The Red Flag

Up The Red Flag Keir Hardie

The words to the Red Flag were written in 1889 by Jim Connell
 and were inspired by the London Dock Strike.

The people's flag is deepest red
It shrouded oft our martyred dead
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold
Their hearts' blood dyed to every fold

Then raise the scarlet standard high
Beneath its fold we'll live and die
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer
We'll keep the red flag flying here

It waved above our infant might
When all ahead seemed dark as night
It witnessed many a deed and vow
We must not change its colour now

It well recalls the triumphs past
It gives the hope of peace at last
The banner bright, the symbol plain
Of human right and human gain

It suits today the meek and base
Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place
To cringe beneath the rich man's frown
And haul that sacred emblem down

With heads uncovered swear we all
To bear it onward till we fall
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim
This song shall be our parting hymn




Years ago, I used to see, almost every day in Fleet Street, Jim Connell, who wrote the words in 1889, little dreaming they would become so famous a defiance of privilege and an eternal inspiration to those who challenged it.

Connell, who used to say “I was educated under a hedge for a few weeks” and who had been everything from a navvy and a journalist to a poacher, wrote the ‘Red Flag' amid the thrill of the dock strike.

With Irish humour, he fitted the words to the old Jacobite air 'The White Cockade' someone else chose the tune 'Maryland'.

Hannen Swaffer in the Daily Herald, 2 August 1945



George Lansbury may have passed on, but it was Poplar that was responsible yesterday for the singing of the 'Red Flag' in the Commons. W.H.Guy, the M.P. who succeeds to George's seat, could not resist it. When the Tories, seeing Winston enter the House, greeted him with 'For he's a Jolly Good Fellow' Guy said to George Griffiths; the miner who throughout the war supported Churchill with an unflinching loyalty, 'We can't let them get away with that! If you start the "Red Flag", I'll conduct it.'

So he waved his arms while Griffiths started ‘The people's flag is deepest red' and his Labour colleagues stood up and joined in. It was T.G.Thomas, the young schoolmaster who won Cardiff Central, who spoke to me of the emotion he felt while he sang the Socialist Anthem which had heartened so many in the dark days, and which he had learned from the pioneers in his childhood. 'How they sang it in the Rhondda after the election!' he said. 'How the crowds cheered and how the old people wept with joy! I little dreamed I should live to be an M.P. on a day like this.'

The Daily Herald, 2 August 1945