Union Songs

Lines to the Memory of Charlie Brown, Fireman

A Poem by Paddy Collins©Paddy Collins 1894

The bells are ringing, there is a fire somewhere;
It is in George Street, behold the glare;
Look, there goes the Brigade, each prancing steed
Is rushing onward with lightning speed;
The Firemen yell and sound the gong,
To give timely warning to the rushing throng.

As I hurried on, each man with excited face
Shouted loudly it is Lawler's place.
The flames rose high, the rafters crack,
And the fiery waves beat the people back.
Above the conflagration's roar I heard Webb's cry,
"Be careful, comrades, there's danger nigh."

With throbbing hearts the spectators watch the wall,
For at any moment it was sure to fall.
Grim Death, the destroyer of the human race,
Was hovering round that ill-fated place,
For when bricks and timber came tumbling down
A Fireman was missing - "it was Charlie Brown."

His comrades found him lying prostrate in Union-lane
His arm was broken, and in violent pain,
He died bravely in the midst of fire and smoke
And touching were the last words he spoke,
"Oh, send for my wife, comrades, don't delay,
For my life is ebbing fast away".

Immortal spirits, phantoms of the departed brave
Whose bones are long mouldering in the grave,
Greet Charlie Brown when passing by
The celestial zenith of the sky.
Peace to his slumbers deep in the clay
Until the great Tribunal Day.

Then let every man throughout the land
Lend his wife and family a helping hand,
And with one voice let us all proclaim
That we honor his memory and his name.
May choicest flowers bloom on his grave,
He died doing duty like a hero brave.

Killed on Saturday Night, 1st September, 1894, while doing
duty at Lawler's Buildings, George Street,
Brickfield Hill.


Hugh Anderson who collected and published 'Paddy Collins: A Sydney Street Poet' (2010) comments:
'The extensive literature of broadside ballads in English generally agrees that this form of verse and song has been virtually extinct since the beginning of the twentieth century. The reverse position is the correct one for Australia. There were several street balladists to be found in Melbourne and Sydney, at least, and this article claims premier position for the local and, for the time, topical verses of Patrick Francis Collins. 'Paddy' wrote many ballads about disasters, murders and war, but commented particularly on social affairs and politics from a labour perspective.'

Find more of Paddy Collins' work in this collection

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