Sunday, June 30, 2019

Revisiting UK Protest Folk Songwriter/Miner Tommy Armstrong

UK Miner/Protest Folk Songwriter Tommy Armstrong
As John McDonnell noted in the 1979 book, Songs of Struggle and Protest, which he edited:

"The songs of workers composed and sung sometimes in the workplace itself, are...different...They express the feelings of...workers...The mining industry has been particularly noted for its fine songs. Probably the harshness and isolation of the conditions of work, and the danger which fostered the spirit of comradeship among the miners, have contributed to this creativity..."

And in the same book, McDonnell explained why he thought a UK miner named Tommy Armstrong was considered to be a great writer of protest folk songs:

"The greatest songwriter among miners must surely be Tommy Armstrong born in 1848 who started work at the age of nine and spent most of his long working life at Tanfield Lea...He had a real sense of responsibility to the miners...and felt a deep obligation to record the landmarks in their history...He entertained at concerts given to raise money for the victims of pit disasters, for strike funds, for reading rooms and for the miners' union. He is one of the best of all worker poets and A.L. Lloyd has described his work as `characterized by a profound class consciousness and a notable faculty for criticism of society.' Most of Armstrong's strike ballads were made during the 1880's and 1890's..."

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