This song is dedicated to Liliany Obando, a unionist who has been a political prisoner in Colombia since August 2008.
James Connell (1852-1929) and The Red Flag
Irishman Jim Connell wrote the lyrics for “The Red Flag” in 1889 after attending a lecture on socialism at a meeting of the Social Democratic Federation in England. The song was inspired by the London dock strike happening at that time, as well as by the Irish Land League, the Paris Commune, the Russian nihilists and Chicago anarchists. The song soon became an anthem for the international labour movement. While Connell originally imagined the lyrics being sung to the melody of the Scottish folk song “The White Cockade,” it was more often sung to the tune of the German carol “O Tannenbaum.”1 “The Red Flag: The Song, the Man, the Monument,” http://webpages.dcu.ie/~sheehanh/connell.htm Cape Breton miners and steelworkers marching in May Day Parades in Glace Bay during the 1920s regularly sang “The Red Flag.” In this collection of protest songs, Connell’s lyrics are sung to a new and original melody. Folklorist Archie Green provides more historical context to the origins of this labour song. He points out that it appeared in one of the first Wobbly (Industrial Workers of the World) Songbooks and as the melodic source for other tunes such as “Joe Hill in Jail,” “Harvesters,” “I.W.W. Prison Song,” and “November Nineteenth.” A number of other parodies of this song are also found.2 Green, “John Neuhaus: Wobbly Folklorist,” p. 197. In the Cape Breton protest song collection we discovered two other versions of “The Red Flag,” one that lists the composer as Celia Baldwin in 1924.3 Maritime Labour Herald, 17 May 1924, p. 8. References Green, Archie. “John Neuhaus: Wobbly Folklorist,” The Journal of American Folklore. Vol. 73, No. 289 (Jul. – Sep., 1960), pp. 189-217.