Monday 9 July 2007

Tolpuddle play 1926



Under the auspices of the Southall Independent Labour Party (ILP) Reginald Sorensen’s play “ Tolpuddle “ was given at Holy Trinity Hall, Southall, on Saturday evening.

As the title indicates, the play deals with the Dorsetshire farm labourers who were transported to Botany Bay in 1834, ostensibly for taking an illegal oath, but in reality for forming a farm workers’ trade union.

The play opens at the present time, when a motor party, whose car has broken down, arrive at an inn in Tolpuddle. One of the natives is astonished to hear that they do not know of Tolpuddle and the memorial to the martyrs in the ‘local chapel, and proceeds to read the account of the unveiling of the memorial.

One of the party, who holds!” strong “ views on the need for keeping the workers in their place, falls, to sleep during which the whole drama of Tolpuddle is enacted, he taking the part of an informer in the early part, and the moving spirit to secure their release in the latter part of the play

This part was adequately performed by Mr Charles Wright, Mr. Sorensen took the part of one of the labourers, George Lovelace, and doubled the part of an Under Secretary in Whitehall.

Both were done well, the latter being a perfect gem in its portrayal of a good-looking self-satisfied numb skull.

Miss Elsie Pracy was George’s sweetheart, a serving maid, who uses all her influence and womanly wiles to get George to have nothing to do with the union, only to change her view when George is arrested and sent to Botany Bay.

She was very good also,The other characters were in good hands, though the opening scene and reading of the rules would be better for a little excision. From this point, however, the play proceeded with a swing from the arrest of the trio to their trial, the attempt or Jennie and Standfield’s (another labourer’s) wife to influence the Under Secretary, and the final reunion with the returned convicts who learn that £1,300 has been subscribed for them and also that the union is no more.

In the last scene the sleeper wakes, takes some time to come to himself, and astonishes his companions by saying that Tolpuddle is greater than they think.

Altogether it was an excellent little play and a very interesting to a student of the early days of trades unionism –F.H

20 March 1926 Uxbridge Advertiser & Gazette

Reginald Sorensen(sometimes spelt Sorenson) born Higbury, London on 19th June 1891 was a theological student and ex minister of the Free Christian Church, at Walthamstowand grand father of Sheila Sorensen

Chairman of the National Peace Council, India League, West African Students Union and Fabian Colonial Bureau

Member of Walthamstow council 1921-1924, Essex County Council 1924-1945,
Stood unsuccessfully for the Labour Party at Southampton in the 1923 and 1924 General Election and again in 1934 at Lowerstoft.

Elected Leyton West (Leyton), in North London in 1929, defeated at the 1931 general election, but regained it again in 1935 and held it until retired to the Lords as Baron Sorensen in 1965

Owen Rattenbury story of the six Dorsetshire Labourers (Tolpuddle Martyrs) "Flame of Freedom" printed 1931 credits Sorensen

Sorensen's play seems to have been wriiten up as a 86 page booklet in 1928 called "Tolpuddle or who's affeared"

Reginald Sorensen, Died 8 October 1971