Young Jarrow Marcher’s Olympics ceremony ‘honour’

GAMES DREAM ... Lizi Gray.
GAMES DREAM ... Lizi Gray.

A YOUNG Jarrow Marcher walked into the history books when she took part in the spectacular opening ceremony at the Olympic Games in London last night.

Lizi Gray, whose great-great grandfather was one of the original 200 jobless men who took part in the Jarrow March in October 1936, was chosen to portray Ellen Wilkinson, the fiery, red-haired MP who led the first marchers out of the town on their long crusade for work.

Along with 15 young volunteers, Lizi helped recreate the famous Jarrow March for about one billion TV viewers from across the globe.

The Jarrow March, one of the most iconic protest symbols of the Hungry Thirties, was showcased in director Danny Boyle’s £27m three-hour curtain-raiser for the London 2012 games.

Lizi, 18, who took part in last October’s 75th anniversary New Jarrow March, said: “It was fantastic to take part in the opening ceremony of the Olympics and a great honour. I think they asked me after I took part in the Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) march from Jarrow to London last year.

“I played ‘Red’ Ellen Wilkinson and we carried a banner and a petition box, just like in the original Jarrow March.”

Lizi, whose great-great grandfather, Michael McLoughlin, was one of the unemployed men who marched from Jarrow to Westminster in 1936 to demand work for the job-starved town, added: “All my family in Jarrow were really proud of me taking part.

“I was at the rehearsals on Wednesday and it was brilliant, with all sorts of personalities taking part.

“It was wonderful to be asked and great for the campaign as well.”

Miss Gray, an A-level student at Gateshead College, joined the 330-mile YJF Jarrow March recreation in protest at the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance and a hike in university tuition fees.

Ellen Wilkinson (1891-1947)was Jarrow’s Labour MP at the time of the march, later joining Churchill’s coalition Government as first Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Pensions, then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security, before reaching the pinnacle of her political career during the Labour Government of 1945 as Minister of Education.

Ellen Wilkinson wrote about Jarrow’s economic woes in her famous book, The Town That Was Murdered.

She was known as ‘Red Ellen’ because of both her hair colour and left-wing politics.

Twitter: @terrykelly16