WEEK TWENTY – James Keir Hardie/Jimmy Reid

>> Keir Hardie

Jimmy Reid <<

Keir-Hardie                                     Jimmy_Reid_45626c

In a nation known for its fiery orators and political radicals, it’s hard to choose two that stand above others, or that offer sufficient contrast to fit with the aims of the project. We strongly considered Jennie Lee, Fife-born firebrand of the mid-20th century, along with more contentious figures such as George Galloway and even Tommy Sheridan. However, we settled on two individuals that we felt were representative of the great Scottish tradition of constructive dissent; James Keir Hardie was the Lanarkshire-born architect of the Labour movement and the first ‘Labour Party’ MP in the seat of West Ham South in 1892. Often an incendiary orator, he never lived to see a Labour Government take power but was instrumental in the shift of focus in British politics towards the concerns of the working man. Jimmy Reid was the Govan-born lead voice in Trade Unions representing the threatened Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in the 1970s.  His dignity and maturity in organising disciplined ‘work-ins’ as opposed to out-and-out strikes won support and admiration from many, and though he failed to make a breakthrough into mainstream politics he remains one of the most important and charismatic figures ever to emerge from the Trade Union movement. Despite similar blue-collar roots, both figures took different paths in their quests to articulate the voice of the working man in Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole.


James Keir Hardie
by Sheila Templeton

Tae Friedrich Engels ye were the super cunning Scot…with demagogic tricks
he wisnae sookin in.  Hud he been a kirkie mannie,
he’d huv been doon oan his knees, pittin up a wird
makin siccar ye niver got nar sniffin distance o Westminster.
His girnin wraxed new heichts faan ye waaked throu that door,
claith bunnet an hamespun, spleet-new Member for West Ham.

Nae for you the cauld analysis, the lang-nebbit theory o the dialectic
settin the warld tae richts. Aa yer gumption, yer scrievin, yer wirds
cam fae life, fae a day’s lang darg, fae the hard tyauve o yer hauns
burnt intae muscle memory – aa these oors sittin in the derkness
ten year auld, listenin for the rummle o each loaded cairt
managin tae practise yer letters gin ye’d a caunle stump.

Men voted for ye ower the heids o the weel-gaithert, the swall-heidit,
the high-bendit. An it wisnae jist cause o yer kittlin-up wirds,
though you cud start a bleeze in ony owdience – aye, an relish it!
Workin fowk were gizzent in weys the theorists hud nae idea.
But you did – an mair. Ilka chiel that voted for ye kent yer years in the pit,
pyochered the coal blaik in yer lungs, daured the beat o yer contermit hert.

Nae that ye were athoot principle. Ye were niver a pragmatist. An wirds
were yer freens. A scriever in papers, leaflets, aftentimes awa fae hame
warld traiveller, warly-wise – yet ye keepit yer watch at Cumnock time
for I could tell then, what was going on at home…
when the children went to school, when they returned
when they went to bed… 

For that alane, I’d huv voted for ye.


Scots Glossary:

siccar  sure; nar  near; girnin  complaining; wraxed  reached; faan  when; lang-nebbit  difficult to understand; scrievin  writing; darg  work; tyauve  hard work; caunle  candle; gizzent  parched; chiel  man; pyochered  coughed up; daured  dared; contermit  determined; athoot  without; warly-wise  wordly-wise.



Clyde Built
by Elspeth Brown

Titan Clydebank, restored, rears high above the Clyde,
a crane as mighty as your memory, Jimmy Reid.

You addressed the crowd beneath the cranes, urged them to join
the work-in – Red Clydeside’s year of seventy one.

You roused Glasgow, reminded the workers of their worth;
with Lennon and Connolly supporting, you confronted Edward Heath.

He thought the yard, a lame duck, should liquidate,
though navy orders were in, asking for Clyde built.

As Scotland roared support for your shipyard plans
Heath was powerless beneath the cranes.

Warrior for the Workers, the headlines read
as he headed home to the Thames, defeated.

You said, “We are human beings, not a pack of rats,”
your Rectorial speech echoing from Scotland to the States.

And the cranes, Titan, Finnieston, Fairfield Hammer
still rose above the Clyde like rutting deer.

Most of the cranes came down before you died,
emasculating, people said, the Upper Clyde.




sheila templetonSheila Templeton 
was brought up in Aberdeenshire. She now lives in Glasgow and writes in both Scots and English. A double winner of the McCash Scots Language poetry competition, she also won the Robert McLellan poetry competition in 2007.  From 2009 to 2010 she was the Makar for the Federation of Writers, Scotland. Poetry collections include  Slow Road Home (Makar Press 2004), Digging For Light  (New Voices Press 2011) and Tender is the North  (Red Squirrel Press 2013). 2016 will see the publications of Owersettin, a translation collaboration (Tapsalteerie Press) and Gaitherin, her first full collection (Red Squirrel Press).


Elspeth Brown(c McAteer)Elspeth Brown has published several pamphlets as well as two collections of poetry, A Crab in the Moon’s Mouth (Markings 2009), and Skunk Cabbage (Indigo Dreams 2014).  Her play, The Spectrum, concerning James Clerk Maxwell, has been performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and read at the Edinburgh Science Festival. She has also read at the 2015 Science Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe and the Isle of Wight Literary Festival. Her website is www.elspeth-brown.co.uk


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