Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Union Boy


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When I first arrived in Quirindi, those girls they jumped for joy
Saying one unto the other, "Here comes a union boy"

"We'll treat him to a bottle, and likewise to a dram
Our hearts we'll freely give, too, to all staunch union men"

I had not been long in Quirindi, not one week, two, or three
When an handsome pretty fair maid, she fell in love with me

She introduced me to her mother as a loyal union man
"Oh mother, dearest mother, now he's gently joined the gang"

"Oh daughter, dearest daughter, oh, this can never be
For four years ago-oh, he scabbed at Forquadee"

"Oh mother, dearest mother, now the truth to you I'll tell
He's since then joined the union and the country knows it well"

"Now Fred, you've joined the union, so stick to it like glue
For the scabs that were upon your back, they're now but only few."

"And if you ever go blackleggin' or scabbing it likewise
It's with my long, long fingernails, I'll scratch out both your eyes"

"I'll put you to every cruelty, I'll stretch you in a vice
I'll cut you up in a hay machine and sell you for Chinese rice"

Come, all you young men, oh, wherever you may be
Oh, it's hoist oh the flag, oh, the flag of unity

Then scabbin' in this country will soon be at an end
And I pray that one and all of you will be staunch union men.

Collected by John Meredith from Bill Coughlin in Gulgong. Lyrics and notes from Meredith and Anderson's Folk Songs of Australia:

Coughlin was seventy when recorded, but had learned "The Union Boy" at Cassilis during a shearers' strike in 1902. He was only sixteen years of age at that time.

The illustration to this post is a photograph of a shearers' strike camp from 1884 from the La Trobe Collection, State Library of Victoria.

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