Union Songs

The Rodney

A Song by Dennis O'Keeffe©Dennis O'Keeffe 1992
tune After the Ball is Over

- [play]

Once a young rouseabout, boiled a billy of tea,
He asked an old shearer, a story tell me please,
I'll tell you a story, but you must tell no-one,
Something my mates and I, in days gone by have done,

Once there was a captain, of a river boat,
With forty-five free labourers, on the Darling they did float,
The year was 1894, the strikes had just begun,
And shearers blood was being spilt, far worse than 91.

After we burnt the Rodney, We danced on the river-bank,
There we played an old tune, until the Rodney sank,
Many a heart was happy, if you could only see,
We had a blood great bonfire,
The night we burnt the Rodney.

We did not like this captain, of him we had no fear,
To stations he'd been taking scabs, upon the river for years,
We'll take his boat the men all yelled, we'll teach this Captain Dickson,
So, wire stretched across the river, to the trees we started fixing.

But the Captain heard of out little game, and tied up miles below,
Through the mashes on the river-bank, running we did go,
Then swimming through the water, the men all followed me,
And in the darkness of the night, we climbed aboard the Rodney.

The Captain could not believe his eyes, to see us standing there,
With raddle painted faces, and mud smeared into our hair,
The crew we did not harm at all, but let them row away,
The scabs we left on an island, a small price they did have to pay.

Then we soaked the decks with kerosene, from stem to stern,
Then all us lads went ashore, and cheered as the Rodney burned,
No-one recognised us, they knew not who to blame,
So young man, you must tell no-one, Shear-Blade is my name.


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
"The Rodney was one of a number of paddle steamers used to transport blackleg (scab) shearers up the Darling River to the shearing sheds in 1894. The unionists were bitter against the skippers of these boats, and the P.S. Rodney was burnt by Union Shearers. The captain of the Rodney has ferried non-union labour to the sheds during the 1891 strike. The shearers sat on the river bank as the Rodney burned whilst a young shearer played After the Ball is Over on his concertina"

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