Category Archives: folk music

Overwhelmed by the sheer volume

Right, folks:

It has a smack of the true Banned List @JohnRentoul, which is turning into a style-guide for the ever-changing Zeitgeist (and there’s probably three examples in this sentence already).

I have already whinged over this one. Here it comes again:

Southern Water said “torrential rain fell across Sussex” leading to some sewers becoming “overwhelmed by the sheer volume of water”.

Like The L&N, the buck Don’t Stop Here Anymore

As, c’mon! You knew I couldn’t miss that Malcolmian aside.

Admit it:this one is better than the usual — 

Back in Sussex…

… the drains flooded.
As they do.
More often than not, excessive rainfall is involved.

The water companies can achieve the same result, failing to maintain their infrastructure (i.e. pipes and sewers), because shareholder dividends and managerial bonuses are a higher priority:

Southern Water has seen its operating profit increase 21.9 per cent on turnover of £778.7 million as it reports its financial results for the year ended 31 March 2013…

Profit after taxation for the company nearly doubled, up to £156.9 million from £79.9 million a year before.

While we find something else in the Portsmouth Evening News (9th October 2012):

According to the paper, Southern Water had been taken to court and prosecuted 40 times in the past nine years for pollution offences. Last year it was fined a total of £150,000 for sewage leaks and is one of the biggest polluters of rivers and beaches in the country.

Last year there were 47 leaks into Langstone harbour, an area which is a site of scientific interest and attracts many different species of migrating birds every year. Seals have also been known to use the harbour.

Southern Water made £79.9m profit after tax in the last financial year – more than double the profits the year before.

Sheer hypocrisy?

Another general benefit of privatisation is that, in any case, ministers are off-the-hook, for, like the Albertophage Wallace:

The Magistrate gave his o-pinion
That no-one was really to blame 
He said that he hoped the water-cump-nies
Would add further sums to their name.

Let us recall how, last winter, with the Somerset Levels drowned,  Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and his understrappers sloughed responsibility onto the Environment Agency.

When Chris Smith remarked that the government had cut £100 million for the budget, and ensured the sacking of a quarter of the workforce, and this might, just possibly, be a factor, he was instantly the embattled boss of the Environment Agency.


This is another of those over-worked words. The OED has it as two different nouns, an adverb, an adjective, and four verbs. That’s before we go into derivatives and compounds, the choicest of which (for me) is:

Sheer Thursday: the Thursday in Holy Week, Maundy Thursday.

with allusion to the purification of the soul by confession (compare Shrove Thursday, French jeudi absolu), and perhaps also to the practice of washing the altars on that day.

Even then, I have to scroll down tho usage 8 of the adjective to find this one:

Neither more nor less than (what is expressed by the noun); that and nothing else; unmitigated, unqualified; downright, absolute, pure.

“Pure” is not what I’d be looking for, in the matter of flooded sewers or the Euston Road at rush-hour.

Despite the nine citations the OED finds (dated from 1583 to 1885), I’m unconvinced that the word adds anything— not even a useful reinforcement — in expressions like the sheer volume of water/traffic.



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Filed under BBC, Conservative Party policy., folk music, Music, Oxford English Dictionary, politics, Tories.

Nicky, nukey, Organ and Cosher

All hail the groceress!

[Fret not: that reference becomes clearer in about 250 words time.]

The newly-enstooled Education Secretary (how much damage can she do in three trimesters?) has the making of a right one.That’s capital-R Right. Also religious Right. And right from wrong, no doubt (especially on the topic of single-sex marriage).  One is entitled to muse on her agenda when she so definitively asserts she defines her constituency and parliamentary duties in the context of  “to remember the Word of God and serve the Lord.”

That’s likely to be of particular interest when, after the summer recess, she has to explain her Department’s rôle in the small and on-going business of extremists in schools.

I hope someone teases out why, in an Islamic context, we are meant to shiver, but evangelical Christians get away with it. In case you missed it, the Goveian edict forbidding the indoctrination of creationist rubbish went out … just a month ago. A stable features in the Authorised Version, but shutting the door took a trifle longer.

Rhyming Secs

Laura McInerney picked it up from the Great Education Secretaries blog. John Rentoul was quickly on the case, and referred us to Unfortunately many of the suggested rhymes for “Morgan” seem to have genital associations. So, if we are to take up the challenge of rhymes for Mrs Morgan we have a problem keeping the matter clean, decent, and New Testament (St Paul eschews all that Old Testamental of-the-earth-earthy stuff).

Alas, Dylan Thomas had already set the bar:

First Voice: Mrs Organ Morgan, groceress, coiled grey like a dormouse, her paws to her ears, conjures …
Mrs Organ Morgan: Silence.
Second Voice: She sleeps very dulcet in a cove of wool, and trumpeting Organ Morgan at her side snores no louder than a spider.

The traditional Malcolmian aside:

In passing, I’d have thought the Great Education Secretaries blog comes down to very few names:

  • R.A.Butler (1944-5);
  • Ellen Wilkinson (1945-7);
  • David Eccles (1954-7 and 1959-62);
  • Sir Edward Boyle (1962-64);
  • Edward Short (1968-70)

and the rest are also rans.

I’d happily reckon that reflects my belief everything headed down-hill with Thatcher, first at the Department and then overseeing from Downing Street. By the time that lady was wrestled out of office, happily in tears, a school could expect to be repainted every seventy years or so. Kenneth Baker, Thatcher’s obedient Mini-Me, was the nadir, and his National Curriculum the end of liberal education in this land. At least under Blunkett there was money in the system (for which Tories have never forgiven him, Blair and Brown).

 Still with things Gwalian

After that wander from Cwndonkin Drive, my mind wandered to another famed Welsh context.

pp14be7183Once upon a time (actually round about 1965 to 1967) alternate Saturdays between September and April seemed to involve away fixtures between Tyneside and North Yorkshire. The Art of Coarse Rugby (now out of print, so may the fleas of a thousand camels infest the burnoose of he who fecked my irreplaceable first edition, as right) must include the post-match return.

The IV’s game was probably played on a cow-pasture, inevitably lost: aches dulled in the communal bath, and drowned in the club bar. Then the Grand Return. The crates of Nukey Brown are rescued from the bus boot. Time for the sing-song, celebrating Dinah, or the ornithological hazards of Mobile, and musing on If I were the marrying kind.

Filth aside, there might be a few choruses of Cosher Bailey. Those were the days of The (Liverpool) Spinners, who invited verses for this one from the audience. The rugby connection may have been spawned through Max Boyce (who also did — in this context — The Ballad of Morgan the Moon), but the Ur-version was probably Ewan MacColl:

Crawshay Bailey

I cannot recall where I came upon the gem, but “Cosher” was a derivative of a real person, not of sufficient significance to feature in the Dictionary of National Biography (unlike Catherine “Skittles” Walters/Bailey, inamorata of many — including the future Edward VII). However, Crawshaw Bailey (1789 – 1872) now appears in wikipedia, but more authoritatively — so, note the discrepancies — on the Dictionary of Welsh Biography.

While Bailey was an iron master and railway pioneer in South Wales, he was also a virulent opponent of Trades Unions (which may  explain how he became the headline act in this bawdy context).

During 1835 , when the Calvinistic Methodist Association of South Wales held its quarterly meeting at Salem , Nant-y-glo , Crawshay Bailey , who was an Anglican , provided hospitality for the moderator and five leading ministers , possibly in gratitude to the denomination which had decided in its Association at Tredegar , 19 Oct. 1831 , the year of the riots at Merthyr , that no trade unionist could be admitted to church membership.

He may have some affinities with Mrs Nicky Morgan:

She wrote: “I would also like to see the culture of individuals taking responsibility for their actions taking root throughout our public services. NHS staff, teachers, civil servants and many more all need to take individual responsibility for ensuring they offer the best patient care, the best education experience and the most helpful and efficient customer service they can to the public. Many already do but I am getting very fed up with hearing about problems which were ‘not picked up by the regulator’. If we all take more responsibility for our own actions and monitor those around us I believe we can end up with a stronger society and, who knows, we might even spend less on those regulators.”

Note: “individuals”, not professional associations or unions. Ho, hum.

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Filed under Conservative family values, education, folk music, History, Michael Gove, Rugby, Tories., Wales

What do you expect but a grunt?

Political Scrapbook has picked up a gem from the Thurrock local news-sheet:

Thurrock UKIP leader on drink drive charge

THE leader of the UKIP group on Thurrock Council has been charged with drink driving after a late night incident at a fundraising function attended by national party leader Nigel Farage and MEP Tim Aker. 

Cllr Robert Ray was arrested in the early hours of last Friday morning after a dinner at the Orsett Hall Hotel.

A statement by Essex police said: “A man has been charged with drink driving after being arrested at Orsett. Robert Ray, 65, of Purfleet Road, Aveley, was stopped by officers at Orsett Hall at 2.15am on Friday, 13 June. He has been bailed and will appear at Basildon Magistrates’ Court on 1 July.

A little Ray of Sonnenschein

The “added-value” Political Scrapbook appends is the dubious history of said Councillor Robert Ray:


So, all together now!

Or, to spell it out:

One evening last October, when I was far from sober,
And dragging home a load with manly pride,
My feet began to stutter, and I fell down in the gutter,
And a pig came up and parked right by my side.

Then I mumbled, “It’s fair weather when good comrades get together”,
Till a lady passing by was heard to say,
“You can tell a man that boozes by the playmates that he chooses”.
Then the pig got up and slowly walked away.

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Filed under Britain, broken society, East Anglia, folk music, Political Scrapbook, UKIP

Yer mouth’s too bloody wide …

If you got to page 19 of The Times, you hit on two royal stories.


A cunning sub-editor subscripted these with No disguising the humdrum amid the showmanship, Richard Morrison’s tart review of Così fan tutte at the Coliseum. Don’t entirely get it? Mozart title translates roughly as: “That’s the way they all do it”. Which story is set in … Naples. All coincidental? Ummm … perhaps.


Let me be clearly understood: this is what minor royalty (if we must have them) are for, especially if they, personally, may have had a bit of desert grit in their gusset.

James Bone needs a fact-checker

Let’s start at the head of his piece:

They were at the time unfairly labelled D-Day Dodgers, accused of avoiding the Normandy landings by fighting for the Allies in Italy.

Nancy Astor has always been associated with that slur, which she denied, and which — to be fair — cannot properly be attributed to her. I’m heading that way, though.

There are enough other utterances, on appeasement, on which we can damn Viscountess Astor. Even so, on this particular issue, let us refer to Hansard for 8th June 1945:

Viscountess Nancy Astor (Con, Plymouth Sutton): Could I ask a question? No one has suffered more from rumours than I have. It is German propaganda. People who have not suffered have no idea of German propaganda. I wish something could be done about it.

Mr Henry Charleton (Lab, Leeds, South): Goebbels is missing now, anyway.

Mr Gerald Palmer (Con, Winchester): I was very glad to see the denial, which was given full publicity in the “Union Jack,” that the Noble Lady had ever been responsible for inventing the “D-Day Dodger” phrase. Anyway, the denial did get very good publicity.

A source?

Which is one convenient explanation. Alternatively the Dundee-based paper, The Sunday Post16 April 2006, had a Q&A on the origin of the expression:

Question: Is there any proof that Lady Astor referred to the British troops in Italy as ‘D-Day Dodgers’, or was this purely German propaganda?” 

Answer: Yes, she did use the expression. She received a letter in 1944 from a disillusioned British soldier in Italy who was among those who felt the efforts of servicemen not involved in the Normandy campaign were being ignored. He signed it sarcastically, but she apparently failed to appreciate this. It became the subject of a song set to the tune of ‘Lili Marlene’.

The Daily Telegraph rendering of what seems to be the same pooled account as James Bone’s has this:

Lord Astor … insisted that the story was entirely apocryphal and that it was unfair to attribute the remarks to Lady Astor, his great-aunt.

“She always denied she ever made that remark. In fact she swore to her dying day that she never said it.

“She had three sons and four nephews fighting in the war, including in Italy, so it seems very odd that she would say such a thing. The story just doesn’t make sense. My father, her nephew, was out here with the Household Cavalry. He was captured and spent nearly a year in a POW camp. My great aunt would hardly have accused him of being a D-Day Dodger.

“My father always told me that a constituent of hers wrote to her, jokingly saying he was a D-Day Dodger. She then mentioned it to someone. Perhaps that is where it came from.”

James Bone’s piece sums it up:

Matthew Mackinnon-Pattison, 89, from Appleby, Cumbria, who fought at Monte Cassino with the First Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders, said: “We believe that Lady Astor is the one who called us D-Day Dodgers, because her son had got himself into a spot of trouble in Italy…”

A reet Bobbie dazzler

If I am right, that could also bring us to Robert “Bobbie” Gould Shaw III, Nancy’s son by her first husband, Robert Gould Shaw II. “Bobbie” was homosexual:

UnknownNancy remained closer – on and off – to Bobbie, the child from her first marriage, who turned out to be bisexual, something which [Adrian] Fort [in his biography of Nancy] oddly describes as having a ‘flawed character’. In 1929 Bobbie was forced to retire from the armed forces after being ‘detected with a soldier in conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman’. Two years later, he was charged with ‘importuning a guardsman’, tried at Vine Street Magistrates’ Court and sent to prison. The Astors managed to keep the story out of the papers – Waldorf owned the Observer and Beaverbrook agreed to stop the news appearing in his publications. Nancy wrote to thank him adding that ‘for the first time in years I am really fond of my son.’ For all her intolerance, she accepted Bobbie’s sexuality, remarking that Frank – his long-term boyfriend – was ‘the prettiest of all my children’s girlfriends; the rest of them are just overpainted hussies’.

The 1931 imprisonment was for six months. Bobbie had been an officer in the Blues and Royals (Nancy gave a John Singer Sargent drawing of him in uniform to Bobbie’s partner, Alfred Goodey).

Put together the fragments:

  • Nancy Astor, at this point, was less than coherent,  even invariably embarrassing, as Harold Nicolson’s memoir records.
  • The Cliveden Set’s flirtations with Ribbentrop, and their prevailing attitudes of appeasement, were well known, and profoundly unpopular.
  • Whether Bobbie was the basis for Mr Mackinnon-Pattison’ recollection of “a spot of trouble” may not greatly matter. Even if – and even particularly because — the Astors used influence to keep the matter out of the papers, gossip is a fine thing. What would be well-known among the officer corps would filter down, corrupted no doubt, to the other ranks.
  • Quite how Captain Gavin Astor, of the Life Guards, fell into German hands in Italy, in 1944, is unclear. Perhaps I should consult Garry O’Connor’s account of these public schoolboys playing at soldiering.

On those grounds, I’d suggest any case against, or defence of Nancy Astor as the originator of “D-Day Dodgers” is, at best, “Unproven”.

The song

James Bone skims over another small matter:

The veterans who fought in Italy have mocked the D-Day Dodger insult in a song, set to the tune of Lili Marlene. A veterans’ group later issued a fake D-Day Dodger medal.

There are two claimants to the authorship of those lyrics.

It feels proper to acknowledge Lance-Sergeant Harry Pynn of the Tank Rescue Section, 19 Army Fire Brigade, as one prime source. This feels very much a “squaddy song”. On the other hand, it was attributed and even claimed by Hamish Henderson.

I’m happy to have Henderson, who seems to have made the Lady Astor connexion, given full credit. Donald Smith, in that appreciation for the Scottish Poetry Library, traces how an artistic hand was at work:

The structure is again cumulative, with the repetition and staged progression essential to the unfolding a song in performance. Humorous irony is kept in play until the last two verses deliver their devastating charge:

Dear Lady Astor, you think you know a lot,
Standing on a platform and talking tommy-rot.
       You, England’s sweetheart and its pride,
       We think your mouth’s too bleeding wide
That’s from your D-Day dodgers – in far off Italy.

Many song-makers might have stopped there in righteous anger, but Henderson adds depth, tragic irony:

Look around the mountains in the mud and rain –
You’ll find the scattered crosses – (there’s some which have no name),
         Heartbreak and toil and suffering gone,
         The boys beneath them slumber on.
Those are the D-Day dodgers who’ll stay in Italy.


I’ve heard it done many times, and as often as not murdered.

YouTube has several renditions:

  • the Ian Campbell Group’s was probably the first recording I encountered (and I think it’s still in the attic on an Epic 45),
  • the Clancys and Makem version is just too twee,
  • so I’ll settle for Hamish Imlach having a go, if only for the Movietone images:


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Filed under Daily Telegraph, folk music, History, Music, Times, World War 2

Someday Soon, reprised

Many years ago I was posting on Judy Collins doing Ian Tyson’s Someday Soon. Share with me:

Gets me every time. That YouTube is captioned with all I need to know:

Classic song from 1969 written by Canadian Ian Tyson (Ian & Sylvia) and performed by Judy Collins. She is backed by Buddy Emmons/pedal steel guitar; James Burton/electric guitar; Jim Gordon/Drums; Chris Ethridge/bass; Stephen Stills/guitar and Van Dyke Parks or one of two others on piano. (Credits at end of video)

MI0000020160That’s about as stellar a late ’60s line-up as one might wish to assemble. The date (1969) is clearly wrong, except for the Collins recording. Ian Tyson first did it with his then-wife Sylvia, back in 1964.

Elsewhere I came across that Stills had introduced Collins to the song. Another piece of magic.

A Malcolmian aside

Why does that song work?

Well, it’s a classic ballad. A bit of nostalgia, but essentially the old “loved and lost” theme. You’ll find some things similar all the way back to Child 299:

She’s taen her gown out-ower her arms,
And followed him to Stirling,
And aye the trooper he did say,
‘O turn ye back, my darling.”
‘O when will we twa meet again?
Or when will you me marry?’
‘When rashin rinds grow gay gowd rings,
I winna langer tarry.’

In particular, there’s that seeming very contemporary set-up intro:

There’s a young man that I know,
His age is twenty-one,
Comes from down
In southern Colorado,
Just out of the service
And he’s looking for his fun …

Tyson’s composition goes back to 1964. So the young man‘s service could likely be Vietnam. To cite just one other example, Jimmy Webb’s Galveston, from as late as 1969, was always taken as a Vietnam song.

I’ve frequently wondered whether there was a Ph.D. thesis in “popular music+war”. There must be, somewhere in there, the kind of yearning that made Don’t Fence me In (Cole Porter in 1934, lest we forget) the song of 1944: a very curious amalgam of  slickerdom and pining. Despite that, I see it having certain attributes — perhaps essentially of where and when, shared with Someday Soon.

I find I have the original Ian & Sylvia version on the Big Bastard iTunes back-up. Going back to it, I can see why I wasn’t wholly unimpressed:

  • it lacks any great emotional heat or intensity;
  • it ought to be a girly song, not a close-harmony duo (with Tyson dominating), and Sylvia Tyson is not up to it:

There are various versions of Tyson doing it solo, or as a duo with whatever “star” he was a-guesting.

Still, I find it easy to forgive Tyson, if only for Four Strong Winds (though that one is just to easy to parody)

41HXNP579YLThere’s another reason to rate Tyson’s taste: the duo (though it’s Ian channelling his inner Gordon) beat PPM to Early Morning Rain, now most-easily available through the Vanguard boxed set.

That said, I know which of the many, many versions I’d want played at my wake. Or on the iPod, stuck in a motorway tail-back. It’s those suave, smooth, buttoned-down New Yorkers — and the glitzy one, from 1966:

Hey, Malc, time to bring your witterings to some sort of a conclusion!


And, on mature reflection, I’m almost convinced that, of me, it was Suzy Bogguss who comes close to the immortal Judy on Someday Soon (and, back in 1991, she almost looked the part)Yes, it really does need that bit of steel (a taste I still haven’t fully acquired, Mike Johnson with Bogguss there — I believe — though Buddy Emmons on the Judy Collins version is the real eye-opener and one to match):

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Filed under Cole Porter, folk music, History, Music

Conscript Seamas Mòr MacEanraig

One of the down-column letters in today’s Times [£, and I can’t find it on line]:

Tae think again

Sir, As a patriotic Scot I am delighted that people from Scottish sport are calling for an alternative national anthem to the anti-English dirge that is Flower of Scotland.

Surely someone from the Scottish literary scene could compose suitably uplifting words to such bright tunes as McCunn’s Land of the Mountain and the Flood, Highland Cathedral or Gerry Rafferty’s Shipyard Town.

Michael Kay
Callander, Perthshire.

All worthy stuff.


First let’s be clear Flower of Scotland is pay-back.

The British National Anthem really is a dirge. It is also Scots-phobic.

The lyric of God Save the King was first printed as a Hanoverian response to the Jacobite walk-over in the Battle of Prestonpans.

When, as a boy-chorister, I was sitting through an over-long and under-inspiring sermon, the main resort was Hymns Ancient and Modern. St Nicholas, Wells-next-the-Sea, had — like most parish churches which were not too spiky and Anglo-Ca(r)th’lick — the unexpurgated original edition.

My memory may deceive me, but I’m convinced the text of God Save the King (yes: it really is that long ago) included the optional verse:

Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
May, by thy mighty aid,
Victory bring.
May he sedition hush,
and like a torrent rush
Rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the King.

You do not need to search too thoroughly in that hymnal to find imperialistic and even racist twaddle masquerading as “muscular Christianity”.

Second, there’s already an excellent candidate for a Scottish National Anthem. It’s Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come-All-Ye (which I first encountered in 1961, with CND marching to the Holy Loch):

Roch the wind in the clear days dawin’
Blaws the cloods heelster gowdy ow’r the bay
But there’s mair nor a roch wind blawin’
Through the great glen o’ the warld the day.
It’s a thocht that will gar oor rottans
A’ they rogues that gang gallus fresh and gay
Tak the road an’ seek ither loanins
For their ill ploys tae sport an’ play

Nae mair will the bonnie call ants
Mairch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw,
Nor wee weans frae pit-heid an’ clachan
Mourn the ships sailing doon the Broomielaw.
Broken families in lands we’ve herriet
Will curse Scotland the Brave nae mair, nae mair.
Black and white, ane til ither mairriet
Mak’ the vile barracks o’ their masters bare.

So come all ye at hame wi’ freedom
Never heed whit the hoodies croak for doom
In your hoose a’ the bairns o’ Adam
Can find breid, barley bree an’ painted room.
When MacLean meets wi’s freens in Springburn
A’ the roses an’ geans will turn tae bloom
And a black boy frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o’ the burghers doon.

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Filed under folk music, Scotland, Times, Wells-next-the-Sea

Alex Salmond defines #indyref

In the 1980s, while I was compiling the oil and gas index, David Cameron was still fooling around on the playing fields of Eton.

In that sentence, on the BBC Today programme,  Alex Salmond identified my problem with the Scottish Referendum.

P5151083He presumably intended to imply his experience over Cameron’s jejune effeteness. Or, in Francis Bacon’s usage, effete

Ieiunenesse or extreme Comminution of Spirits.

For Salmond’s deserved contempt ought to raise the question,

What and who is Scottish “Independence” for?

Because, if it is for the bankers and oil economists, I want nothing to do with it.

My concept of Scottish independence would be something more robust:

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

Or, as Béarla (= in common English):

It’s a thought that would drive our vermin,
all the rogues who strut and swagger,
to take the road and seek other fields,
to go and play elsewhere with their wicked tricks.

Hamish Henderson, Seumas Mór’s soaring verse transcends petty capitalist nationalism, but it serves here to illustrate the poverty of the SNP vision.

An old romantic concludes:

Perhaps, if anyone, John Maclean, the old Clydeside Marxist, — back in 1923, not long before his early death — came close, if naïvely, to defining a credible free and independent Scotland:

Russia could not produce the World Revolution. Neither can we in Gorbals, in Scotland, in Great Britain. Before England is ready I am sure the next war will be on us. I therefore consider that Scotland’s wisest policy is to declare for a republic in Scotland, so that the youths of Scotland will not be forced out to die for England’s markets.

I accordingly stand out as a Scottish Republican candidate, feeling sure that if Scotland had to elect a Parliament to sit in Glasgow it would vote for a working-class Parliament.

Such a Parliament would have to use the might of the workers to force the land and the means of production in Scotland out of the grasp of the brutal few who control them, and place them at the full disposal of the community. The Social Revolution is possible sooner in Scotland than in England…


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Filed under David Cameron, folk music, History, Scotland, SNP, social class, socialism.