Grand and Glorious Day

First celebrated as an international day of working class solidarity in 1890, ‘May Day’ was the historic proof that the workers of the world were to unite in a common cause. “The workers of this land are our comrades and brothers, the capitalists of this land our robber enemies. The complete solidarity of the former is our hope, the complete extermination of the latter our aim. Long live May Day!” (J.B. McLachlan)

LYRICS

“Grand and Glorious Day”

In our humble home we sit,
Are we broken-hearted? NIT.
We are happy and cheerful as can be,
For we know that every Red
Will be up and out of bed,
On that Grand and Glorious Day
The First of May.

Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching,
Cheer up, comrades, and be gay,
For you know we’re out to fight,
To fight, with all our might.
On that Grand and Glorious Day
The First of May.

From dawn till dark at night,
We will carry on the fight,
The fight for our freedom and our cause,

Though it may be hard and long,
We will sing the same old song,
On the Grand and Glorious Day
The First of May

Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching,
Cheer up, comrades, and be gay,
We are in this fight to win,
We will never sink but swim
On that Grand and Glorious Day
The First of May

Now that we have BESCO scared,
And the miners are prepared,
We will raise the Scarlet Banner to the sky
And we’ll sing the same old hymn,
To our dear beloved Jim,
On that Grand and Glorious Day,
The First of May.

Tramp, tramp, tramp the boys are marching,
Marching on to victory
We have BESCO up a tree
And forever there they’ll be
On that Grand and Glorious Day
The First of May.

We had BESCO on the bank
But our district officers sank,
When one might (sic) push would our
Greatest victory win.

But their hearts were far too small.
When they heard BESCO call,
For God’s sake come to work,
Or we will fail.

Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching
Cheer up, children, and be gay,
For soon will come the day,
When your dad will draw a pay,
On the Grand and Glorious Day
The First of May.

MLH, 24 April 1926, p.1

By IAN MACDOUGALL

JOHN GILL – KEYS, COLIN GRANT – VIOLIN, DONALD CALABRESE – UPRIGHT BASS, CAROLYN LIONAIS – BACKING VOCALS 

About Ian MacDougall

I come from an area called Campbell’s Hill, which is a hill on a patch of road between a place called Leitch’s Creek and another place called North Sydney.  The population of Campbell’s Hill is approximately 9.  Not too many people even refer to it as Campbell’s Hill anymore and I surely have never met anybody named Campbell who lived around there but that’s probably because I am relatively young in comparison to the hill and have only met a fraction of the people who knew it as home. My dog is buried on Campbell’s Hill and it’s also where I wrote my first songs (some were about my dog).  I have since written many more songs, mostly for a band called The Tom Fun Orchestra in which I also sing and play the guitar.  This is how I continue to spend most of my time.

Resources

The celebration of Labour Day on the first Monday of September occurred in the Nova Scotia coal-mining towns as early as 1880 and was declared a federal statutory holiday by the federal House of Commons by 1894.1 [1] Heron and Penfold, The Workers’ Festival: A History of Labour Day, pp. 31-33.As David Frank says, “First celebrated as an international day of working class solidarity in 1890, May Day was the historic proof that the workers of the world were to unite in a common cause.”2 [2] Frank, J.B. McLachlan A Biography, p. 281.The roots of the May Day event to celebrate labour lie in the many nineteenth century parading traditions that existed in cities and towns throughout Canada. As Craig Heron and Steven Penfold note:

“In 1906 Montreal socialists became the first to take to the streets on May Day. Some three hundred members of local socialist organizations and the garment workers’ union formed up behind a huge red flag and the city’s most prominent socialist, Albert Saint-Martin, as marshal.”3[3] Heron and Penfold, The Workers’ Festival: A History of Labour Day, p. 166.

It would be the 1920s before the first May Day parades were held in the coal mining towns of Cape Breton Island. J.B. McLachlan describes the first Cape Breton May Day Parade in 1923:

May Day was held in Glace Bay this year for the first time. Four thousand workers, clear eyed and triumphant, marched with flag and banner in that parade. All day there was a steady downpour of icy rain but it was neither wet enough nor cold enough to dampen the fine spirit of these working men and women marchers… With song and speech, with comradely greetings these four thousand men and women spent one gloriously free eight hours away from the eye of the boss and his heart-breaking job which barely provides them and their children with bread. A glorious day which made one’s blood run warmer and faster with the hopeful thrill of the new life when all of the days of the year shall belong to labour and when the accursed words ‘master and boss’ shall be banished from the earth along with the thing which these represent. On May Day we forgot the barriers of nationalism erected by the masters of bread and sent words of fraternal greetings to the struggling workers of every land. The workers of this land are our comrades and brothers, the capitalists of this land our robber enemies. The complete solidarity of the former is our hope, the complete extermination of the latter our aim. Long live May Day! Long live the solidarity of the World’s workers!4[4] Maritime Labour Herald. May 5, 1923 p. 1.

This song, “The Grand and Glorious Day,” first appeared in the Maritime Labour Herald (24 April 1926: 1) and was meant to be sung during May Day parades. The composer is only identified as “G.C.C.” but the references to “our dear beloved Jim” (J.B. McLachlan) and “BESCO” indicate that the author was most likely a local Cape Breton composer. The use of abbreviations and pseudonyms was common for some songs that appeared in the Maritime Labour Herald; fear of reprisal was the most likely reason for this. References Frank, David. (1999). J.B. McLachlan A Biography. Toronto: Lorimer. Heron, Craig, and Steven Penfold. (2005). The Workers’ Festival: A History of Labour Day. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Maritime Labour Herald. May 5, 1923.

[1] Heron and Penfold, The Workers’ Festival: A History of Labour Day, pp. 31-33.

[2] Frank, J.B. McLachlan A Biography, p. 281.

[3] Heron and Penfold, The Workers’ Festival: A History of Labour Day, p. 166.

[4] Maritime Labour Herald. May 5, 1923 p. 1.

Annie Buller: She Never Was Afraid

The May 3, 1924 Maritime Labour Heralddiscussion of May Day shows that Annie Buller was the guest speaker at the May Day parade. An entry in the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan written by Garnet Dishaw provides further information on this Glace Bay visitor in 1924:

ANNIE BULLER (1896-1973) was an important figure in the development of the militant, radical wing of the Canadian Labour movement and the Communist Party of Canada. She was briefly, but significantly, involved in the Estevan Coal Strike of 1931. Annie Buller was born in Montreal in 1896 to a working class family. At age 13, she went to work in a tobacco factory, 12 hours a day and six days a week. She later worked in retail and department stores until she was in her late teens.1[1] Garnet Dishaw. “Annie Buller, Canadian Communist Hero: She Never Was Afraid!” Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. October 26, 2009. http://permanentred.blogspot.com/2009/10/annie-buller-canadian-communist-hero.html Visited June 6, 2011.

While still a teenager she joined the Socialist Youth Movement, which was active in campaigns to promote world peace and keep working-class young men out of conscripted military service. During World War I, Annie Buller enrolled in the Rand School of Social Science in New York, a centre for the study of Marxist theories, where she developed an interest in and sympathy for the Russian Revolution and trade union organizing. Upon returning to Montreal, Annie, now a confirmed Marxist, set up the Montreal Labour College with a small circle of like-minded friends to instruct progressive people as the Rand School was doing. The College started in 1920 and operated for a number of years. Annie Buller was a founding member of the Communist Party of Canada. Beginning in the 1920s she traveled extensively throughout the country promoting the Party and revolutionary trade unionism. In 1929 the Communist Party set up the Workers’ Unity League (WUL) as a trade union central. Annie Buller became an organizer of a WUL affiliate in the needle trades industry; she organized in Quebec and Ontario, as well as in Winnipeg. In the summer of 1931 wage cuts, unsafe working conditions, and squalid company housing caused the coal miners of southeastern Saskatchewan to approach the WUL affiliate, the Mine Workers Union of Canada (MWUC). The MWUC organized the miners and tried to bargain with the mine owners. The mine owners refused to negotiate, forcing a strike at the end of the first week of September. The WUL asked Annie, who was in Winnipeg, to go to Bienfait and offer support and encouragement to the miners’ wives and families. On September 27, 1931, Annie spoke to a mass meeting of union miners, family members, and supporters in Bienfait. Her remarks dealt with the inadequate wages and terrible living conditions of the miners. Two days later, during a peaceful motorcade through Estevan, the municipal police and RCMP provoked a confrontation with the strikers and shot three of the picketing miners dead. Annie Buller was arrested for inciting a riot, unlawful assembly, and rioting. She was tried in February 1932 in the Estevan court-house and convicted. She was sentenced to one year of hard labour at the Battleford Jail and a $500 fine; she served the sentence in solitary confinement.

(Annie Buller addressing a crowd in Bienfait two days prior to the Estevan Riot. Saskatchewan Archives) Annie Buller worked with organizations for the unemployed during the 1930s, and campaigned against fascism in the 1940s. She also devoted considerable time to left-wing and labour publications such as The Worker and The Tribune. In 1955 she visited the USSR with her husband, Harry Guralnick. In the 1960s she was active in opposition to the Vietnam war. Annie Buller died on January 19, 1973. Perhaps the best description of her appeared in a police report following the 1931 Estevan Coal Strike. It read:

“Age: 36; height: 5’10”; weight: 140 lbs; build: medium; hair: dark brown; eyes: brown; wears heavy dark-rimmed spectacles; Religion: loyalty to the working class. Is a very powerful speaker; very well liked. Dangerous agitator.”

J.B. McLachlan was a good friend of Anne Buller who was known as a great speech maker and organizer for the Communist Party of Canada. McLachlan stayed with Buller and her family in a trip to Toronto in 1928.2 [2] David Frank. J.B. McLachlan: A Biography(Toronto: Lorimer, 1999), 438. For more information on Buller see: Louise Watson, She Never Was Afraid: The Biography of Annie Buller (Toronto: Progress Books, 1976) and Joan Sangster, Dreams of Equality: Women on the Canadian Left, 1920- 1950 (Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1989).Buller came to Cape Breton in 1921, 1923 and 1924; she returned again in 1935 to help McLachlan in his bid to win a seat for the Communist Party in the riding of Cape Breton South. McLachlan lost that closely fought election but said Buller, “made inroads which were not made for years. By her radio talks and work she put my vote a considerable amount higher….[I]f Comrade B. had been down two weeks earlier, I would have got 1500 votes more.”3

[1] Garnet Dishaw. “Annie Buller, Canadian Communist Hero: She Never Was Afraid!” Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. October 26, 2009. http://permanentred.blogspot.com/2009/10/annie-buller-canadian-communist-hero.html Visited June 6, 2011.

[2] David Frank. J.B. McLachlan: A Biography(Toronto: Lorimer, 1999), 438. For more information on Buller see: Louise Watson, She Never Was Afraid: The Biography of Annie Buller (Toronto: Progress Books, 1976) and Joan Sangster, Dreams of Equality: Women on the Canadian Left, 1920- 1950 (Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1989).

[3] David Frank. J.B. McLachlan: A Biography(Toronto: Lorimer, 1999), 496. See the following link to an online copy of Annie Buller’s biography: Louise Watson. She Never Was Afraid: The Biography of Annie Buller (Toronto: Progress Books, 1976). http://www.marxistsfr.org/history//canada/socialisthisto

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