The John Maclean Centenary Concert – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall – January 19, 2024

Written by on January 20, 2024

This is a concert that I’m able to say: ‘I was there.’

It was produced expertly by Siobhan Miller and performed stunningly by her and a cast of renowned Scottish and Irish artists, supported by the house band of Dave Milligan, Ewen Henderson, Megan Macdonald and co.

We were regaled by poets and orators including Jackie Kay and Henry Bell to descendants of John Maclean, who read his last heart-wrenching letters home to the family before his passing,

Well known and loved songs about Maclean and of social injustice featured the work of past greats – Matt McGinn’s The Fighting Dominie; Alistair Hulett’s Don’t Sign Up for War and Mrs Barbour’s Army; Hamish Henderson’s John Maclean March and Freedom Come-All-Ye – to today’s Si Kahn and Clydebank’s Kapil Seshasayee

All brought Maclean’s story and struggles to life, and the whole audience to its feet to sing.

While all performances were a completely captivating, a few that really stood out were Karen Casey, Karine Polwart and Siobhan in a feisty rendition of Alistair Hulett’s Mrs Barbour’s Army,’ Paul McKenna and Gavin Livingston singing Don’t Sign Up for War and The Granite Cage, Kapil Seshasayee’s self-penned ode to John Maclean, all went down a storm.

Billy Bragg entered the stage and ‘The Internationale’ brought rapturous applause, and when Billy introduced Dick Gaughan, the entire audience rose and cheered to see ‘oor legend’ once again back on stage.

Arthur Johnstone and Brian Miller joined the cast for the finale, rounding off a stirring night with old memories of past and present heroes.

If for some reason you did not know Maclean’s story, you would after this memorable and thought-provoking concert. It’s also good to know that these songs are as relevant today as when they were written. Might be time to get out the pots and pans ladies.

LIZ CLARK


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