In spite of his professed empathy with the oppressed and wretched of the Earth, the working class in particular, many of Ewan Maccoll's songs contain a streak of nastiness, none more so than this one which appears in The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook: Sixty Years Of Songmaking
Also called simply "Holy Joe", MacColl wrote the words, and the music was composed by his third wife, Peggy Seeger. It was was written about a specific individual, a Kent miner who "lost his job when, true to Scargill's prediction, all the Kent coalfields were closed". The book refers openly to working miners as blacklegs and scabs; this was the Miners' Strike of 1984-5, which was even more bitter than the conflict a decade earlier covered by the Barclay James Harvest song "The Great 1974 Mining Disaster
," literally pitting brother against brother, father against son.
Holy Joe may have been no hero, but he surely didn't deserve this sort of vituperation.
Alexander Baron - London, England