Saturday, November 26, 2005

Little Hartley: Collit's Inn

out for dinner at ....
Collit's Inn

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Friday, November 11, 2005

hidden gold

Hidden gold: Australia’s Union Songs

The long tradition

Perhaps it began when Frank the Poet, Irish convict Francis McNamara, decided he would not work as a miner for the Australian Company in its Newcastle mine back in 1837 wrote ‘For the Company Underground’ (

He declared at the beginning:

When Christ from Heaven comes down straightway,
All His Father's laws to expound,
MacNamara shall work that day
For the Company underground.

When the man in the moon to Moreton Bay,
Is sent in shackles bound
MacNamara shall work that day
For the Company underground.

And ended

When Christmas falls on the 1st of May
And O'Connell's King of England crown'd,
MacNamara shall work that day
For the Company underground.

When thieves ever robbing on the highway
For their sanctity are renowned,
MacNamara shall work that day
For the Company underground.

When the quick and the dead shall stand in array
Cited at the trumpet's sound,
Even then, damn me if I'd work a day
For the Company underground.

Nor overground.

The tradition was to grow and include some of most interesting poetry and song. Looking back, we can see evidence that every major event in the history of unions in Australia has been accompanied by verse or song. Many of what are called bush songs, the songs and poems associated with itinerant shearers, bullock drivers, drovers and bush workers in general present a dissenting view from that which would be in the papers of the day, from what some like to describe as the mainstream.

While many of the poems appeared in print for the consumption and entertainment of what was from the start a highly literate workforce, others were collected by folklorists armed with tape recorders, preserving the oral history and culture of working men and women, a collection that was unaided by any government grants or institutional support. This was hidden culture that would have remained hidden had the concerns of the collectors been those of the state. Nor was there a great deal of interest from the music industry as it became more and more a global corporate entity.

Australian unions often had an international outlook, with concerns about the political storms that and they played a very interesting role in our history.

During the Great London Dock strike of 1889 Australian workers collected and sent unprecedented support funds

In all over £30,000 was raised by the Australian dockers and othe unions. It arrived at just the right time and meant the end of worries about feeding the strikers and their families. The London dockers could now face a longer strike and the leaders knew they could now concentrate on the picket lines. Defeat through hunger now seemed very unlikely and the dockers scented victory.

This union interest in union and political events around the world never looked back. Unionists were at the forefront of the anti conscription campaign in the First World War, particularly members of the Australian branches of the IWW the Industrial Workers of the World. Although short lived as a union organisation the wobblies, or wobs as they are often called here, had an effect far bigger than their number. During the the First World War they sold the famous Red Song Book with its slogan Fan the Flames of Discontent. A member of the wrote "Bump Me Into Parliament". He was Bill Casey destined to become Queensland Branch secretary of the Seamen's Union of Australia

Bump Me Into Parliament (

Come listen all kind friends of mine
I want to move a motion
To make an Eldorado here
I've got a bonza notion

Bump me into parliament
Bounce me any way at all
Bang me into parliament
On next election day

Some very wealthy friends I know
Declare I am most clever
While some can talk for an hour or so
Why I can talk for ever

I know the Arbitration Act
As a sailor knows his riggins
So if you want a small advance
I'll talk to Justice Higgins

Oh yes I am a Labor man
And believe in revolution
The quickest way to bring it on
Is talking constitution

I think the worker and the boss
Should keep their present stations
So I will surely pass a bill
'Industrial Relations'

Wobbly political attitudes come very strongly through the works of post war poets right up to the 1930s depression. Many soldiers and soldier poets returning from the carnage took up the wobbly hatred of war in and the hatred of the munitions manufacturers in particular. The idea that war was a means of pitting workers against each other for the profit of capitalists. The idea that workers would be much better off if they got together to take over the means of production.

Henry Weston Pryce


Heroes? O smooth false faces - avid - yet grey with fear!
Flag in the rifle muzzle - rose in the bandolier -
Guns in the poisoned valleys - graves on the crying hill -
These were your profits - profits! count them, aye, count them still -
Hark to the guns! Behold them! Thumbing your discs of gold ...
Gold? we were honoured! For silver the contract was closed of old ...
Golgotha bristles with crosses, but fair lies Potters Field ...
Ha, Judas! The business prospers ...

(Pizer, M ed. Freedom on the Wallaby Poems of the Australian People 1953 p. 153)

While this poem appeared in the 1953 anthology of Australian poems titled after Henry Lawson's "Freedom on the Wallaby" there are plenty that still need to be unearthed and added to the corpus we can describe as Union Songs

I found a booklet of 22 of them by a wharfie poet called Ernest Antony. Some of his work had been published in union and radical newspapers in the 1920s and he was most known for is late 1920s poem 'The Hungry Mile'

Katoomba: rhodie again....

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Katoomba: our Rhodie is out

One day later.........

Two days later.........

another view.....