Paul Robeson – Our Second President


In 1959, Katharine Thomson and several members of the choir sat around her kitchen table, staring at a letter drafted to the great black performer and civil rights supporter, Paul Robeson. They wanted to make sure the tone of the letter was just right; would this great man do them the honour of being their next president?

Dr Bradsworth had been killed in a hit and run traffic accident in 1958, and the choir wanted to ensure his legacy would be carried forward with the greatest respect they could muster. Birmingham Clarion Singers and Paul Robeson were no strangers to each other; they had performed at the same concert at Birmingham Town Hall in 1949, in a concert arranged by the British-Soviet Society.


(Birmingham Clarion Singers perform with Paul Robeson at Birmingham Town Hall 1949)

They had continued their association throuImageghout the 50s, supporting him when his passport was confiscated by the US government, and keeping in touch via the choir’s welsh connections its anglo-soviet associations and political involvements with the communist party.

A delegation of Clarion members went to see Robeson at Stratford-Upon-Avon, where he was performing the lead role in Othello. He agreed without hesitation to become president of the choir, and performed with them again in 1960 at Reading Town Hall. He remained president until his death in 1976.

town_hall_paul largeS_A050217-01_Paul Robeson_Ol Man River


  1. When I travelling with the Clarion Singers to Reading in 1959 to sing with the great man, I never thought I’d end up living here (having marched through it a few times from Aldermaston). What I remember best is the organist starting to play ‘Jerusalem’ and having to lower the key to match those wonderful bass tones. Magical!

    I found this blog accidentally when searching for information on Robeson and have very much enjoyed remembering the Thomsons and the Campbells. Thank you.


    • Lovely to hear from you Gill. You might be interested to see the entry about Aldermaston, in response to your comment. Jane remembers you and your father well. If ever you are in the area, or near to one of our performances, please do come and say hello. Still going strong after all these years!


      • I’m glad to hear you’re still singing and flying the flag! I remember those days of ‘Hugh the Drover’, etc., with great affection.
        I am now a published poet and find my early social and political influences feature in my work quite strongly even after all these years.
        Warmest wishes,


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