My great grandmother Sarah was an early suffragette. Meanwhile my working class, Primrose League Grandmother read the Daily Mirror, accepted transport to the polling station from the Labour campaigners and then voted Conservative. These women of the past knew their own minds.
There are numerous councillors, candidates and rebels weaved through the branches of my family tree along with the odd anarchist and activists. Great Uncle Fred even claimed that “the workers would be justified in taking up their rifles in a revolutionary situation if the capitalists refused to give up the reigns of government” (Western Clarion 30 March 1911). Although it’s tempting I am not advocating the overthrow of the government but I have recently returned to the world of protest marches and activism. Is it in the genes?
In my early twenties there was no better way to spend a Sunday than marching through London chanting “Russian Tanks, No Thanks” in protest against the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR. These were days spent with friends, chatting to good looking policemen who, incidentally, all looked older than 15 years of age back then and sharing a cup of tea with the elderly, gentle refugees from Georgia. Happy days. I was a Thatcherite who held her banner high in support of our first woman prime minister as we sang and shouted from one cause to another.
Suddenly I had better things to do and the marching and protesting gave way to other responsibilities but all the same I remained sure of my political convictions. Governments came and went, children were born, Prime Ministers shuffled on and off the stage and life settled down, with just the occasional rant from me when Question Time was on TV.
Then, after a visit to the beautiful but rather empty Strasbourg buildings of the EU in 2016, watching the nonsensical proceedings of the EU Parliament and taking into consideration the rather terrible consequences for the UK when the Lisbon Treaty starts kicking in, well it was back to the campaign trail for me. Delivering leaflets in the rain, going to meetings and dusting down my comfortable shoes I made it to my first rally in over 35 years. It all came flooding back; the cheering, the chanting, the beer in the pub afterwards. I liked it so much I joined another far bigger march a few months later.
I don’t mind which cause my ancestors supported and fought for, I just love it that they stood up for what they believed in. Finding their arrests reported in old newspapers and their thoughts written in books and papers of the past helps me understand more about who they were and how they felt about the political and social climate of their age.
Next week I will be out on the streets on March 29th once again holding high my Leave Means Leave placard and getting angry at the Establishment. I believe Uncle Fred would have approved.
This blog is dedicated to Claire Hammond who took me to my first political meeting in 1977 and is still marching by my side.