Monday, December 19, 2011

Poison Train

Mick O'Rourke

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This old town has had its day

All the people moved away

And the houses standing empty
In the dry and the dusty day

No one cares for this old town

Now the money's not around

And the railway lines are rusty

And the station's falling down


There's a light down the line
Let it shine, shine, let it shine

There's a camp down the way

All the fettlers will be coming home today

When the railway opened here
All the gutters flowed with beer

And the people stood beside the line

To watch and wave and cheer

All the speeches that were made

When the bosses smiled and said

'The good times are just beginning
Follow us and you'll go ahead'

Well, they built the street so wide
It would be a thing of pride
To walk across it drunk
Or throw a stone to the other side

And the buildings grew so tall

You would tremble at the fall
But they've just dried out

And you would never know

There was anyone there at all

I still hear the tall man say

To the children at their play
'You'd better go home early

And you'd better stay away
Stay away from the line

Can't you hear the railway humming

The grass has grown too tall
And the poison train is coming

You feel sorry for the grass

All it did was grow too fast

All the weapons used against it

It was never made to last

And the man and his offsider
Are all dressed in black

As the poison train goes through the town
And blisters all the track

Well, it never lasted long
Half the town was packed and gone
And everybody was afraid
To be left there alone

All the people stayed away

And there was no celebration
Nobody made a speech the day
They closed the railway station

A great song from Mick O'Rourke.

The illustration to this post is a photograph of Poison Train Near Kingston from Johnny's Pages (A South Australian Railway Shunters Memories)

This song is from Songs of Australian Working Life, (Thérèse Radic, Greenhouse Publications, 1989):

... an important singer and songwriter of the Australian Folk Revival. O'Rourke was brought up on the Atherton Tableland, which seems to have provided the central image of this song. The train he refers to is the defoliant special used in tropis northern Queensland to keep the tracks free of weeds. O'Rourke equates it with the ruthlessness of economic forces against which the rural community feels powerless.

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