Union Songs


A Song by Henry Clements©2006 Henry Clements registered with PRS/MCPS

- [play]

I'd take your number if it could be read
instead of the blows that you've rained on my head
so many companions, like me in the mud
while the charge passes over, lie spilling their blood

We'd come on a picket before break of day
opposing pit closures, protesting for pay
our union is solid, our rights long since won
but the new laws deny us our place in the sun
Though you don't learn politeness miles down in the mine
we're containing our anger on our picket line
when the lorries approach they're turned back, to a cheer
it's then the green buses in convoy appear

And then there's an army dressed up as police
with helmets and batons, disturbing our peace
they'd come to confront us, as we quickly found
turned the works entrance to a battle-ground
They charged us with truncheons, their faces well hid
we threw down our banners, and most of us fled
some stayed defiant, and they're swiftly downed
then arrested for riot, for standing their ground

Oh yes, it's a riot, and we get the blame
our strike is defeated, to the press we're fair game
though no-one's convicted, the damage is done
for some, compensation, but justice for none
Such vindication - too little, too late!
it's only a footnote, won't alter our fate
and it isn't just pitmen they broke on their wheel
everyone in a union is now brought to heel


Many thanks to Henry Clements for permission to add this song to the Union Songs collection.

Henry writes:
'Don't these stories keep coming back? Sunday's front page story in The Observer is about police obscuring their numbers to avoid identification at the recent G20 demo, where they were particularly repressive and heavy-handed.

I wrote the Orgreave song about 20 years ago - well after the event itself. Although I'd been a regular Folk Club devotee for a long time I didn't start singing until I left London (in 1988) and found the local Club was much more participatory than I was used to ... when I started to sing, I started to write as well. And my topics were subjects and events about which I felt passionate. The Miners Strike to me was the defining event of our society (at the time, and even more so now, 25 years later) - the trade union movement generally in the UK, and the Labour Party, either failed to realise, or chose to ignore its wider significance. The immediate and lasting outcome : an enfeebled movement and a political arm which appears to have none of the aims which were the very basis of its existence.

I'd say, simply from my own experience of singing my song, that it has gained resonance in recent times as people come more and more to understand the cost of not defending what they once had, before 1984, and which they now fear they will never have again. The battle of Orgreave was the 'picture' of the Strike which had the most dramatic impact and I believe is most vividly remembered today.'

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Orgreave is on his CD 'Shades of the Past'

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