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Ewan MacColl: introduction

Ewan MacColl will be known to the most people as a songwriter and singer, but he was also of significant influence in the worlds of theatre and radio broadcasting. He was a committed socialist all his life and his political sensibilities underpinned all his creative activities.

Ewan MacColl was the adopted name of Jimmie Miller who was born in Salford, Lancashire of Scottish parents.  He left school at the age of fourteen and became a keen member of the Young Communist League, and a political comrade of Eddie Frow (co-founder of the WCML).

The WCML's holdings include material from all aspects of Ewan's political and cultural life (you can search the catalogue here). These pages are an exploration, in greater or lesser depth, of that material.

Quotations from Ewan MacColl throughout this site are taken from three books:

Theatres of the Left, 1880-1935, Workers' Theatre Movements in Britain and America, by Raphael Samuel, Ewan MacColl and Stuart Cosgrove. 1985. (TL:...)

Agit-Prop to Theatre Workshop, Political Playscripts, 1930-1950, edited by Howard Goorney and Ewan MacColl. 1986. (A-P:...)

Journeyman, an Autobiography, by Ewan MacColl. 1990. (J:...)

Comments from Eddie Frow are from a taped interview from 1990 (EF)

The essential Ewan MacColl songbook, a collection of lyrics and music of 200 songs was produced by Peggy Seeger, and originally published in summer 2001. The theatre details, and lists of radio and TV presentations are from there. The book also includes a biography and a close up view of the man by Peggy Seeger - "The Songmaker".  We would like to thank Peggy Seeger for her kind permission to use material written by herself and Ewan in the construction of this site.

The official Ewan MacColl web site, created and curated by his family, is at It takes as its starting point a quote from MacColl, "My function is not to reassure people. I want to make them uncomfortable. To send them out of the place arguing and talking."

An archive relating to the music and work of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger was established by Peggy Seeger at Ruskin College, Oxford, in 1991. It contains copies of most of their published recordings, together with correspondence, playscripts, photographs, videos, books and other documents and memorabilia relating to their work together, and as individual artists. There is material on the Radio Ballads and other radio and television broadcasts, the Critics' Group and the Singers' Club. There are playback facilities and a catalogue of the collection. There is an online index.

Access information for the archive is at