The Jarrow Marchers

by Wilf Mitford, 1986

On the fifth of October on a bright and sunny day
Nineteen hundred and thirty-six, they set out on their way
There were two boys and a woman, two hundred and seven men
And a dog known as paddy, who left and returned again

CHORUS :  They were the Jarrow Marchers, unemployment was there crime
Marching down to London town, from Jarrow on the Tyne

As they marched along the highways with many miles to go
The T.U.C and opposition didn’t want to know
The Government disapproved of this their last resort
While the Bishop of Jarrow gave his blessing not support

Three hundred miles they marched and on the way found fame
Arriving in London town in the pouring rain
They marched to the house of commons and into history
Led by Ellen Wilkinson and Davey Riley

They left their petition with the speaker who was there
It was dumped in a bag at the rear of his chair
A petition for the right to work with twelve thousand names
And fifty years to the day, nothing’s really changed

On the fifth of October on a bright and sunny day
Nineteen hundred and eighty-six, they set out on their way
It’s fifty years later now, they’re marching again for jobs
To a local politician they’re barbarians and yobs

As they marched along the highways with many miles to go
They carried the petition box from fifty years ago
Containing the signatures of twenty thousand names
The marchers might be diff’rent, but the cause is just the same

Three hundred miles they marched for the right to earn their pay
Arriving in London Town, on a bright November day
When Parliament re-opened its doors for work once more
They left their petition like their fore-fathers before

The opposition leader greeted them with praise
Hoping that the future would bring better days
The P.M. condemned them and if she had their way
Their dole would be stopped from that fifth October day

Have a listen; 
From The Mitford Family album ‘That’s Northumbria’ (MM01)
Credits: Wilf Mitford, Vocals & Guitar; Pamela Mitford & Julia Mitford, Recorder; Helen Robson, Flute; Granny (Rosemary) Robson, Piano Accordion. Recorded & produced by Martin Hoile at Cluny Studios, Newcastle upon Tyne, October 1987.

It was seeing a recent article on the anniversary of the Jarrow March, or ‘Jarrow Crusade’ as their banner read, that prompted me to get started with this blog.  Whilst I’m sure Dad would have preferred I do this in date order this just seemed too interesting a connection to miss.  He wrote this song on the 50th anniversary of the original march when Margaret Thatcher was PM.  My mum, who was then a primary school teacher, was doing a project at her school and couldn’t find a song so asked Dad to write one. He wrote it over a weekend in October 1986. 

If you’re interested to know more about the Jarrow Marches then there are great resources on the BBC website and you can see an original description from the Ministry of Labour on the National Archives website.  An original 1936 article is also available on the Guardian online

Embed from Getty Images

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The Jarrow Marches by Wilf Mitford is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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