Australian Folk Songs

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Clifton Miners' Song
(AIR-The Rising of The Moon.)

Can you tell me, young Australia,
When the day is going to be,
When the masters and their colliers
Are to mutually agree;
When poverty and discontent,
We'll banish from the land,
And capital and labor
Are seen working hand in hand.

Are seen working hand in hand,
Are seen working hand in hand;
When capital and labor
Are seen working hand in hand.

When the masters they won't curse and damn,
And tell us to our cheek
We must suffer a reduction
Down to a pound a week?
When the collier and his little ones
In the profits they will share,
And the purse-proud bloat of capitalists
Will treat their miners fair.

Will treat their miners fair,
Will treat their miners fair;
When the purse-proud bloated capitalists
Will treat their miners fair.

Freetrade or protection our wages will not raise,
But unity will, my boys,
So we'll always sing its praise.
It stands against all tyranny,
And we proclaim it now with pride,
That we never will surrender
While we've justice on our side.


From the Illawarra Mercury 1 May 1890.

Many thanks to Rob Willis for his discovery of this song in the Wollongong newspaper the Illawarra Mercury. It was published on May Day 1890, having been sent the editor by "Mollie" on 24 April 1890. It is possible that Mollie is Melinda Kendall the mother of the poet Henry Kendall. Melinda published a numer of poems and stories in the Illawarra Mercury under her own name or the initials M.K.

Coal was first discovered in the Illawarra District at Clifton in 1797 by survivors of the shipwreck "Sydney Cove".

The mine was officially opened in 1878 and Sir Alexander Stuart had two small steam colliers built in Glasgow, the 'Hilda' and the 'Herga'. These were especially designed for the hazardous conditions at Coal Cliff. They were 125 feet long with a capacity of 240 tons. Hilda was lost after striking a reef near Port Hacking in 1893 but Herga served the Coal Cliff mine throughout the entire period of operations of the jetty. Steam colliers were used because it was considered unsafe for sailing ships to come near to "the bold coast".

In 1878 the mine employed 73 miners. By 1884 there were 150 miners producing 51,500 tons of coal annually and most of these men and their families lived at Clifton.

The mining settlement prospered and two years after the opening of the mine, the community boasted its own school, post and telegraph office, and a new licensed coaching inn, James Farraher's Clifton Inn. In 1884 the Illawarra Mercury reported that the township had a population of 'near 1000 residents', of whom a large proportion worked at the mines.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory