The Matchgirl’s Song

In 1888 the match women from Bryant and May’s East End factory were on strike for the right to organise a union.
In Roy Palmer’s 1974, Poverty Knock, Roy Palmer collected songs and ballads, along with contemporary accounts of industrial life in the 19th century.
I recently met with Louise Raw who wrote a history of the strike, Striking A Light.
Tim Wells, Emily Harrison and Janine Booth will be reading at the Matchwomen’s Festival in Canning Town in 2015.

Recollections of Samuel Webber (born 1874) in a 1971 interview with Roy Palmer from Poverty Knock…

“When they went on strike they walked through Bow, all the way up Mile End Road, Whitechapel Road and Leadenhall Street, and straight through to Trafalgar Square. And all the way through Leadenhall Street particularly they used to sing (to the tune of John Brown’s Body):

We’ll hang old Bryant on a sour apple tree,
We’ll hang old Bryant on a sour apple tree,
We’ll hang old Bryant on a sour apple tree,
As we go marchin’ in.
Glory, glory, hallelujah, glory, glory hallelujah,
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
As we go marchin’ in.

And while they were marching along, the people in the offices overhead would throw some coppers (coins) down; and then there’s be a scramble among the girls to get these coppers up. That caused a bit of an interlude from the singing; and when they’d picked up all the coopers, on they’d go again, singing and marching.”


Tim Wells and Louise Raw


One thought on “The Matchgirl’s Song

  1. Pingback: Strike A Light | standupandspit

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