Union Songs

William Spence

A Song by Dennis O'Keeffe©Dennis O'Keeffe 1993

- [play]

Mrs Temple said "David, it just doesn't make sense,
get on down to Creswick and have a talk to Mr Spence,
He organised the miners back in 1882,
You tell him that these shearers want some organising too.

William Spence was working, six years after he was born,
He saw the miners assemble, upon Eureka Morn,
He was there when Twenty-Two men drowned in the Creswick Mine,
He said it's time we formed a union, it's time, by god it's time.

They opened an office in Ballarat, down in Armstrong Street,
The organising started now, they had a place to meet,
Then branches in Bourke and Wagga, opened on the same day,
Cobar started, Morree and Young, the union was on it's way.

The Australian workers union, arbitration they sought,
The squatters they denied them, that is why they fought,
Masters and Servants Act proclaim it if you like,
We are the workers, we've got our right to strike.


Many thanks to Dennis O'Keeffe for permission to add this song to the Union Songs collection.

The song is on his CD "Matilda in a Tucker Bag"

Dennis writes
"William Spence is another forgotten Australian who as much as any person prepared the way for Labor in politics in Australia which became the first Labor Party in the English speaking world to take office. Spence started life as a boy shepherd, by 1878 he was secretary of Creswick Miners Association, he was appointed General Secretary of the Federal body and when he left the Miners’ Union, he had taken the membership from 600 to 23,000.

In 1886 he was alerted by David Temple to the appalling working conditions of the shearing industry. They founded the Australian Shearers’ Union in the same year - this was the beginning of the Australian Workers’ Union. Spence once said “Discontent properly directed is one of the essentials of progress. A feeling of injustice will bring about discontent in a man’s mind. The man who, in press or pulpit, renounces injustice is noble, but nobler by far is the man who goes out and fights it."

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