The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #3920   Message #1073167
Posted By: Big Tim
15-Dec-03 - 04:16 PM
Thread Name: Origin: Jute Mill Song
Subject: RE: Jute Mill Song
Found this little bit today in a book in my local library - "Bonnie Fechters[fighters]" by Sheila Livingstone.

"Mary Brooksbank (1897-1980) was a mill girl in Dundee though she was born in Aberdeen. As soon as she was 14 her mother took her to see the foreman who found her "a richt wee smerter [smart]". It was the morning after the sinking of the Titanic. She worked 12 hour shifts from 6 am to 6pm for 7/6 [three eights of a pound]. The work was hard but Mary enjoyed making up wee rhymes about the people she saw around her, the conditions under which they worked and the uppishness of those in charge, so full of their own importance.

Mary read widely about politics and listened to street speakers who drew crowds seeking entertainment: there was no radio or tv in those days. Brought up a Catholic, she renounced her faith and became a Communist because she thought that would change the world and wipe out poverty. Arrested several times at demonstrations, she was imprisoned at Perth [about 20 miles south of Dundee] in 1919 on Armistice Day, for breach of the peace. Communists were anti-war, considering it an imperialist con trick.

On her release she formed the Working Women's Guild which attracted 300 members. They sent deputations to the Town Council and to Maryfield, the poor relief hospital, on behalf of the aged and poor inmates. They held meetings outside the Poorhouse and members began to chair meetings and speak in public on behalf of working women.

Mary challenged society's view of women. She led the Railway Women's Guild who supported her in 1927 when she was again in prison, for heckling, by sending her meals. Eventually she was expelled from the Communist Party for criticising Stalin.

Her poems and songs live on , the best known being an adaption of a popular folksong, Oh Dear Me, abut life in the mill".

Then printed are the words of the "Jute Mill Song" (Oh Dear Me) and "A Dundee Lassie", both taken from Mary's book "Sidlaw Beezes" [the Sidlaw Hills are near Dundee): David Winter [publishers?], Dundee.