1916 Easter Rising

For the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, Finlay and Jimmy were specially commissioned by the Connolly Association to produce and perform an hour long programme of songs, narration and pictures telling the story of rising and the men and women who participated in that momentous event.

The first performance took place in Rich Mix, in London on 2 April.

Jimmy has written 3 new songs for this programme.

After the performance in London we have had many requests for the words of these songs.

Here they are (music to follow)

Connolly’s Last Words
Jimmy Ross

Hasn’t it been a good life Lily
And isn’t this a good end?
The verdict it has been confirmed
Now we know what the morn will send
For six days we fought the British state
So no mercy will they show
But the struggle it continues
That’s one thing I surely know

We fought the boss class back in Scotland
In the US we organised
With Joe Hill and Big Bill Haywood
Cut the owners down to size
Back in Dublin with Jim Larkin
We fought Martin Murphy’s plan
To kill off the Transport Union
Lockout every woman and man

Here in Dublin and in Belfast
We fought those who tried to fool
With lies of country and religion
The old divide and rule
Labour’s cause is the cause of Ireland
We must fight for all we’re worth
Our demands they are most moderate
We only want the earth

Margaret Skinnider
Jimmy Ross

My name is Margaret Skinnider, in Coatbridge I was born
Brought up by Irish parents, I joined Cumann na mBan
I fought for women’s suffrage and for full equality
And to break the chains of empire so that Ireland might be free

When first I came to Dublin town I met the Countess there
Those crumbling workers’ homes she showed me, filled me with despair
Fallen houses, just like corpses, cratered streets all pocked with holes
Overflowing with sewage and refuse. How I wept for those poor souls

Against the might of empire and the slaughter o’er in France
With Jim Connolly and the Countess I prepared to take my stance
For a socialist republic, for the cause of women’s rights
Our Citizens Army marched out that day, united in our fight

At St Stephens Green our commander Michael Mallin bade me stay
He told me as a woman I should keep out of harms way
I replied our proclamation gives all women equal rights
So we can risk our lives as much as men do in our fight

I could see across the tree tops to the roof of the hotel
Where the British soldiers showered us with deadly shot and shell
I could hear the bullets hail against the Surgeons College wall
And more than once I saw the man I’d aimed at slump and fall

I led a raiding party but our presence was revealed
Shots volleyed out. I felt them strike. The world around me reeled.
Beside me on the pavement as his dark blood pooled around
Lay the form of young Fred Ryan, cold and dead upon that ground

I lay there in the hospital as those next weeks slowly passed
They shot our leaders one by one. Jim Connolly was last
Though it was hard to bear the loss of all those gallant men
Our cause was just and I believed that we would rise again

Limerick Soviet
Jimmy Ross

In 1919 the British Army
Tried to shut old Limerick down
They brought in Martial Law
And threw up barricades around the town
We are making bread not profits
That’s what the Limerick soviet said
Fighting the might of the British army
Making history, making bread.

The creamery workers then walked out saying
We won’t endure this martial law
If the British army keeps this blockade
Then our labour we’ll withdraw

That very next day Limerick workers
In their thousands downed their tools
The Limerick Soviet was declared
“Now we’re the ones who’ll make the rules”

They printed Limerick Soviet money
And newspapers to counter lies
Smuggled in flour in boats and hearses
Organised the food supplies

For two long weeks they held their ground
Till the union leaders let them down
But we’ll honour the days of the Limerick Soviet
When the workers ran the town

Don’t Sign Up for War

"Finlay and Jimmy perform Alistair Hulett's song Don't Sign Up For War in their revised version of Not All Quiet on the Home Front at Govanhill Baths in Glasgow. This show was originally written for Philosophy Football's Christmas event last December at Rich Mix in London.

They will be returning there next April to perform a specially commissioned new show for the London Connolly Association about the 1916 Dublin Easter rising"

McColl’s Gift

Jimmy and Finlay are presenting this show (a scripted talk with songs and slides) on
Ewan MacColl’s legacy to the folk revival. We chart his evolution from son of emigre Scots
in Salford through his involvement in radical theatre up to the 1950s and his subsequent
transformation from the acclaimed playwright Jimmy Miller to the folksinger, song maker
and collector Ewan MacColl. We will be performing many of Ewan’s own songs, songs he
collected and others he researched and introduced to the emerging folk revival. This style
of presentation is one of many topics we do under the heading “folkumentaries”. (See
elsewhere on our website)
We both met Ewan on many occasions from our involvement in the folk revival from the
60s onwards, as performers and folk club organisers. Ewan was great source of inspiration
to us, both in terms of the songs he popularised, wrote and collected and his commitment
to the indigenous music and songs of these islands. Ewan and his partner Peggy Seeger
ran workshops for young performers on various aspects of singing and accompanying folk
songs and we attended many of these. As a result of this we set up, with others, in the 70s
the Tradition Folk Club in Glasgow which featured not only Ewan and Peggy (many times)
but also “source” singers like Belle Stewart and Lizzie Higgins. Also for a number years we
performed a “folkumentary” with the late Alistair Hulett entitled “Ewan MacColl and the
Politics of the Folksong Revival” which dealt with MacColl’s political ideas and their
implications for his work and career.
We believe that folk music today owes Ewan MacColl a great debt which for the most part
goes unacknowledged or is recognised often grudgingly. A glance at his discography
shows the huge number albums that he and Peggy recorded, bringing neglected and
forgotten songs back popularity.. They brought into the folk repertoire many of the songs
that we take for granted today. Their books, “The Singing Island” and “Scot’s Songs and
Ballads” were indispensable in making a wealth of material available to young singers in
the pre-digital age. His own compositions, many of which like “Shoals of Herring” are now
often thought of as old traditional songs and have been recorded by a huge range of
artistes from Elvis Presley and Roberta Flack through to Martin Bennet and Dick Gaughan.
His work with Charles Parker and Peggy Seeger on the Radio Ballads still stands the test
of time both in the number of great songs they produced and the innovative quality and
freshness of the documentaries themselves.
Ewan took folk music very seriously and had an intellectual approach to it. This both
involved performance and singing in which he used techniques he brought from his work
as an actor/director and also of analysing and interrogating the material both textually and
musically. He formed a singing discussion group known as The Critics’ Group who
performed to each other and then analysed and criticised their performances with the aim
of improving their singing and communication. He, with Peggy, also wrote several books
about travellers and their songs which he had collected and, importantly, encouraged
young revival singers to explore sources for similar material in their own areas.
Alan Lomax was pivotal in MacColl’s development as a folksinger. It was Lomax who
persuaded him to take folk music seriously as a project. He also introduced MacColl to
both Bert Lloyd and Peggy Seeger, with whom he set up the first British folk song club. You
could say that it was these introductions that kick-started the British folksong revival. It is
also interesting to note that Lomax was responsible for the birth of the folk revival in the
US a decade earlier when he introduced Pee Seeger to Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly. It
is Lomax’s centenary also this year.