THE RED FLAG

(JIM CONNELL) (1889)
Tune: "Maryland" (1824) (originally: "The White Cockade")

PLAY MIDI FILE (12 KB) IN BACKGROUND

Any copyrighted material on these pages is used in "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

The song, "The Red Flag," is the official anthem of the British Labour Party. It used to be sung by the Wobblies in the United States and Canada, although it is rarely heard now on this side of the Atlantic.

The words were written in 1889 by Jim Connell, an Irish journalist who used to say: "I was educated under a hedge for a few weeks." Connell was inspired to write his most famous song by the great London dock strike in 1889. He sent it to a weekly paper called Justice; it appeared in the Christmas issue, and within a week it was being sung in Liverpool and Glasgow. It has continued to be popular in England right down to the present.

Jim Connell originally set his words to the tune of "The White Cockade," an old Jacobite song. Later Adolphe Smith Headingley started the custom of singing it to the tune of "Maryland" (or "Tannenbaum"), and that is the tune used today.

Edith Fowke and Joe Glazer, eds., Songs of Work and Protest, New York, NY, 1973, p. 191.

Lyrics as reprinted ibid.; additional verses (in italics) from Digital Tradition.

The worker's flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead,
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold
Their hearts' blood dyed its ev'ry fold.
CHORUS:
Then raise the scarlet standard high!
Within its shade we'll live or die.
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag flying here.
Look 'round, the Frenchman loves its blaze,
The sturdy German chants its praise,
In Moscow's vaults its hymns are sung
Chicago swells the surging throng.

It waved above our infant might
When all ahead seemed dark as night;
It witnessed many a deed and vow:
We must not change its color now.

It suits today the meek and base,
Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place,
To cringe beneath the rich man's frown,
And haul that sacred emblem down.

It well recalls the triumphs past;
It gives the hope of peace at last --
The banner bright, the symbol plain
Of human right and human gain.

With heads uncovered swear we all
To bear it onward till we fall.
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,
This song shall be our parting hymn.

TO TOP OF PAGE
TO I. W. W. PAGE
TO LABOR MOVEMENT PAGE
TO HISTORY IN SONG PAGE
TO STARTING PAGE

You can email me at
manfredh@mainz.netsurf.de