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Airn John

  • (Robert Neil)
  • Oh Airn John if that's your name, a warnin' tak' frae me
    Ye'd better find some ither scheme an' let the Green a be
    Just look at it yoursel', John, is't no' an awful wark
    For you to sell the Glasgow Green tae pay the west-end park

    If you're sae fond o' coal, John, gang up tae Port Dundas
    For you'll get plenty there, John, wi' which tae cut a dash
    Tak' up a cuddy cairt, John, and nip it in the dark
    Tae save the bonnie Glasgow Green and pay the west-end park

    But honest men like you, John, are unco laith tae steal
    Frae rich folk like themsel's, John, they think it is no' weel
    Ye'd rather skin the puir, John, that has nae second sark
    Ye'd pu' the buttons aff oor coats to pay the west-end park

    If you maun sink a pit, John, sink it in George's Square
    Or up alang the Crescents, amang the rich folk there
    For they'd be highly pleased, I'm sure, to see such noble wark
    Gaun' on amang themsel's, John, to pay the west-end park

    If you come tae the Green, John, ye maun expect a fight
    For a' the folk at oor gate-end'll stan' oot for their right
    We'll come wi' sticks an' stanes, John, an' fight while we've a spark
    You'll never get the Glasgow Green to pay your west-end park

(as sung by Adam McNaughtan)

tune: John Anderson My Jo

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1983:] Robert Neil, who wrote Airn John in 1858, did not know that he, in company with other broadside writers, was contributing to the social history of the age. He had a more immediate purpose: to voice the indignation of East-Enders at the proposal to sell mining rights in the Glasgow Green to private coalmasters in order to pay for the new West End Park. The proposal was put forward by Baillie John McDowall, a city ironmaster, hence Airn John. For those who see little significance in this old song, an updated version is provided [by] We Will Not Have A Motorway [see below]. (Notes Adam McNaughtan, 'WordsWordsWords')

  • [1988:] The most sustained and serious threat to the Green in the 19th century was the proposal, resurrected every now and then, to mine coal there. Cleland [the City Superintendent of Works] had had extensive borings done in 1821-1822 and he [...] estimated that there were one million, five hundred thousand tons of coal under Glasgow Green [...]. Glasgow Town Council, ever cautious, did not take up Cleland's suggestions regarding the coal. Why he should have pursued the matter so vigorously after having had the responsibility of upgrading the Green, is a mystery. Nevertheless, the need to realise the revenue came in 1858 when the town council found itself having to finance the purchase of the land for the West End and South Side Parks and the McLellan Gallery property. It was believed that the debt incurred could be wiped out by leasing the Green for mining. The plan was presented by John McDowall, who owned the Milton Iron Works in North Woodside Road, and approved by a majority of the Council. While it was recognised that mining would result in subsidence - the ground would drop one foot for every two feet mined - "in a city such as Glasgow deposits to fill it up would be very readily obtained". In other words, Glasgow Green was to be turned into a public rubbish tip for a generation in order to pay for parks in the richer parts of the city. The citizens of the east end were outraged by this rank injustice. Opposition to the plans was led by an east-end councillor, Bailie James Moir. His family had a history of radicalism [...]. By the 1850s Moir was a prosperous tea merchant (known as "the Gallowgate Slasher" because of his low prices) with a seat on the Town Council [...]
    To drive the message home, Poet's Box printed another sheet [...]: "Glasgow Green, with her beautiful walks, her refreshing springs, her traditional sights, her splendid views, her grandeur and majestic worth, is she to be broken up, annihilated and swept from the face of the earth forever? No! It cannot be. Surely they will not deprive the Citizens of Glasgow of the Green, which, for centuries, has proved so much benefit to them as a place of resort for pleasure; where youth can freely gambol, sport and play: where age can slowly bend their peaceful steps and breathe the fresh air of heaven. When our humble artisan, after a day's incarceration in the foul and poisonous air of the city, finishes his daily toil and bethinks himself for a stroll, where can he go but to the Green? If it were but for this alone the Green should stand unmolested, for were it not for the working man, there would be no West End Park. ... Taking all the benefits of this noble place into consideration, we think it highly improbable that the authorities of Glasgow will touch it, save for its improvement and cultivation."
    The matter of mining coal was dropped, but raised again in 1869 and 1888. (King, The People's Palace 29ff)

Quelle: Scotland

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