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Don’t Sign Up for War

Alistair Hulett
Language: English


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The years 1915 to 1919 saw a huge explosion of working class militancy in response to the First World War which brought Britain almost to the brink of revolution. One of the most important centres of struggle was Glasgow and the Clyde. 'Red Clydeside', a CD written and performed by Alistair Hulett, celebrates its foremost protagonist, John Maclean, and the men and women who contributed to this often neglected period of our history.

The song Don’t Sign Up For War’ is based on one of John McLean’s famous quotes during the lead up to the First World War when he encouraged young men to defer from signing up.
See thon Arthur Henderson, heid bummer o' the workin, men (1)
When war broke oot he pressed his suit an' ran tae catch the train
He signed a deal in London, nae mair strikes until the fightin's done
In Glesga toon the word went roon'. Tak tent o' John Maclean. (2)

He said a bayonet, that's a weapon wi' a working man at either end
Betray your country, serve your class. Don't sign up for war my friend
Don't sign up for war.

When they turned him oot o' Langside Hall, John stood up at the fountain
Whit he said was tailor-made tae magnify the friction
Ye patriots can roar and bawl, it's nought but braggarts fiction
The only war worth fightin' for is war against oppression.

He said a bayonet, that's a weapon wi' a working man at either end
Betray your country, serve your class. Don't sign up for war my friend
Don't sign up for war.

The polis wheeched him oot o' there and doon tae Queens Park station (3)
They telt him plain offend again an' we'll mak' ye rue the day, son (4)
But Johnny didnae turn a hair, he ca'd for a demonstration
A mighty thrang ten thoosan strang turned oot against conscription (5)

He said a bayonet, that's a weapon wi' a working man at either end
Betray your country, serve your class. Don't sign up for war my friend
Don't sign up for war.

The next time that they came for him, John kent they meant the business (6)
He didnae plea for mercy, he said gi'e me British justice (7)
The justice that he ca'd for stunned many intae silence (8)
When oot o' hell the hammer fell, three years was the sentence.

He said a bayonet, that's a weapon wi' a working man at either end
Betray your country, serve your class. Don't sign up for war my friend
Don't sign up for war.

The clamour tae release Maclean reached fever pitch and mair, man (9)
In a year an a' hauf they they ca'd it aff, but Christ it taxed him sair man (10)
He came back auld afore his time, but he didnae seem tae care. Man
Dae a' ye can, I'm still the wan wha'll cause ye tae beware, man.

He said a bayonet, that's a weapon wi' a working man at either end
Betray your country, serve your class. Don't sign up for war my friend
Don't sign up for war.

The last time that they jailed Maclean he came gey close tae scunnert (11)
Wi' a rubber hose pit up his nose they kept him swap suppert (12)
Let him oot or keep him in, Red Clyde was ower blaistert (13)
Ilk wey they turnt the Government was weel and brawly gouthart. (14) (15)

He said a bayonet, that's a weapon wi' a working man at either end
Betray your country, serve your class. Don't sign up for war my friend
Don't sign up for war.
Note

1) heid bummer = leader
2) tak tent o' = pay heed to
3) wheeched = rushed
4) telt = told
5) thrang ten thoosan strang = crowd ten thousand strong
6) kent = knew
7) gi'e = give
8) ca'd = called
9) mair = more
10) sair = sore
11) gey close tae scunnert = to the brink of collapse
12) swap suppert = forcibly fed
13) ower blaistart = in an uproar
14) Ilk wey = whichever way
15) weel an' brawly gouthart = in a quandary

Contributed by DoNQuijote82 - 2014/2/9 - 17:56



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