Union Songs

Friends We Cannot See

Julian Stuart©Julian Stuart 1891

When at the closing of the year once more the pleasing feast is spread,
And round the wholesome Christmas cheer the greeting words again are said,
This is the thought that some may think: "Some are not here who used to be;"
This is the toast that some may drink; "The friends we cannot see."

We, too, shall keep our Christmas here, and "Brighter days" our toast shall be.
The friends we pledged in wine last year this Christmas we may toast in tea.
Our tinware goblets we shall fill at St. Helena by the sea,
And drink the toast with right good will; "The friends we cannot see."

While friends are true and hearts are stout what reason have we to repine?
If friends within toast friends without what matter whether tea or wine?
So tell the boys the prisoners say that these our toasts shall be;
"The dawning of a brighter day" and "Friends we cannot see."


Barcaldine Shearers Camp Library 1891

balcaldine camp library


"Verses sent from the Union Prisoners at St. Helena to Mrs. Edg, of the Railway Hotel, Ilfracombe"

Julian Stuart, chairman of the shearers' camp at Barcaldine during the 1891 Shearers Strike, was arrested in March 1891 and sentenced, along with 13 other union prisoners, to three years gaol at St. Helena. Stuart later became editor of the Westralian Worker.

The island of St. Helena is located in Moreton Bay 5 km from the mouth of the Brisbane River and about 8km north-east of Manly. The Island functioned as a high-security colonial prison from 1867 till its closure in 1936.

The poem was published first in the Worker on 23 January 1892 and reprinted on 30 January 1892 in the Australian Workman.

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