Union Songs

The Pig-Iron Song

a song by Clem Parkinson©1964 Clem Parkinson

Did you ever stop to wonder why the fellows on the job
Refer to Robert Menzies by the nickname Pig-Iron Bob?
It's a fascinating tale though it happened long ago
It's a part of our tradition every worker ought to know

We wouldn't load pig-iron for the fascists of Japan
Despite intimidation we refused to lift the ban
With democracy at stake the struggle must be won
We had to beat the menace of the fascist Rising Sun

It was 1937 and aggressive Japanese
Attacked the Chinese people tried to bring them to their knees
Poorly armed and ill equipped the peasants bravely fought
While Australian water siders rallied round to lend support

Attorney General Menzies said the ship would have to sail
"If the men refuse to load it we will throw them into jail"
But our unity was strong - we were solid to a man
And we wouldn't load pig-iron for the fascists of Japan

For the Judas politicians we would pay a heavy price
The jungles of New Guinea saw a costly sacrifice
There's a lesson to be learned that we've got to understand
Peace can only be secured when the people lend a hand


Many thanks to Clem Parkinson for permission to add this song to the Union Songs collection

Clem sings the song on the MUA Centenary CD "With These Arms"


In his biography of wharfies leader, Ted Roach - "From Pig Iron Hero to Long Bay Gaol" Denis Kevans describes how Ted Roach consciously used the Eureka Oath at marches and rallies, before and during the famous "Dalfram" Pig Iron dispute, in November, 1938, in Port Kembla, NSW.

Ted Roach, who was the Secretary of Kembla Branch, and later, Federal Assistant General Secretary of the Waterside Workers' Federation, told Denis Kevans:

"I got hold of the Eureka Oath from a Lloyd Ross pamphlet. The wharfies, en masse, took the oath, and through the Trades and Labour Council, and at as many mass meetings as possible, we had the oath recited and sworn."

Ted said that taking the Eureka Oath "went over big, a big lift, it was very lifting".
During the 11 weeks Dalfram dispute, Attorney General in the United Australia Party government, Mr. Robert Gordon Menzies, gazetted "The Transport Workers Act". He did this to break the spirit of the wharfies, who were locked out over their refusal to load pig iron onto the "Dalfram", part of a 300,000 ton BHP pig iron contract with "aggressor nation", Japan.

The TWA also known as the "Dog Licence Act", or the "Dog Collar Act" allowed for the dismissal of the wharfie work force, and their replacement by untrained, non-union workers, each of whom needed only to purchase a licence for one shilling to work on the wharves.

Ted Roach, a step ahead of the authorities, arranged for "Bunny" Griffiths to go and buy the only TWA licence bought in Port Kembla. Ted Roach then publicly burnt the licence, outside the Customs House. Ted Roach told Denis Kevans that he burnt the licence as a conscious re-enactment of the miners' burning their licences at Eureka.

Many thanks to Denis Kevans for permission to add this information.

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