Category Archives: 1900’s

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?

Natives by Akala

Race and class in the ruins of empire

We are major Akala fans here in the herd and regularly send his various short youtube videos over to folks for homework.

I’m not going to write about this book here because The Guardian’s book review does all really good job of inspiring you to read it.

After you’ve read this, The Many Headed Hydra is a great companion book to dive deeper.

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

Where Beards Wag All by George Ewart Evans

A really beautiful insight into the last days of peasant agriculture in England before the post war mechanisation of agriculture and the role of the oral tradition in rural communities.

From his landmark study of rural life in East Anglia, Ask the Fellows Who Cut the Hay (1956), George Ewart Evans set about, in a series of books, unveiling the sylvan round of myth and merriment, plenty and hardship, that informed the traditions and texture of country living. Core to his chronicles is the oral tradition, echoing through the years, and it is this that he concentrates upon in Where Beards Wag All (1970). Here are the memories, unmediated and raw, of the craftsman, the drover, the marshman – a chorus to the seasons’ constant turn. And it is by no means an idyll they describe: thrift and want, poverty and subjection are often their lyric. The depression of the 1930s is vividly brought to life, and a particularly affecting section details the migration of East Anglian farm-workers to the maltings of Burton-on-Trent. Where Beards Wag All is a touching and faithful portrait of the countryside of fading memory.

Cotters and Squatters by Colin Ward

This book is magnificent and tragically out of press with second hand copies going for silly money. I’ve tried to persuade the publisher to re-issue it or to make it available digitally but to no avail yet. Succint, throughly readable and utterly compelling, I hope your local library can sort you out with a copy.

Squatters were the original householders, and this book explores the story of squatter settlements in England and Wales, from our cave-dwelling ancestors to the squeezing out of cottagers in the enclosure of the commons.

There is a widespread folk belief that if a house could be erected between sundown and sunset the occupants had the right to tenure and could not be evicted. Often enquiry into the manorial court rolls shows this to be the case. Unofficial roadside settlements or encroachments onto the ‘wastes’ between parishes provided space for the new miners, furnacemen and artisans who made the industrial revolution, while cultivating a patch of ground and keeping a pig and some chickens. Colin Ward’s book, full of local anecdote and glimpses of surviving evidence, links the hidden history of unofficial settlements with the issues raised by 20th century squatters and the 21st century claims that ‘The Land is Ours’.

Colin presents a wealth of fascinating anecdote, analysis and polemic highlighting the sheer variety of ways individuals have created sustainable homes and livelihoods in nooks and crannies at the margins of society.” Regeneration and Renewal

“Rural squatters are now only a footnote in social history. Their families built themselves a house on some unregarded patch of land… For years, the environmental humanist Colin Ward has tried to rescue such people from the mythology of heritage museums, the indulgences of romantic novelists and the dust of local archives; and to draw lessons from them for today. Cotters and Squatters is the latest vivid instalment of his campaign.” The Independent

“Ward is not averse to a little squalor, or at least untidiness.The modern countryside is altogether too neatly packaged and sewn-up for the benefits of the well-off, he feels. Overzealous planning laws, and what he calls “the suffocating nimbyism of the countryside lobby, with its Range Rover culture,” are dismissed as an affront to rural history. His new book is an exploration of the long struggle of the rural poor to acquire and keep a roof over their heads.” The Guardian

A lovely succint history overview (England and Forest of Dean)

Well this short history overview (taken from http://cabiners.wum.land/Wum-Land-Development_intro_to_LID.pdf) is really rather good and covers much of the same stations as the show plus a few more that didn’t quite make the cut, due to lack of time rather than historical badassness. There is another excellent piece more specific to the Forest of Dean here https://cabiners.wum.land/history.html

450 to 1066 – Anglo-Saxon Charters grant land to ‘lay people’ (commoners), set-up the administrative areas that correspond closely to our modern parish boundaries. The earliest surviving charter of King Hlothhere of Kent was drawn up in AD 670.

1066-7 Norman invasion displaces Anglo-Saxon commons/ land ownership model. William the Bastard declares that all land, animals and people in the country belong to him personally. This was as alien to the Isle’s customs as the colonial land-grabs were to the First Nations of America. Still today, the monarch’s land monopoly remains, in theory and practise, a legal reality. Land is parcelled up and given as payment to Williams forces. We go from a country in which >90% of people owned land, to a country of landless serfs, themselves owned by foreign lords.

1066-70 The ‘Greenmen’ resist the Norman invasion. Wearing camouflage, they run guerilla warfare campaigns against the invaders who called them the ‘silvatici’ (the men of the woods).

1069–70 the ‘Harrying of the North’, William burnt down every building between York and Durham, and killed by starvation or sword over one hundred thousand people. Many of the largest land owners in this country still today proudly trace their family tree back to ancestors who were involved in this bloodbath.

1135 – 1154 Civil war during the reign of Stephen saw the strength of the regional lords/ barons rise relative to the Crown as they established political and judicial arenas other than those defined by the Crown- creating a degree of regionalisation. England’s population more than doubled during 12th and 13th centuries stressing the economically inefficient land monopolies.

1215 Barons forced King John to limit his own power by signing Magna Carta which restated certain ancient, customary rights. Some of which were pre-Norman, and likely echoed back to our ancient oral traditions, existing long before the Roman invasion.

1217 Charter of the Forest re-established rights for Freemen to access and make use of the Royal Forests without persecution.

1235 – Statute of Merton encouraged landowners to convert arable land into pasture, as demand for British wool increased. Displacing traditional peasant agriculturalists and farmers. Commons Act 1236 allowed lords to enclose common land. Wool was the backbone and driving force of the medieval English economy between the late thirteenth century and late fifteenth century the trade (a primary driver of enclosure) was called “the jewel in the realm” or ‘half the wealth of the kingdom’. Statutes of Westminster 1275/ 85/ 90- restrict subtenure/ sale of parcels of land (a threat to state land monopoly) other than to the direct heirs of the landlord. It was prompted by certain lords who were dissatisfied with increasing amount of subtenures. These restrictions gave rise to ‘livery and maintenance’ or ‘bastard feudalism’, i.e. the retention and control by the nobility of land, money, soldiers and servants via salaries, land sales and rent. In-effect, this was the start of modern wage-slavery, and still works today, to ensure the regions remain economically dependent on the core, via state subsidised and enforced land monopoly to restrict regional economic and thus political power.

Rising European merchant class capitalised on mass production of wool being facilitated by displacing agrarian communities.

British wool became very sought after in Europe. Increasing demand for British wool, led to more mass displacement of peasants–generating an landless ‘class’ of urban dependents.

Great Famine 1315 and the Black Death 1348 killed >1/3 of the population, forcing the landed classes to value the productive members of their society (the peasants) who grew all the food.

1337-1453, Hundred Year War vs France, financed by merchant capital to gain control of the Flemish wool industry and weavers.

1340-1380 purchasing power of rural labourers increased 40%.

1351/ 49 The Labourers Acts were the nobilities reaction to the rising bargaining power of peasants, they fixed wages to ‘preplague levels’, restricted free movement and price-fixed foods.

1377 John of Gaunt imposed a new tax, the Poll (head) Tax.

1381 Peasants Revolt : Kentish rebels joined by many townsfolk, entered London. They destroy gaols, burned down Savoy Palace (Gaunts home), plundered Lambeth Palace, burnt books and buildings in the Temple, killed anyone associated with the royal government. The following day, Richard met the rebels at Mile End and acceded their demands, including the abolition of serfdom & poll tax (the only promise not reneged soon after)

1400-1409 Owain Glynd r last native Prince of Wales (Tywysog Cymru) viewed as a de facto King, led the ‘Welsh Revolt’ rapidly gaining control of large areas of Wales. Eventually his forces were overrun by the English, but despite the large rewards offered, Glynd r was never betrayed. His death was recorded by his kinsman in the year 1415, it is said he joined the ranks of King Arthur, and awaits the call to return and liberate his people.

1450 – Jack Cade led an army of Kentish peasants (described by ‘Shakespeare’ as “the filth and scum of Kent”) the rebels persuaded first army dispatched to pack up & go home, skilfully evaded a second of 15,000 men led by Henry VI, defeated third army in battle, killing two of the king’s generals in the process.

1450–1451 John and William Merfold’s Uprising centred around Sussex, mostly comprised of artisans pillaging and killing local gentry and clergy. “[The rebels wished] as lollards and heretics, to hold everything in common.” – the King’s Indictment, 1451

1489 Depopulation Act ‘agaynst pullying doun of Tounes’, Kings introduce anti-enclosure acts, due to widespread clearances, and the depopulation of entire villages. There were to be 11 similar Acts & eight commissions of enquiry over next 150 years. Henry VIII legislates against early cloth factories & enclosures, a primary source of wealth for the emerging ‘middle class’ of land owners, but lacked the strength to fully implement his changes.

1515 Henry VIII orders all pasture be converted back to arable in an attempt to reign in fortunes being made by the merchants.

1536 to 1541 – Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII privatising church lands (then 1/5th of the land), generating even more landless people, wholly dependent on urban wage-slavery.

1549 Kett’s anti-enclosure rebels 16,000 strong, took Norwich. Kett was 57 years old and one of the areas wealthier farmers. Erection of Cottages Act 1588 “against erecting and maintaining of Cottages” by people with less than four acres of freehold land. Prevent people building homes, farming remaining common land There is a surprising amount of continuity, in ‘open field systems’ from the fourth millennium BC up until the Norman invasion. Communal land management originated centuries, perhaps millennia before the Anglo-Saxon era. In Anglo-Saxon land law or ‘folkland’, as it was called, land was held in allodial title by the group, individual ownership did occur but it was limited to ensure the needs of the group were met.

1607 the agrarian changes (depopulation, enclosure) in the Midlands had produced mass armed revolts of the peasantry.

1607 to 1636, Government pursued an active anti-enclosure policy. Charles I, the ‘Commoners’ King’ was ‘re-commoning’ lands enclosed by lords and merchants, just before Civil War.

1620 Sir Edward Coke ‘greatest of English judges’, and a keen opponent of enclosure, declared depopulation against the laws of the realm ‘the encloser who kept a shepherd and dog in place of a flourishing village community was hateful to God and man.’ Ethnically cleansing ‘peasants’ is a clear violation of our ancient Common Law of Tort which is ‘cause no injury, harm or loss’

1626–1632 The Western Rising was a series of riots in the Dean and other Forests against disafforestation of royal forests

“In 1633-4 we find a proposal that all inclosures made since James I. should be thrown back into arable on pain of forfeiture” Enclosers still prosecuted in the Star Chamber as late as 1639.

1638 in the Forest of Dean “The deer were to be disposed of, as demoralizing the inhabitants and injuring the young wood; the commissioners recommended ejecting the cottagers who had established themselves in the Forest, as often before, in defiance of authority, and who numbered upwards of 2,000, occupying 589 cottages, besides 1,798 small enclosures containing 1,385 acres. As to defraying the cost of executing the above works, the commissioners recommended the sale of about 440 acres of detached Crown land adjoining the Forest” Charles I gave a short break in enclosures, he’s then beheaded. Post civil war enclosures accelerated by a largely landowning Parliament, blighting our entire population to this present day.

1642-1651 English Civil War, old feudal v.s. merchant powers.

1649 mass-redistribution, Cromwell sells 1,677 Royalist Estates

1649 Gerrard Winstanley with a peasant army, called the ‘True Levellers’ (later diggers) declaim the Earth a Common Treasury. The Diggers print radical protestant literature, aimed at reforming the social order with an agrarian lifestyle based on the creation of small egalitarian, self-sufficient rural communities, an ecological interrelationship between humans and nature, “true freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and preservation, and that is in the use of the Earth.”

1659, Forest riots ‘probably excited by the efforts which the Government had recently made for the re-afforesting of 18,000 acres; to effect which 400 cabins of poor people, living upon the waste, and destroying the wood and timber, were thrown down.’ English nationalist discourse in the mid-17th century spoke of throwing off the ‘Norman yoke’ – i.e. feudalism, land monopoly.

1671 Game Act made it illegal to hunt wild animals, considered a common right since time immemorial. Also illegal for farmers to protect crops from rabbits, other animals. Starvation or crime. Around now modern banking arrived in England from Holland leading to a century of boom and bust bubbles, expensive wars in which banking families made huge profits funding both sides.

1680 in the FOD “there were remaining about 30 cabins, in several parts of the Forest, inhabited by about 100 poor people, (The Crown) had taken care to demolish the said cabins, and the enclosures about them.” These were not the Forest “free miners”, although “they had been born in it, and never lived elsewhere,” but as “cabiners,” who had to work seven years in the pits before they could become “free.” Freedom=Slavery. Glorious Revolution of 1688 leading to the Bill of Rights 1689.

1700-1850 Parliamentary Enclosures, no longer held back by sections of the Church, nor the power of Monarchs- enclosures increase exponentially in speed and size, urban slums grow too.

By 1700 half all arable lands enclosed, by 1815 nearly all farm land was enclosed, hunting, grazing, gleaning rights all but lost.

From 1750 to 1820 desperate poachers were ‘hanged en-mass’

1790-1830 a third of rural population migrates to urban slums. Where they are put to work in factories, workhouses called by Blake the “Satanic Mills” of modernity, i.e. ‘Industrial Revolution’.

1788 Mr. Miles Hartland, assistant-deputy-surveyor stated to the Dean Forest Commissioners, “cottages and encroachments in the Forest have nearly doubled within the last forty years.”

1811 – 1816 Concerned that machines would replace their highskill labour, the Luddites smash machinery, threaten industrialist. Luddites were not anti technology, they were pro-workers rights. Early 1800’s Industrialist Robert Owen talks of a ‘moral rebirth’ and sets about improving the living conditions of his workers.

1800-1850 Highland Clearances led to the displacement of up to 500,000 Highland peasants and crofters, tens of thousands of which died in the early-mid the 19th century, to be replaced by sheep. A member of the British Aristocracy noted ‘It is time to make way for the grand-improvement of mutton over man.’

1808 Dean Forest Timber Act 1814-1816 11,000 acres enclosed

1831, Warren James with 100 Foresters, demolished enclosures at Park Hill, between Parkend and Bream. 50 unarmed Crown Officers were powerless to intervene. Soon a party of 50 soldiers arrived from Monmouth, but by now the number of Foresters had grown to around 2000 and the soldiers returned to barracks. squadron of heavily armed soldiers arrived from Doncaster and the day after, another 180 infantrymen from Plymouth James was sentenced to death, later transportation to Tasmania.

1845 – 1852 Irish Potato ‘Famine’, as British troops seized foods, to be exported at gun-point leaving the Irish population to starve.

1845 and 1849: 616 major landlords owned 95% of the British Isles and rented marginal lands to land-workers (peasants).

1849 Forest of Dean ‘a general feeling prevailed against the deer, on the ground of their demoralising influence as an inducement to poaching, and all were ordered to be destroyed, there being perhaps 150 bucks, 300 does. “if once men begin to poach, we can never reckon upon their working afterwards.” Mr. Nicholson’s statement before Lord Duncan’s Committee

1872 the British Government published ‘The Return of the Owners of Land’, only the second audit of land to have taken place in British history, the other being the Domesday book. After 2 years of gathering all the information the returns found that 1 million people owned freeholds, about 5% of the population. 10 Dukes owned over 100,000 acres each with the Duke of Sutherland owning 1,350,000 acres, 1/50th of the entire country. Return of Owners of Land, confirmed that 0.6 per cent of the population owned 98.5% of the land. Half of Britain was owned by 0.06% of the population. Findings still well hidden till this day.

Late 1800 industrialists build villages for workers, in anticipation of higher productivity. Strict, religious ‘rules’ concerning drinking, dancing, singing or fraternising with opposite sex were common.

Late 1800s – early 1900s land reforms start making headway, allotment acts, numerous attempts to introduce a land value tax- to return tax burden to large land owners. Landowners fear land may soon become a liability, so they sell >1/2million acres in a short space of time- though mostly to other large landowners.

1899 Commons Act permits district councils, national park authorities to manage commons for ‘exercise and recreation’.

1900-1946 ¼ of a billion Europeans die from war, famine or as a result of war. Enables land-grabbing on an unprecedented scale.

1920-47 Plotlands were the first chance for workers to own land and build dwellings on it – they lead to the invention of Planning Laws to prevent poor people building houses in the countryside.

1925 Law of Property Act s.193 gave the right of the public to “air and exercise” on Metropolitan commons, but not rural commons.

1925 Land registry begins, to-date about 50% of land registered.

1930’s ‘Green Revolution’, a euphemism for the petrochemical based agriculture of the (post-)war period, has succeeded only in finding and expanding new ‘markets’ for the petrochemical corporations who became incredibly wealthy and politically influential by selling fuel & chemical weapons during the wars. In fact, many of the insecticides and herbicides sprayed on our foods today are modified or sometimes even just ‘rebranded’ chemicals originally designed as weapons of war. Of course, the exact same chemical corporations also manufacture and sell pharmaceutical drugs, which make additional revenue ‘treating’ the ‘diseases of civilisation’ which so often result from exposure to these chemical. As the head of I.G. Farben infamously said… “we intend to make the human-body, our market place.” Currently more than 70 per cent of UK land is owned by fewer than two per cent of the population. Much of which is directly traceable to Guillaume (William) the Bastard/ Conqueror whose 22nd great-granddaughter sits upon the ‘English’ throne still today. Meanwhile, Britain’s 16.8 million homeowners account for barely 4 per cent of the land, about the same as that owned by the Forestry Commission. Today, Britain has the second most unequal distribution of land ownership on Earth, after Brazil.

1962 start of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), largest political bribery structure ever conceived by man.

1981, The Foresters won an exemption from Forestry Act’s land sales. Then MP Paul Marland quickly changed his mind about supporting the sale saying… “Today’s Forester is of the same independent mind and rugged character as were his forefathers. It is our duty to preserve his ancient rights and traditions”. Take note!

1986 Inheritance taxes finish off remaining Anglo-Norman landed gentry, well, those not already in-bed with ‘globalist’ financiers.

1996, 500 ‘The Land is Ours’ activists occupied 13 acres of derelict land on the banks of the River Thames in Wandsworth.

In 1999, the British activist group ‘The Land is Ours’ celebrated the Digger movement’s 350th anniversary with a march and reoccupation of Saint George’s Hill, site of the first Digger colony. CROW Act 2000 recognised ‘freedom to roam’ on common land.

2008, first low-impact development granted planning permission to Tony Wrench & ‘that round-house’, after attempted eviction failed.

2009, nearly a hundred activists converged on a piece of derelict land at Kew Bridge in south west London to create an ‘eco-village’.

2010 HOOF successfully fought nationwide forest sell-off from public bodies bill, leading to the government backing down and setting up the Independent Panel of Forestry, which concluded that, “

2012 Wilderness Centre reopened in Spring, Yorkley Court’s ‘disorderly settlement’ begins in the Autumn of that year.

2012 “Runnymede Eco-Village started by ‘the Diggers 2012’ who are modelled after Gerald Winstanley’ Diggers of 1649. Successes of Low-impact development planning policy in Wales, under the ‘One Planet Development’ scheme -the flagship project is Lammas eco-village in Pembrokeshire. Oxford University produces a DNA map of Britian which reveals that “most people in Great Britian still live in the tribal teritories which existed over 1000 years ago.” Geneticist Professor Sir Walter Bodmer of Oxford University said: “What it shows is the extraordinary stability of the British population. Britain hasn’t changed much since 600AD.

https://cabiners.wum.land/history.html

(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

Fabulous essay on the history of Glasgow around the 1914-1918 ‘great’ war

It’s a long read but this is a fabulous essay on the history of Glasgow around the 1914-1918 ‘great’ war. Featuring Mrs Barbour’s Army which some of you will know of from Three Acres And A Cow shows.

https://portside.org/2020-01-09/radical-atmosphere-red-clyde

Wikipedia also has a dedicated page to Red Clydeside which is how this period of history is often known

(1814*) Dùthaich Mhic Aoidh by Ewan Robertson

Mo mhallachd aig na caoraich mhòr
My curse upon the great sheep
Càit a bheil clann nan daoine còir
Where now are the children of the kindly folk
Dhealaich rium nuair bha mi òg
Who parted from me when I was young
Mus robh Dùthaich ‘IcAoidh na fàsach?
Before Sutherland became a desert?

Tha trì fichead bliadhna ‘s a trì
It has been sixty-three years
On dh’fhàg mi Dùthaich ‘IcAoidh
Since I left Sutherland
Cait bheil gillean òg mo chrìdh’
Where are all my beloved young men
‘S na nìonagan cho bòidheach?
And all the girls that were so pretty?

Shellar, tha thu nist nad uaigh
Sellar, you are in your grave
Gaoir nam bantrach na do chluais
The wailing of your widows in your ears
Am milleadh rinn thu air an t-sluagh
The destruction you wrought upon the people
Ron uiridh ‘n d’ fhuair thu d’ leòr dheth?
Up until last year, have you had your fill of it?

Chiad Dhiùc Chataibh, led chuid foill
First Duke of Sutherland, with your deceit
‘S led chuid càirdeis do na Goill
And your consorting with the Lowlanders
Gum b’ ann an Iutharn’ bha do thoill
You deserve to be in Hell
Gum b’ fheàrr Iùdas làmh rium
I’d rather consort with Judas

Bhan-Diùc Chataibh, bheil thu ad dhìth
Duchess of Sutherland, where are you now?
Càit a bheil do ghùnan sìod?
Where are your silk gowns?
An do chùm iad thu bhon oillt ‘s bhon strì
Did they save you from the hatred and fury
Tha an diugh am measg nan clàraibh?

Which today permeates the press?

Mo mhallachd aig na caoraich mhòr
My curse upon the great sheep
Càit a bheil clann nan daoine còir
Where now are the children of the kindly folk
Dhealaich rium nuair bha mi òg
Who parted from me when I was young
Mus robh Dùthaich ‘IcAoidh na fàsach?

(1960) Freedom Come All Ye by Hamish Henderson

I was told about Hamish Henderson a few weeks ago and just spent a delightful hour making friends with his best known song ‘Freedom Come All Ye’.

There have been a few translations into English but I didn’t really like any of them so I’ve written my own, building on unattributed previous efforts. It’s such a shame that ‘down’ and ‘bloom’, and ‘more’ and ‘bare’ don’t rhyme in my southern English accent!

Hamish Henderson – Freedom Come All Ye

Original scots:

Roch the wind in the clear day’s dawin
Blaws the cloods heilster-gowdie owre the bay
But there’s mair nor a roch wind blawin
Thro the Great Glen o the warld the day

It’s a thocht that wad gar oor rottans
Aa thae rogues that gang gallus fresh an gay
Tak the road an seek ither loanins
Wi thair ill-ploys tae sport an play

Nae mair will our bonnie callants
Merch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw
Nor wee weans frae pitheid an clachan
Mourn the ships sailin doun the Broomielaw

Broken faimlies in lands we’ve hairriet
Will curse ‘Scotlan the Brave’ nae mair, nae mair
Black an white ane-til-ither mairriet
Mak the vile barracks o thair maisters bare

Sae come aa ye at hame wi freedom
Never heed whit the houdies croak for Doom
In yer hoos aa the bairns o Adam
Will find breid, barley-bree an paintit rooms

When Maclean meets wi’s friens in Springburn
Aa thae roses an geans will turn tae blume
An the black lad frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o the burghers doun.

Robin’s English translation

Rough the wind in the clear day’s dawning
Blows the clouds topsy turvy about the bay,
But there’s more than a rough wind blowing
Through the great glen of the world today.

It’s a thought that will make our tyrants
(Rogues who fancy themselves so fine and gay)
Take the road, and seek other pastures
For their ill ploys to sport and play

No more will our bonnie callants
March to war when our braggarts crousely craw,
Nor wee ones from pit-head and hamlet
Mourn the ships sailin’ down the Broomielaw.

Broken families in lands we’ve harried,
Will curse our names no more, no more;
Black and white, hand in hand together,
Will drive the tyrants from every shore

So come all ye at home with Freedom,
Never heed the crooked hoodies croak for doom.
In your house all the bairns of Adam
Can find bread, barley-bree and painted room.

When MacLean meets with friends in Springburn
Sweet the flowers will all bloom that day for thee
And a black boy from old Nyanga
Will break his chains and know liberty

Politics, performance and pageant in the 1930s

The lovely Peter Beader (AKA Pete The Temp) has been doing a tonne of research recently for his new book ‘Stage Invasion: Poetry & The Spoken Word Renaissance‘ and his new show ‘Homer to Hip Hop: a History of Spoken Word‘.

He came across an essay about a political pageant from the 1930s which has an interesting overlap with the structure of our show. The published essay is behind an academic paywall here but the author Mick Wallis has kindly provided his private copy of the essay which you can download from here if you don’t have an academic login to download from the link above.

Taken from the essay, here is the structure of a pageant performed to thousands of people in a stadium in the late 1930s:

Music and the People

Introduction

1. Feudal England. A canon from 1350; songs ‘that have lived in the peasant tradition for centuries, only lately collected because they were beginning to be forgotten’; a primitive fertility ritual dance; a Hebridean spinning song. (No dramatic action.)

2. The Massacre of the Innocents. Parts of two pageant-plays are performed, as if to the villagers: after the famous complaint from the Second Shepherds’ Play, Herod and the Innocents – ‘no doubt much of its popularity owed much to the memory of the massacres of their own people after the rising of 1381’; the song King Herod and the Cock in which ‘the invincible spirit’ wins against the oppressor; a choir of early Christians, following an introductory verse by Paul Robeson; and, since ‘the play’s not finished yet’
(i.e., of history) the Basque Lullaby.

3. Peasants in Revolt. A return to 1381: John Ball addresses the crowd; a signal arrives from him; the march on London, singing The Cutty Wren; Tyler’s meeting with Richard II, and murder (‘All words spoken in this scene, except for the commentary of the Speaker, are taken from authentic records’); all the men of the Mass Chorus (nine choirs) sing The German Peasants’ Song.

Interlude. ‘The ancient ritual carried on / And the forbidden message spoke’: members of the Woodcraft Folk ‘come on in small numbers, like conspirators, and perform the Stag-Dance’, part of the cult which was ‘the bond of unity between the harassed peasants’.

4. Soldiers of Freedom. Two Announcers briefly set the scene for 1649 (the episode is not concerned with celebrating Cromwell). ‘One king may be dead, but who still owns the land? Six Levellers and the actor-singer Parry Jones sit at tavern tables and sing; an Announcer recounts their talk as they remain in tableau; a group of dancers; some Diggers brought on in ropes by soldiers; an Announcer hails them in verse while the soldiers
order drinks; the Diggers sing Stand up Now.

5. Village Green to Concert Hall. Announcer’s verse reports the break-up of rural communities and the appropriation of their culture by bourgeois institutions; ‘A group of dancers enters and performs to the tunes from which The Beggar’s Opera was concocted. At the end of their dance, a proscenium arch appears over the platform, and a scene from the play is performed to the dancers as audience.

Interval

6. Changing Europe. 1792. French revolution, singing the Carmagnole, verses 1 and 2, dressed as French peasants of 1790

7. Prisoners. ‘Ludwig van Beethoven descends from rostrum’; ‘But who are these / In modern clothes appearing / Their haggard eyes / The brand of torture like a web of scorpions wearing?’; prisoners from the Nazi concentration camps enter and sing the Peat-Bog Soldiers’ Song.

8. Slaves. ‘Following this train of thought’, John Payne and his Negro Choir enter as slaves, singing a chain-gang song, a cotton-picking song, and some ‘songs of freedom, led by one of the foremost champions of freedom’, Paul Robeson’.

9. The People Advance. As Robeson’s Kneelin’ Low ends, the Mass Chorus sings the Chartist We’re Low and the Speaker takes up a prose narrative to take us forward to trade unionism – ‘To every trade its club, to every club its song’ – and ‘the Trades Unionists sit round a table and sing their song’ (unspecified), ‘the verse sung solo’; ‘the tide rose apace’, and in a few sentences taking in the Co-operative Movement, the Speaker takes us to the late 1880s – a crowd headed by William Morris enters, singing People of England; the Speaker relates the killing by the police of the demonstrator in Trafalgar Square in 1880, and William Morris gives his famous ‘Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay’; the Chorus marches off to the Russian 1905 Funeral March, ‘that now commemorates all those who have fallen in the fight for freedom’.

The Speaker makes a summation in verse of the Pageant, and reflects on its meanings for us now:

And having present struggles and despairs
Sharp in our minds, remember too
The past whose urgent influence prepares
The issues of today, and know that you
By today’s action map the future’s road….
Never so needed was that single will
That unity of the people, to fulfil
The claim for freedom, and to ensure our peace…
It is time we answered, as they answer now
In Spain, in China, in every tortured land….
Let our song rise whose simple power
Can flood the boundaries that divide us still
And make our common hope, our single will.

Then a procession of groups: Christian Hymn; Levellers’ Song; Marseillaise; People of England; ‘Bandera Rossa’ ; German Solidarity Song; Chinese Student Song; Spanish National Anthem; (and now not representations but actual) veterans of the International Brigade led by Fred Copeman; the Negro Choir. Paul Robeson sings The Land of Freedom, ‘the great song of liberated Soviet humanity’, with the Acting Chorus (twelve choirs); Tom Mann, the Dean of Canterbury, and Fred Copeman speak briefly on the theme ‘Music and the People’ . Finally, all (audience included) sing the American Men Awake! the Day is Dawnin

(1780) Die Gedanken Sind Frei

This is a lovely old Germany song which may be super old, but as ever, no one really knows… Here is what wikipedia has to say, and below is Pete Seeger’s adaptation into English. Note that these words are slightly different to the version embedded above. You can hear another version here but for some reason it will not embed outside of YouTube.

Die gedanken sind frei, my thoughts freely flower
Die gedanken sind frei, my thoughts give me power
No scholar can map them, no hunter can trap them
No man can deny, die gedanken sind frei

I think as I please and this gives me pleasure
My conscience decrees, this right I must treasure
My thoughts will not cater to duke or dictator
No man can deny – die gedanken sind frei

Tyrants can take me and throw me in prison
My thoughts will burst forth like blossoms in season
Foundations may crumble and structures may tumble
But free men shall cry – die gedanken sind frei

Original German lyrics (with translation below)

Die Gedanken sind frei, wer kann sie erraten,
Sie fliegen vorbei wie nächtliche Schatten.
Kein Mensch kann sie wissen, kein Jäger sie schießen
Mit Pulver und Blei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Ich denke was ich will und was mich beglücket,
Doch alles in der Still’, und wie es sich schicket.
Mein Wunsch und Begehren kann niemand verwehren,
Es bleibet dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Und sperrt man mich ein im finsteren Kerker,
Das alles sind rein vergebliche Werke.
Denn meine Gedanken zerreißen die Schranken
Und Mauern entzwei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Drum will ich auf immer den Sorgen entsagen
Und will mich auch nimmer mit Grillen mehr plagen.
Man kann ja im Herzen stets lachen und scherzen
Und denken dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Ich liebe den Wein, mein Mädchen vor allen,
Sie tut mir allein am besten gefallen.
Ich sitz nicht alleine bei meinem Glas Weine,
Mein Mädchen dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Thoughts are free, who can guess them?
They fly by like nocturnal shadows.
No person can know them, no hunter can shoot them
With powder and lead: Thoughts are free!

I think what I want, and what delights me,
Still always reticent, and as it is suitable.
My wish and desire, no one can deny me
And so it will always be: Thoughts are free!

And if I am thrown into the darkest dungeon,
All these are futile works,
Because my thoughts tear all gates
And walls apart: Thoughts are free!

So I will renounce my sorrows forever,
And never again will torture myself with whimsies.
In one’s heart, one can always laugh and joke
And think at the same time: Thoughts are free!

I love wine, and my girl even more,
Only her I like best of all.
I’m not alone with my glass of wine,
My girl is with me: Thoughts are free!

(1976*) From Little Things Big Things Grow by Paul Kelly

A friend just emailed me this track about indigenous Australian land rights in the 1960s and 70s.

You can read about the 1966 Gurindji strike and the resulting 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights Act whilst listening to the song…

Gather round people ill tell you a story
An eight year long story of power and pride
British Lord Vestey and Vincent Lingiari
Were opposite men on opposite sides

Vestey was fat with money and muscle
Beef was his business, broad was his door
Vincent was lean and spoke very little
He had no bank balance, hard dirt was his floor

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

Gurindji were working for nothing but rations
Where once they had gathered the wealth of the land
Daily the pressure got tighter and tighter
Gurindju decided they must make a stand

They picked up their swags and started off walking
At Wattie Creek they sat themselves down
Now it don’t sound like much but it sure got tongues talking
Back at the homestead and then in the town

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

Vestey man said I’ll double your wages
Eighteen quid a week you’ll have in your hand
Vincent said uhuh we’re not talking about wages
We’re sitting right here till we get our land
Vestey man roared and Vestey man thundered
You don’t stand the chance of a cinder in snow
Vince said if we fall others are rising

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

Then Vincent Lingiari boarded an aeroplane
Landed in Sydney, big city of lights
And daily he went round softly speaking his story
To all kinds of men from all walks of life

And Vincent sat down with big politicians
This affair they told him is a matter of state
Let us sort it out, your people are hungry
Vincent said no thanks, we know how to wait

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

Then Vincent Lingiari returned in an aeroplane
Back to his country once more to sit down
And he told his people let the stars keep on turning
We have friends in the south, in the cities and towns

Eight years went by, eight long years of waiting
Till one day a tall stranger appeared in the land
And he came with lawyers and he came with great ceremony
And through Vincent’s fingers poured a handful of sand

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

That was the story of Vincent Lingiari
But this is the story of something much more
How power and privilege can not move a people
Who know where they stand and stand in the law

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

East Yorkshire Historical Society booklets on enclosure and the open field system

I’ve just finished reading these three excellent booklets about enclosure and the open field system in East Yorkshire… Two were written in late 1950s and the third in the mid eighties. All were thoroughly researched, succinct and insightful.

Continue reading

Monsanto’s disregard for human life and our planet

Another succinct and damning article about Monsanto’s disregard for human life and our planet – examples like this show why we must fight tooth and nail to prevent them from taking over our food system…

Bill Sherman, the assistant attorney general for the US state of Washington said: “At the same time that Monsanto was telling the public that that PCBs were safe, they were literally graphing their potential legal liability against the lost profits and public image boost that might accompany being responsible and honest. At the end of the day, Monsanto went for the profits instead of for public health and environmental safety.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/09/monsanto-continued-selling-pcbs-for-years-despite-knowing-health-risks-archives-reveal