This is a series of posts about the #TradSongTues project, run by various people at the University of Sheffield. Every week I've been recording a song for the theme, sharing it and talking about it. Come and play on Twitter!
I had a bit of a panic for this one, because I didn't know any Lancashire songs. Then I remembered a song in a book that I hadn't ever learned properly so I went with "The Meeting at Peterloo"
This song talks about Peterloo1, which was when a crowd gathered for a public meeting to get better representation in parliament for the poor. At the time, there were 2 MPs for the entirety of Lancashire2 and the only people who could vote were adult male landowners. A mild understatement would be that there was a bit of a feeling of unrest about that.
The meeting could have been unlawful, because it would be illegal for them to elect an MP. The view given by the Attorney General was that it wouldn't have been, because they were just discussing electing an MP3.
To cut it short, the cavalry charged on the unarmed civilians including women and children after struggling to arrest Henry Hunt, Joseph Johnson, John Knight, and James Moorhouse. Of the 10000 people that were there, there were ~10 people killed and another ~400 injured. This lead to riots that lasted over a day from what my brief research found.
This might sound like a familiar story to those who've heard me perform. That'd be because it's very similar to the events of Paradise Square, except that Paradise Square was essentially hushed up (Peterloo had women and children caught in the crossfire, so it caused more of an outcry).
I got this song from a book called The English Folk Singer4. The tune is "I Lost My Love", which suggests that the song may have begun life a broadside. Broadsides were the newspapers of the day - someone would write a song, nick a tune from another popular song and hope that the two went together. I'm probably wrong about how that actually works.
For reference, there's now about 16. ↩︎
I honestly don't think it would have mattered. I imagine that anyone who was daring to stand up like this would have been arrested on some false charge anyway. ↩︎
I'm not sure how I feel about the book. It contains the Chemical Worker's Song, which is written by Ron Angel. The preface talks about how the song is written by him, but the actual page that the song is on doesn't mention it at all. I think there's also a song written by Graeme Miles as well. ↩︎