The Lonely Tree

With thanks to Bob Fry

Edited letter from Henry Burgh, Justice of the Peace,

to the Home Secretary, Lord John Russell, M.P. for Stroud:

‘Rodborough, March 29th, 1839, 6p.m.

My Lord I acknowledge receipt of Your Lordship’s Directions this morning.

I have taken measures to have them put into Execution.

Some of the Chartists came to Stroud yesterday Evening,

and today about quarter past two about 500 marched

up Rodborough Hill by my house with 9 Flags

and a strange Band of Musick…

I have stopped the Beer Shops and Publick Houses…

There are several policemen placed…’

‘Did you see any of that, Beech Tree?

Did you hear any of that, Beech Tree?

Did you hear the huzzahs for the Chartists?

And the catcalls for Lord John Russell?

Did you hear the Chartists’ Six Points,

And the declamation of the People’s Charter?

Did you see those famous national Chartist leaders:

The charismatic Henry Vincent

And the Botany Bay bound John Frost,

Up there on the horse drawn wagon,

That served as hustings for the disenfranchised?’

‘I came into this world on March 29th, 1839,

Stirred into life about two o’clock in the afternoon

By that march of hundreds of Chartists

Campaigning for the vote for working people.

It wasn’t just the light that summoned me

From my sheltered subterranean home,

It was curiosity and affinity too.

And here I have stood since then,

Offering shelter and succour and shade

To one and all,

Regardless of birth, origins, status,

Identity, orientation, gender, race or ability;

A tree that stood on a common,

That sprang to life one early Victorian spring,

Called from the earth by the tramp of hundreds,

And a sympathy for their aspirations,

Growing stronger through the centuries,

Springtide sap rising with democracy.

But don’t call me the Lonely Tree.

For just like the sycamore of the Tolpuddle Martyrs,

I am a tree of the commons and the commoners.

I am anything but a Lonely Tree.

Only those without a knowledge of this history

Could call me a Lonely Lonesome Tree.

I am a tree of the People.

I am the tree of the Commons.

I am the Commoners’ Tree.’