Thursday, September 27, 2012

100th Anniversary of Cornish Clay Workers Union Strike 1913

Cornish Guardian

Nearly 100 years ago Clay workers in Cornwall went on strike for better pay struckSo strong was their uprising that the dispute overwhelmed the local police force and officers from Wales – who were familiar with picket lines – had to be drafted into the county to cope.

July 2013 marks the centenary of that three-month strike action of 1913, dubbed the Cornish clay strike, which witnessed 5,000 miners members of the "Workers Union" hold out for a pay rise.

It was prompted after china clay firm Carne Stents, Trewoon, went back on a promise to pay wages fortnightly instead of every month.
This image captures the scenes between the police and the discontented miners.

As the strike dragged on, the miners were forced to give up on their protest as they ran out of money and subsequently returned to work amid an atmosphere of increasing tension and violence.

Plans to commemorate the milestone next year have already begun between trade unionists, historians and interested individuals at Wheal Martyn, Carthew.

Nigel Costley, regional secretary of the South West Trade Union Congress, said: "Despite the defeat, the strike helped bolster trade unionism in Cornwall. With nowhere big enough to meet, the union built local halls. One of the strike leaders, Joe Harris, became a popular Labour leader and union membership grew.

"And shortly afterwards there was a new three-year pay deal that actually gave more than the 25 shillings claimed in the strike."

The dispute was remembered in a 1972 television play entitled Stocker's Copper, which focuses on the relationship between a clay striker and a Welsh police officer brought in to break the strike who was billeted in the house of the protester.

Mr Costley said they hope to work with local schools, unions, employers and councils to tell the story of the strike.

"There must be people who heard stories from grandparents about the impact of the dispute."

"It was an event that rocked the whole community and had profound effects in Cornwall," he added.

There are also possible plans for a book and those with recollections of the strike which have been passed down through their parents and grandparents are invited to get in touch.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Plebs 1929 - No War - But Class War

National Council of Labour Colleges

"This Class is great stuff"

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

100th Anniversary of the election of the first Labour County Councillor in 1892

In March 1892 George Garside, a Slaithwaite born blacksmith and founder of Slaithwaite Social Democratic Club was elected to West Riding County Council for what was essentially the current Colne Valley electoral ward. 

Garside was the first socialist (Labour) candidate to gain a seat on a County Council in Britain and won in a straight fight against the Liberal, gaining 55.1% of the vote. 

He sat as a ILP Labour County Councillor until his death in 1907 aged 63.

(picture above of Victor Grayson speaking from a famous Clarion Van, Grayson was elected in 1907 as Socialist MP for  Colne Valley)

Friday, September 07, 2012

Billy Bragg Recalls Establishing Red Wedge 1985

Billy Bragg recalls setting up Red Wedge in November 1985

The first time I had met most of the musicians in this picture was at the time of the miners' strike the previous year. I didn't really hang out with a lot of rock stars, but I met people like Paul Weller and Jimmy Somerville doing gigs in support of the miners. When the strike ended, a lot of us felt we should carry on and try to defeat the Conservatives at the next general election.
I had become aware of Neil Kinnock long before. In 1978, when I was 20, I saw him speak in Trafalgar Square at the start of the Carnival Against the Nazis march (it ended with a Rock Against Racism gig in Victoria Park, east London).

 I have always had a lot of respect for Neil. That rally and march was the first  thing of a political nature I had ever taken part in. A few months before, I had been working as a messenger for a merchant bank in the City, and I was the only person there who seemed to have strong anti-racist sentiments. Everyone else seemed rather xenophobic.   

That Rock Against Racism gig was a real example of how rock could be used to motivate young people to participate in politics, and a huge lesson for Red Wedge. The important thing about Red Wedge was that we always kept ourselves just one step removed from Labour Party control. It helped our credibility. The party could make suggestions to us, but in the end, we had what they wanted - an ability to reach young people - which gave us a certain amount of power. 

They would say, 'Don't go and talk to Derek Hatton; We went and did a gig in Liverpool. 'Don't associate yourselves with Ken Livingstone: We did a gig at the GLC, and he was involved in the whole thing. We had an office at the Labour Party headquarters (Peter Mandelson, who had the neighbouring office, was always peering around the door) and they would invite other people from the arts to sit in on our meetings. Once, the fashion PR Lynne Franks was there when we were discussing the name, which comes from a piece of revolutionary Russian Constructivist art by El Lissitzky, entitled Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge. She said, 'You don't want to use the word the way home to Acton in the bright June sunlight, feeling sorry for myself.

 (Ten years later, on the night of the 1997 election, I again had a gig at the Mean Fiddler. I was determined to exorcise the disappointment of that night in '87, and watching Michael Portillo lose his seat made up for it.)    

You can't keep something like Red Wedge going outside an election year; political music is nothing without context, so it petered out. My position with regard to Labour hasn't really changed since the days of Red Wedge, because the line with Red Wedge was that we would support them when we could and criticise them when we had to. Obviously there is a lot I disagree with now,  particularly about the war in Iraq. I have to fight my cynicism all the time, but  to stay engaged is the most important thing. 

Interview by Naomi West

  'The Progressive Patriot' by Billy Bragg

Nobody can under estimate the moral boosting influence of radical musicians, singers, artists had on radical (often isolated) Youth in the 1980's, at a time when it seemed the Tories dominated British society and attempted to smash every example of the post war consensus in the name of the "Free Market'. Thank You - Billy, Thank You all involved in Red Wedge ! !

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Leaders and MP's of the Irish Party

The Irish Party
(Members of Parliament) 

Harpers Monthly August 1887

 Click on picture to enlarge

The year 1868 was the opening of a new era in modern Irish history.   The last attempt at revolution had failed.  Fenianism was baffled, and though it had roused the fears of the country and blown up the wall of a London prison, it had been hopelessly beaten.  But an even greater change than this had taken place. The regime of laisser-faire had gone.

Palmerston was dead, and his influence dying.  Reform was in the air, and the settlement of the franchise question for the time being, with escape from official cares and demands, had left the master spirit of English political righteousness free, and he faced the great Irish problem.  The following year the English Church in Ireland was disestablished, and in 1870 the first Irish land bill became law.  The commencement of legislation for Ireland according to Irish ideas was met by the abandonment of revolutionary methods, and by the commencement of an agitation for home rule an agitation essentially constitutional in its character. 

From time to time there may have been periods when this agitation has been impelled, toward stronger measures, but the home rule movement has kept as rigidly within the limits of the constitution as did the movement for the abolition of the corn laws, or for reform.

Isaac Butt was the parent of the present home rule movement, though he never aspired to the heights to which it has. reached.  It has gone altogether beyond his expectations.  Still, it was he who formulated tlie movement, and was its first  leader.    The  son  of  a Protestant clergyman in the north of Ireland, he began life as an Orangeman and Conservative, and in 1841 was the leading opponent of O'Connell, when that great agitator brought forward in the Dublin corporation a motion in favour of repeal.  Gradually Butt's position changed to that of a moderate Nationalist. Meanwhile he had varying fortunes. 

He had been member for an Irish and also for an English constituency as a Conservative, and in the latter capacity was the eloquent advocate for protection, even when free trade was an accomplished fact.  But for half a generation he was out of Parliament, devoting himself to his profession as a barrister, and to the defence of Irish political prisoners.  In the state trials of 1848 he defended Smith O'Brien and Meagher, and he was often engaged in similar work until the Fenian trials of 1877 and 1878.

Gradually had the change in his political ideas come, but there was no question of self-seeking underlying this change.   He re-entered Parliament as representative for Limerick in 1871.  In the House of Commons he was in his element, and the condition of things gave him an opportunity for the display of his powers.  He has been spoken of as "a head and shoulders above all his followers, able though so many of them were, and was, next to Mr. Gladstone, the greatest parliamentarian of his day."

Already the home rule movement had been initiated.  Born of varied forces, and even helped by antagonistic elements, it had developed a remarkable influence. The disestablishment of the Irish Church and the introduction of the land bill had embittered the Orange and Protestant party against English ideas, and they were ready at that time to join. a movement in favor of once more having a Parliament on College Green.  The Nationalists regarded it as another plan to be tried for the attainment of their objects.  

These usually opposite parties met in one of the most momentous gatherings ever held in Dublin, that at the Bilton Hotel on the 19th of May, 1870.  There in eloquent words Isaac Butt, a Protestant himself, pleaded for mutual trust between the two great religious parties ; acknowledging that '' we have all grievously wronged the Irish Catholic priests and laymen," and his resolution in favor of an Irish Parliament was carried with a great "Aye."  At once Butt became leader of the movement, and few men were better qualified to guide the early steps of such an enterprise.  A warm-hearted, genial, lovable man, whose very faults and untidy dress and habits won for him the affection, as his work and words did the enthusiastic support, of the people.

During the year which found Butt again in Parliament there were also sent to Westminster John Martin for Meath, Mitchell Henry for Galway, and P. J. Smyth for Westmeath, who with Butt formed a quartet of high-souled men  devoted to their country's welfare.  The election of each was a striking Nationalist victory.   But when the general election of 1874 was fought, in spite of Butt's unfortunate inability to seize the opportunity, sixty nominal home rulers were returned.  Of these eleven were Protestants and forty-eight Catholics. Some were adventurers whose only object was to secure lucrative places.  Others were half-hearted, and did not realise what the movement really meant. But there were many who were home rulers in heart and spirit, and  they  formed  the  nucleus  of  the party.   Isaac Butt hoped great tilings from the Liberal party, but it failed him.

And when the bolder spirits amongst his followers began to exert their influence, he felt himself stranded and left behind. Sorrow clouded his last days, and his deposition from the leadership in 1878 was but the prelude to his death in the following year.

Amongst those who found a seat in the new Parliament at the election of 1874 was Joseph Gillis Biggar, member for Cavan, the first wielder of that powerful weapon " obstruction," which has changed the face of British politics.  "Joe" Biggar has been one of the best-abused men in Parliament, and yet he is an Ulster man and was a Protestant. At one time he was chairman of the Belfast Water Commissioners, and up to 1880 a leading member of the Irish provision trade, which fact has given a good handle to the would-be wits and sarcastic writers of his day.  Biggar indulges an intense hatred to the Saxon rule, and this must be taken into account in any estimate of his Parliamentary conduct.  He has also shown a marvellous capacity for discovering the vulnerable points in his opponents' armor, and he has never failed to use his knowledge to distress and wound his enemy. 

Making himself au fait with the rules of the House of Commons, he has used them with the direst effect.  In his second session, at the request of Mr. Butt, Biggar commenced the work of talking against time.   It was on the coercion bill proposed in 1875, and the member for Cavan talked for nearly four hours. The feat has been equalled since, but at that time it was novel.  The policy at once recommended itself as a way of obstructing business, and since then has become a scientific method, though not quite restricted to the Irish party. 

Mr.Biggar's work has largely been in Parliament.  He speaks frequently outside, yet it is within the House that he has served his party most efficiently.  Twice has, he suffered suspension, but of this he is now very wary, and it is surprising to witness the "cuteness" with which he can use the rules to serve his own purpose.  He is  a  unique  figure  both in person  and character.  He is as intensely loved by his friends as hated by his opponents, and no one has done more for the home rule movement.

Mr. Parnell did not enter Parliament until 1875.  Few, if any, then thought of him as the coming leader of a powerful party.  A landlord himself, a Protestant, only half an Irishman, with aristocratic connections and an English university training, he was least likely to be the advocate of a forward policy in Irish Nationalism.  The early fears concerning him entertained by the home rulers are quite intelligible.  But he has belied them in every way.  He has all the qualities of an opposition leader.  To him has been attracted a band of ardent spirits, young and old.   

He can fight if need be; he can diplomatize if that be better. Cool, intrepid, with a keen mind and an unflinching purpose, he is an enemy to be avoided.  No situation seems to baffle him, and whilst others may rise to white heat of passion, he remains calm.  And yet there is a suppressed passion in his words which powerfully appeals to the hearer and reader.  In the earlier part of his Parliamentary career these qualities were either lacking or undeveloped, and he then lost many a point by his want of self command. 

Yet Mr. Parnell cannot be said, as a rule, to bear too much the burden of his position.  He rather directs; others work.  He never makes himself too cheap.  His strange disappearances from the scene of action, which baffle the onlooker, and more than once have appeared to endanger the success of his policy, have studied method in them.  They lend an impressiveness to his utterances and appearances which might not otherwise be secured.  He is always there when needed; and,if necessary, no one can throw more force into the work than Parnell.

Charles Stewart Parnell is the descendant of men who have won high position in their country's records.   His father, John Henry Parnell, of Avondale, County Wicklow, nephew of Lord Congleton,who was, as Sir Henry Parnell, an ardent Liberal, married Miss Stewart, daughter of Rear-Admiral Stewart, of the American navy, "Old Ironsides," the hero of 1815.

This lady is the Mrs. Parnell of  to-day, mother of the Irish leader.  He was born at Avondale in 1846.  From an early age he was educated entirely in England, finally graduating at Cambridge.  It is to be easily understood that his early leanings were conservative and aristocratic, but gradually, as he began to take interest in politics, he leaned to the Nationalist side.
We have already seen that Mr. Biggar was the originator of obstruction in the House of Commons, but this was merely an accident of the movement.  To Parnell must belong the credit of making it a policy.  For the first two years he spoke very seldom in the House, and not very acceptably.  Butt's gentle temporizing did not suit him, and the germs of the present Parnell party, then in the House, determined upon a new departure.  Hither-to the interference of Irish members in British or imperial matters had  been resented, whilst the proposals made by them for their own country were voted down.  Parnell set himself to alter this state of things, and to take part in all the debates.   

The  " English  factory  and workshop act" of 1878, the mutiny bill of the same year, and the "army discipline and regulation act" of 1879 all bear the marks of his influence. But there was also another movement set on foot, namely, that of making the Irish party indedendent of all the English factions, and using its influence solely to the advancement of Irish interests. The former policy was but to fulfil the duties involved in membership of the House of Commons; the latter has made the Irish party instrumental in the overthrow of two governments.

This forward policy was hailed with acclaim in Ireland.  It led, however, to the deposition of Butt and the advent of Parnell to the leadership.  The events of these later days of the struggle need not be recounted, so far as they concern Mr. Parnell.  The suspensions in the House of Commons, the suppression of the Land League, and the imprisonment of Parnell are matters of recent history familiar to all.  If the forward policy undertaken by Parnell led to the desertion of the party by nominal home rulers, others more in sympathy took their places.  

The late A.M. Sullivan, poet and writer, the gentle brother of the present Lord Mayor of Dublin, was in. the Parliament of 1874-80, and sat until the period of his death in the Parliament of 1880.  Mr. Edmund Dyer Gray also entered, as representative of Tipperary, in 1877.  He is the son of the late Sir John Gray, -whose work in and out of Parliament on "behalf of his country can never be sufficiently acknowledged.  

Young Gray's earliest breath was charged with the Nationalist spirit, and lie has, by means of the Dublin Freeman's Journal, the leading Irish newspaper, of which he is editor and proprietor, done much to help the Nationalist cause.  Cultivated, earnest, successful, in the prime of his manhood—he is forty years of age—holding a high position in his native city, one section of which he now represents, Mr. Gray is an important figure in the Irish party, though perhaps less seen than some of his colleagues, whose great work is on the platform or speaking in the House.  His cool judgment, his devotion to the Nationalist cause, and his opportunities of serving it have made him a tower of strength to his colleagues.  His judgment is a fine balance-weight, and often -counteracts the unconsidered proposals of his friends.

No more important election, has taken place than when Justin McCarthy was returned for Longford in 1879, which constituency he has since continued to represent.   At the general election of 1886 he was also returned for the Ulster city of Londonderry, and has accepted that election.   He is a native of Cork, and is now fifty-six years of age.   Few men are better known on both sides of the Atlantic.
Known to readers of light literature by his novels, which received an encomium from Mr. Gladstone in the House when he was Prime - Minister of England ; known to students of history by his popular History of Our Own Times, a book  which for-fairness of spirit, judicial observation of events and their causes during the Victorian reign, and brilliancy of diction is fit to be compared with Macaulay and Motley; known to politicians as a fair-minded though unflinching advocate of the home rule policy; known as a most successful London journalist, and leader writer on the Daily News—his en-rolment in the ranks of the Parnellite party was a revelation to many.
He had spoken little before then.  Readers of his novels, or the first two volumes of Our Own Times, then. published, could scarcely realize that the litterateur who liad pleased them with My Enemy's Daughter, or Dear Lady Disdain, or the impartial author of the history already named, could be one of "those dreadful Irishmen."  But so it was.  And we may not know how far his influence has been exerted on English minds.  Never losing his gentle manners and gentlemanly bearing, he has tempered his party, but he has never flinched from his position, and there is no more determined home ruler in the House of Commons than Justin McCarthy.

The fifty nominal home rulers who sat in the Parliament of 1874-80 were increased to sixty-one at the general election of 1880.  The Tory years of rule had welded together all the opposing influences, and Irishmen fought side by side with Liberals.  But the famine of 1879 had accentuated events, and the famous letter of Lord Beaconsfield to the late  Duke of Marlborough roused the Parnellite section of the home rule party to the most strenuous efforts, so that in many cases nominal home rulers were replaced by determined adherents of the forward policy.  Still, there were some who did  not favor this policy; they, however, soon cut themselves loose; but it was not until the election of 1885 that Mr. Parnell  found himself supported by a party who entirely acknowledged him as leader, and were prepared to follow whither he led.  Increased to eighty-five, or more than four-fifths of the Irish representation, Mr. Gladstone acknowledged that the voice
 of the people of Ireland, as expressed by their  representatives, must  be  heeded. Hence the home rule bill of 1885.

The direct antithesis to Justin McCarthy is T. M.commonly known as "Tim" Healy, only thirty-two years old.   He entered Parliament in 1880, being elected for Wexford.  Though of a fierce, ardent disposition, he has distinguished himself not merely by his invective and bitterness of expression, but by his practical aids to legislation.   Carrying the fight into Ulster at the last general election, he was defeated.  But at a by-election in February, 1886, he was elected without opposition for North Longford.  He has proved one of the most effective of Mr. Parnell's  lieutenants, .and, in spite  of his grating manner of speech, was recogized as one of the cleverest men in the House of Commons.  It was said that only three men-understood the Irish land bill  of 1881—Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Law, and Mr. Healy—and the " Healy" clause, introduced by his efforts, has been one of if not the most effective portions of the act.
Whatever notice was taken of others, his remarks were always listened to with attention by those who had the bill in charge, and the strange sight has more than once been seen of Mr. Gladstone and "Tim" Healy in earnest conference on the Treasury Bench.  With the members and outsiders his rugged voice and often rude manners have given him an unenviable reputation, for which he is probably only equalled by Mr. Biggar ; but those who know him best speak of the kindly heart within, revealed only to his friends.

Tipperary contributed to the movement by electing in 1880 John Dillon, who in tliese later days has come into great prominence as the author of the " Plan of Campaign," thelatest developmentof the struggle on the part of the poor tenants against eviction.  His father, John Blake Dillon, was one of the purest spirits of the Young Ireland party, and a close friend of John Mitchell, whose candidature for. Tipperary in 1875 brought out the son, and led him to take part in politics, for which his delicate frame has so ill fitted him.  Born in 1851 at Blackrock, County Dublin, educated in the capital city, a doctor by profession, he is still a young man.  But within the feeble frame there burns an intense love of his country, a deep sympathy with its suffering peasantry, and a determination which can never be over-come.  

The self-sacrifice involved in his work has led many to fear for him, and his is a life which Ireland could ill spare. His pure and simple nature has won the admiration of his bitterest enemies, and received a high tribute from Mr. Gladstone.  For several years he had to winter in the south of Europe, and in 1883 was compelled to resign his seat for Tipperary through ill health, but was again elected in 1885 and 1886 for East Mayo, a constituency he still represents.

Early in the Parnellite struggle Dillon joined himself to the "forward" policy,  and his was the most damaging speech against Isaac Butt at the last meeting .where the old leader spoke.  When. the Land League -was formed he threw himself heart and soul into it, forming with Parnell and Michael Davitt the triumvirate of leaders.

The present Lord Mayor of Dublin, Timothy Daniel Sullivan, entered Parliament at the general election of 1880, and is famed all over the world as the poet of the Irish party.  He is proprietor and editor of the Nation, one of the most powerful of the Nationalist organs in Ireland.  He succeeded in the latter capacity his brother, A. M. Sullivan, who died in 1883.  Being now fifty-nine years of age, the Lord Mayor of Dublin is almost the oldest member of the party; but in energy and devotion to the cause he is equal to the youngest.  His work has been, like that of Mr. E. D. Gray, very largely in the press, whilst at Westminster he has been an indefatigable supporter of Mr. Parnell.  The elder Sullivan was an earnest supporter of the Young Ireland movement.

As the Irish party has its poet, it is meet that it should have its orator.  This orator is Thomas Sexton, who can claim one of the first three places for oratorical power amongst members of the House of Commons.  Some of his speeches there have been worthy of its greatest men; wonderful in their compass of language, in their beauty of expression, and in their skilful dialectical power.   He has all the qualities of the true orator—knowledge of words and how to use them, ability to gauge his audience, to win their attention and admiration in spite of antagonistic wills, and poetic imagination.  He has also a great grasp of all questions, especially of finance.  He is most industrious and constant in his Parliamentary work, and during the passing of the redistribu tion bill of 1885 exhibited a remarkable mastery of details.

These qualities have given him a most important place in the councils of the party, and his success at Belfast, one section of which he won at the general election of 1886, has .given him still further claim upon the affections of his countrymen.   He too is a journalist, and for some years was a leader writer on the Nation.  He is but thirty-nine years of age, and a native of Waterford, where, in connection with the Catholic Young Men's Society, the Mechanics' Institute, and the Debating Club, he first developed his powers of public speech.

A fellow-hero with John Dillon in the Plan of Campaign is William O'Brien, editor of United Ireland, one of the few members of the Parnellite party who suffered defeat at the last election.  He was first sent to Westminster for Mallow in 1882, and won South Tyrone in,  1885. But his work has been chiefly journalistic, though of late he has appeared frequently on the platform, and recently has had to defend himself against charges of conspiracy.  He is a native of Mallow, and was born in 1852, the .son of an ardent Young Irelander.  He first found employment on the Cork Herald, afterward joining the Dublin Freeman's Journal.
When United Ireland was commenced it was to his hands that the editorship was intrusted, and his brilliancy, together with .his determined and unflinching purpose,.has won for the paper the position it now holds.  An extremist even amongst the Irish party, William O'Brien has of necessity always been in some sort of trouble.   One of his brothers was arrested for the part he took in the Fenian movement, and the spirit of the family has always been in the direction of strong measures.

The present secretary, of the Land League is Timothy Harrington, who represents in Parliament the harbor division of Dublin city.  Truly he stepped through pain to fame.  As proprietor of the Kerry Sentinel he was an active supporter of the Land League, and had rendered himself obnoxious to the landlord party.  He was sent to prison under the crimes act on ac-count of a speech made at Westmeath on behalf of the laborers.  Whilst in prison he was selected for Westmeath County, without opposition, and this fact was signalled to him from .without the prison walls.  He has made his opponents suffer severely since that time, and, as the official arm of the League, has wielded a vast power.  In the House of Commons his strident voice has often disconcerted.those who, for the time, have had the power in their hands.

 No more stirring stories of adventure  have been recorded than those relating to the special correspondents of the past two decades.  How Stanley discovered Livingstone, how Forbes rode from Ulundi, how O'Donovan entered  Merv, and how O'Kelly visited the Cuban insurgents, are more wonderful than the greatest imaginings of romancists.  None, however, has had a more wonderful history than O'Kelly, now member .for Roscommon, a constituency for which, he was elected in 1880.   This ardent Irish patriot was born at Dublin in 1845, and, more precocious than even his contemporaries, he was engaged in political strife when in. his teens. But the blight of treason was in Irish hearts then, and longing for a military career, yet refusing to serve under the banner he regarded as that of his country's oppressor, he in 1863 entered the

 French army.  Soon was he called to active service.   Away in Algiers the Arabs were in rebellion, and there was to be seen the strange sight of the would-be Irish rebel helping to fasten French chains on Arab rebels.  Next we find him a member of the ill-starred expedition to Mexico. He took part in the conflicts from Oajaca to Mien, where he was slightly wounded, afterward falling into the hands of the Mexicans.  They did not keep him long. He escaped, and for a time wandered in.danger of his life, landing finally in Texas, ragged and penniless.  This was in 1866, and until the outbreak of the Franco-German war he was engaged in revolutionary projects on belialf of Ireland, for which work his previous career had so eminently fitted him. Joining the French army, he once more fought in its ranks until Paris fell, when he turned to New York, obtaining employment as a reporter on the Herald. 

How he, a "green-horn, "succeeded, when all the other journalists had failed, in interviewing Sheridan on the general's return from Europe, need not be here recounted.  After acting on the editorial staff of the Herald for some time, he went to Cuba, .and, in spite of. threats made by the Spanish general, entered the rebel camp, spent a month there, returning into the Spanish lines, only to be arrested and incarcerated in. the most unhealthy and abominable dungeons, with the sole object, on the part of the Spaniards, of ending his life, if possiable, by yellow fever.   This journey into the Cuban camp is perhaps the most wonderful feat, after Stanley's discovery of Livingstone, which has been performed by any. "special."  Fortunately, how ever, the Spaniards could not kill him.

 Nor could they get any information out of him, and after having sent him to Spain, he was liberated.  He afterward went to Brazil, and accompanied the Emperor, Dom Pedro, upon his Americantour.  Finally, so far as American adventures are concerned, he joined the expedition against," Sitting Bull" and the Sioux Indians.

As already stated, in 1880 he was elected to Parliament, but the life there chafes him, and he has sought other adventures to vary the monotony.   Yet those who ought to know declare that his influence upon the fortunes of the party has been very great, and that he insists upon the due measurement of every step ere it is taken.  He is cool, intrepid, and daring, knows how both to act and wait.  His latest adventure was an attempt to reach the Mahdi.  For months he was lost to human ken, and at was feared that his ca reer was ended.  But he turned up again, and accounted for his absence in a series of marvellous letters to the Daily News.

The political organizer of the Irish party in Great Britain is T. P. O'Oonnor, member for the Scotland division of Liverpool,which strongly Hibernian district of the great Mersey city he captured in 1885, and for which he was re-elected at the general election of 1886.  Mr. O'Connor can claim to have done more for the defeat of Liberalism in 1885 on the larger island than any other man.  

It was his pen that wrote the celebrated home rule manifesto addressed to the Irish voters in England and Scotland, calling upon them to support Tory candidates, and by his unparalleled efforts with pen and voice be succeeded in carrying every seat contested save one.  But for the enormous Liberal abstentions in 1886, when the Irish vote was bodily transferred to the Gladstonian side, home rule would now be an accomplished fact.  As president of the National Land League of Great Britain, Mr. T. P. O'Oonnor has wielded enormous influence, and is 'one 'of the most popular platform speakers in the Irish party. During the winter of 1881-2 he visited America, and for seven months lectured on behalf of his native land in all parts of the United States, received everywhere with the greatest enthusiasm.

The story of  T. P. O'Connor's life is full of deeply interesting incidents.   He was born in. Athlone in 1848.  He first attended a small school at Athlone, and at  fifteen  years  of  age  went  to  Queen's College, Galway, where he had a some what distinguished career, taking many prizes, and receiving his B. A. degree when eighteen.   He was an ardent student, worked laboriously, and during his college course taught himself short-hand.

At that time the civil service of India was the great prize for young men, but he declined to enter it, and in 1867 we find him working as a reporter on a Dublin paper, in which work he continued for three years.  Then obtaining a three weeks' vacation, he visited London, arriving in the great metropolis with five pounds in his pocket.  So fearful was he of losing his little hoard that he carried his purse in his hand.  In London he resolved, sink or swim, to stay, but it was many weeks ere Ire could obtain a.ny work.  Irishmen were not regarded with much favor just then.  Fenianism was in the air, and the Hibernian brogue did not conduce to success in London.   The five pounds was soon exhausted, and he was driven almost to despair.  Meagre indeed was his food. Twopence was the limit for his breakfast, .and after that what he could get.  

Finally he was appointed a sub-editor on the Daily Telegraph, chiefly because of his knowledge of French and German, for the Franco-German war was then raging. In this office Mr. O'Connor remained a year and a half, when he was appointed assistant to Dr. Osman, the London correspondent of the New York Herald, and with the doctor he worked on the most cordial terms for three years.  Sometimes during Dr. Osman's absence he was in full charge, and it was whilst Osman was attending the Alabama conference at Geneva that Stanley's famous despatches arrived announcing the discovery of Livingstone.  Changes in the Herald office once more threw Mr. O'Connor on the world, and for two or three years he experienced all the shifts, the disappointments, the miseries, of a London literary hack.  Be knew the despair and the physical privationsof Chatterton.  All kinds of   work were done by him for bread. Stories of the melodramatic order, sketches, biographies nothing was refused.  Then he was appointed sub-editor of the Echo, at that time a halfpenny morning daily. But owing to ill health this had soon to be given up.

 The story of how the Life of Lord Beaconsfleld was commenced is too long to be told here, full though it is of tragic incident.   That work, to which even the subject paid a tribute, made its author famous, and is the standard book on the "Eastern Mystery Man."  For four years and a half it absorbed the entire attention and thoughts of its author, who worked at it sixteen and seventeen hours a day.

His friends thought him "Dizzy" mad, for he could talk of nothing else.  During the whole time he was in the most abject poverty so poor, indeed, that nearly the whole of the MS. was written on the backs of Alcock's porous plaster bills, given to him by a friendly chemist.  The work, when finished, at both periods—for it came out first in one volume (up to the year 1846), and next as a complete work in 78—was an immediate success, and most favorably reviewed.  By a series of misfortunes with publishers, fame rather than money has been the reward of its author.   Since then Mr. O'Connor has published The Parnell Movement—a work which ought to be read and studied by every one—and Gladstone's House of Commons.  He is also a journalist of eminence, with brilliant powers of description.  

At one time he was both cable and mail correspondent of the New York Sun, and later of the Star, and many of those fine accounts of the scenes in the House of Commons published daily in the Pall Mail Gazette were from his pen.  He is perhaps one of the hardest-working M.P. 's,  and the click of his Remington type-writer is to be heard frequently in one of the writing-rooms of the HouseCommons. Whilst sharing in the fortunes of his party, Mr. O'Oonnor has escaped imprisonment, though his sister spent six months in jail as one of Mr. Forster's suspects.

 When O'Oonnor went to America in 1881 the news to meet him by the New York pilot-boat was the arrest of Parnell.  Ere leaving New York the following May that policy was reversed, and the prisoners released.  Anticipating a joyful meeting at Queenstown with his sister and colleagues, the pilot-boat there brought the awful news of the Phoenix Park murders.  Those who have been described are or have been the Parliamentary leaders of the movement.  There are many others who deserve mention did space permit, and still more who are content to make up the rank and file of this great movement.  There is one, however, who has never entered the House of Commons, but who from, his influence and career has been a most potent factor in. the Irish party.  

This is Michael Davitt, the ex-weaver, ex-Fenian conspirator, ex-convict.   For his sufferings on behalf of Ireland, for his skilful efforts to win her freedom, and not less for the true spirit of patriotism which has led him to think first of her and last of his own hard lot, his country owes Michael Davitt a debt she can never repay.  No one can read the story of his life without a feeling of horror at his treatment in Dartmoor and  Portland prisons, and few can deny to him admiration for his work in founding the National Land League.  In some instances he has been the leader, and as one of the triumvirate he. has held the position as outside director, of this movement.

As a speaker and organizer Michael Davitt has been perhaps the most powerful factor in the Irish party.  He has appeared at times to be in antagonism to other leaders, but not for long.  Michael Davitt has often been invited to enter Parliament.  Hitherto, however, he has wisely refused to contest any seat; for were there no barrier, existing to his sitting in the house, many others may easily be found to do the work there, whilst none can so well accomplish what he is doing outside that assembly.

The Irish Party
By Edward Brown   F.L.S
Harpers Monthly
August 1887

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Stalingrad - “For us there was no land beyond the Volga,” 23/8/1942


We know what’s at stake and how great the foe’s power, / And what is now coming to pass. / The hour of courage has struck on the clock / And our courage will hold to the last. / The bullets can kill us, but cannot deter; / Though our houses will fall, we shall remain. 

The Nazi onslaught on Stalingrad commenced with a bloody vengeance. The sky turned brown from the dust of fragmented buildings, the ground vibrated because of the power of the explosions. The Fascist army's advance continued but faced the most ferocious resistance imaginable. The horror of fighting the Soviet troops on their favoured terrain, the approaching Russian winter, fast became a reality for Hitler's Generals. While German tanks entered the outskirts of Stalingrad the Soviets dug in preparing to fight for every district, every street, every house.

Almost six months later , 2 February 1943 and the defeat of the Nazi forces which had sought to encircle and destroy Stalingrad was complete. Out of each Red Army division sent to defend the city no more than a few hundred soldiers survived, 1.1 million casualties, of which 485,751 lost their lives.

For Hitler the defeat at Stalingrad was the beginning of the end. The story of the Red Army's sacrifice had a powerful effect across the world, especially on resistance movements in occupied Europe. The Russians who had taken the brunt of the German onslaught since 1941 were now turning the tide and a year later would be joined by the Allied forces opening up the second front with the D-Day landings landings at Normandy.

Philosophy Football's 1942-2012 Stalingrad range marks the battle's 70th Anniversary. Inspired by Anna Akhmatova's poem the designs are based on a medal, a fuselage, a propaganda poster, a book title from the time and the slogan with which the Russian people greeted their eventual victory. " Nobody is forgotten. Nothing is forgotten!"

 “For us there is no land beyond the Volga,”

Vasily Zaitsev

A superb range of Stalingrad anniversary T-shirts can be obtained at

Sylvia Townsend Warner - Harrow Radical Heroine

With the Hunted: Sylvia Townsend Warner 
Selected Writings Black Dog Books, £16.99
 Friday 31 August 2012
 by Angel Dahouk With the Hunted:

Sylvia Townsend Warner Selected Writings Best known for her 1926 prize-winning novel Lolly Willowes, Sylvia Townsend Warner is Harrow's hidden heroine, a fiercely intelligent woman whose quiet defiance earned her great respect among her contemporaries. 

But following her death in 1978 - aptly on May Day - Warner's name is remarkably absent among the literary avant-garde. Her prolific narratives of working-class exploitation and her portraits of radical activists such as Rosa Luxemburg and Countess Markievicz are important contributions to an ongoing historical struggle. 

Yet together with her lover Valentine Ackland, Warner was also committed to a wider critique of post-war "normative" societal structures. Famously ridiculed by a number of her male counterparts, particularly Stephen Spender, her radicalism - she was an active member of the Communist Party which she had joined in 1935 - a fact often seen as irreconcilable with her "formalistic" style. 

Warner's Selected Writings bring together an impressive display of articles, essays, talks, journal entries and letters. These showcase a broad range of interests from English country living to Victorian literature to the Spanish civil war. Arranged into eight sections, the selection includes her earliest published article in Blackwood's Magazine in 1916 describing her time as a munitions factory worker during WWI. 

Even as an elementary piece, the characters are vivid and the demoralising conditions are real. The war, Warner makes clear, did not unite workers. "'Scrap' was written coldly and briefly on some of them," she comments. The section titled Dispatches contains some of Warner's pivotal writing, triggered by her time in Barcelona during the Spanish civil war. Here, Warner is roused by the republican cause and writes with clarity and passion about the people and events. 

The church represents a refuge of oppression, "used as arms-dumps and machine-gun nests" and scenes of savagery and murder are committed in allegiance with faith: "There, by the church, the firing squad was waiting, trim and powerful," she writes. Warner is unsympathetic towards the religious agenda in Spain, which she describes as subjugating an otherwise naturally intellectual nation. 

While a number of articles reveal a love of the English countryside and a depth of description which can only come from sustained exploration, Warner claims that she is "unfitted by nature to compose a guidebook." And she was right. Her writing is not about the wonders of nature but the nature of people. Raymond Williams once pointed out that in the English language "the country" can refer to a rural area or it can denote a whole society. 

Warner take us on a journey that is sharper and more reflective than mere travel writing - it is a journey into consciousness and culture. "Even when people tell me I am a lady novelist," explains Warner, "it is the wording of the allegation I take exception to, not the allegation itself." Her extraordinary flair can be both comic and caustic at once - she challenges dominant thought on a number of levels so that she cannot be readily indexed as one type of writer. 

The scope of topics in this collection defy any single categorisation but, throughout her writing, she consistently champions the marginalised. "When we can publish rich, vigorous and varied stories," declares Warner, "this will be the finest propaganda for the working-class cause." 

Sylvia Townsend Warner
Born Harrow
December 6, 1893 and Died 1 May 1978