Kinder Scout Trespass

In the industrial cities of northern England escaping to the countryside rambling was a popular working class activity. However, much of the most scenic countryside was private land and ramblers were banned. Members of the Young Communist League held camps in Derbyshire as the British Workers Sports Federation and in 1932 organised a mass trespass on Kinder Scout.

On Sunday the 24th of April, 400 kids from Manchester, Salford and Sheffield met in Bowden bridge quarry near Hayfield. 200 police officers were there to try to stop them. The trespassers managed to lose the police and headed up to Kinder Scout. Around thirty gamekeepers armed with sticks tried to stop them, but several of the trespassers were boxers and fought them off.

Six of the trespassers were arrested, including Benny Rothman. They were brought to Derby and were given prison sentences for righteous assembly and assault. The judge was disgusted by the fact most of the lads, the oldest of whom was only 23, were both Jewish and communist. Rothman declared:

“We ramblers, after a hard week’s work in smoky towns and cities, go out rambling for relaxation, a breath of fresh air, a little sunshine,” he told the court. “But we find when we go out that the finest rambling country is closed to us, just because certain individuals wish to shoot for about 10 days a year.”

Benny Rothman went on to work at the large engineering works in Trafford park and became a trade union official. Many of the trespassers were, like Rothman, Jewish communists from Cheetham Hill. They had physically opposed the fascist blackshirts on the streets of Manchester and several went on to fight and die in Spain as members of the International Brigade. Wolfe Winnick, Walter Greenhalgh, Chris Smith, Joe Norman came home, but Alec Armstrong, Bob Goodman and Clem Beckett died at Jarama.

Another trespasser, Ewan MacColl, wrote the song ‘Manchester Rambler’ about the trespass:


“I’m a rambler, I’m a rambler from Manchester way

I get all me pleasure the hard moorland way

I may be a wageslave on Monday

But I am a free man on Sunday”

The day was just ending and I was descending

Down Grindsbrook just by Upper Tor

When a voice cried “Hey you” in the way keepers do

He’d the worst face that ever I saw

The things that he said were unpleasant

In the teeth of his fury I said

“Sooner than part from the mountains

I think I would rather be dead”

He called me a louse and said “Think of the grouse”

Well i thought, but I still couldn’t see

Why all Kinder Scout and the moors roundabout

Couldn’t take both the poor grouse and me

He said “All this land is my master’s”

At that I stood shaking my head

No man has the right to own mountains

Any more than the deep ocean bed”



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