BACK IN TUEBINGEN IN NOVEMBER FOR TUEBINGEN/DURHAM 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY LAUNCH

BACK IN TUEBINGEN IN NOVEMBER FOR TUEBINGEN/DURHAM 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY LAUNCH

12.9.14

THOMAS SPENCE BICENTENARY



























SPEECH BY DR KEITH ARMSTRONG FOR HERITAGE OPEN DAYS’ COMMEMORATION OF THE BICENTENARY OF THE DEATH OF THOMAS SPENCE  AT THE SPENCE PLAQUE, BROAD GARTH, NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, THURSDAY 11TH SEPTEMBER 2014:

On behalf of The Thomas Spence Trust and Hertiage Open Days, I’m delighted to welcome you here to mark the 150th anniversay of the death of that great free spirit, utopian writer, land reformer and courageous pioneering campaigner for the rights of men and women, Thomas Spence. Myself and other members of our Trust campaigned for well over 10 years for some kind of memorial to Tom Spence and it is with great pride that we gather here today.
We know that Spence was born on the Quayside on June 21st 1750. We know that his father Jeremiah made fishing nets and sold hardware from a booth on Sandhill and his mother Margaret kept a stocking stall, also on Sandhill, but it has not been possible, all these years on, to pinpoint the exact location of Thomas Spence’s birthplace, which is why this plaque was installed here at Broad Garth, the site of his school room and debating society and where he actually came to blows with Thomas Bewick because of a dispute over the contentious matter of property. Bewick gave Spence a beating with cudgels on that occasion but, surprisingly enough, they remained lifelong friends. As Bewick said of Spence: ‘He was one of the warmest Philanthropists in the world and the happiness of Mankind seemed, with him, to absorb every other consideration.’
In these days of bland career politicians, Spence stands out as an example of a free spirit, prepared to go to prison for his principles - the principles of grass roots freedom, community and democracy, for the human rights of people all over the world.
Spence mobilised politically in taverns in Newcastle and later in London. That is why this evening you are all invited to join us across the road in the Red House on Newcastle’s Quayside to raise a glass for Tom and to hear poems and songs in his honour. 
This plaque puts Thomas Spence on the map for all of those pilgrims who hold human rights and political freedoms dear. It does not trap his free spirit rather it gives his life and work fresh wings.
Thanks for coming this afternoon.

FOLK SONG FOR THOMAS SPENCE

(1750-1814)


Down by the old Quayside,
I heard a young man cry,
among the nets and ships he made his way.
As the keelboats buzzed along,
he sang a seagull’s song;
he cried out for the Rights of you and me.

Oh lads, that man was Thomas Spence,
he gave up all his life
just to be free.
Up and down the cobbled Side,
struggling on through the Broad Chare,
he shouted out his wares
for you and me.

Oh lads, you should have seen him gan,
he was a man the likes you rarely see.
With a pamphlet in his hand,
and a poem at his command,
he haunts the Quayside still
and his words sing.

His folks they both were Scots,
sold socks and fishing nets,
through the Fog on the Tyne they plied their trade.
In this theatre of life,
the crying and the strife,
they tried to be decent and be strong.

Oh lads, that man was Thomas Spence,
he gave up all his life
just to be free.
Up and down the cobbled Side,
struggling on through the Broad Chare,
he shouted out his wares
for you and me.

Oh lads, you should have seen him gan,
he was a man the likes you rarely see.
With a pamphlet in his hand,
and a poem at his command,
he haunts the Quayside still
and his words sing.


KEITH ARMSTRONG




(from the music-theatre piece ‘Pigs' Meat’ written for Bruvvers Theatre Company)







the jingling geordie

My photo
whitley bay, tyne and wear, United Kingdom
poet and raconteur