The Oath Of Eureka
A Poem by Bartlett Adamson©Bartlett Adamson 1939
The workers of Kembla, those leaders of men,
Those leaders in deed as in thought,
They challenged the might of the pound and the yen,
And there at the "Dalfram" they fought
The cause of the Chinese distraught,
And still marching onward,
With gaze lifted sunward,
The call of Eureka is caught.
Democracy thrills to that message of yore.
The vow of Eureka has echoed once more.
The workers awaken. They rally and rise.
The workers have taken the lead.
With light of Eureka aflame in their eyes,
United in word and in deed,
They fight the conscriptionist creed.
No despot shall darken
Our wide land, for hearken!
These men of the Southern Cross breed,
They raise the bright flag that all true men adore. -
They march in the light of Eureka once more.
Eureka the Flag! By that symbol they swear
Unswerving to stand to the fight.
And sworn to the faith of Eureka, they dare
To march in their militant might,
To battle for freedom and right,
To vanquish each traitor,
Each Fascist dictator,
Each monster of death and of night.
The workers now march like those freemen of yore.
They take the firm oath of Eureka once more.
The workers have trampled the counsels of gloom,
Of cowardly leaders that quake.
This register card is a ticket of doom.
Then spurn it and burn it and break
Each move that the tyrannies make.
The workers have risen,
And heedless of prison,
And bidding democracy wake,
They march man to man with those great men of yore.
They swear the great vow of Eureka once more.
From the 1945 collection of Bartlett Adamson poems "Comrades All" with the note:
"Written in July, 1939, when the Menzies Government tried to introduce a National Register in Australia and when Chamberlain was still in power in Britain. Workers throughout the Commonwealth, knowing well that Menzies, like Chamberlain, aimed primarily at repression of the workers, rightly opposed the Register.
At Port Kembla, where wharf-laborers shortly before had gone on strike rather than load the "Dalfram" with scrap-iron for Japan, the workers publicly burned their Register Cards and took the Oath of Eureka: "We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties." The Register was a fiasco."
From Pig Iron Hero to Long Bay Gaol
In his biography of wharfies leader, Ted Roach - "From Pig Iron Hero to Long Bay Gaol" Denis Kevans describes how Ted Roach consciously used the Eureka Oath at marches and rallies, before and during the famous "Dalfram" Pig Iron dispute, in November, 1938, in Port Kembla, NSW.
Ted Roach, who was the Secretary of Kembla Branch, and later, Federal Assistant General Secretary of the Waterside Workers' Federation, told Denis Kevans:
" I got hold of the Eureka Oath from a Lloyd Ross pamphlet. The wharfies, en masse, took the oath, and through the Trades and Labour Council, and at as many mass meetings as possible, we had the oath recited and sworn."
Ted said that taking the Eureka Oath "went over big, a big lift, it was very lifting".
During the 11 weeks Dalfram dispute, Attorney General in the United Australia Party government, Mr. Robert Gordon Menzies, gazetted "The Transport Workers Act". He did this to break the spirit of the wharfies, who were locked out over their refusal to load pig iron onto the "Dalfram", part of a 300,000 ton BHP pig iron contract with "aggressor nation", Japan.
The TWA also known as the "Dog Licence Act", or the "Dog Collar Act" allowed for the dismissal of the wharfie work force, and their replacement by untrained, non-union workers, each of whom needed only to purchase a licence for one shilling to work on the wharves.
Ted Roach, a step ahead of the authorities, arranged for "Bunny" Griffiths to go and buy the only TWA licence bought in Port Kembla. Ted Roach then publicly burnt the licence, outside the Customs House. Ted Roach told Denis Kevans that he burnt the licence as a conscious re-enactment of the miners' burning their licences at Eureka.
Many thanks to Denis Kevans for permission to add this information to the Union Song collection.
see also 'The Cold/Class War, and the Jailing of Ted Roach' by L.J. Louis at http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/lab/86/louis.html
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union songs..........a selection by mark gregory