Union Songs

Stag's Barrow

A song by John Warner ©John Warner 1998

Lay down your barrow with its slaggy coal and chaff,
Find St Peter's cribroom, Stag, and make the angels laugh,
Long will we tell your tale and keep your deeds in mind,
And we'll take up your barrow in the cause you left behind

You never quibbled of "above ground" or "below",
You were a mining man, what else was there to know?
Coal Creek were out on strike to stake a rightful claim,
You were a union man, and so you did the same.

Boss sacked you on the spot, but things got out of hand,
For "Stag's reinstatement" was another strike demand,
So boss found a barrow and he swapped it for the sack
"Take this coal to town, my man, and bring some fodder back".

"Shove that!" you could have said and walked off there & then,
But you kept solidarity with the Gippsland mining men,
You seized the handles and the heavy, awkward load,
Gave us a cheeky grin and trudged off up the road.

Humiliation was the purpose of his game,
To show Korumburra's folk his power and your shame,
But you had the cheek that put the boardroom in a rage
With your bold, lanky photo on the national front page

So, Stag, you won your round with barrow, coal and chaff,
Wiped off the corporate smile when you made Australia laugh,
And if Ned Kelly's helmet is a symbol of our pride,
Then Stag Garrard's barrow should be standing at its side.


Many thanks to John Warner for permission to use this song.

It's about a chap called Arthur "Stag" Garrard who was an above-ground worker at the Coal Creek Mine in Korumburra, South Gippsland.Stag witnessed miners being sick from the foul air underground (there was only one downcast shaft) and went out with them when they strived to get safer conditions. When the boss sacked Stag for being involved in a dispute the boss claimed was none of his business, the miners stopped out and threatened a long-term ban. Boss reinstated Stag, put him , in the transport section, gave him a wheelbarrow and made him walk 3 miles each way to Korumburra to deliver coal and fodder. Public outcry resulted in humiliation for the boss and heroic status for Stag, who had quietly performed the menial task with his typical sardonic humour. The national focus led to the miners winning their dispute.

That was in 1924. Years later, Stag was found in living Melbourne and encouraged to attend the Back to Korumburra celebrations and he settled back in the town after his wife died. He regularly participated in local events, leading the march with his barrow.

Then then-editor of the Sentinel Times, Bryan Blake, had a particular fondness for Stag and after Stag died in 1984, he kept Stag's ashes in his filing cabinet (and often puzzled why the level of Port in the bottle in the same cabinet was always going down.)

The ashes were finally interred in early April 1998 during a ceremony at the historical village at Coal Creek.

John's other songs about Coal Creek are on his album Pithead in the Fern.

Visit John's website at http://www.folkjohnwarner.com

Find more John Warner songs on this site. Visit John on the web at: www.folkjohnwarner.com

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