David Russell of Survivors’ Poetry reviews Pauline Bradley’s From Red Clydeside to Green Revolution

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Ever the sensitive soul, ever the stalwart protester, Pauline Bradley has delivered a stunning collection. The title expresses a radical necessity. I have long considered myself ‘red and green striped’, having belonged simultaneously to the Labour Party and Green Peace. To sustain its validity, the left must find common cause with the Green Movement; and with Feminism. Her objective is clearly stated on the CD sleeve: ‘Songs to give strength to everyone struggling to save our planet, taking inspiration from our long history (and her story) of struggling for freedom, justice, against imperialist wars, racism and profiteering.”

Ballad of John MacLean – this was composed by the veteran Scottish folksinger/songwriter Mat McGinn. MacLean was a workers’ leader in Glasgow who was sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment for preaching against the carnage of World War I. In response to riots and strikes, the Establishment (‘Lloyd George’s cronies) released him.

Workers’ Song – this is very much part of the ‘New Wave’ of protest songs arising from Covid 19. It is credited to Edward Leslie Pickford, who is rooted in the coalfields of County Durham. This song has been covered by such as Dick Gaughan and Tom Gilfellon. Here all the machinations of exploitation and oppression are laid bare.

Solidarity Forever – lyrics by Ralph Chaplin – written in 1915 – valid today, sung here by the Red and Black Song Club. Pauline functions well in an ensemble context

The other tracks are all Pauline originals:

Women of Clydebank – this celebrates feminist heroines of the Clydebank area, including Jane Rae who led a strike at the Singer sewing machine factory in 1911. This song was composed in collaboration with the Clydeside Women’s History Group, supported by Glasgow Women’s Library. An excellent digest of activity in that hotbed of protest, and carrying on the spirit into contemporary issues.

New Paradigm – another Pauline original, an ebullient plea to be charged with ‘new energy’, to take a positive stance, while not flinching from facing the world’s hazards. It is totally appropriate to infuse a straightforward chorus song with  an academic term such as ‘paradigm’.

Red Republican – this was written for a play Red Birds by Penny Cole – celebrating a radical Scottish woman Helen McFarlane, who translated the Communist Manifesto. A rousing plea for justice and equality. This song is a fitting companion for Leon Rosselson’s The World Turned Upside Down. Suitable invocation of Marx, Engels and Hegel.

The Virus – described here as a ‘time of reckoning’, perhaps the Pandemic has the saving grace of forcing people to think more, raising awareness of ecological peril, through bringing a sense of peril to their doorsteps. The appeals for people from ‘all sides of the political fence’ to sink their differences. Donald Trump gets an apt reprimand, Extinction Rebellion a fair mention. This song sets the Pandemic firmly within a global context; we are exhorted to ‘love our planet’.

We can – Written for Climate Strike for our Future – “A global strike on 15 March 2019 gathered more than one million strikers in 2,200 strikes organised in 125 countries. On 24 May 2019, in the second global strike, 1,600 events across 150 countries drew hundreds of thousands of protesters. A further demonstration, in September 2019, addressed by Jeremy Corbyn, was described as ‘the greatest demonstration in history’. The events were timed to coincide with the 2019 European Parliament election.” This song captures the spirit of this protest, with an ebullient optimism. The campaigning throng is urged rally against the brutal ‘overdrive’ of capitalism, with all its concomitant pollution and wrecking of the exosphere, to make ‘a planet for us all. The main part of the song is in a charming Calypso-cum-Spanish style. Its point is powerfully reinforced by the quotation from John Lennon’s Imagine. Pauline has always kept abreast of contemporary protest.

Pauline Bradley stands out as an admirable torchbearer for Peggy Seeger. This collection is conclusive proof that tradition can be vitally contemporary. It has a historical span ranging from the early 20th Century to well into the 21st – embracing early Socialist, and Feminist, struggles with today’s issues of Covid, Climate Change and global oppression. Many feel that the Radical Left has become archaic and irrelevant; Pauline decisively counteracts this assertion. This is very good also for my sense of historical continuity. I first heard Matt McGinn at the Scots Hoose in Cambridge Circus in 1965. Thanks for the memory jog Pauline!

I saw quite a lot of the traditional folk scene in London from the 1960s to the 1980s. From then on, in London, it was largely replaced by Acoustic Music and Spoken Word, with the emphasis on original composition. Two vital points here: a) Judging by Pauline’s videos, the 50s-60s style folk ethos continues to flourish in Scotland; b) there has never been any prejudice against traditional material being performed on the contemporary scene. Accordingly, Pauline forms a bridge between those areas. She has been a regular, and much appreciated, performer at Survivors Poetry and Music.

As a Socialist Feminist, she has bravely tackled the heavily macho material of McGinn and Pickford. Her vocal delivery adds poignancy to all of the material, combining delicacy with intense feeling – some sense of awe at the massive challenges of the world, together with a determination to face them – an underlying courage vindicated by its gentle expression.

A wonderful achievement all round. More power to Pauline – and the People!




Ballad of John McLean

Dominie, Dominie
There was nane like John Maclean,
The fighting Dominie

Tell me where ye’re gaun, lad, and who ye’re gaun to meet–
I’m headed for the station that’s in Buchanan Street,
I’ll join 200,000 that’s there to meet the train
That’s bringing back to Glasgow our own dear John Maclean

Tell me whaur he’s been, lad, and why has he been there?
They’ve had him in the prison for preaching in the Square,
For Johnny held a finger at all the ills he saw,
He was right side o’ the people, but he was wrong side o’ the law:

Johnny was a teacher in one o’ Glasgow’s schools
The golden law was silence but Johnny broke the rules,
For a world of social justice young Johnny couldnae wait,
He took his chalk and easel to the men at the shipyard gate.

The leaders o’ the nation made money hand o’er fist
By grinding down the people by the fiddle and the twist,
Aided and abetted by the preacher and the Press —
John called for revolution and he called for nothing less:

The bosses and the judges united as one man
For Johnny was a danger to their ’14-’18 plan,
They wanted men for slaughter in the fields of Armentiers,
John called upon the people to smash the profiteers:

They brought him to the courtroom in Edinburgh toun,
But still he didnae cower, he firmly held his ground,
And stoutly he defended his every word and deed,
Five years it was his sentence in the jail at Peterheid:

Seven months he lingered in prison misery
Till the people rose in fury, in Glasgow and Dundee,
Lloyd George and all his cronies were shaken to the core,
The prison gates were opened, and John was free once more:

Matt McGinn


Workers’ Song

Yeah, this one’s for the workers who toil night and day
By hand and by brain to earn your pay
Who for centuries long past for no more than your bread
Have bled for your countries and counted your dead

In the factories and mills, in the shipyards and mines
We’ve often been told to keep up with the times
For our skills are not needed, they’ve streamlined the job
And with sliderule and stopwatch our pride they have robbed

We’re the first ones to starve, we’re the first ones to die
The first ones in line for that pie in the sky
And we’re always the last when the cream is shared out
For the worker is working when the fat cat’s about

And when the sky darkens and the prospect is war
Who’s given a gun and then pushed to the fore
And expected to die for the land of our birth
Though we’ve never owned one lousy handful of earth?

We’re the first ones to starve, we’re the first ones to die
The first ones in line for that pie in the sky
And we’re always the last when the cream is shared out
For the worker is working when the fat cat’s about

We’re the first ones to starve, we’re the first ones to die
The first ones in line for that pie in the sky
And we’re always the last when the cream is shared out
For the worker is working when the fat cat’s about

We’re the first ones to starve, we’re the first ones to die
The first ones in line for that pie in the sky
And we’re always the last when the cream is shared out
For the worker is working when the fat cat’s about

And all of these things the worker has done
From tilling the fields to carrying the gun
We’ve been yoked to the plough since time first began
And always expected to carry the can

Edward Leslie Pickford


Solidarity Forever

When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever, (x3)
For the union makes us strong.

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
For the union makes us strong.


It is we who plowed the prairies; built the cities where they trade;
Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid;
Now we stand outcast and starving midst the wonders we have made;
But the union makes us strong.


All the world that’s owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone.
We have laid the wide foundations; built it skyward stone by stone.
It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own.
While the union makes us strong.


They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn
That the union makes us strong.


In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, multiplied a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the union makes us strong

Ralph Chaplin



also see:

  1. Pauline Bradley sings Workers’ Song

2.  Pauline Bradley sings about Helen MacFarlane on May Day