Union Songs

The Country Knows The Rest

A Song by Graham Seal©Graham Seal 1975, 2008

The year was nineteen-twenty-nine, the place was Rothbury town,
The miners were all locked out and our wage had been knocked down,
From March until December we lived on bread and dole,
Until the Rothbury mine re-opened, with scabs to dig the coal -
And the country knows the rest …

So the miners’ dole was cut and our strike pay couldn’t last,
But the men and women of Rothbury determined to stand fast.
All across the coalfields miners heard the call,
On a warm night in December they met at Rothbury, one and all -
And the country knows the rest …

It was early in the morning upon that fateful day,
Many hundred miners gathered there to send the scabs away,
A piper played before us in the breaking blood-red dawn,
But when we reached the Rothbury mine gates a bloodier day was born -
And the country knows the rest …

The police were in the bushes with pistols in their hands,
There were more of them on horseback to break the miners’ stand,
Just how it started I swear I'll never know,
But the guns began firing and the blood began to flow -
And the country knows the rest …

When the firing was all over and the police had broken through,
Many miners badly beaten - bullet-wounded, too,
Beneath the Rothbury mine gate Norman Brown was lying dead,
And the lifeblood from his veins stained the coaldust red -
And the country knows the rest …


Many thanks to Graham Seal for permission to add this song to the Union Songs website.

Graham writes
'The Country Knows the Rest was written in the 1970s while I was researching popular protest in Australia. One of the Kelly ballads used the line the country knows the rest and I was also struck by a few phrases from the oral accounts of miners who had been at Rothbury. The music and lyrics came together from these sources.

I recorded the song on my Barbed Wire Ballads in 2005 and Andy Saunders and Tim Glover recorded it as The Symbolics, back around the late 70s/early 80s.'

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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