Writer who immortalised marcher in song loses battle

CANCER BATTLE ... Jackie Leven, who wrote a song about the last Jarrow marcher has died at the age of 61 after losing his fight.
CANCER BATTLE ... Jackie Leven, who wrote a song about the last Jarrow marcher has died at the age of 61 after losing his fight.

A LEADING songwriter, who immortalised the last Jarrow marcher, has lost his fight with cancer.

Jackie Leven, 61, last year released a song about Cornelius Whalen, who was the last surviving member of the famous crusade for jobs in 1936 until his death in 2003.

The Scottish troubadour told the story of the final marcher on his album, Gothic Road, after spotting a picture of Mr Whalen taken at the unveiling of a Jarrow March statue.

Speaking in April last year, the singer told the Gazette: “My mum is from Blyth, and I grew up understanding the Jarrow March and have a sense of the history of the time. I saw the photo of Cornelius in a national newspaper and it was one of those subjects which just sparked off the song.”

Ralph McTell, famous for song, Streets of London, sang backing vocals on the Jarrow March song.

Mr Leven also spoke of plans to make a film based around the song, which includes the lines: “Last of the Jarrow Marchers left alive, your ancient face cracked by a dazzling smile.”

The late Mr Whalen, who lived for many years in Hadrian Road, Jarrow, was one of the 200 jobless men who marched to London in October, 1936, to demand work for the town, which had been devastated by the closure of Palmer’s Shipyard.

Jackie Leven first found fame with the band Doll By Doll and overcame drug addiction and a street attack in the 1980s, which almost ruined his singing voice. But he lost his life on Tuesday.

terry.kelly@northeast-press.co.uk