Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Throwing New Light on Jarrow Crusade

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Throwing New Light on Jarrow Crusade

Article excerpt

Byline: By Tony Henderson

Jarrow-born Tony Henderson on the crusade which created a legend.

So what is Jarrow best known for on the national and international stage?

As the home of one of Europe's greatest scholars, the Venerable Bede, or for the Jarrow Crusade of the 1930s?

It would be a close-run thing. Next year sees the 70th anniversary of the 291-mile march by the town's unemployed to London.

The crusade has achieved remarkable historical and cultural prominence, although it was one of four simultaneous marches to London.

In fact, the National Unemployed Workers Movement organised six marches ( the last of which coincided with the Jarrow Crusade. But it is Jarrow which is remembered and, suggests historian Matt Perry, has been hijacked over the years to serve the needs of various organisations and individuals. Mr Perry, a lecturer in history at Sunderland University who lives in Newcastle, has spent five years researching the march in an effort to get behind the myths and legends which have grown up.

He says: "Jarrow fits in with a strong tradition in the North-East of protest about issues like unemployment, and it is relevant to today."

He has totted up how the Jarrow Crusade and its participants have been represented ( Alan Price's The Jarrow Song; Lindisfarne's song Marshal Riley's Army (David Riley was the march marshal); two musicals; paintings and poems; artworks; a real ale; a pub; street names and the Ellen Court and Wilkinson Courts flats after march leader Ellen Wilkinson; four TV documentaries and on and on.

Apart from the jobless marchers, the cast includes:

* Jarrow MP Ellen Wilkinson, born to a working class family and briefly a member of the Communist Party. She became Minister of Education in Labour's 1945 Government and raised the school leaving age to 15, introduced free school milk and university scholarships.

* Sir Walter Runciman, president of the Board of Trade, was born in South Shields to a family which had homes at Shorestone Hall in Northumberland, Fernwood House in Jesmond in Newcastle, and London. …

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