Thursday, June 23, 2011

1948 - The Forgotten Gorbals

*click on pictures to enlarge

The Forgotten Gorbals

Picture Post - 31st January 1948

Book and ballet brand it an evil quarter of Glasgow. It is indeed. Not because of the people in it. But because of the way they must live. It is high time change were made.

The air of calm that covers a multitude of horrors. Nearly 40,000 people live in the Gorbals. they live for, six eight to a room, often thirty to a lavatory, forty to a tap. they live in Britain's most abandoned slum.

At first sight, of an early morning, the Gorbals looks like any other poor area. Its flat wide streets are lined with flat-faced tenements. There is a pub on every comer and an undertaker's (open day and night) in almost every other block. The walls are covered with chalk messages: Love God, Vote for McShane, Kilroy was Here, Irish Border Must Go, and (fading now) Victory. Cats are every-where; and for good reason.

It is not until you get inside the tenements that you realise the Gorbals isno ordinary poor place. It is in fact an area that provides a very special version of the slum problem.

In its beginnings, the problem was one of immigration. A century ago, thousands of poor labourers began to arrive in Glasgow. They came to work on the new-fangled railways and the docks of the Clyde.

They came for higher wages, for fuller plates, for what they conceived to be a better way of life than was possible in starving Erin and the wasted Scottish Highlands. A big proportion packed themselves into 252 acres just over the Clyde south from the city centre, in the area known as the Gorbals. Till then the Gorbals had been 'A Good Address,' a place for successful lawyers, doctors, merchants to retire to. But now the speculators built tenemen

ts over the gardens and the orchards. They built them quickly and cheaply, to house folk whose standards were far lower than those prevailing in the Lowlands. And there the descendants of those folk, and the thousands of newcomers who have joined them, live today in poverty, squalor, and in the hope that things will be better in the afterlife.

(picture) Mary is sixteen. She works in a Bakery. she has the the fancies and foibles natural to a girl her age. she dreams of nice clothes, hamdsome suitors, happy times. But already her life is coloured by her surroundings. already futility and frustration stretch ahead. Already her dreams re losing their battle against reality.

North of the Gorbals are the black rat-ridden banks of the Clyde. South is the railway jungle that spreads out from the big Goods and Mineral Depot on Pollokshaws Road. The western end of the ward has the handsome classical terraces of Abbotsford Place and Warwick Street. The eastern end is bounded by the lowering mid-Victorian tenements

of Lawmoor Street. Within these bounds live some 40,000 shockingly-housed people.

(picture) Out in the street is a fading chalk scrawl: "Welcome Home, John" And here lies John under his army greatcoat. It is 11am. the rest of the family are long gome - his brothers to school, his 16 year old sister to work. In a thousand rooms, no bigger than this, some Gorbals folk sleep four to a bed.

The Gorbals has no large industries, and few small ones, where its residents may find work.

Some of the local girls have jobs at the 'hair factory,' the mattress-making establishment in Ballater Street. But most folk must go elsewhere to make a living. The ward is simply a vast lodging-house.

As a lodging-house, the Gorbals could hardly be worse. In it, people live huddled together 281 to the acre. They live in apartments that are mostly small, dark and dirty. They live five and six in a single room that is part of some great slattern of a tenement, with seven or eight people in the room next door, and maybe eight or ten in the rooms above and below. The windows are often patched with cardboard. The stairs are narrow, dark at all times and befouled not only with mud and rain. Commonly there is one lavatory for thirty people, and that with the door off.

Rents are low. The average is rather less than ten shillings a week for a room, or £4 for an eight-roomed house. But in some parts, particularly in the handsome westward section, it is common to find a single tenant will lease a whole house cheap and then_ sublet to other tenants, room by room, till even the kitchen and the bathroom have a family living in them. This section around Warwick Street was a respectable professional-class neighbourhood till only twenty years ago Nowadays its facades hide some of the worst horrors in the Gorbals. It is known as 'Chinatown' or “Burma”, because of the many Orientals—Indians mostly – who live there. Some investigators declare that sub letting racketeers may make nearly £2,000 a year from a single house hereabouts. But over most of the Gorbals, tenants pay the low 1914 rent, plus 40 per cent, for repairs, if they ever get done.

(picture) Mrs Lundy of Bedford Street, autctions bedding, crockery, clothes, The notice says "Goods not claimed in 7 days after first deposit will be sold"

Low rent is one reason why people stay in the Gorbals. Another reason may be the liking an Irishman has for an Irishman's company. And anyway, a man seeking to move now is lucky if he can find a place to go. Once the area had a large immigrant Jewish population, and the district round Gorbals Cross was called 'Little Jerusalem.' But many Jews left as their economic condition improved and nowadays, though you still see Jewish names over the shops, the main landmark at the Cross is Doyle's Irish House.

Not that the Gorbals is Irish only. There are probably just as many Scots in the ward, living in the same conditions, and having the same reactions; and you couldn't tell them apart, except by who goes to Mass and who stays at home. There is no discrimination between Scots and Irish. What they know is they are all fighting for a living together, and finding it an affair of ups and downs. Some work in the foundries, some in the shipyards, some on the docks.

Almost all are unskilled labourers; and on that account the area is most sensitive to economic ebband flow. There are always a lot of Gorbals residents on Public Assistance, either through sickness, or in the interval between one short job and the next. But at present, most are in work, and few have to dodge the factors' men when they come round after the overdue rent.

As is usual where people find circumstance a hard thing to grapple with, the Gorbals is a great place for pipe-dreams; a place where folk think passionately of sudden fortune. Street bookies do a roaring trade round the ramshackle back-courts; and in many tenements the dream-book is the only literature.

(picture) Corportation Burial ground in Rutherglen Road - The only bit of green in the Gorbals

Football takes on the proportion of a mythology, and players are seen as heroes of a fantasy world. In the bars and on the street corners you run into men with, you would think, small capacity for academic learning, but with such knowledge of the intricate history of professional footbal? as would earn them a professorship in any other field.

It used to be said "Every man has two capital dues—his own and Paris." In the Gorbals, everyman has two football teams—his own and Celtic. The local team is Clyde. But the dream team is the one with the green-and-white hoops. Inside Gorbals houses, the commonest pictures are of The Sacred Heart and the Celtic team. You see few likenesses of the Saints but many of Johnny Thomson, the Celtic goalkeeper, accidentally killed on September 5, 1931, in a game against the Rangers, and now spoken of reverently as a popular martyr and a bright hero brought down by misfortune.

(picture) Mrs Greenan of Commercial Road has bourne 13 children, lost 7 from pneumonia

In the past, writers have given the Gorbals a bad name, as an area for razor-toughs and meth-drinkers. This penny-dreadful picture has distracted the attention of liberal citizens from the real facts of life as they affect the district. It is not as the sensation-mongers pretend. Some criminals live there. So do some hunchbacks. The population is not composed of criminals, nor of hunchbacks.

Murder is rare in the district. Last August there were two cases in a single week. That was the year's quota. Organised crime, in the sense of gangs, hardly exists; though a while back a bunch of movie-inspired adolescents banded themselves into an outfit called the 'Hammer Gang,' and gave the police some trouble before they were broken up.

Assault is a frequent affair, especially wife assault. Razor fights are uncommon. If they do take place, it is generally with the old-fashioned cut-throat blade. Serious assaults, involving a number of assailants, occur from time to time, usually as part of some family feud. The use of the bayonet, is not unknown in the neighbourhood.

In his annual report, Glasgow's Chief Constable does not consider it politic to give a ward-by-ward breakdown of crime figures. But at 'A' Division's ' sub-station in Lawmoor Street, the cagey officer will tell you that the Gorbals is a pretty rough area, but that there are plenty of places just as rough elsewhere. The opinion of the bobby on the beat is that the sensationalist just don't know what they're writing about.

(picture) Recreation facilities are few in Gorbals. Pubs are plentiful. there are 174 of them (above Frank Judge's Bar) Some are good, some bad, all popular. but the idea that gorbals is peopled by roughnecked boozers is erroneous. The area is remarkble for kind, friendly folk, with a strong feeling for social justice.

After dark, the sky is red from the glow of Dixon's Ironworks, and even in bad weather the streets are full of folk who do not care to sit around in a crowded house whose evening breath is, as they say, like a lung-sick beast's. The district is a poor one for pleasure, though it contains the Citizens' Theatre, and an imposing set of 174 pubs, mostly of the pitch-pine and engraved-glass kind. Some of these are bold and bright, like Milarky's celebrated Horseshoe Bar in Crown Street. Some are sad and dismal, like the panhandlers' houses in Gorbals Street, where ' the habitual 'wine'-drinkers befuddle themselves with Red Biddy at is. 6d. a gill. Drunkenness, the old Glasgow trouble, is not sensational in the district. Of the 38 City wards, Gorbals comes sixth for the number of drunk-and-incapables apprehended over 12 months. With 122 arrests, she lags far be hind the less-populous districts of Calton (345) and Exchange (267). Drinkers of methylated spirits, surgical spirit and perfume are slightly on the increase just now, but (with 147 arrests in the whole city) they are four times fewer than they were in 1937.

Good-looking girls are numerous, and they wear their Marks and Spencer clothes with an air. Transparent macs and printed scarves are de rigueur. For the girls and their boy-friends there are two or three cinemas of varying dubiety, and Joe Diamond's Dancing Academy, a bright respectable place with a goodish if decorous band. There are also the railway arches. Living as they commonly do, huddled together with adults/often in the same bed, Gorbals youngsters find few mysteries among the facts of life. At the same time, the percentage of illegitimate births is not remarkably high (with 9.6 per cent.

Gorbals' illegitimacy rate ranks sixth in the City). By and large, the youngsters have plenty of pride and few. illusions. Said one girl, "I hate it in the Gorbals. If I meet anyone new I have to give a false address." And another (with the words Biarritz, Quaglino's, Arc de Triomphe, Juan-les-Pins on her scarf) said, "We're eight in the one room. We go to bed in relays. My elder brothers walk round the court while we girls undress. Then they come back and kip down on their mattresses on the floor beside us. The cat sleeps with us. If a rat runs over the blankets, he springs out and has it."

At midnight, if you stand on any of the four bridges that run across the Clyde into the Gorbals, you see the windows still lit; for when the gas goes down, the rats come out in strength. So the lights bum dimly all night, and they shine on the huddled sleepers, on the delicate faces of the girls, and on the ravaged faces of the women who once were girls and on the men's faces that look like the broken slabs of every commandment in the decalogue.

(picture) Bright light for Gorbals youngsters is Saturday night at Diamond's Dance Hall (Academy) - They get no hard drinks; but the band is good

Here is our most loathsome slum, and a horror to be cleansed. Who owns it? Private people in London, Sydney, Shanghai and elsewhere. Factors (house-agents, they call them down South) own some tenements. Others belong to the Glasgow Corporation. Many were formerly the property of the L.M.S. Railway, and now presumably are the nation s affair. Sometimes the ownership is vague What is certain is that whoever owns the Gorbals precious little has been done, year by year, to case its hideous condition.

Let no one think the residents of the Gorbals like the way they live, or are apathetic to any agitation for change. They have an unusually deep awareness of their plight, and a hot anger for listless authority.

With Dundee, Gorbals was the first Scottish constituency to return a Labour member to Parliament That was in 1906. The vote has been solid for Labour ever since, because it is still believed that their lies the only hope for a change in local circumstance. Gorbals' present M.P. is Minister of Pensions, George Buchanan, recently raised to the dignity of Privy Councillor.

Perhaps because change is so slow to come, the local Communist Party is strong and well-received, and one of its leading members. Harry McShane, is something of a local hero on account of his fight for improved conditions. Nevertheless, partly from religious opposition, the Communist Party is not much voted for. The Gorbals and Hutchesontown Tenants Association (membership about 100) is active in canvassing the City Corporation for repairs to individual houses, but it carries rather less weight than the Gorbals Housing Campaign Committee, an organisation of combined political and professional men, started by the Rev. Bill Smith, a Church of Scotland minister, and Communist McShane, with the help of local doctors, lawyers and the like. Even so, the Glasgow Corporation—which has the greatest responsibility—is slow to move; and in the Gorbals the theory is widely held that 'the Corporation is no longer shockable.'

(picture) A young girl plays in the back-court of the gorbals. broken concrete, flooded pools, heaps pf smelling rubbish and rats

What could be done ? Most of the district was built up intentionally as a slum in the 1840's and i850's, and has so remained without change and almost without repair. The local folk say the area is ripe for dynamiting. Certainly nothing short of an over-all slum clearance would meet the case. The harassed Corporation has a proposed Fifty Years' Plan, under which they hope to re-develop most of the Gorbals for industrial purposes. The intention is to reduce the population density of that pan of the ward set aside for residence to 66 people to the acre.

To those who accuse them of apathy, the authorities point to the 850 slum houses that have been closed or demolished since 1920. In reply the impatient inhabitants point to the crumbling walls, the broken floors of the places they live in still. If ever there was a top priority—not only for the Glasgow City Corporation, but for the nation, too, if it values its self-respect—it is the destruction of the old Gorbals and the building of a better one.

A.L. Lloyd

Picture Post 31st January 1948

Pictures by Bert Hardy

Harry McShane (7 May 1891 - 12 April 1988)

A shipyard engineer, McShane (pictured, left, in the 1930s) became John Maclean's lieutenant and was jailed three times for his part in the Clydeside strike movement of the First World War.

He was with Willie Gallagher when tanks and troops charged strikers in George Square on January 31st 1919.

Joining the Communist Party in July 1922, he worked alongside Wal Hannington in the unemployed workers' movement.

A reporter on the Daily Worker's short-lived Scottish edition, he became the paper's Scottish correspondent from 1943 until he resigned from the Communist Party in 1953. It was the adoption of the British Road to Socialism in 1951 that eventually prompted this move. McShane could not accept the concept of parliamentary struggle.

Although an early critic of the Stalin cult, McShane did not join any grouping and remained an independent Marxist. A maverick by nature, the title of his autobiography summed up what most thought of him: `No Mean Fighter'.

In 1985, the city council gave him the freedom of the city and he remained active in Glasgow's trades council until the year before he died aged 97.

Source: Morning Star 15th April 1988

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hayes Cottage Hospital Work-In 1990

Sit-In protest at the Cottage

STAFF staged a 24-hour sit-in at Hayes Cottage Hospital yesrerday (Tuesday 29th May 1990) ) in the first stage of a campaign to halt privatisation plans.

Nursing and ancillary staff at the Grange Road hospital, which cares for the elderly,
claim there has been no consultation with them or families over the planned privatisation.

They are demanding full discussions with management.

Hillingdon Health Authority general manager Mike Bellamy said: "I very much regret
the action taken by some staff".

No decision has been taken on the future of Hayes Cottage, although the health authority is fully committed to modernising it, expanding its bed numbers and securing its future.

"It will discuss the various options at its meeting on June 12, but a final decision will not be made then.

"This 24-hour sit-in really is a nonsense and helps no one."

One 92-year-old long-stay patient, Maud Ashley, is threatening a hunger strike if she is forced to move out.

More than 3,000 signatures were collected in Hayes on Saturday by staff who claim theirpported by GPs and the community.
COHSE Health union representative Michael Walker said: "It is a local service offering high-quality care for the people of Hayes and Harlington.

This is a very local service offering high quality care for the the people of Hayes & Harlington - This is a very much loved facility"

Much of the hospital's equipment had been provided by local fund-raising, he added.

Protesters say that, if the hospital was privatised, beds would go to the highest bidder from anywhere in the country and would cease to be a local centre for communitycare

Mr Walker says managers have gone back on guarantees that the hospital would stay open and accused Mr Bellamy of being "economical with the truth" over his statements about its future.

In 1983, Hayes Cottage Hospital was occupied by staff and supporters (work-in) for several months as staff successfully fought to save it from closure.

See previous postings on 1983 Hayes Cottage Hospital Occupation and Northwood & Pinner Cottage Hospital occupation

click to enlarge photos

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Guy Môquet - French Communist Resistance Hero

Guy Môquet, a Parisian, was 16 when the Germans invaded France. He became committed to the Resistance, distributing leaflets, but was arrested in 1941. He was tried and acquitted but, as a Communist, he was held as a political detainee.

When a German officer was killed by three Communists in Nantes, Hitler ordered the execution of 50 prisoners in retaliation. The Vichy government supplied the names and Môquet was the youngest.

On October 21, 1941, the night before he was shot, he wrote home to "my dearest mother, my adored little brother, my beloved father", asking them to be brave. "I am going to die," he started, adding: "17 and a half years, my life has been short, I have no regret except for leaving you all.

Guy Môquet – the Courageous Struggle

Translated 22 October 2007, by Patrick Bolland

Homage. The memory of the young Communist resistance fighter, Guy Môquet, is to be honoured. His last letter to his family will be read in all French high schools. Nicholas Sarkozy is co-opting our past to fit his political agenda.

The decision was announced by the president of the Republic on Wednesday 16 May, just after he was installed in office, in a ceremony paying hommage to the 35 young resistance fighters who were assassinated at the waterfall in the Bois de Boulogne. The last letter of the young communist Guy Môquet, shot by the Germans on 22 October 1941, will be read out by teachers in all French high schools at the start of each new school year.

To justify this, Nicolas Sarkozy said "I believe it is essential to explain what it is to be young and French" ... "Let us be proud of France in whose name they died", he declared to the young generation, invoking the memory of the young resistance fighters "for whom France counted more that politics or religion".

Executed by the Nazis at the age of 17

Frequently cited when Sarkozy talked in his electoral speeches of "selective immigration" and "national identity" during the presidential campaign, the student at the lycée Carnot, an activist with the Communist Youth League, is therefore being honoured today by a president of the Republic eager to clean up his image as a source of division.

Three great resistance fighters, Serge Ravanel, Danial Cordier and Raymond Aubrac, while pointing out their distance from Nicolas Sarkozy, are supporting this initiative, hoping that the trajectory of the young resistance fighter will be explained by teachers.

Sarkozy has appealed for "the liquidation of May ’68" and praised the "spirit of resistance", at the same time proclaiming the legitimacy of colonial conquests: the new head of state is trying to give a privileged space to history in his ideological combat. As Gérard Noiriel puts it, Nicolas Sarkoszy "is consecrating the great figures to consecrate himself" (1).

The historian continues: "This discourse on collective memory is also aimed at building a consensus that disregards social conflicts and the struggle for power." The political stuggle to which Guy Môquet was committed recurs, in fact, thoughout the president’s speeches; Sarkozy exalts only the "pride of France" which guided, according to him, the young resistance fighter. End of the story - no mention of the anti-fascist struggle, internationalism, the ideal of human emancipation, the fight for equality and for democracy that motivated him.

Arrested by the French police

Moreover, it is only the Gestapo that is being stigmatized. As the historian Max Gallo has however emphasized, Nicolas Sarkozy is saying absolutely nothing about the responsibility of the Vichy police and the Pétain government. Any mention of the role played by French citizens in the assassination of the young resistance fighter would have tarnished the heroic and twisted story of the nation that the new president wants to write.

Yet, it was the French police, looking for underground communist activists, who, on 13 October 1940, arrested Guy Môquet at the Gare de l’Est metro station. They then tortured him to try and obtain the names of the comrades of his father, Prosper Môquet, member of the National Assembly representing the 17th arrondissement in Paris – who was arrested a year later, stripped of his mandate and deported to Algeria.

A list of hostages to be shot

Imprisoned in Fresnes, then at Clairvaux, Guy Môquet was finally transferred with other communist activists to the Châteaubriant camp. On 20 October 1941, the Feldcommandant Karl Hotz was killed by three communist resistance fighters: two French, Marcel Bourdarias and Gilbert Brustien, and an ’immigrant’, the Italian Spartaco Guisco. As a reprisal, the nazi authorities presented to Pétain’s minister of the interior, Pierre Pucheu, a list of hostages who were going to be shot. Pucheu negotiated, picking out the communists "in order to prevent fifty good Frenchmen from being shot".

Two days later, in the Salière quarry, just outside the Châteaubriant camp, 27 resistance fighters were assassinated, among them Guy Môquet. Those whom the Vichy government representatives considered "bad French" fell under the bullets, crying out "Vive la France!" - A France they could only dream about, like the ’foreigners’ of the Affiche rouge(2), who had shed themselves of all the poison of fear and hatred of the Other.

The text of the farewell letter written by 17-year-old Resistance hero Guy Môquet before his execution in 1941 and read in schools across France on Monday:

My dearest Mother, my beloved little brother, my beloved father.

I'm going to die! I'm asking you, especially Mother, to be brave. I am being so and I want to be just as brave as those who have gone before me. Of course I would have preferred to live. But what I want with all my heart is that my death serves some purpose. I haven't had the time to embrace Jean. I embraced my two brothers in arms Roger and Rino.

Alas, I wasn't actually able to embrace my real brother. I hope all my things are sent back to you, they will be of some use to Serge, who I trust will be proud to wear them one day. Dearest Dad, although I've given you and Mom lots of troubles, I send you one last greeting. I hope you know that I have done my best to follow in your footsteps.

A last farewell to all my friends and to my brother who I love a lot. He should study hard so that he becomes a man later on.

17 and a half. My life has been short, but I have no regrets apart from leaving you. I'll be dying alongside Tintin and Michels. Ma, I'm asking you, and I want you to promise, to be brave and get over your pain.
I can't write any more. I leave you, Mother, Serge, Dad, embracing you with all my young heart. Be brave.

Your Guy who loves you.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Eric "Ginger" Evans - TGWU Union - EMI Hayes

Eric "Ginger" Evans was a leading member of the Transport & General Workers Union at EMI in the 1960's, 70's and 80's (TGWU 1/690) working in the Packing Department at Blyth Road, Hayes, West Middlesex for over thirty years.

At one point Eric Evans was a member of the TGWU National Executive Committee, and was a regular delegate to TGWU conference.

He was presented with a TGWU "Gold badge" the highest union award (circa 1986 or 87) by TGWU General Secretary Rod Todd.

He was a patient at Hayes Cottage Hospital during the period of it's occupation by staff in late 1983.

Eric Evans lived at 43 Judge Heath Lane (Belmore Ward)

A Labour party member, Eric was generally on the left and opponent of Hayes right wing MP's Skeffington and Sandleson, he also opposed the local right wing Labour run Hayes & Harlington Urban District Council on issues such as council house rents.

Unfortunately, later in life Eric and his close friend fellow Welshman, Cllr Ivor Anthony fell out with the direction of the Hayes Labour Party in the Press on issues such as Gay rights and Ireland. As a result a witch hunt was launched against the local party by Labour party head office and the right wing media - no evidence of "ultra leftism" or "infiltration" by groups was ever forthcoming.

It's has to be pointed out that Eric was suffering from bad health during this period.

* we would welcome more information and better quality picture

Monday, June 13, 2011

German "Red Front" - " Rot Front" Defending Workers in the 20's

The German "Red Front " Rotfrontkämpferbund was a self defence organisation established 18th July 1924 with a proud record of defending workers, trade unionists and the "Left" from attack upon it's meeting's, demonstrations and picket lines by the bosses, right wingers and later Nazi thugs.

The "Red Front" was established on 18th July 1924 under the leadership of the inspirational leader Ernst Thälmann (16 April 1886 – 18 August 1944). It was banned in 1932 as part of the attack upon the Left by the German establishment who would allow Hitler to seize power in 1933. The Nazi party actually lost 34 seats in the November 1932 general election and never secured a majority in it's own right. Ernst Thälmann was imprisoned by the Nazi's and was shot by them on Hitler's orders in August 1944 at the Buchenwald concentration camp at the end of World War I.

The Red Front had a greeting:

"Rot Front!" ("Red Front!") was spoken while the right arm was raised with fist clenched, fingers looking forward. The traditional left greeting still used on demonstration's

The RFB issued their official newspaper, Die Rote Front

There was also a youth organization (ages 16-21), Rote Jungfront (Young Red Front).

Der rote Wedding (Red Front), lyrics by Erich Weinert and music by Hanns Eisler (1928) is an anti Nazi battle hymn for the Red Front: (Video above)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Lloyd, Bush, Swingler & Sahnow - Workers Music Association


Albert Lancaster “Bert” Lloyd was born 29th February1908 in Wandsworth, South London, His father held numerous jobs trawlerman, docker, draper’s, poultry farmer before serving in World War One, when he was severely wounded in the War. He worked for a time as an Automobile Association patrolman. Lloyd recalled that on a visit to Sussex when he was a child of five hearing Folk music. He remembered his parents singing “gypsies songs” around the house. Unfortunately by the age of fifteen his mother had died of tuberculosis and his father an semi-invalid ex solider was to unwell care for him.

Accordingly the young Bert Lloyd he was offered assisted passage to Australia in 1923 by the British Legion, on arrival in Australia he secured work as a sheep shearer on sheep stations and cattle hand in New South Wales .
There was little to do in the Australian bush except work, drink, and gamble and he decided to return to Britain . However, he had spent some time while in Austalia collecting Australian folk songs and studying at Sydney Public Library’s.

In early 1934 Lloyd took the opportunity to leave Australia for a job minding merio sheep in the Transvaal in South Africa but this did not work out and he returned to Britain only to find it engulfed by mass unemployment. With no more he spent his hours in productively in the British Museum in London . Teaching himself Spanish and devouring books on folklore and folk songs he stated later that their was “nothing like unemployment for educating oneself”.

It was around the winter of 1934-1935 that Lloyd came into contact with Leslie Morton, Jack Lindsay, Alan Hutt, George Rude, Maurice Cornforth, and Dylan Thomas he joined the Communist Party , attributing A.L. “Leslie” Morton’s “A Peoples History of England” as a book that particularly influenced his politics.
Morton said of Lloyd that he collected Folk songs “the way some people collect postage stamps”. It was Morton who took Lloyd to the famous Eel’s Foot Pubic House at Eastbridge, Suffolk (close to Leiston) where a song school had been kept for at least 100 years. Out of the came a famous live broadcast aired on 29th July 1939.

Tired of unemployment he ended up in 1937 singing on a whaling ship the “Southern Empress” working the South Atlantic . There were many welsh sailors on board who sang hymns and popular songs all the time and it was on the seven month trip that Lloyd began to sing regularly even organising a ship’s concert transmitted over the ships radio (the ship was later to be sunk of Newfoundland by German U boats on the 14th October 1942 killing 48 of the 125 mostly Norwegian crew). In 1938 Lloyd took another posting on a freighter out of Liverpool.
In 1937 Bert Lloyd article “The Peoples Own Poetry” was published in the Daily Worker and in 1938 the BBC accepted a script for a documentary on seafaring life “The voice of the seamen” , the good response to the documentary ensured the BBC commissioned further documentaries, including a series of programmes on the rise of Nazism “ The Shadow of the Swastika” co written with Soviet historian Igor Vinogradoff.

During the War Lloyd enlisted in the army in March 1942 and trained as a tank gunner in the Royal Armoured Corps, but was seconded to the Ministry of Information working in the Anglo-Soviet Liaison officer producing leaflets promoting British culture in the Soviet Union . Later in 1942 he became co-editor of “Turret” a left wing service newspaper
After the War (1945) he worked on “Picture Post” but left the job in an act of solidarity with one of his colleagues in 1950.

In 1944 The Workers Music Association, which had been established in 1936 with Alan Bush as its first President and active support of Benjamin Britten, Hans Eisler and John Ireland, asked Lloyd to write an introduction to folk songs called “The singing Englishmen”. In this Lloyd advanced the first assessment of the corpus of English songs since Cecil Sharpe.
Bert Lloyd’s continued interest and knowledge in Folk made him pivotal to the Second English Folk Revival which has sometimes been dated to 1950 when Alf Lomax arrived in Britain searching for songs for his “World Library of Folk and Primitive Music”. Lomax became involved in cultural and musical tribute in 1951 to Councillor Joe Vaughan the former Communist Mayor of Shoreditch, where he joined Ewan MacColl in singing “One big Union” According to legend the Communist Party then called upon Lomax to work with MacColl and Lloyd to start the Folk revival.

The Communist Party was by accident or design unquestionably central to the Folk revival and Lloyd key interpreter of the Folk traditional, The British first folk club opened in Manchester in 1954 by Communist Party members Lesley and Harry Boardman and Malcolm Nicholson opened Ballards & Blues Club in London . Meanwhile in Birmingham Communist, Ian Campbell had not only established the first Folk band “The Clarion Skiffle Group” in 1956 a prototype for groups such as the Dubliners and Corries. However Campbell was also key in establishing the largest and most influential Folk Club in the country the “Jug o’ Punch” Folk Club. The first folk festival was held in Sidmouth, Devon in 1955.

He became heavily involved in Centre 42 named after resolution 42 moved by the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians (ACTT) and seconded by the National Union of

Mineworkers on cultural activists passed at the 1960 TUC Congress

Congress recognises the importance of the arts in the life of the community, especially now when many unions are securing a shorter working week and greater leisure time for their members. It notes that the trade union movement has participated to only a small extent in the direct promotion and encouragement of plays, films, music, literature and other forms of expression, including those of value to its beliefs and principles. Congress considers that much more could be done..

Centre 42 was a highly successful touring festival headed by Arnold Wesker, Ewan MacColl and Lloyd. In 1962 Centre 42 toured with the invitation of Wellingborough, Nottingham, Birmingham , Leicester, Bristol , and Hayes & Southall) later Centre 42 would secure a home at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm. Centre 42 also had numerous offshoots in larger towns and cities. Centre continued its work as late as 1970, interestingly the newly refurbished Roundhouse has a new auditorium named in honour of Centre 42 called Studio 42)

Centre 42 was important in bringing Anne Briggs, the Ian Campbell folk group, the Spinners and the Watersons.

He edited the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, which he edited with Vaughan Williams

In 1971 Lloyd help produced a six episodes of a television documentary with Barry Gavin a television producer

According to Alun Howkins Bert Lloyd “sang, like the singers of the tradition I have come to know over the years, almost diffidently, laughing with the songs, telling us about them and transfixing an audience as his quiet but powerful voice, nearly always unaccompanied, took us through “James Harris or “The Four Loom Weaver” or “The Stone Cutter Boy”………“We in the provinces learnt our songs and our singing style from records. Bert, along with Ewan Mac Coll, dominated those records. “Shuttle and Cage”, “ Second Shift”, and later “The Iron Muse”, taught a generation that music could be something other than school songbooks or the pre-digested pap that American culture fed us in the guise of “pop music”. We learnt the songs, sang them at home and then, finding others wanting to listen, formed folk clubs”.
Bert Lloyd was still singing in 1981 shortly before his death in Greenwich London on 29th September 1982, his communist views never faltering
Michael Walker
Alun Howkins Obituary History Workshop spring 1983
Gerald Porter The Worlds ill-divided; The Communist Party and Progressive Song 1998
Chris Wrigley British Trade Unions since 1933 printed 2002
David Gregory A.L. Lloyd and the English Folk Song Revival 1934-1944

Alan Bush

Alan Dudley Bush was born in Dulwich on 22 December 1900. As a student at the Royal Academy of Music from 1918 to 1922 he won several prizes both as pianist and composer, after which he continued his studies as a composer with John Ireland and as a pianist with Benno Moiseivitch, Mabel Lander and Artur Schnabel in Berlin.

He later returned to the Academy as a professor of composition, where he taught several generations of British composers as professor of composition at the Royal Academy from 1925-78

Another close mentor, from around 1915, was Rutland Boughton (see separate entry), a famous composer. In 1924, Bush joined the Independent Labour Party and a year later he became actively involved in the London Labour Choral Union, which Boughton had founded. In 1929, Bush entered Berlin University to study Philosophy and Musicology but his work towards a degree was cut short by the depression and the threatening rise of Hitler fascism. He returned to London in 1931 and within two or three years was profoundly committed to Marxism, joining the Communist Party in 1935.

In 1936 he helped found the Workers Music Association, of which he was chair from the beginning until he became President in 1941 continuing in this role until his death in 1995. He was also WMA Director of Studies at each successive WEA Annual Summer School until 1975.

Alan Bush had early success as a professional composer with his String Quartet, op. 4, which was given a Carnegie award in 1925. Bush is credited with over a hundred works of composition, including his best known work, Dialectic (1929), op. 15, for string quartet, which followed his debut piece, Relinquishment (1928). This helped establish his reputation abroad when it was performed at the Prague International Society for Contemporary Music Festival in 1935. He also founded the London String Orchestra in 1938 and continued to be associated with it up to 1952.

Much of his pre-war music was written the most advanced of European idioms of the time. Later, he developed the idea of a `national' style that was simpler, intending to make the music more accessible to a wider audience.

The Workers' Music Association acted as an organisational body for events, and as a publisher of working-class songs (both historical songs and newer songs written by contemporary composers). In 1934 Bush wrote the music for a theatrical pageant The Pageant of Labour at Crystal Palace. For 1938, a much bigger series of events was planned which included a production of Handel's Belshazzar, a large pageant at Wembley Stadium, and a Festival of Music for the People staged at the Albert Hall.

For the event at Wembley Stadium Bush wrote his Pageant of Co-operation to a scenario by Montagu Slater and Andre van Gyseghem (Bush, together with Slater, Gyseghem and Randall Swingler - see separate entry) were prime movers in mounting these mass pageants). The work was performed on 2 July 1938 by members of the London/South Suburban/Watford Co-operative Societies with the speaking parts and ensemble directed by Bush.

His Truth on the March (1940) reflected the historical moment but, in the early stages of the second world war, he was banned - amongst others - from performing for the BBC for signing up to the Peoples Convention, although this was later lifted. Later, Bush was in the army, for the RA Medical Corps, from 1941-5.

He produced four symphonies, one of which was inspired by the 1930s economic crisis and another by the Lascaux cave paintings. In the immediate post-war period, he produced The Winter Journey and Lidice (1947), which brought the story of how the Nazis had liquidated the very existence of a Czech village which had been the centre of resistance that was now in the process of reversal by the post-war socialist state there.

His operas all have themes of social significance and the words of six of seven operatic works were written by his wife, Nancy Bush (see separate entry). In 1947 the collaboration in the field of full-length opera between Nancy and Alan began with Wat Tyler, a dramatic story of the Peasant Rising of 1381. Our Song, to a text by Nancy, was commissioned for the opening of the Nottingham Co-operative Arts Centre and was first performed by the Workers' Music Association Singers, conducted by the composer in 1948.

In 1949 the newly-formed Arts Council announced that it would commission a number of full-length operas in connection with the Festival of Britain. Composers were to compete under pseudonyms. At the time of the announcement it was carefully stated that no production could be guaranteed. Four works were commissioned under the scheme and one of these was Alan and Nancy Bush's Wat Tyler. In the event, none was performed in Britain at the time of the Festival.

Wat Tyler did, however, achieve great success in Germany: it received two studio broadcasts from Berlin in 1952 and these led to a stage production in Leipzig during the 1953-4 season. This first run comprised 14 performances and the opera was revived again in the following season. In addition Bush received three further operatic commissions from German theatres. Other well-known operas of Bush are the Sugar Reapers, Men of Blackmoor, Joe Hill, the Man Who Never Died and Guyana Johnny; whilst Voices of the Prophets was more of a choral piece (1953). Africa is My Name also appeared in the 1950s.

Whilst always well thought of in Eastern Europe, under socialist governments, his ability as a composer was never given much scope for performance. A series of BBC programmes in the 1980s at last gave Bush the recognition he deserved as a British composer of distinction. Reflecting this, perhaps, Bush produced his last major composition, Six Short Piano Pieces (1983). Alan Bush died in 1995.

By Graham Stevenson


During the night of Tuesday, 15 January 1957, Will Sahnow, General Secretary of the Workers' Music Association, died in his sleep. This untimely event (he was only 59) has bereft the cultural movement of the British working-class of a musician' of great versatility, supremely well fitted for the post he occupied since 1939, when his appointment as a paid official transformed the Association from a struggling group of enthusiasts into a continuously functioning centre of activity, from which any working class organisation could obtain advice or practical help in any musical field.

Will's first love was the orchestra, his instruments the 'cello: and french horn His first musical position was as an amateur conductor of an Orchestra in North London, organised by the London Co-operative Society. He took from the first a great interest in the brass band movement, and later entered the field of choral music, singing and conducting in the Co-operative choral movement.

His appointment as General Secretary of the Workers' Music Association came at the beginning of its first period of expansion. For several war years he organised the Topic Record Club, which produced and despatched a record to eac|h of its 900-odd members every month; he carried out the organisation of the recordings and the labour of dispatching the records with the regular help of one part time assistant only. In addition he had to cope with the extensive publication of music, including the large sales of Soviet songs, and of books such as lain Lang's
Background of the Blues.

Since the war the activity nearest to Will's heart has been the annual Summer School, of which last year's was the eighth. The production of Topic Record was resumed several years ago, and only last September reached a point when full-time organiser. Bill Leader, could be appointed.

In the midst of all this Will found time to compose songs, to make arrangements for brass band, and to cut man beautifully written stencils of choral music.

For many years he found in the theory and practice of the Communist Party that guide to action which can alone transform life in Britain into a society in which musical art will become the possession of the whole people and a worthy expression of their advance in peace and happiness


World News 2 February 1957

Randall Swingler

Randall Swingler (May 28, 1909 – 1967) was an English poet, who wrote extensively in the 1930s and joined the Communist Party in 1934.

He came from a well-to-do family near Nottingham and was educated at Winchester College, and New College, Oxford. He was an accomplished flautist, and later was much involved in musical collaboration, as a librettist.

He established Fore Publications (1938); the magazines Left Review (to 1938), Arena, Seven and Our Time. Swingler also published the Key Books series, and the Key Poets series. He was one of the organisers of the covert Writer's Group of the late 1930s, attempting to co-ordinate a 'literary policy' of the Left. He was involved also in work for the Unity Theatre.

He served with the British Army in Italy in World War II, joining as a private soldier, and being awarded the Military Medal. After the war he experienced hard times. Randall Swingler left the Party in 1956, was one of the founders of The New Reasoner and died on 19th June 1967.

Charles Ringrose (see separate entry) stated of Randall Swingler at the time of his death in June 1967 that:"For the very moving memorial work to those who fought in Spain, composed by Benjamin Britten in 1936, Randall contributed the text for the tenor solo and final chorale; he was associated with Alan Rawsthorne in two works the last "A Rose for Lidice" having been performed at Thaxted a few years ago, conducted by Imogen Holst.

His main work in the field, however, was done in co-operation with Alan Bush, starting with "Hunger Marchers" in the early 30s and culminating with the dream of Llewellyn up Griffith

His text for the last movement of Bush's Piano Concerto was unique as the first piece of writing in this genre, also it was Randall who was co-editor with Alan Bush of the Left Song Book published by the left Book Club in 1938".

Randall Swingler also wrote under the nom de plume of A L Carline and John Arkwright.

His publications include:

`Crucifixus (1932) - play
`Difficult Morning (1933) - poems
`The Left Song Book, (1938) - compiled with Alan Bush
`The Years of Anger - poems
`The God in the Cave (1950) - poems

See: Comrade Heart: A Life of Randall Swingler (2003) by Andy Croft; Selected Poems of Randall Swingler (2000) edited by Andy Croft;

Morning Star 26 June 1967


The Communist Party was involved in both English Folk revival's and key to this was the Eel's Foot Public House, Eastbridge, where A.L. "Bert" Lloyd Communist and Workers Music Association founder, recorded the now famous BBC Radio Folk sessi
on on 13th March 1939.