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Every Grain of Sand

by Bob Dylan

 

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dying voice within me reaching out somewhere
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair. Read more…

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Peace at Christmas

Let peace come down this Christmas                

Upon a broken land                                                 

Let peace come down this Christmas time –      

And lets all take a stand                                        

 

Angel voices singing

On that Holy night                                              

To lead us out of darkness                                

Into the path of light – the path of light

Garth Hewitt

 

MP Mhairi Black, posting on Twitter on the night when UK MPs voted for war in Syria – “Very dark night in parliament. Will never forget the noise of some Labour and Tory cheering together at the idea of bombs falling.”

 

This will not be our finest hour: the dangerous rhetoric of war

Jill Segger December 7, 2015 – original article in Ekklesia Daily Bulletin here

 

We have to hope that committing a country’s armed forces to acts of war is one of the hardest decisions a politician ever has to make and one which makes the greatest demand on conscience. But observation makes it hard to rid oneself of a suspicion that many senior politicians have a not-so-secret desire to play the role of war leader.

 

Remember Margaret Thatcher in headscarf and goggles posing in the turret of a tank during the Falklands war? Tony Blair striving to look blokish and casual against a backdrop of bored-looking soldiers in Iraq? George Bush on the flightdeck of an aircraft carrier, sporting a USAF bomber jacket? And on Saturday (5 December), we saw the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon at RAF Akrotiri with a fighter plane in soft-focus behind him, unable to suppress a smirk as he proclaimed: “We will hit them harder”. Read more…

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The Chartists

Dr Mike Sanders with the National Chartist Hymnbook of 1845

Dr Mike Sanders with the National Chartist Hymnbook of 1845

A talk by Dr Mike Sanders, University of Manchester

at the launch of Liberty is Near!

the album of Chartist hymns put to music by Garth Hewitt

Greenbelt 2013

 

The following talk, given in three parts, was interspersed with performances of the Chartist hymns listed.

 

1) Hark, I Hear

2) Great God!

 

Part One

The song, or rather hymn, you have just heard – ‘Great God is this the patriot’s doom?’ – was written by the Leicester Chartist, John Henry Bramwich, for the funeral service of Samuel Holberry – an early Chartist martyr.  At that funeral it was sung to the tune of the ‘Old Hundredth’ by Chartists who carried banners proclaiming “The Lord hateth the hands that shed innocent blood” and “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.”  It was reprinted in The National Chartist Hymn Book, wtw.wtw_web_pkg.download_photowhich is (as far as we know) the only surviving Chartist hymnal and which forms the basis for Garth’s latest album Liberty is Near!

But back to Samuel Holberry born in 1814 into a family of agricultural labourers.  The youngest of nine children, he began his working life as an agricultural labourer before enlisting in the army aged 17.  After four years service he left the army and moved to Sheffield where he worked as a cooper and then as a distiller.  In October 1838 he married Mary and also became active in the Chartist movement.  In the early hours of January 12th 1840 he was arrested as the leader of a planned uprising in Sheffield and subsequently sentenced to four years imprisonment in Northallerton prison – notorious as one of the harshest prisons in the country.  While in prison, his young son (also called Samuel) died (a mere 18 weeks old), and he himself contracted tuberculosis.  As a result of his illness, Holberry was moved to York Castle where he died, aged 27, on June 21st, 1842.  His wife,  Mary, had seen him once during his imprisonment.

The constable who arrested Holberry asked him “Surely you would not take a life?”  To which Holberry replied, “But I would in defence of liberty and the charter.  Mind, I am no thief or robber, but I will fight for the charter and will not rest until we have got it…”.  Holberry had taken up arms in the name of Chartism and died an unrepentant Chartist.  This prompts two questions – what was Chartism and why did it inspire such commitment in its followers?

The first question – what was Chartism – is deceptively easy to answer.  Chartism (as Wikipedia tells us) “was a working-class movement for political reform in Britain between 1838 and 1848 which took its name from the People’s Charter of 1838.” The People’s Charter called for six reforms to make the political system more democratic:

  1. A vote for every man over the age of 21;
  2. A secret ballot;
  3. No property qualification for members of Parliament;
  4. Payment for MPs (so poor men could serve);
  5. Constituencies of equal size;
  6. Annual elections for Parliament.

In the 1830s and 1840s, most politicians, most intellectuals and most clergymen fiercely denounced these demands, arguing that if enacted they would bring about the collapse of civilisation. Read more…

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‘Singing hymns of liberation

As we journey on the road

Let justice roll – let freedom come

With deeds of love and liberation’

Garth Hewitt

Hymns of Liberation