In February 2016, English roots musical collective Edward II released ‘Manchester’s Improving Daily‘, a collection of rare and historic songs, known as the Manchester Broadside Ballads, dating back over 200 years to the Industrial Revolution.
Beautifully designed, packaged and presented, the physical CD is the culmination of a 15-month project, ‘Manchester’s Improving Daily’. The CD is accompanied by a book, written by social archaeologist David Jennings andexplains the history of the songs and provides an informative commentary to these rare glimpses into the lives of working class Mancunians in the Victorian times.
The CD is distributed through Cadiz Music and can be ordered through any good record store, this website and all main digital outlets. Physical copies only will include the book about the broadsides.
One of the most harrowing stories recorded in the Broadsides, was the execution of the three members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood,William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, and Michael O’Brien. In the attached image from the time, O,Brien was named Gould.
‘ They were executed for the murder of a police officer in Manchester, England, in 1867, during an incident that became known as the Manchester Outrages. The trio were members of a group of 30–40 Fenians who attacked a horse-drawn police van transporting two arrested leaders of the Brotherhood, Thomas J. Kelly and Timothy Deasy, to Belle Vue Gaol. Police Sergeant Charles Brett, travelling inside with the keys, was shot and killed as the attackers attempted to force the van open by blowing the lock’.
The growing urban discontent that led to the infamous meeting in 1819, like other occasions of civil unrest covered in the Manchester Ballads, grew out of a combination of circumstances that, seen in hindsight, were almost bound to end in conflict.
On the 16th August 1819, the area around St Peters Square in Manchester was the site of a peaceful protest that ended in bloody confrontation with the authorities. Quickly dubbed ‘Peterloo’, the name is a satirical comment on what was seen as the cowardly actions of the soldiers and yeoman who attacked unarmed civilians. By using the term Peterloo, protesters and social commentators were mocking the troops with a name redolent of the famous battle at Waterloo, where the bravery of men was taken for granted, and a matter of national pride. Peterloo, in contrast, was seen by most as a matter of national shame. The speakers platform had banners arranged that read
“REFORM, UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE, EQUAL REPRESENTATION
however, events on the day prove just how hard the fight was for the working classes in industrial Manchester and Salford.
The French Revolution of 1789 was still in the minds of many radicals in England, and the word of various activists added to the unease that many workers felt under the increasingly dominant and often abusive grip of the factory owners. Thomas Paine’s rhetoric was typical, and captured hearts and minds across the working classes.
The River Medlock rises in the hills above Oldham and empties into the River Irwell in central Manchester
The Medlock has reportedly burst its banks and flooded areas of the city on a fairly regular basis. However it was on 13th July 1872, after two days of torrential rain which takes its place most notably in the history books, as this account from a Manchester newspaper, written at the time, describes:
“It was about half past twelve when the floods came … the banks of the Medlock were overflowed to such an alarming extent and the first intimation of the flood was the sweeping away of a footbridge near to Philips Park … It must have been very strongly fixed, for it not only bore the rush of the flood for a considerable time, but it resisted it to such an extent that the water backed up for a considerable distance. The flood increased in depth and power, and at a length swept in a fierce torrent over a large portion of ground apportioned to the Roman Catholics at the Bradford Cemetery carrying away not only tombstones but actually washing out of their graves, a large number of dead bodies. Indeed from the first indication of danger, so far as works on the banks of the Medlock were concerned, dead bodies were observed floating down the river, and those watching could easily see that the bodies had been disinterred out of the Bradford cemetery. It is impossible to calculate how many had been swept out of their final resting place but the number is not short of fifty.” (source:Manchester Courier, 15 July 1872)
So, no great shakes for soggy electrical cables and knocked down gazebos, but interesting that this most remarkable of events took place in early July, just when we all least expect it. There really is nothing new under the sun, or a grey cloudy Mancunian sky!
The full version of this article can be found at http://www.medlockvalley.org.uk/Sites/MedlockValley/Objects/PDFs/The_Great_Flood.pdf
The Manchester Ballads is a collection of thirty five broadside ballads dating from the time of the industrial revolution. Collected by two local historians and folk music enthusiasts and published with financial help from the education offices at Manchester City Council, The Manchester Ballads was produced in a handsome hardback card case (Fig 2), and is in the form of a folio collection of loose-leaf facsimile prints of the original penny broadsheets.
There is accompanying text with many of the ballads, giving the biography of the song and, where necessary, a glossary of dialect terms. There are tunes suggested to allow the ballads to be sung communally in pubs and at home, and whilst penny broadsides were produced in the many hundreds, many were written to be sung to well known tunes. The impoverished audience would, with few exceptions, have no ability to read music (Boardman and Boardman 1973) and many would also be totally illiterate, only learning the songs through the oral tradition of singing in pubs, at markets and in local homes.
By repeatedly using well known tunes, the songs could reach a wider audience. This also meant that publishers could pay ‘hack writers’ to add new words to existing music, saving money on the production costs (Palmer 1980) as composers were rarely employed. The earliest ballad in this collection dates from 1785, the latest 1882, although within the wider collection of broadside ballads there are printed versions of songs that date back to 1550, and many are thought to be derived from folk songs passed down through the oral tradition for many years before they were ever printed (Boardman and Boardman 1974).
Edward the Second | Roots, Folk, Reggae
Edward II Edward II, the English roots band that uniquely blend the rhythms of the Caribbean with traditional songs from the British Isles, have been secretly working on a totally new project and will be back in 2015. Temporarily turning away from the rural songs of the middle England Morris teams,…
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May 23, 2015 at 07:59PM
The Angel Pub – Real ale pub and Northern Quarter restaurant in Manchester
The Angel is an award winning real ale pub and Northern Quarter restaurant in Manchester. Whether you want haute cuisine, a sandwich or fish and chips, the Angel has something to suit all tastes in a cosy, relaxed atmosphere.
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May 23, 2015 at 02:32PM
One of the original broadsides we performed a version of last Thursday night. This was a plagiarised version of a much older song which was re-written to mention the newly opened Angel Inn on Rochdale Rd (1807), just a few hundred yards from Band on the Wall and the place where the soldier meets ‘the prettiest girl he ever did see’. Published in 1807 it is possible that the landlord commissioned the writers (who were based in Pearson’s Printers just a few hundred yards away) to re-write the song as a piece of marketing to attract men to come and drink in the tavern frequented by the most beautiful girls in Manchester – some things never change!