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
The following talk, given in three parts, was interspersed with performances of the Chartist hymns listed.
1) Hark, I Hear
2) Great God!
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, which 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:
- A vote for every man over the age of 21;
- A secret ballot;
- No property qualification for members of Parliament;
- Payment for MPs (so poor men could serve);
- Constituencies of equal size;
- 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…
people Garth has befriended over the years and who have been able to share their struggles with people in the West through the songs Garth sings. His album titles read like a gazetteer of his musical ministry: Bethlehem, Gaza, Palestine, The Dalit Drum and a series of albums called Journeys: Journeys Africa, Journeys Holy Land, Journeys Asia and Journeys Latin America.
Sir Cliff Richard, who sang Garth’s song ‘A World of Difference’ at Live Aid, said, Read more…
Bible Reading Fellowship 1999
Bible Reading Fellowship 1996
Kevin Mayhew 2012
Songs of Justice and Peace Vol 1
Word Music UK 1987
Amos Trust 1991
Scripture Union 1984
Scripture Union 1987
Details of more of Garth’s songbooks will be included soon
Tawfiq Salsaa, master carver of wood from Beit Sahour, Bethlehem, Palestine passed away on Friday 10th August from lung cancer.
Amos Trust knew him very well because he was the father of Wisam, our regular tour guide in the Holy Land.
A few hours before Tawfiq died his third grandchild, Daniel, was born to Wisam and Rasha.
Amos groups were regularly hosted at the home of Tawfiq and Ayda, Read more…