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John S Clarke

When you’ve passed your resolutions and you feel you’ve done your bit:
And you think there’s nothing more that you can do.
Why not act and in your actions emulate the grit
Of the man in Peterhead who acts for you.

He is grateful for your money, he appreciates your cheers,
Your sympathy is ample for his needs,
But there’s more important things than resolutions, cash or tears,
Why not give him just a sample say of deeds.

Twas for you he garnered knowledge, sacrificed his very youth,
He worked for you until his head turned grey.
They are killing him by inches just because he thought the truth,
And having thought it, had the guts to say.

For truth’s the kind of virtue that the ruling classes fear,
By the foulest means to crush it they have tried.
’was for truth the stones of hate were hurled at prophet and at seer,
For truth the gentle Christ was crucified.

Will you suffer his destruction on the tyrants’ battle ground?
Will you let the cursed wrong defeat the right?
He is one against an army, are you going to see him downed?
Are you going to let him die without a fight?

He will pay you back in plenty. It’s you who stand to gain,
His lion heart is yours if he is spared,
Then workers for your own sake liberate MacLean
You could do it ay tomorrow if you dared.

Footnote: This song started life as a poem and first appeared as a two-penny broadsheet published in 1918 by the Women’s Section of the Glasgow District Council of the British Socialist Party in tribute to the revolutionary John MacLean (1879-1923) who was imprisoned for sedition in Peterhead prison at the time. The author John S Clarke was a prominent member of the Socialist Labour Party in Glasgow and later became an influential member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. He briefly represented Maryhill, Glasgow, in Westminster (1929-1931). I first heard it sung by the great folksinger Alistair McDonald and the poem was included in the booklet ‘Homage to John MacLean’ first published by the John MacLean Society in 1973, the fiftieth anniversary of MacLean’s death. The booklet edited by TS Law and Thurso Berwick was reprinted in 1979 by the Edinburgh University Student’s Association.



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