Saturday 4 May 2019

Poems for May Day from Tommy Campbell

At the May Day Rally, Unite's Tommy Campbell read two moving poems which highlighted the plight of workers throughout history and the power we have when we stand together and fight in solidarity.

The first poem was by Joe Hill, a Swedish-Americal labour activist and song-writer who was executed in 1915 after a controversial trail. He is now memorialised in songs and has inspired books and poetry.

The second poem was written by Seamus Heaney and speaks of the battle of Vinegar Hill, which parallels our Battle of Culloden.

Tommy Campbell
Requiem for the Croppies

The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley...
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp...
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching... on the hike...
We found new tactics happening each day:
We'd cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until... on Vinegar Hill... the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August... the barley grew up out of our grave.

Seamus Heaney