fragments of an attempted writing.

red flag hymnography

Jim Connell, the Irish Socialist, wrote the labour anthem The Red Flag during the London Dock Strike of 1889.  

For you religion and labor movement trivia buffs - that strike saw the heavy involvement of Cardinal Manning and was indicative of the coming turn of the Catholic Church toward labor which would be somewhat codified in 1891's papal encyclical Rerum Novarum.  Of course, that encyclical states that capital and labor need each other and defends capitalist conceptions of property, and it started a now 120 year old Catholic tradition of barking at capitalism without biting it, a tradition still going strong this very day.  Hilaire Belloc was 19 years old when the London Dock Strike occurred and he was close to Manning.  This no doubt influenced  Belloc's later distributivism, which is perhaps the most sentimental take on the reform of capital ever concocted.

Anyway, back to Connell.

You'll note that The Red Flag is sung to the tune of O Tannenbaum.  Connell wanted it sung to the tune of The White Cockade.   I think that the lyrics work well with either tune, but I think I might prefer it sung to The White Cockade.

Connell was born in 1852 in County Meath, in the village Kilskyre, north of Kells.  He was an IRB member, a docker, and a union organizer and later a labor journalist.  He died in 1929 in South London, where he is buried.

From his memorial stone in Meath, with verse Connell wrote:

Oh, grant me an ownerless corner of earth,
Or pick me a hillock of stones,
Or gather the wind wafted leaves of the trees
To cover my socialist bones,
Jim Connell


  1. Misread that as "grant me an Owenless corner of earth..."

  2. I wrote a while ago now on the English translation of the Internationale, re-done by the folk singer Billy Bragg, which I find atrocious. Turns out, the singer is equally atrocious:

    Please forgive the Trot rhetorical flourishes.


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