Monday, April 30, 2012

Garibaldi at the Co-Op

Garibaldi biscuits
Garibaldi visited England in April 1864. He was world famous before the yacht landed at the Isle of Wight, he was a sensation when he stayed in London. [ Now before you read more can I point out that his name is pronounced Gary-Bal-Dee ]. Everyone wanted to meet him, he drew massive crowds at speaking engagements and received hundreds of invitations.

Manchester wanted him to visit. A Manchester Working Men's Garibaldi Reception Committee was got together and the Free Trade Hall was going to be the venue. However the legendary hero left abruptly, supposedly on ill-health grounds but really under pressure from the British Government. Whilst it had suited British foreign policy to remove the Austrians from the Italian states and have a unified new country it didn't want a radical, inspirational revolutionary touring the industrial provinces. Garibaldi's notions of democracy, emancipation, freedom and women's rights were not on the political agenda of the ruling classes.

So what do we have. Italy has thousands of squares, roads and statues to the great man. Britain has a biscuit originally produced by Peak Freans in 1861. A type of blouse and shirt popular then but not seen now. Also the colours of Nottingham Forest football club who adopted red in honour of the Garibaldi's irregular army of Red Shirts. Arsenal play in red because Forest gifted them a full kit years later.

However disappointed as the people of Manchester were the M&SE Co-Op produced an hagiographic address which they forwarded to our hero.

Illustrious and Honoured Sir -
to the shores of England you have been welcomed with an irrepressible and a boundless enthusiasm. Your footsteps have been followed by the shouts and acclamation of a sincere people. Wherever you have gone, rich and poor have vied with each other in their admiration for your exalted character and the noble purpose of your eventful life. Not impelled by the example of others as much as by the grateful instincts of our own hearts for your unexampled services to the sacred cause of freedom do we, the members of the Manchester and Salford Equitable Co-Operative Society, sincerely welcome you amongst us.

Ours is the cause of labour, leaving politics and religion for other spheres of action. The past claims and fair rewards of labour are the objects we aspire to accomplish. You have given many proofs that you are the worthiest of the sons of toil. Your habits of industry in your island home bear witness that you honour and revere that which is the common lot of man. Italy, we're labour is venerated, is proud of you, and for your untiring devotion to industry, Englishmen love you. We, therefore who live in the cotton metropolis of England love you.

Besides this indisputable claim upon us, we hail you as Italy's noblest son, and the world's greatest patriot. Distinctions and honours we cannot confer, but gratitude - deep, sincere, and lasting - we can, and do, and will give you. May your health be restored, your life prolonged, and your name blessed? These are the profoundest wishes of our warm and devoted hearts. -

Signed on their behalf, Edward Longfield , Hon. Secretary.

So get yourself a packet of Garibaldi, and shout his name (correct pronunciation please)."Every oppressor hears to mention of your name with hatred and terror". - Letter to the Manchester Guardian from Manchester Working Men's Garibaldi Reception Committee 26th April 1864.

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