The True Tale of the Tolpuddle Martyrs
A Musical in Two Acts
by Brady Walker and Margarita Partridge
The Epic Struggle for Justice & Freedom!
The year is 1833. The place is Tolpuddle, Dorset.
What six humble farm workers choose to suffer for the sake of their fellow man.
What they have to give up and what will be taken away from them…their freedom.
A political persecution with a vengeful and punitive conspiracy against their efforts to form a workers’ union.
How they prevail, and how their suffering brings about the right to join a union; that right is now protected and enshrined in international law.
Cowed down by an unjust connivance to rob them of their civil rights, but refusing to knuckle under and submit to the powers that be.
Standing strong against a powerful and corrupt system that will send them to their doom.
The sacrifices made by six hard-working English farm laborers sparks the international trade union movement. Their worldwide influence leads to the improvement in pay rates and working conditions and enshrines the benefits, pensions and protections available to union members to this day.
Kept in servitude to the stone-hearted landed gentry, discomfort and displeasure stirs in the breasts of those toiling in the fields of west Dorset.
Domination, duplicity and an abuse of power have deprived them of their basic rights to a living wage. A pay cut is cruelly inflicted to punish them for daring to approach their masters in supplication for mercy and humanity.
Their struggle for survival in the face of poverty and starvation leads to reluctant rebellion.
Under the leadership of lay preacher George Loveless, the workers form a trade union. They return to approach the masters, proposing a new pay bargain, and threaten to strike.
Incensed by this insurrection, the wealthy landowners plot their evil, wicked revenge.
Trade unions are not illegal, but it took the legal brains of the Law Office in London to show how a legal technicality could be used against six agricultural laborers to charge them with mutiny.
Bribery and betrayal begets a powerful conspiracy against the laborers, to ensure the “guilty” verdict, for the swearing of a secret oath. The following year, in 1834, political chicanery produces a contrived court case incorporating this obscure legal technicality, and the corrupt jury convicts them of “mutiny.”
Torn from the bosom of their families, they are banished from England and transported to Australia deep in the hold of a prison ship, like Jonah in the belly of the whale. They arrive in Hobart and are enslaved for years in a cruel penal colony.
The depth of the love between George Loveless and his wife Betsy sustains them throughout as, across the seas, they yearn for each other’s company and ache to be reunited.
Subjected to repeated soul-destroying sabotage, the prisoners are unaware that their infamous case provokes a popular uprising in Britain, garnering the support of the common man. There are mass protests in the streets and outside Parliament in London, which leads to the King’s pardon. News of their pardon is deliberately withheld from them, so their exile in a foreign hell is unnecessarily extended. Unbroken, they eventually return triumphant to take control of their own destiny.
BOOK Brady Walker, Margarita Partridge
Inspired by true historical events and autobiographical work by George Loveless
MUSIC Nina Garcia. Mike Hall
LYRICS Nina Garcia. Mike Hall. Margarita Partridge.
NUMBER OF ACTS Two Acts
GENRES Drama, Historical, Biographical
SETTINGS Multiple settings
TIME AND PLACE 1833-1839. Rural Dorset, Tolpuddle, and Dorchester, England. Prison ship. Hobart Town, Australia. Canada.
CAST SIZE Small / medium (Male actors perform multiple roles in scenes.)
ORCHESTRA SIZE Small
DANCING Musical staging
IDEAL FOR Ensemble cast, touring, school theatre, community theatre, regional theatre, Broadway, West End
CASTING NOTES Mainly adult males, mature males, adult females
TAGS Tolpuddle Martyrs - Dorset - Trade Union - Political - Social Injustice - Courtroom - Trial - Prison - Punishment - Transportation - Australia - Redemption