Union Songs

The Slave Pen By The Sea

A poem by Ernest Antony©Ernest Antony 1930

It's years since I last saw it, but it's still there I know,
That yard down at Port Melbourne, where the "Stevies" go
When they're chasing bread and butter; I've been there frequently
To that yard down by Port Phillip—that slave pen by the sea.

Yes. I've worn a stevie's medal and I've fought amongst the mob;
You have to push yourself in—it's be robbed if you won't rob;
There's two thousand scrapping with you 'neath the rules of "Rafferty."
For whatever work is going in the slave pen by the sea.

It's a place that isn't visited by tourist knights and such,
And really, as a show place it does not amount to much;
But men with good fat bank rolls, of course, don't need to be
Frequenting such places as that slave pen by the sea.

It's only for the purpose of yarding up the slaves,
For the men who own the cargoes that the ships bring o’er the waves;
Oh it's strange that in Australia, a land they say is free,
That men like sheep are herded in a slave pen by the sea,

And though we oft get lots of news of slaves in foreign lands,
There's very little heard of those who face the picking stands;
In the hope to be selected—a vain one frequently,
For they're seldom short of labor in the slave pen by the sea.

They're somewhat rough and ready, are the stevies as a rule,
But then they are the product of a rough and ready school;
And though they're far from perfect, I think you will agree,
That you couldn't hope for angels in a slave pen by the sea.

Perhaps some time I'll wander down to Melbourne once again.
And mingle with the stevies in the master's labor pen;
But I'm living and I'm hoping for a day I know will be,
When working men won't tolerate that slave pen by the sea.


This poem is in Ernest Antony's book of thirty three poems titled The Hungry Mile and published in Sydney in 1930.

see also

Ernest Antony and the Hungry Mile Launch of Second Edition 2008

The Hungry Mile And 'Maritime Invisibility' by Rowan Cahill and

Ernest Antony: Forgotten Poet by Rowan Cahill

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