Tuesday, 20 August 2013

We put on our best blouses, aprons and hats

I’ll never forget last Tuesday, even if I live to seventy.
We all woke up so excited, never eaten porridge so fast.
We put on our best blouses, aprons and hats
(We mightn’t have looked as fine as Miss Austen’s ladies,
But it’s not as though they’ve got the vote either),
The men shaved their chins, put on their caps,
Moleskin trousers and fustian waistcoats,
And out we strode into the lane.
Such a sight you never did see!
Hundreds of working men, women and children,
All marching in an orderly line past our cottage,
And serpentine lines climbing up every valley side,
There must have been thousands!
All laughing and cheering, but sore determined,
Determined to get our rights and right our wrongs.
Just think about what’s happened since the last campaign –
High price of bread. Wages down. Short time working.
Long hours for those who have work.
Tolpuddle Martyrs. The Poor Law. The Workhouse.
The Bible tells us to nurture each other in sickness and in health,
But the Workhouse rents us all asunder!
So it was such a joy to see them all,
See them all streaming from Stroud, Woodchester, Uley, Wotton,
The Stanleys, Selsley, Cainscross, Minchinhampton, Painswick,
Rodborough, Stonehouse, Randwick, Ruscombe, Bisley,
Slad, Steanbridge, Nailsworth, Avening, Horsley,
Bands playing, music flowing, banners streaming:
‘ Liberty’; ‘Equal Rights and Equal Laws’;
‘For a Nation to be Free it is Sufficient that She wills it’.
Then the banners from the Working Men’s Associations,
And the Radical Women’s Associations,
Then the handbills and placards listing our six points:
Universal Suffrage; Secret Ballot; Payment of MPs;
Abolition of the property qualification for MPs;
Payment of MPs; Annual Parliaments;
Then the speeches up there on top of the common:
‘We must have the 6 points’;
‘Peaceably if we may, forcibly if we must’;
‘Those damnable Poor Law Bastilles are worse than prisons’;
‘May the Almighty inspire the people with vigour and energy’;
Then the cheers for our Chartist leaders and groans for Russell’s name;
It was such a day and life will never be the same again:
Russell says we do not understand the laws of capital and wages –
But we do my Lord. We do.

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