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Ythanside Origin: Jute Mill Song (34) RE: Jute Mill Song 20 Oct 08

Mary Brooksbank, one of the most decent human beings you could ever be fortunate enough to meet, paid dearly for the ideals she embraced.

A life-long communist and humanist, she was expelled from the Communist Party in 1936 or '37 for daring to suggest that 'Uncle' Joe Stalin was a brutal fascist dictator who enslaved millions of his fellow-countrymen and women and worked them to death.

Black-listed by mill owners for her efforts to organise unions, and and therefore unable to obtain legitimate employment, she took to street-singing to keep herself and her family alive, and kept this up into her 60s.

She continued to address public meetings, and was arrested on one occasion and jailed for sedition. It is no coincidence that the local politicians waited until she was safely dead before granting her the 'recognition' of placing her name on any building.

In the days before Consumer Protection, Legal Aid or Citizens Advice Bureaux she campaigned tirelessly on behalf of those unfortunates,less articulate than herself, who found themselves embroiled in battles with the Police or unscrupulous landlords, employers or moneylenders. The path to her front door was well-worn.

How she found time to write and collect songs and poems I do not know.

In the early 1970s, while she sat at home in Mid Craigie, unwell and suffering the after-effects of a stroke, Luke Kelly, on stage with the Dubliners at the Caird Hall, berated the audience for allowing such a gem as Mary Brooksbank to languish in obscurity.

Her singing captivated me when I was a snot-nosed, ragged-arsed street urchin, and I've been hooked on folk music ever since.


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