Monday, August 22, 2011

Struggle in The West







Words: Unknown
Tune: Traditional (Rosin the Bow)





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There's a struggle going on in the West boys
A battle for Freedom and Right
Though Tyranny's raising his crest boys
We'll conquer or die in the fight
They may take from the hands that are free
The ballot that backs up his claim
May land us in prison but see boys
They never shall win at the game

CHORUS:
There's a struggle going on in the West boys
A battle for Freedom and Right
Though Tyranny's raising his crest boys
We'll conquer or die in the fight

They have sent to the plains of the West boys
The Gatling the Nordenfeldt too
It seems that we must be suppressed boys
Says Price "Lay them out and fire low"
The soldiers and troopers are here
To shoot down the men of their class
Grim heroes with rifle and spear boys
To charge on a weaponless mass

There are woolsheds and grass in the West boys
There's fences and sheep on the plain
Would stranger to see us have guessed boys
They've sprung from our labour and pain?
Can they garrison the plains with police?
Can they garrison the back tracks with their troops?
Can they watch the slow growth of the fleece boys?
They are mad! They are fools! They are dupes!

They are sending the scabs to the West boys
At the sheds they are dumping them down
For the man that the squatter likes best boys
Is the loafer and duffer from town
Surrounded by troops and police
Let them watch till the squatters go lame
If they wait till we're suing for peace boys
They never shall win at the game

So be true to yourself in the West boys
Be staunch to your mates and your class
The 'Brag' of the squatters we'll test boys
By the power of the Union 'Hold Fast'
Let them hunt up the scum of the South
Bring outcasts too wretched to name
We'll give it to them straight from our mouths boys
They never shall win at the game


Notes and lyrics from Mark Gregory's Australian Folk Songs site:

This song appeared in the Brisbane Worker (editor William Lane) on 18th April 1891 at the height of the Shearers' Strike. It was brought to the attention of the Australian folk movement by Len Fox (who was then the editor of Common Cause the Miners union paper) The reference to Price in the song is Colonel Tom Price who is remembered in union history because of his order to his troops at a union demonstration in Melbourne in September 1890 "Fire low, and lay them out". Tune is 'Rosin the Bow'


The illustration to this post is from Queensland Pictures via bonzle.com:

Townsville Mounted Infantry soldiers escorting a wagon train of blackleg workers to Hughenden Station during the Shearers strike. In late March and early April about sixty blacklegs were recruited at Townsville for Hughenden station. On 25 March 121 officers and men of the Townsville Mounted Infantry were called out to protect them. (Information taken from: S. Svensen, The Shearers' war : the story of the 1891 shearers' strike, 1989)

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