Union Songs

Ballad of Norman Brown

A song by Dorothy Hewett©Dorothy Hewett 1962

There was a very simple man,
Honest and quiet, yet he became
The mate of every working man,
And every miner knows his name.

Oh Norman Brown, oh Norman Brown
The murderin' coppers they shot him down,
They shot him down in Rothbury town,
A working man called Norman Brown.

"An honest man," the parson said,
And dropped the clods upon his head,
But honest man or not, he's dead
And that's the end of Norman Brown.

Coal bosses wiped their hands and sighed,
"It is a pity that he died."
It will inflame the countryside,
And all because of Norman Brown.

At pit-top meetings and on strike
In every little mining town,
When miners march for bread and rights
There marches honest Norman Brown.

He thunders at the pit-top strike,
His voice is in the women's tears,
With banner carried shoulder-high
He's singing down the struggling years.

A miner's pick is in his hand,
His song is shouted through the and,
A land that's free and broad and brown,
The land that bred us Norman Brown.

Last chorus
Oh Norman Brown, oh Norman Brown,
The murderin' coppers they shot him down.
They shot him down in Rothbury town,
To live forever ... Norman Brown.


Many thanks to Merv Lilley for permission to add this poem to the Union Songs collection. It was published in What About The People a collection of poems by Dorothy Hewett and Merv Lilley published by the National Council of the Realist Writers in 1963.

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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