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Ben Rushton, 1785-1853, was a handloom weaver who lived at Ovenden, on the outskirts of Halifax. He became a grass-roots leader in the Chartist campaign for universal suffrage. He died in poverty, as he had lived, but fellow Chartists and Oddfellows paid for his funeral, which was attended by thousands, mentioned by Karl Marx in a New York newspaper, and was a scene of great solidarity in the latter days of the Chartist campaign. A younger Halifax member, Ben Wilson later described it in his autobiography:

“The field at an early hour presented a dense mass of human beings, through which it was almost impossible to force a way; we had not much difficulty in forming the procession, as all appeared willing to obey the orders given here. It was led by Ernest Jones and R. Gammage, after them came the public walking six abreast; the hearse, a modern one, was drawn by two horses. At the entrance of the village the Odd-fellows were waiting at their lodge to the number of 140, and walked in advance. On approaching the house of the deceased patriot they opened out in double line. The sight was magnificent, and whilst waiting the notes of a band of music were heard, and soon came in sight the Bradford procession, led by Chartist veterans, including our old friend, Joseph Alderson. The coffin-a double one, covered with black cloth, and very elegant-was borne from the house at twelve o'clock.


Chartists weep, and let your grief be true,
A nobler patriot country never knew,

The coffin was carried by six veteran Chartists, and the splendid pall by six Odd-fellows. The return to Halifax was then commenced, the distance from the Cemetery being about two miles, and from one end of the route to the other the people lined the streets, particularly in the heart of the town, where the processionists had scarcely room to walk, whilst at the Cemetery the gates were closed after the corpse had entered to prevent the crush of the people.”
http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/rushtonchartist/ for more information about Rushton.


You can listen to our dramatised account of the Halifax Chartists and Rushton’s funeral, with recordings of original Chartist songs, on
http://www.phoenixfm.co.uk/podcasts.htm.
Scroll down the list of podcasts.


Ben Rushton’s funeral
at Lister Lane Cemetery
1853.

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