Union Songs


A song by Maurie Mulheron ©Maurie Mulheron 1984

There's grapes for the rich on the graves of the dead
There's songs unsung and tales to be read
From those lean days of years gone by
With little thought for the miner too young to die

Can you imagine the rage that boiled inside?
The anger, the frustration, the tears they couldn't hide
Their lives they risked to bring up the coal
Then left with no work and no pay and no dole

They marched ten miles down a lonely dirt road
The coats on their back their only load
The hats on their heads their only shade
And mining for coal their only trade

They marched on the mine to open its gates
There was work to be done but at a fair day's rates
No lockout could force the miners to give in
They'd nothing to lose, they'd everything to win

The police opened fire on that innocent crowd
The miners moved back and the shouting died down
Victims of a hate and a greed that still lives
Though memories grow dimmer and time forgives


Norman Brown was shot and killed by police while demonstrating with fellow miners outside the Rothbury mine in Cessnock New South Wales in 1929.
the Sydney Morning Herald of 16th December 1929 had the following headlines
One miner killed and nine injured in mine clashes
Police fire on massed pickets at Rothbury Mine
Reinforcements rushed from Sydney

See also Norman Brown in this collection

Thanks to Maurie Mulheron for permission to use this song. Maurie is the author of One Word We a play about the life of Pete Seeger

When the depression hit at the end of the 1920s miners everywhere were in trouble. In February 1929 the coalowners of the Hunter Valley NSW demanded a 12.5% wage cut. When the workers refused, the bosses, supported by a conservative State Government, locked them out of the mines for 15 months. Towards the end of 1929 the coalowners tried to open some pits with scab labour. Miners decided to take them on. Around 4000 of them made there way to Rothbury on December 16th and the police opened fire killing the young miner Norman Brown and wounding many others.

Veteran miner Jim Comerford, now in his nineties, was at Rothbury when he was just 16 years old, he tells his story in his book The Great Lockout

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