Thursday 25 August 2016

Report on 3rd John Dengate Commemorative Concert & Get Together of old friends and family, Sunday 21st August 2016

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from Dale
Thanks to all who came, sang, attended at the memorial concert for John and his legacy. Brought some tears to the eyes to see so many folk still inspired to sing and write on. The Dengate family send their love to all and thanks for tolerance for our family bit of silliness and teasing.

John at the 2012 launch of his 3rd book at the Bush Music Club
(Chris Woodland photo)

Thanks to John's old friends father & daughter Max & Leyne Elbourne for once again organising the get-together, further thanks to Leyne for maintaining The John Dengate Collection, a library of John Dengate videos, photos, words and memories.

Leyne & Max with Dale Dengate  (Sandra Nixon photo)


Dale (Sandra Nixon photo)

John's sons Lachlan & Sean  (Chris Maltby photo)

John's grandson Cal (Chris Maltby photo)

John's granddaughter Roisin (Chris Maltby photo)

MC Max (Sandra Nixon photo)

Margaret Walters (Sandra Nixon photo)

Solidarity Choir singing ASIO  
(Sandra Nixon photo)

Miguel Heatwole, Dale, Ann & Frank Maher (Sandra Nixon photo)

Cathy Rytmeister singing Precious Gift, winner of the first John & Dale Dengate Parody competition, 2014

Chris Maltby singing the 3-times updated I Can't Abide (John Dengate 1998, Paul Spencer, 2014, Chris Maltby 2015, 2016)   (Prue Cancian photo & video)

Jane Scott singing Claire from Railway Square, her parody of Bill from Erskineville. (Sandra Nixon photo)

Sue Gee singing a parody written on the way to the concert   (Sandra Nixon photo) 

Peter Russell (Sandra Nixon photo)

Seamus Gill (Chris Maltby photo)

   Leigh Birkett & Doug Jenner (Chris Maltby photo)

 Steve 'Watto' Watson 
(Chris Maltby photo)

Staci Cruchfield dancing with Johnnie Clough. Staci donated the ceramic for the raffle which raised $200 for the Garvan Institute's John Dengate Memorial Cancer Research Fund, taking the total to $3000.     (Sandra Nixon photo)

Roy Elbourne, Lachlan, & Steve Watson (Chris Maltby photo) 

Tom Salisbury who was involved in the first production of Reedy River in 1953, and also involved with BMC in the very early days  (Sandra Nixon photo)


Vale Brian Dunnett - 30th June 1935 - 18th June 2016

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Brian has been associated with the Bush Music Club since the 1950s.

He & Alex Hood were friends from their Eureka Youth League days, and they subsequently did their National Service together, so it was fitting that Alex gave the eulogy at Brian's memorial service.

Photographs from Concert Party's Blue Mountains Railway trip, 2010 organised by Brian.

Launch of BMC's Railway Songs booklet at 2010 National Folk Festival, compiled by Brian Dunnett, using contributions from the Railway Songs Blogspot and other sources, and edited by Ralph Pride, it contains 36 songs with music, in a spiral bound book for easy use by performers

Alex Hood

Memorabilia - album with woven fabric cover from 1959 Budapest World Peace Council conference, Brian's beanie & mandolin, Trains of Treasure CD, BMC's Train Songs booklet


Railway life & song, a video documentary produced by Jillian Bartlett.
Featuring Brian Dunnett, and Mark Gregory this audio documentary focuses on working life at Eveleigh, the role and influence of music, and the cultural contribution of railway songs.

Vale Brian Dunnett – by Mark Gregory
I first met Brian in the 1960s when I called into 40 Market Street Sydney which was a large terrace house that was the headquarters of the Eureka Youth League and the Communist Party of Australia and had a bookshop on the ground floor. Brian was at the time Secretary of the EYL.

I caught up with Brian again in the 1980s when I was working as a technician at Macquarie University and he was convener of a shop floor committee at the railway workshops in Chullora. He and his committee were involved with the Art in Working Life Project the funding of which came through the Australia Council.

Among other things railway workers became involved in a number of projects, one of which employed a resident poet to encourage workers compose their own verse. The poet was Harry Robertson, a Rolls Royce trained Glaswegian ships engineer whose songs I knew well.

Other initiatives of the Combined Railway Unions Cultural Committee included an exhibition of thirty large illustrated panels reflecting Australian railway history through the eyes of railway workers themselves. These panels were exhibited in a railway carriage that travelled to railway stations across the country. In 1982 a meeting at took place at Chullora with Don Mamouney, Dallas Lewis and Pat Cranney from Sidetrack Theatre and shop stewards from the Loco area.

The idea of a theatre company residence is proposed and agreed to in principle and Sidetrack successfully applied for the funding. In 1987 there was also a lunchtime concert launch at Chullora for the release of a 45rpm recording of two songs composed and performed by railway workers Ray King and Ron Russell.

Brian soon roped me into his project of recording and publishing the railway song and poetry he’d been researching and collecting, the result of which was two cassette tapes – Railway Voices and Trains of Treasure. These were released in 1984 and later reissued as CDs. This project was launched in Sydney by Roger Woodward and Donald Horne. As well as railway workers and their unions these projects involved more than a hundred artists, poets, singers, voices, researchers and radio producers.

Over the next thirty or so years we worked together to gather many more railway songs and poems and making them accessible on internet archives like ‘Australian Railway Songs’ at where there are now close to 500 lyrical items as well as over 130 articles from over 100 different Australian newspapers. This online blog also contains 18 chapters written by Brian under the title The Australian Railway Story and awaiting editorial hands for future publication, a big part of his dream.

Just as Brian roped me into his projects I was pleased to rope his whole workshop into one of mine. At Macquarie University I was working as technical support with Barbara Dodd on a speech therapy research project titled the ‘Eye-hear’ project which required among other things testing the hearing of workers subjected to working in noisy environments. A railway workshop was a good example and the Chullora workers committee agreed that a large number of free hearing tests would be offered to the workers.

Another project Brian helped me with was to provide the Sydney May Day March with a multicultural broadcast of workers songs from around the world. It was a project that a Sydney waterside worker had suggested to 2SER’s Razors Edge – the wharfie envisaged everyone on the march carrying a portable radios playing the songs as they marched. Instead of that the May Day Committee organised four loud speaker vans that were tuned in to the hour long radio broadcast starting with the old French workers’ anthem The International.

I reckon it was the first radio-controlled May Day in the world! A visiting delegate to the May Day march listened in amazement to the broadcast in the taxi to catch his plane home when he heard a T
agalog version of a song that was recorded in Manila on one of the huge anti Marcos demonstrations. The song was The People United Will Never Be Defeated espousing an attitude Brian embraced to the full.

Brian certainly never stopped working on and thinking about his chosen task of preserving the cultural achievements of Australian railway workers.

In 2005 Brian and UNE academic Andrew Piper prepared Train Whistle Blowing, a booklet of songs and poems as a souvenir for the National Railway Heritage Conference held as part of events associated with the 150th anniversary of the beginning of steam railways in NSW.
In 2009 the Bush Music Club published a collection of thirty songs from Brian’s collection, complete with music notation, under the title Australian Train Songs.

In 2013 Brian and the Illawarra Folk Festival proposed and helped organise more that 400 people took advantage of the Green Music Train as a great musical initiative which is supported by one of the festival's sponsors City Rail.

Brian commented on the significance of his Green Music Train concept:
One of the strengths of our project has been the involvement of Australian Culture bodies like the Australia Council and the National Folk Movement. This has meant that the traditional Railway songs, poems and stories of Australian Railway continue to be performed at folk music and steam festivals.

Brian's archives have been accepted by Unions NSW.

(photos - Sandra Nixon)

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Extracts from Singabout - Recitations - Let's Be Australians

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In Singabout 4(4) 1962 Vera Duncan contributed the following recitation.

Mrs Vera Deacon is listed in our 1958-1966 Mailing List as the contact for the Realist Writers.
She donated her papers relating to the Realist Writers Group to the State Library of NSW & this biography comes from the Library's catalogue entry
Vera Deacon, nee Pember, was born into a working-class family in Mayfield-Waratah, Newcastle, in 1926. She joined the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in 1944. She married trade unionist and fellow CPA member, Stan Deacon (1906-1993), in 1946. She was a member of the Realist Writers’ Group (Sydney), 1954-1970, was secretary during its formative years, and edited the Realist Writer. In the 1960s Vera Deacon was an honorary board member of the Australasian Book Society. She lived in Sydney from 1948 to 1997 before moving to Stockton.

Vera's memories of growing up on the river during the Depression inspired Dorothy Hewett's Weevils in the Flour
The poem has been published in 2 newspapers that have been digitised, & who know how many others that are not available on line.

A fuller version is found in TROVE - The Southern Mail (Bowral, NSW, 1889-1954),

page header The Mail, Friday August 26th 1938, page 6

Transcription -

I found these verses amongst some literary treasures
stowed away in an old chest The writer is not known
to me--worse luck ! He must have been a good

Wild but harmonious, queer, but euphonious —
Such are the place-names that most of us know ;
Dinkum Australian- — not one of them alien,
Easy to yabber, and here's how they go : —
        Bundywalla, Nandialla,
        Yarrawonga, Carathool
        Mullumbimby, Barnawartha,
        Tumbarumba, Moorabool.
        Cootamundra, Nerrigunda,
        Goondiwindi, Parraween,
        Umeralla, Unanderra
        Murrumburrah, Narrabeen.
We think of bush blossoms, goannas and 'possums,
Of gay kookaburras — most joyous of birds !
Of stringy-bark gunyahs and big bunya-bunyas,
And the gum leafy taste as we yabber the words : —
        Biloola, Kirribilli,
        Bulladeela, Bundanoon,
        Warialda, Jindiandy,
        Murrurundi, Kangaloon.
        Parramatta, Collangatta
        Tambaroora, Dandenong,
        Wollondilly, Curruckbilly,
        Wagga-Wagga, Mittagong.
Let us stick to the names that are dinkum Australian,
Remindful of boomerang, nullah and spear;
Let us cut out all others unfitting or alien
For ' budgeree pfellar sit down longa here.'
        Billinudgel, Kookandina,
        Mullumbimby, Wallaroo,
        Milparinka, Uranqumty,
        Murrumbidgee, Jamberoo.
        Yurongilly, Curruckbilly,
        Barrenjoey, Burrangong,
        Tantanoola, Merimboola,
        Grabben-Gullen, Binalong.


A shorter version comes from a US-based online site offering US & world papers. 

An extract from the poem came from