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Farewell to a genuine history-maker

01:00 Mon 22nd Sep 2003 |

Cornelius Whalen died peacefully in hopsital on September 14, 2003 at the age of 93.

Q: How was he a history-maker
A: He was the last survivor of the Jarrow March.

Q: Which did what
A: Unforgettably drew attention to the poverty suffered by the people of Jarrow area, and stirred the nation's conscience unlike any other protest.

Q: Who was on the march
A: 200 unemployed men set out from Jarrow in Tyneside in October 1936 to march to Parliament to demand Government intervention to save families who were suffering horribly. They confonted Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin with a 12,000 strong petition for action because the North East was
hit so badly by extreme poverty and unemployment.

Q: And did they walk literally all the way
A: Yes. With no support network other than gifts from people they passed.

Q: How long did it take
A: A month.

Q: And how much effect did it have
A: Sadly it made very little difference. In fact Baldwin refused to meet them. (Spin was not a polticial feature of the day.) Governments refuse to be blackmailed, and claim economies don't change just because some people are suffering. What did affect the North was the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, which did bring enough work to the area to have a genuine impact.

Q: So why is the march lionised
A: Because it has gone down in history as one of the great protests by the working man. Now it is
permanently bracketed with the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 and the Tolpuddle Martyrs of 1834. It was all
about the unity of ordinary people who were suffering.

Q: Is there any memorial to Con
A: In 2002 Jarrow Brewery named a beer after him, called Old Cornelius. It's still on sale.

Q: And will the march now be consigned to history
A: It always was. But the heroism of the effort is enough for the march to be a legend in the North East, among the Trades Union movement, and for those who recognise the struggle of individuals against the State.

At Con's death Jarrow's current MP Stephen Hepburn (Labour) praised the marchers as an example to the youth of today.
"With Con gone, it is the end of an era, but not the end of a legend."

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