The Great Franchise Demonstration

Dundee, 20th September 1884

’Twas in the year of 1884, and on Saturday the 20th of September,
Which the inhabitants of Dundee will long remember
The great Liberal Franchise Demonstration,
Which filled their minds with admiration.

Oh! it was a most magnificent display,
To see about 20 or 30 thousand men all in grand array;
And each man with a medal on his breast;
And every man in the procession dressed in his best.

The banners of the processionists were really grand to see-
The like hasn’t been seen for a long time in Dundee;
While sweet music from the bands did rend the skies,
And every processionist was resolved to vote for the Franchise.

And as the procession passed along each street,
The spectators did loudly the processionists greet;
As they viewed their beautiful banners waving in the wind,
They declared such a scene would be ever fresh in their mind.

The mustering of the processionists was very grand,
As along the Esplanade each man took his stand,
And as soon as they were marshalled in grand array,
To the Magdalen Green, in haste, they wended their way.

And when they arrived on the Magdalen Green,
I’m sure it was a very beautiful imposing scene-
While the cheers of that vast multitude ascended to the skies,
For the “Grand Old Man,” Gladstone, the Hero of the Franchise,

Who has struggled very hard for the people’s rights,
Many long years, and many weary nights;
And I think the “Grand Old Man” will gain the Franchise,
And if he does, the people will laud him to the skies.

And his name should be written in letters of gold :
For he is a wise statesman- true and bold-
Who has advocated the people’s rights for many long years;
And when he is dead they will thank him with their tears.

For he is the man for the working man,
And without fear of contradiction, deny it who can;
Because he wishes the working man to have a good coat,
And, both in town and country, to have power to vote.

The reason why the Lords won’t pass the Franchise Bill :
They fear that it will do themselves some ill;
That is the reason why they wish to throw it out,
Yes, believe me, fellow citizens, that’s the cause without doubt.

The emblems and mottoes in the procession, were really grand,
The like hasn’t been seen in broad Scotland;
Especially the picture of Gladstone- the nation’s hope,
Who is a much cleverer man than Sir John Cope.

There were masons and ploughmen all in a row,
Also tailors, tenters, and blacksmiths, which made a grand show;
Likewise carters and bakers which was most beautiful to be seen,
To see them marching from the Esplanade to the Magdalen Green.

I’m sure it was a most beautiful sight to see,
The like has never been seen before in Dundee;
Such a body of men, and Gladstone at the helm,
Such a sight, I’m sure, ‘twould the Lords o’erwhelm.

Oh! it was grand to see that vast crowd,
And to hear the speeches, most eloquent and loud,
That were made by the speakers, regarding the Franchise;
While the spectators applauded them to the skies.

And for the “Grand Old Man” they gave three cheers,
Hoping he would live for many long years;
And when the speeches were ended, the people’s hearts were gay,
And they all dispersed quietly to their homes without delay.

The Dundee Demonstration

No reflection on the character and force of the franchise demonstration in Dundee is conveyed when it is said that it owes its importance to the largeness of the number of persons taking an active part in it, to the still larger number of spectators who appeared to be in hearty accord with the object of the proceedings, and to the earnestness,combined with the utmost good humour, with which the whole thing was conducted, rather than to any power in the speaking which issued from the five platforms on the Magdalen Green. The procession, comprising in its ranks from sixteen to twenty thousand persons, was one of those things that can be done, on such a scale as this, only in a great town. It was interesting to notice that it was composed of much of the best bone and sinew amongst us. There was a certain power in the appearance of the men and lads, and in their smart and tidy aspect, suggesting that it has been no mistake to broaden the basis of our representative system by admitting this class, at all events, to the position of electors. The “veterans of 1832” naturally attracted some special attention, and certainly it was interesting to see so many survivors of political struggles of a period which to the vast majority of the men and women of this generation are as purely matters of history as Ship Money and the Bill of Rights. All along the route of the procession to the scene of their earlier demonstrations, as well as of this later one, on the Magdalen Green, the veterans were received by the spectators with a hearty welcome. Then, there were the banners, emblems, and trade and other models carried in the procession. A few of these might be objected to on the ground of taste, but the number of such was small. Many of the models were very ingenious; the collection as a whole was interesting; and the political allusions in the devices displayed were generally good-natured. Perhaps, having noticed these things, it may not be out of place to say a word in commendation of the horses, of which there were between two and three hundred in the procession. He is a poor man — depend upon it — who cannot see anything to admire in a fine horse, and the animals which walked in our Liberal procession certainly were no disgrace to their masters. Altogether, it was a fine sight to see this great procession moving away from the noble muster ground of the Esplanade, bending up from our grand river through streets, most of them thickly lined with spectators — lined on the footways, lined at the windows, lined up to the chimney-tops many of them; streets of various character — Dock Street, with a long row of buildings on one side, crowded with spectators, and a long row of ships equally crowded in the same way on the other side; streets, inhabited by working people, or largely given over to great spinning mills and factories, or other business premises; streets studded with elegant dwellings; some streets showing a very plain style of building, and others some of the best street architecture of the Dundee of the last twenty years. All along this varied road, first eastward, and then westward to the Magdalen Green, the procession was received with unqualified interest and approval. We hope it is no exaggeration, no mere tall talk, to say that the turnout in Dundee on Saturday — the animated appearance of the streets as the procession passed along, the fluttering of handkerchiefs — for the ladies very markedly took an interest in the proceedings — the waving of hats, and the general heartiness of the cheering, conveyed the impression, in an unmistakable way, that the town approved of the procession, and therefore inferentially approved of the manner in which the Government have dealt with the question of extending the franchise in counties.

Dundee Courier, 22nd September 1884

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Comments (1) »

  1. Angie
    In the year 2013, on the 15th day of November at 12:25 pm

    Wonderful! I particularly admire the lines:
    “Especially the picture of Gladstone- the nation’s hope,
    Who is a much cleverer man than Sir John Cope.”
    However it says a lot for modern education that I doubt if anyone nowadays has heard of this magnificent display – I certainly haven’t.

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