Plaque on a Clock Tower

Evoking echoes of past heroes, a poem by Joy Johnson

Reading time: 3 min

Turning my face. Head down

doing a macabre dance

keeping my distance.

Allowed out I walk through history.

Mask completing my anonymity
where once there was solidarity.

On its route I’d seen the clock tower from the 393.

In among flats I thought it pretty ordinary.

This was before time became a memory.

Wandering over York Way, off Market Road

maybe just fifteen minutes all told

I came upon a field where livestock had been sold.

I’d gone from Camden into Islington.

I had no idea the area was once called Copenhagen

or that it became a market locally named the Caledonian.

In eighteen thirty four there were heroes.

A hundred thousand marchers

gathered in support of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Scared of revolution they were surrounded by eight battalions,

Lancers, five thousand special constables, and cannons.

Workers weren’t cowered marched behind their banners.

Farm labourers wanting higher wages started a trade union.

Sentenced to transportation were first manacled and sent to prison.

Workers rose like lions. Agitated and won them a free pardon.

Death rates in the thousands.  In today’s numbers stark inequality.

Look to the past to deal with the now and embrace solidarity.

Head back home.  My time has lost its urgency.

  • Main pic – Copenhagen primary school, Islington, built on the field where the supporters of the Tolpuddle Martyrs met. 

By Joy Johnson, Unite political department 

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