Sunday, 19 November 2006

To the martyrs of 1820,Swinging Sixties, Maclean

To the martyrs of 1820

Riots for food,
Child labour
Soaring prices
Workers trying to live
On a shilling a week

Open and secret meetings
Reform pamphlets
United Scotsmen and Glasgow green drills

Hardie and Baird led the fight
For reform
With a march organised on the
great Carron Ironworks

But soldiers from Stirling
Cut off the reformers
And a great bloody battle
Then did ensue

In the square off Broad street
Under the walls of the Castle
Hardie and Baird paid with their lives

Hung drawn and quartered by the authorities
On ‘evidence’ submitted by government spies
But not before defiantly demanding
their countrymen’s’ rights.

Thrown in a shallow grave near Stirling
Lying there for a long twenty seven years
disinterred by Glasgow radicals after
they found you
then buried in Sighthill with the respect
you deserved

Peter Burton

Swinging sixties?

Greensborough Segregation
SNCC creation
Huac Demonstration
Pacifist orchestration

Bay of Pigs invasion
Voter Registration
Washington demonstration

SDS statement
Cuban Missile derailment
Birmingham protestations
Washington demonstration

Mississippi Murders
Harlem ghetto rebellions
North Vietnam bombardments
SDS projects

Berkeley free speech movement
Johnson bombing Vietnam
Malcolm X murdered
University Teach-ins

Montgomery bloody battle
Washington anti-war prattle
Oakland protest troop trains
Watts’s rebellion contained

Draft card burnings
Anti-war self-immolisation
Anti-draft sit-ins
Black power expulsions

Black panther party
Mass draft card burnings
Be-ins and hippies
Detroit and Newark
Oakland repression
Pentagon storming

Women’s’ liberation billed
Orange black students killed
Bobby Hutton killed
Martin Luther killed

Democratic convention riot
Precision stockade rebellion
SF college strikes
16 Black Panthers killed

Destruction of peoples’ park
Hundreds beaten after dark

SD splitsNew York imperial buildings hit
A million protest in
Washington and Frisco

Peter Burton


Tales of the clearances
And your mothers’ oppression
Calvinism, Huxley and Spencer
Created the fire in the belly
Of the young John Maclean

Marxist education a lifelong obsession
Understanding the need for radical change
Neilsten thread mills
Singers Strike
Then your anti- war agitation made you a
A household name

“I have been listed in the socialist army
for 25 years God damn all other armies”
You proclaimed to Sheriff Lee
Then sent to prison for the first of five times
rejecting leniency

3 years penal servitude followed
your sentence cut short by public outrage
On trial again in 1918
Asked if you objected to any juryman you replied
“I object to the whole of them”

Made Bolshevik consulate
With tens of thousands
At Buchanan street station to greet you
The workers replacing the horses
Waiting to pull the carriage along

And thousands lined the Shaws in 23
to respect a socialist martyr who lies
in Eastwood cemetery

Peter Burton


Alex said...


Wikipedia (which I normally hesitate to rely on as an historical source, but on this occasion is too convenient to ignore) records about the 1820 Rising

"The Radical War, also known as the Scottish Insurrection of 1820, was a week of strikes and unrest, a culmination of Radical demands for reform in the United Kingdom which had become prominent in the early years of the French Revolution, but had then been repressed during the long Napoleonic Wars. An economic downturn after the wars ended brought increasing unrest. Artisan workers, particularly weavers in Scotland, sought action to reform an uncaring government, gentry fearing revolutionary horrors recruited militia and the government deployed an apparatus of spies, informers and agents provocateurs to stamp out the trouble.

"A Committee of Organisation for Forming a Provisional Government put placards around the streets of Glasgow late on Saturday 1 April, calling for an immediate national strike. On Monday 3 April work stopped in a wide area of central Scotland and in a swirl of disorderly events a small group marched towards the Carron Company ironworks to seize weapons, but while stopped at Bonnymuir they were attacked by Hussars. Another small group from Strathaven marched to meet a rumoured larger force, but were warned of an ambush and dispersed. Militia taking prisoners to Greenock jail were attacked by local people and the prisoners released. James Wilson of Strathaven was singled out as a leader of the march there, and at Glasgow was executed by hanging, then decapitated. Of those seized by the army at Bonnymuir, John Baird and Andrew Hardie were similarly executed at Stirling after making short defiant speeches. Twenty other Radicals were sentenced to penal transportation.

"It became evident that government agents had actively fomented the unrest to bring radicals into the open. The insurrection was largely forgotten as attention focussed on better publicised Radical events in England."

What is of most lasting significance however about the 1820 Rising is that the Scottish radicals adopted the tactic of the 'National Strike', which in turn inspired the working class English radical Chartist, William Benbow over a decade later to publish his famous pamphlet 'The Grand National Holiday' (1831), the first formulation as far as I know of the idea of the political general strike in any language.

This became the 'inspiring transformational myth' for generations of Chartists, trade unionists, revolutionary syndicalists, 'wobblies', socialists and campaigners for national independence in India and elsewhere in the British Empire.

Some legacy then.

UNITY said...


The agent seems to have been successful in getting the reformers to beleive that large reinforcements were coming from England when this was not true
making them act before they were strong enough.
Makes you wonder about role of state in recent SSP crises