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"He gave a voice to unborn children": tributes for pro-life folk singer Vin Garbutt

8 June 2017


"Vin was an inspiration to the pro-life movement". 

Antonia Tully pays tribute to  folk singer/songwriter Vin Garbutt, who has died aged 69.

Vin Garbutt was an internationally acclaimed English folk singer song/writer from the north east.  Dubbed the "Teesside Troubador", Vin won the "Best Live Act" at the 2001 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and later that year was awarded an Honorary Degree of Master of Arts by the University of Teesside.

Little innocents

In the folk tradition, Vin wrote songs about the social issues he cared about. The plight of unborn children was a social issue Vin could not ignore. In 1983 he released an album called "Little Innocents".  The title song reflected Vin's fierce conviction that unborn children should have justice:

I have to do my bit, I cannot bear those fascist views,
And I'll defend the baby boy or baby girl whose death they'd choose

Courting controversy

Vin paid a price for his pro-life views.  While he won some people over, his bookings started to dry up and others in the folk world shunned him.

But Vin carried on singing. His originality, musicianship and the sheer passion of his songs recovered lost ground for him.

David Paton of SPUC Nottingham says this about Vin: "In 2013 Vin did an SPUC benefit gig for us. He was fantastic. He performed a number of songs with a pro-life theme including, of course, his classic, 'When the Tide Turns' written partly in response to doom-mongers worried about population growth in developing countries.

Inspirational

"Vin was an inspiration for the pro-life movement.  He stood up fearlessly for the causes he believed in, even when his career was affected.  He was concerned about the environment, homelessness, racism and poverty but, for him, these causes only made sense if you also defended the right to life of everyone, including the unborn, the disabled and the elderly.

"His support for pro-life causes did not make him popular with some on the folk circuit. But Vin was not one to yield to pressure to censor his views and he continued to speak up for pro-life causes until the end.

"He was due to come back to Nottingham on 4th July this year for another SPUC benefit gig.  This had to be postponed to 2018 due to his heart operation. And now all of us in Nottingham SPUC and his many fans across the world are mourning the loss of a folk superstar, a warm, kind and funny human being and a stalwart defender of the right to life of all human beings from conception to natural death.  RIP."

Standing up for the smallest

For me, Vin's 1986 song "Dish of Glass" sums up his passion for the pro-life cause.  He describes a tiny embryo struggling for life in a laboratory. Vin's right when he says there's an unjust war against the unborn. If we don't defend the tiniest humans, who will?

Here are some of the verses:

Well I can't get hold of that dish of glass
though I'm all geared to to cling to it fast,
it's my first and only home and my last
and I'm dying.

There's a doctor hovering over me, educated
but morally blind, can't he see,
that my size and shape he himself used to be?
I'm dying.

My humanity's questioned but only by those
who seek to impose their will and dispose
of my unique genetic code. There's no-one like me.

And I was ever an ovum, never a sperm,
I was never a cyst, an amoeba or worm
I can prove it if they let me live my full term
...but I'm dying.

Oh! I can't get hold of that dish of glass,
they'll destroy me
as soon as this experiment's passed,
I must go on to join all those that were gassed
...I'm dying.

What is morally wrong can't be socially right,
you can't change the wisdom of years overnight.
It's an unjust war, won't you help me to fight?
'Cos I'm dying.”

Vin will be welcomed into paradise by many of the poor, oppressed, unborn and disabled people he spoke out for here below. May he rest in peace.

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Comments (2)
  • Margaret Pattinson

    14 June 2017, 9:11am

    Very sad to hear that Vin has died and so glad to see your tribute on SPUC. He was a great and humble man and musician. He was from my home town and I knew him well and had the pleasure of his help when I went into the local secondary schools to give talks.
    I like his song 'Lynda' especially as it tells of the sacrifice of a brave woman who did not want to destroy the life of her unborn child despite the negative warnings from her friends.

    "But like the person Lynda was , the rest of us should be.."

    God Bless Vin. RIP

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  • Rachael Stanley

    18 June 2017, 10:34pm

    I was unaware of who Vin Garbutt was until this evening when I heard his stance on abortion being discussed on Radio 4. I can't find a video of any of his pro-life songs - no surprise there. Just like "Carry the Blame" by River City People.

    So angry about the dire state of free speech these days. Not that I ever fitted in with them, but I parted company with the "Left Wing" over a decade ago. They are a living nightmare.

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