It is funny how the romantic myth of much of Britain’s heritage can be visualised in the way that we speak about them, the pluck of the British army at Dunkirk, a moment which is romanticised as heroic but was in truth a brilliant failure, but without which much of the next five years would have been for naught.
Henry VIII’s turning away from Rome heralded as part of Britain’s great renaissance as a country, yet deep down was just one ageing man’s wish to make sure the country had a male heir and whose eye roved more than many others at the time; it is the same with the deeply personal as well, the social history of the land, and as the great music writer, radio presenter and talented observer of the popular culture, Stuart Maconie, was in Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall Music Rooms to explain to a riveted crowd, that the concept in some people’s minds of the great Jarrow Crusade was far and away what truly happened.
The parallels between the late 1930s and today’s world are strangely tied, the difference perhaps is how we view hardship and poverty, how we are told by Government how to act, how it has become almost a crusade on its own to demonise the poor in the so called age of affluent; that even in the most directly affecting cuts and slashed pay, broken promises and biggest pay rises for M.P.s and bankers, somehow the poor of this land are looked upon as feckless and unworthy. There is no march today, no crusade but if there was it would not be seen in the same way; that those Jarrow men and couple of women who walked to London to petition for jobs, would not understand the depth of anger and hate directed across the social divide.
What Stuart Maconie talked about during his interview on stage and in the question and answer session afterwards was just how forthright the Jarrow march was, this was a proud people that had seen their jobs effectively stolen by the bosses and owners of Palmer’s Shipyard to keep prices high and then their town allowed to die, to be murdered by profit, yet they marched not with placards and the sense of revolution, but with just the once aim, the demand to bring work back to Jarrow.
It was an enlightening talk, made even more informative by the knowledge that Mr. Maconie had in the research for the book, Long Road From Jarrow: A Journey Through Britain Then And Now, had the gumption to undertake the same path as those he wrote about. a daring feat but one that must be applauded, for the writer must always truly understand his muse.
Mr. Maconie is no stranger to Liverpool, having come to the city on many occasions, and to have him once more back in the city that arguably gave popular music to the world, it is a place that resonates greatly within him. To hear him talk with passion and knowledge of one of the great moments in British social history was not only educational but heart-warming; a night of stories and truth, of myths laid bare and romance kept firmly in the heart.
Ian D. Hall