Thursday, 19 September 2013

Captain Swing and the Stroud Valleys

 I’m sitting by the fireside, poking the ashes,
Ghost-thoughts and fears rising with the smoke,
Reawakening all my memories
Of those dark days back in 1830;
They threshed the corn by hand back then,
Flailing in the barn in the winter months,
Until the farmers brought in those damned machines;
What with 7 shillings a week for our wages,
High bread prices and low poor relief,
Then the news of Captain Swing in Wiltshire –
We met in --------- ------------‘s cottage in November.
We smashed the damned Horsley machines the next day,
--------------- left a note by the church door:
‘This is to tell all you gentlemen that if you don’t pull down them infernall machines then we will you damnd dogs. An yew mus rise the marrid mens wages tow and sixpence a day an the single tow shillins or we will burn your hay ricks.
From Swing.’
I lost my nerve and stole back in the night,
To hide that note safe within my bible;
But some of the men went on to Tetbury,
Up through the lanes near the Troubled House Inn.
Lord Sherborne sent in the cavalry,
The men tried to escape across the fields,
But they arrested twenty-three good friends;
That wasn't the end of it by any means - 
There was more trouble then at Cherington,
Tetbury, Chavenage and Beverston;
Poor Elizabeth Parker got seven years:
‘Be d----d if we don’t go to Beverston to break the machines!’
Is what she cried out and was condemned for;
May all their souls rest in Van Diemen’s land,
And may this letter die with the fire.

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