Work­ers of the world, unite! You have a world to win and noth­ing to lose but your­flutes

Un­seen footage re­veals rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies’ march­ing band

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - By Paul English MAIL@SUN­DAY­POST.COM

He had only gone to the gym for a work­out, but be­fore he could get his train­ers on, Pro­fes­sor Willy Ma­ley was on a trip back in time for a chance en­counter with his late fa­ther as a young, mu­si­cal com­mu­nist.

A friend of his late fa­ther James had come up to him at the Kelvin Hall in Glas­gow with a mys­te­ri­ous mes­sage.

Willy, 56, said: “I met Ed­die Gra­ham, a for­mer RMT union mem­ber and Com­mu­nist Party mem­ber from the Gor­bals who knew my dad 50 years ago.

“He said he had a sur­prise for me, and led me down to one of the screens at the These two clips of dad ghosted up out of the blue Kelvin Hall, where the Mov­ing Im­age Ar­chive is.”

When the black and white video of Glas­gow from the 1950’s en­ti­tled Dai­lyWork­ers Out­ing played out, Willy was as­ton­ished by what he saw.

He said: “There was a short clip of my fa­ther play­ing the flute, read­ing mu­sic as he went.”

Willy, who teaches lit­er­a­ture at the Univer­sity of Glas­gow, had had no idea his fa­ther, who died in 2007 aged 99, had ever been a mem­ber of the Com­mu­nist Party’s flute band.

He said: “I knew he had played flute with the An­cient Order of Hiber­ni­ans in the 1930s, but not af­ter. The film dated from 1951.

“Here was footage of him from a time when we didn’t know much about his life and ac­tiv­i­ties.

“I dis­cov­ered things I didn’ t know purely by chance, as Gra­ham had just seen it, spot­ted my fa­ther, then bumped into me. But it shows why the ar­chive is so im­por­tant.” The ex­pe­ri­ence in the view­ing room at the Kelvin Hall’s Mov­ing Im­age Ar­chive was the sec­ond such en­counter for Willy, whose play From The Cal­ton to Cat­alo­nia was based on James’ ex­pe­ri­ence of fight­ing Franco with the In­ter­na­tional Brigades in the Span­ish Civil War.

“A year be­fore, I’d come across a 30- sec­ond clip of my fa­ther in Spain. These two clips have ghosted up out of the blue af­ter all these years,” he said.

James was cap­tured by Franco’s forces at the Bat­tle of Jarama, taken by Moors who tied pris­on­ers’ thumbs with wire, then took them to prison, be­fore they were re­leased as part of a pris­oner ex­change.

Grow­ing up in Pos­sil­park in the north of Glas­gow, the sev­enth of nine chil­dren, Willy was ex­posed to his fa­ther’s po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy from a young age, and even leafleted for the Com­mu­nist Party as a school­boy.

He said: “When my dad was grow­ing up in the 1920s, there was a real fer­ment of po­lit­i­cally ac­ti­vated poor peo­ple.

“He was of a gen­er­a­tion that saw tanks on Ge­orge Square in the 1930s and the Gen­eral Strike and these were shap­ing events for him. Grow­ing up in the 1960s things were dif­fer­ent, but we had ac­cess to the li­brary of Lenin, Marx, En­gels, Trot­sky, Stalin. All the old left books were there on the shelf and I re­mem­ber pick­ing one up when I was 15 and think­ing, ‘ What a bur­den to have on your shoul­ders when you have to start the revo­lu­tion.’

“But times had changed dra­mat­i­cally.

“The days when my fa­ther could take his wee box to Glas­gow Green to stand and speak were gone, and by the 1980s and Per­e­stroika, the Ber­lin Wall and the col­lapse of the Soviet Union, even the word ‘com­mu­nist’ had a taint to it.

“But those val­ues helped shape my no­tion of right and wrong, class and equal­ity. I re­mem­ber watch­ing a pro­gramme about ‘poverty.’ When I looked out the win­dow I re­alised this was how we lived.”

James re­mained true to rad­i­cal left­ism for his en­tire life, and Willy re­calls watch­ing a doc­u­men­tary about Stalin with his fa­ther when he was in his 70s.

“As the cred­its rolled, my fa­ther, who had said noth­ing while watch­ing, said, ‘Ach well, poor old Stalin’.

“Many of that gen­er­a­tion of 1930s self-taught work­ing class com­mu­nists be­lieved that one day there’d be a revo­lu­tion.”

Yet even with the de­tailed knowl­edge of his fa­ther’s pol­i­tics, ac­tivism and be­liefs, Willy is still learn­ing about him a decade af­ter he died.

He said: “We look through old pho­to­graphs as part of the griev­ing process and we love it when some­one finds a photo we haven’t seen.

“That’s what it was like see­ing this footage of my fa­ther play­ing the flute as a 43-year-old.

“It has a real ‘mo­ment in time’ feel to it.”

This 1926 poster by Adolf Strakhov – Eman­ci­pated Women: Build So­cial­ism! – is part of the Red Star Over Rus­sia ex­hi­bi­tion at the Tate Mod­ern, in London, un­til Fe­bru­ary

James Ma­ley plays flute in the Com­mu­nist band on street marches in the 1950s, above, left and right, and, cen­tre, be­fore his death in 2007

Pro­fes­sor Willy Ma­ley

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