Tag Archives: Songs

Take 3 Guys, all Conscientous Objectors.

These are three short bits about Conscientious Objectors. One is still sung about in Scotland his name is John Maclean (24 August 1879 – 30 November 1923). Born in Pollockshaws on the outskirts of Glasgow. John was Britain’s only revolutionary communist.  The others of his era, Manny Shinwell, Willie Gallacher and the other leading lights of Red Clydeside were Parliamentarian Communists. Educated at Glasgow University where he obtained an MA. John spent most of his adult life teaching other adults in Glasgow and founded the Scottish Labour College. He was Britains first Bolshevik Consul, although not recognised by the Westminster Government. Imprisoned for his anti-war stance under the provisions of the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) he went on hunger strike and was released after protests. In April 1918 he was again arrested. At the beginning of December 1918 he was released. An event commemorated in a song by Hamish Henderson.

“Hey Mac did ye see him as ye cam’ doon by Gorgie,
Awa ower the Lammerlaw or North o’ the Tay?
Yon man is comin’ and the haill toon is turnin’ oot:
We’re a’ sure he’ll win back to Glesga the day.
The jiners and hauders-oan are marchin’ frae Clydebank;
Come on noo an hear him – he’ll be ower thrang tae bide.
Turn oot, Jock and Jimmie: leave your cranes and your muckle gantries.

Great John MacLean’s comin’ back tae the Clyde.
Aye, Great John MacLean’s comin’ back tae the Clyde”

John’s health was broken by the harsh treatment he received in prison and he died a few short years later.

The second is buried in a grave now looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  His name is Alexander Robert Cook, and he is buried in Stow, Selkirkshire.

(Photo by Finches on Find a Grave)

Alexander was a school teacher in the Shetlands. He appeared before a Military Service Tribunal in March 1916 for an exception to military service. The tribunal only granted him an exemption from combat and he was called up for the Non-Combatant Corps. Alexander refused and at the beginning of March 1917 he was arrested and handed over to the Military.  The Army took him to Fort Goerge were because he refused to put on a uniform he was court-martialed and sentenced to 112 days imprisonment in Wormwood Scrubs. Offered the chance to work in the Home Office Scheme, which was basically forced manual labour on war-related projects in the UK, Construction, road building he refused and after his sentence was up he was sent back to his unit. He again disobeyed any and all orders. This time was to be imprisoned in the notorious Bar-L, Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow.  Released back to his unit as unwell. Still refusing to wear a uniform or obey orders he spent the remainder of his life in and out of hospital suffering from both physical and poor mental health he died in Dykebar War Hospital, Paisley, on 13 June 1919.


The third and last but by no means, the least of the three is a soldier known only as “Jamie” Not much is known about Jamie. I learnt of him in a letter an officer of the Royal Scots, Lt Murphy sent to his family in WW1. Jamie was a conscientious objector who did not want to be thought of as a coward. So he enlisted. Every time the battalion went into action Jamie went with them. They went over the top, Jamie went over the top.  All Jamie did was unclip his magazine, made sure his rifle was unloaded and put his bayonet back into its sheath. Jamie as a matter of conscience and a devout Christian was not going to kill anyone and made sure he never did. As far as it is known Jamie survived the war.

More on the Great John Maclean and Alexander Cook can be found using Google. Alexander is buried not too far, under a mile, from where an elephant is buried. Sadly apart from one letter in private hands I have been unable to find anything else about Jamie.


IWW in 3 Songs. The Thunder of Battle and the Noise of Guns.

Today it is 33 years since Chuck and Di got married. Always regarded one of their hymns, I vow to thee my country, as a bit strange for a wedding. This is from someone who was married by a twelve year old minister in a chapel that was, and perhaps still is, sponsored by a brothel. Their hymn, it is a very English hymn, at the time of Chuck and Di’s wedding virtually unknown in Scotland and outside of the Future United Kingdom, yes folks, if there is a Yes vote in Scotland, it really is going to be called FUK. Is the third song on the list. It is a patrotic hymn, the first country is “England” the second country, and yet there is another is heaven The first song originated in Germany. An unusual choice for me as I am a very Anglo Centric Great War Historian. It was a firm favourite of the Desert Rats in WW2, and my old friend the late Major Leslie “Chopper” Hill liked it. Leslie Hill was Britain’s longest serving solder. He joined at 14 and retired just past 65. He served throughout WW2 with the 8th Army. Ending the war in Austria guarding an SS Sgt-Major. The middle of the three songs was written by one of the first million record selling British music Hall Artists Harry Lauder. Harry Lauder’s son, John a captain in the 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was killed in the Great War. For many years rumours persisted that John had been shot by his own men. it is more likely that John was killed by a sniper. The 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was the battalion my Great Uncle served in. By the time John was killed my Great Uncle had been buried alive in the trenches and after being dug out was station in Ripon in Yorkshire.

The first song. Lili Marlene

Underneath the lantern by the barrack gate
Darling I remember the way you used to wait
Twas there that you whispered tenderly
That you loved me
You’d always be
My Lili of the lamplight
My own Lili Marlene

Time would come for roll call
Time for us to part
Darling I’d caress you and press you to my heart
And there ‘neath that far off lantern light
I’d hold you tight
We’d kiss good-night
My Lili of the lamplight
My own Lili Marlene

Orders came for sailing somewhere over there
All confined to barracks was more than I could bear
I knew you were waiting in the street
I heard your feet
But could not meet
My Lili of the lamplight
My own Lili Marlene

Resting in a billet just behind the line
Even tho’ we’re parted your lips are close to mine
You wait where that lantern softly gleams
Your sweet face seems to haunt my dreams
My Lili of the lamplight
My own Lili Marlene

When we are marching in the mud and cold,
And when my pack seems more than I can hold
My love for you renews my might
I’m warm again
My pack is light
It’s you Lili Marlene
It’s you Lili Marlene


First written as a poem circa 1915. Lile marlene were the names of two women, one called Lile, the other strangly enough Marlene. They were the girl friends of Hans leip and his best friend. Ste to music after the war Lili Marlene became a fovourite of German soldiers and was regularly played on the German Radio in Bulgaria. Adopted by the Afrika Corps, commanded by a veteran of the Great War Generalleutnant Edwin Rommel. British troops who listened to German radio soon adopted Lili Marlene as their song to, and an English version was recorded in London. There is a dark side to the song. During , and or shortly after executions carried out by German Forces in WW2 the song was sometimes played, the most noteable occasion being after the massacre at Putten in 1944. Lili Marlene remains one of the most popular songs ever to have originated in wartime.

The second song, Keep Right On to the End of the Road

Ev’ry road thro’ life is a long, long road .
Fill’ d with joys and sorrows too
As you journey on how your heart will yearn
For the things most dear to you
With wealth and love ‘tis so
But onward we must go

Keep right on to the end of the road
Keep right on to the end
Tho’ the way be long, let your heart be strong
Keep right on to the end
Tho’ you’re tired and weary still journey on,
Till you come to your happy abode
Where all you love, you’ve been dreaming of
Will be there, at the end of the road
With a big stout heart to a long steep hill
We may get there with a smile
With a good kind thought and a mile end view
We may cut short many a mile
So let courage ev’ry day
Be your guiding star always

Written by Harry Lauder after the death of his son in 1917. The loss of his son is clearly felt. Harry never really recovered, the song reflects the sentiments of those affected by grief, not only from the war, but in general. the reality is that the only option is to keep going. Hoping that one day in the afterlife all our friends and relatives we have lost will be there. At the end of the road, waiting for us.

The third song, I Vow to Thee My country

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

I heard my country calling, away across the sea,
Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.
Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead.
I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,
I haste to thee my mother, a son among thy sons.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

Originally a poem by Cecil Spring Rice, written before the outbreak of war as far back as 1908 Cecil rewrote the poem in 1918 to reflect the loses suffered by the British Army during the war. The pledge is made to England, all earthly things The another country is Heaven, where the souls of the dead and dying of verse two go, one at a time and in silence. For they no longer hear the noise of battle or the thunder of the guns.