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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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Northmoor News, UK, May 2012

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…

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bibliography

Bethlehem Speaks: Voices from the Little Town Cry Out

SPCK 2008

Holy Dreams to Feed the Soul

SPCK 2007

Making Holy Dreams Come True

SPCK 2006

The Road Home

Pilgrim 2003

Towards the Dawn

SPCK 2005

A Candle of Hope

Bible Reading Fellowship 1999

Pilgrims and Peacemakers

Bible Reading Fellowship 1996

Nero’s Watching Video

Hodder 1990

 

Songbooks

Justice Like a River songbook

Kevin Mayhew  2012
Songs of Justice and Peace Vol 1

Word Music UK  1987

Songs of Justice and Peace Vol 2

Amos Trust  1991

Mud On My Eyes

Scripture Union 1984

Dance on Injustice

Scripture Union 1987

 

Details of more of Garth’s songbooks will be included soon

 

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Farewell to Tawfiq Salsaa

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…

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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