be as beautiful and cool and fresh as rivers, these green sisters of the white roads — illuminated borders of many a weary tale. But now, lest there should be no room for the dust, they are turning away from them the gypsies who used to camp there for a night.

The indolent District Council that is anxious to get rid of its difficulties — for the moment — at the expense of a neighbouring district — it cares not — will send out its policemen to drive away the weary horses and sleeping children from the acre of common land which had hitherto been sacred — to what? — to an altar, a statue, a fountain, a seat? — No! to a stately notice-board; half-a-century ago the common of which this is a useless patch passed on easy terms to the pheasant lords. The gypsies have to go. Give them a pitch for the night and you are regarded as an enemy of the community or perhaps even as a Socialist.

The gypsies shall be driven from parish to parish, and finally settle down as squalid degenerate nomads in a town where they lose what beauty and courage they had, in adding to the difficulties of another council. Yet if they were in a cage or a compound which it cost money
to see, hundreds would pay for a stare at their brown faces and bright eyes, their hooped tents, their horses, their carelessness of the crowd, and in a few years an imitation of these things will be applauded in a ” pageant ” of the town which has destroyed the reality.

thomas_2099443ba

 

The Super Rich And Us by Jacques Peretti

This is some of the best TV documentary journalism I have seen in a long time.

Hats off to Jacques Peretti – @jacquesperetti – https://twitter.com/jacquesperetti

super rich

Jacques Peretti investigates how the super-rich are transforming Britain. In part one, he looks at why the wealthy were drawn to Britain and meets the super-rich themselves.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04xw2x8/the-superrich-and-us-episode-1

Jacques Peretti investigates how the super-rich are transforming Britain. In the final part, he looks at how inequality was pinpointed as a business opportunity.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04yn2yq/the-superrich-and-us-episode-2