My Name Is Dessie Warren
Play the song[audio: Dessie.mp3]
Up and down the nation he gave the workers strength and courage
Up and down the nation he taught us to prevail
He fought for safer building sites he argued for a pound an hour
He was so successful that they put him in the jail
Some workers leaders they are sent to royal garden parties
Some workers leaders are sent to the House Of Lords
Some workers leaders they are sent to jail they’re sent to prison
Which ones sold you down the river which ones fought your cause
The guard said whats your number boy
He said: My name is Dessie Warren
The guard said that’s your name you fool
Your number’s what I need
And he said
My name is Dessie Warren
Do you hear my name is Dessie Warren
The number it belongs to you
I’m only saying my name
The bosses and the Tory Party plotted to imprison Dessie
Labour came to power but still Dessie was not free
So don’t just point your finger at the ones who framed him in the first place
Also at the scoundrels who clung on to the key
Dessie Warren he refused to take the label of a criminal
They branded him awkward to be broken and denied
They drugged him and infected him with chemicals and tranquilisers
The bastards went and killed him cos he dared to take our side
I got involved with the Shrewsbury Pickets Justice Campaign during the Summer of 2009.
The campaign is the continued fight for an official pardon for the people targeted by the state during the National Building Strike in the 1970’s.
Using the Conspiracy Act, never designed or used before to cover trade union activities, the bosses of the construction industry teamed up with the Tory Government to put our people in jail.
One was Ricky Tomlinson, now well known to all as a famous and talented actor.
Another was a working class hero by the name of Des Warren.
Des had a terrible time in prison. They wouldn’t give him his own spectacles, or shoes that fit.
They also gave him the “liquid cosh.” This is where the prison service administers drugs to inmates it considers awkward.
Dessie and Ricky insisted, quite rightly, upon political prisoner status. As a result Dessie spent most of his sentence in solitary confinement.
When Labour were elected in 1974, they kept Ricky and Dessie in jail in what was a scandalous betrayal. Des Warren ended up spending more time in prison under Labour than the Tories. A telling lesson for anyone who wants to learn it.
Crucially, when Dessie was finally released from prison, he developed drug-induced Parkinsons which blighted his remaining days and eventually killed him. The drugs that induced it were the very same ones given to him in jail as the liquid cosh.
This fight for justice is now in its fourth decade. There is still no pardon. The fight goes on.
I wrote this song for the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign and performed it for the first time, somewhat nervously, in front of Dessie’s sisters on 4th July 2009.
It appears on a compilation album to be released soon entitled “Whose Conspiracy?”
It features myself, Billy Bragg, Ricky Tomlinson, Chumbawamba, Roy Bailey, Leon Rosselson, Robb Johnson, Atilla The Stockbroker, Claire Mooney, Tracey Curtis, and David Ferrard.
This is me singing the song live for the first time and in front of Dessie’s sisters.
You’ll spot some initial nervousness. They were sat in the front row and as much as we celebrate Dessie in the movement, he was their brother.
It was hard to fight back tears to be honest so was a difficult performance, but there’s little in music that I’ve been prouder to do.
Note there’s been one lyric change since for strict historical accuracy. There’s also an additional verse that I didn’t end up recording when it came to recording it properly.