Understandably worldwide,it has been folk song which has reflected the experience of the working class and the oppressed and it has most often featured song which radically critique existing order from the personal experiences of ordinary people. I’d like to examine a few of them from Scottish culture.
The Jute mill song is based on the experience of women workers in dundee mills who would work up till they had their babies and then had to scrape a living from pitiful wages.The songs last verse remarks “ Them that works the hardest are the least provided” and reflects on the deep inequality in employment.It speaks to a great many people then and now on how working for a wage despite the prestige placed on it by the values of Capitalist society often feels like degradation with little to show for it at the end of the day.The lyrics manage to convey the lack of time in the workers life.Wage labour swallows it up and divides it into blurry sections called work and rest. They are always on the clock.
Alistair Hulett The Red Clydesiders
Red Clydeside is a quite well known period of scottish history within it’s left.the period of 1910s to 1930s saw the growing dissatisfaction of many glaswegians.The period began with working class opposition to Ww1 that european royal family squabble.The Clyde Workers Committee was formed to protest the Munitions Act which forbade leaving your employer and at this time John Maclean and James Maxton were both jailed for anti-war protesting.Rent were increased too and this led to rent strikes all over the city ,often organised by women once famous woman being Mary Barbour.The rent strikes spread and were an incredible success soon resulting in the passing of laws to restrict rent prices.
The question always hangs in the air as to what Red Clydeside was or could have become.The main focus is on the 1919 Battle of George Square.It began with a strike for better working conditions.How it turned into fighting is somewhat unclear but the police declared it a riot and they tried to disperse workers in the Glasgow square. Prime minister David Lloyd George feared a revolution mindful of recent russian and german uprisings and sent in the military.Tanks rolled down the street in a disproportionate response.Soldiers flooded into the street brought from other parts of Scotland to avoid them sympathising with the workers and joining in.
Freedom Come All Ye
Freedom Come All Ye is one of those songs that resonates and speaks for and to the world.The song became popular since it’s writing and continues to be relevant to this day.It calls for a new Scotland and a better world. In the highly poetic song ,rough winds blow away artificial divisions which in the examples given imply town/country, highlander/lowlander but speak more broadly of class,race,gender etc.Hamish Henderson the original writer of the song, describes how these thoughts are hostile to the rich and powerful ruling few and they would flee from it.Taking on both sides of the issue, the song confesses Scottish and more broadly world complicity in imperalism and how this often has a racial element.It talks of how this division will be healed and the races will become married as a single humanity.According to the song no more will children(the greatest victims of any and all wars) mourn the ships which signal the soldiers heading off to war.The last verse ends with a call to all those “at hame wi freedom” who love and seek freedom and wish to find it in Scotland and the world.Henderson says not to listen to the doomsayers and those who try divide and rule or tell us “there is no alternative”.He says we are all “The bairns o adam” and as a human family we all seek the same decency,the same essentials and if we recognition our solidarity and unity then we will do so.He finishes with an almost prophetic metaphorical claim that when Red Clydesider John Maclean meets with his friends in Glasgow, nature will bloom and the oppressed in africa(a metaphor for any oppressed people especially of imperialism) will smash down the punishment and authoritarianism of their oppressors.It’s a optimistic triumphant joyous song.