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Macdermott's War Song

Gilbert Hastings Macdermott

Gilbert Hastings MacDermott was one of the most renowned Victorian music hall performers and melodramatic actors, dubbed ‘The Great Macdermott’. His most famed song was written by George William Hunt and was published as MacDermott’s Warsong but became more popularly known as The Jingo Song, drawing on the lyrics of the infamous chorus and also introducing the word jingoism into the English language for the first time.
        - Jingo:a person who professes his or her patriotism loudly and excessively, favouring vigilant preparedness for war and an aggressive foreign policy’

 The song was first performed in 1877 and became immensely popular in 1878 through MacDermott’s performances at the London Pavilion and it dealt with the threat posed to Britain’s Mediterranean interests by Russia’s declaration of war against Turkey.


Political Influences

With this song, MacDermott and Hunt’s political standing was questioned and their intentions were put to the forefront of the Victorian music hall. The song was adopted by the leading Conservative party as an anthem for their military successes against Russia and MacDermott was consequently accused by Liberal politician’s as being paid by the Tories to promote the song as Conservative propaganda (Dictionary of National Biography).  Particularly in the West End music halls where there was great support for the Conservative action, the song embraced propaganda possibilities of music hall for highlighting successful political policies and criticising Liberal opponents.


We don't want to fight but by jingo if we do...
We've got the ships, we've got the men, and got the money too!
We've fought the Bear before... and while we're Britons true,
The Russians shall not have Constantinople...



The song assures the British people by insisting that Britain had the ships, the men, and the money to wage a successful war against Russia and cultivates a sense of national pride in Britain’s military prowess and draws upon patriotism to gain support for the military and political intentions.