Manchester Yeomanry Valour.mp3
Adieu To Slavery.mp3
It Is Lovely To Die For Our Country.mp3


There were more than seventy poems and songs published in the immediate aftermath of the massacre. Almost half of these were published in radical journals, with the rest comprising broadside ballads and a few from chapbooks. Despite many of them having 'song' in their title, only nineteen state a specific tune.

Turning to poetry and song as a vehicle for political protest was nothing new in 1819; already in the 1790s the marriage of song and political expression was used by radicals as a crucial form of expression. Poems and songs have a longstanding tradition within English folk culture as a swiftly produced and widely disseminated method of information, commemoration, and protest. The broadside ballad with its diversity of subject-matter and accessibility of style was the cornerstone of folk culture from Tudor times until the mid-Victorian era, when the increase in newspapers led to its decline. The radical press in 1819 sought to replicate the immediacy and accessibility of the broadside as part of a wider cultural response to the events in Manchester as well as contributing in innovative ways to the English tradition of protest poetry.

What is of note regarding the ballads and songs of Peterloo is the speed with which they were written and published as well as the variety of genres used by the largely unknown balladeers to convey the grief, rage, and horror felt by the majority of the English people for the murder and maiming of their compatriots.

‘Manchester Yeomanry Valour’
This song was published in two radical newspapers: the Manchester Observer on 18 September 1819 and Medusa on 30 October 1819, aimed at both a London and Manchester readership. To mark the 150th anniversary of Peterloo, the song appeared in the Stockport Advertiser on 14 August 1969. The unnamed poet begins by directly appealing to St Peter before turning his anger on the cowardly MYC who injured and killed the defenceless. No tune was given for the original version, although the strong rhythm and rhyme suggest it would have been sung.

'The Manchester Massacre, or Adieu to Slavery'
The tune for this song is ‘Scots wha hae wi’ Wallace bled’, a popular tune for radical songs, including three in the Peterloo collection. In 1793, Robert Burns wrote his famous lyrics in which Robert the Bruce addresses his troops on the eve of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 to a traditional Scottish tune, 'Hey Tuttie Tatie’'. 'The Manchester Massacre' was published around 1820 in The Radical Reformers’ New Song Book, Being a Collection of Patriotic Songs, a chapbook published by John Marshall, a Newcastle radical and printer.

'It is Lovely to Die for Our Country'
This poignant elegy equates the deaths of those at St Peter’s Field with soldiers on the battlefield and Christ on the cross. The title reminds the reader of Wilfred Owen’s 'Dulce et Decorum Est', written a century later amidst the horror of the First World War, with both poems evoking a bitterness at the waste of life. This elegy mourns the lack of honour and ceremony accorded to the victims but is confident that, spread by a 'holy flame', this death will inspire many. It was published in the White Hat in 1819, one of the most ephemeral of the radical journals which emerged in the aftermath of Peterloo.