Monday, May 4, 2009

John MacLean

After posting a video yesterday I found this one of the song John MacLean March which seems appropriate for a May Day holiday. John MacLean was a Scottish schoolteacher and revolutionary socialist known mainly as a Marxist educator and for his outspoken opposition to the First World War. Charged with offences of sedition in relation to anti-conscription speeches he served prison sentences but was released after sustained national and international pressure. MacLean refused the 'free pardon' by the King, stating that the workers who had campaigned on his behalf had earned him his freedom and not the King. He died aged 44, his health ruined by constant political activity, five terms of imprisonment, the period of hunger strike and the subsequent force feeding by prison authorities. The lyrics of the song are here.

Source University of Strathclyde

The song was written by Scottish poet, songwriter, soldier, and intellectual Hamish Henderson. Hamish was a central figure in the creation of the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh and is thought by some to be the most important Scots poet since Robert Burns. He spoke 6 European languages and in 1945, personally accepted the surrender of Italy from Marshal Graziani. In 1983 he refused an OBE in protest at the nuclear arms policy of the Thatcher government. I had the privledge of meeting him on many occasions and this weekend I reread his biography Hamish Henderson - The Making Of The Poet by Timothy Neat.

Source Obituary, The Independent 12 March 2002

The singer is Scottish musician, singer, and songwriter Dick Gaughan. Gaughan lists his greatest influences as Karl Marx, Groucho Marx, Flann O'Brien, Bert Jansch, Betty Frieden, John Lennon, Vladimir Illych Lenin, Hugh MacDiarmid, Tim Berners-Lee, Davy Graham, Doc Watson, Hank Williams, Jeannie Robertson, Ewan MacColl, Somerled, Bertolt Brecht, his mother (Gaughan's mother, not Brecht's), his father (likewise), his grandparents, Calgacus, Dolina MacLennan, Crazy Horse, Sandy Denny, Martin Carthy, Clarence White, Sean O'Riada, Jack Mitchell, John MacLean, Big Bill Broonzy, Hamish Henderson, Robert Burns and everybody else he ever met, read, saw, heard or spoke with.

Source Dick Gaughan website


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