Monday, March 26, 2012

Nice Morning For The Revolution

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness : it was the summer of 1968. In Paris, the Sorbonne was under attack by riot police, in cities all over the world people marched against the war in Vietnam, and on Blackstone Edge we held a commemorative meeting. I remember how this curious gathering came about; I was at a Young Socialist meeting in Halifax and I suddenly said "what we need is an anniversary". The reference books were consulted and Blackstone Edge which is high on the moors between Halifax and Manchester was chosen. In 1846 the great Chartist leader, Ernest Jones, led an army of workers out of the mills of Lancashire and onto the high moors to meet up with their comrades from West Yorkshire. The Chartists were demanding votes for ordinary working people, the abolition of the Corn Laws and a host of other political reforms. At the gathering high on Blackstone Edge, Jones, who had the reputation of a fine poet and orator, addressed the meeting. He later wrote a song to commemorate the gathering:
O'er plains and cities far away
All lorn and lost the morning lay
When sank the sun at break of day
In smoke of mill and factory
But waved the wind on Blackstone Height
A standard of the broad sunlight
And sung that morn with trumpet might
A sounding song of liberty!
When a small band of Halifax socialists clambered back onto the moors at Blackstone Edge in 1968, the wind didn't wave nor was the sunlight broad. In fact the moors were smothered in a thick mist. But it takes more than a damp morning to postpone the revolution, so we took our banners and gathered at a spot close to the track of the old Roman road. That legendary local socialist, Tim Enright, read the speech that Ernest Jones had made 122 years before. Then we sang The Internationale and as we did so the mist miraculously lifted. And all of a sudden we noticed an elderly couple walking down the Roman road with their dog. It must have been strange for them, to be walking high on the moors, to hear singing, the mist to lift, and there before them is this strange group of left wing radicals gathered around a banner. In the best traditions of these parts, they didn't bat an eyelid. They merely looked up, nodded and said "nice morning for it"


  1. Hello Alan:
    A very civilized revolution! What a splendid post this is and how vividly you paint the picture of that day high on the moors when the spirit of revolution was in the air.

  2. Good Lord, I Love this post. You do, indeed, paint this picture perfectly. Some mighty fine wordsmithing going on here. And the photo is wonderful.

  3. One has to applaud people on a mission! Such a great photo! (and those who can weave a story so worth reading!

  4. You've awoken my O' Level History nightmare! 1848 is the date stuck in my head, though I remember very little else. Anniversaries are a good thing though as they help us to celebrate events; if celebrate is the right word for singing on the misty moors.

  5. Hi Alan .. that was the sixties wasn't it - the weather was pretty grotty .. we came up to the Lake District as my mother's first husband's family was there ( he was killed early in the War) .. and I remember driving through the interminible Black Country ... we did come across the Yorkshire moors to see a friend of my father's ... but I can envision you and your mates being there .. good for you - and the couple must have been 'amused' ..

    Fun post - and great remembrances .. cheers Hilary

  6. I warmed much more readily, to our revolutionaries, when they looked like this.

  7. Those were the days, my friend. I remember the summer of 1968. I was a senior and more than ready to be out of university. I'd marched in my last anti-war march in 1967 when the organizers of the pentagon march came on the loud speaker asking for bandages to treat those wounded in some altercation. I decided I didn't want to be part of any demonstrations where the organizers didn't even bring bandages when confronting the power of the pentagon.

  8. Those were the days indeed. I loved the bit about the couple out walking. Such a British reaction!

  9. Why am I not surprised by your involvement in radical left wing socialism? (Good for you!!)

    I am much amused by the reaction of the dog-walking couple :)

  10. What a great event! There's a film or a story in there. "The Andes of England" as Daniel Defoe described Blackstone Edge. Been there many times, often carrying on South, over the M62 footbridge to Windy HIll and beyond...

    I was 10 in 1968 so sort of missed out on it.

  11. Youth!! Apparently you were not radical enough to disturb their walk:)

  12. What a delightful story, & delightfully told!

  13. Lovely story. The Chartists continue to be remembered up on Blackstone Edge, via the annual Blackstone Edge Gathering

  14. Brilliant!although.......maybe the "elderly couple" were undercover MI5?


Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...