Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Found onTROVE - Part 4. Ballads of Coal Miners (1939)

Click on pictures for full-screen image

thanks to Mark Gregory for sending the link to this article.

Ballads of Coal Miners (1939)

Lurid flashed the awful warning,

Down the depths of Pittston's gloom,
Dirgeful were the bursting firetongues
Ringing down the miners' doom.  

This is a verse typical of those which have been collected in the coal mining districts in America by George Korson and compiled in book form.

His book, "Minstrels of the Mine Patch,: has just been published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. "Minstrels of the Mine Patch" is said to be the first collection of miners' ballads and songs to be made in America. Not the least interesting feature of Korson's book is his series of introductions to the several song groups.

He has interpolated a number of prose anecdotes of the mines, and these pages of prose make a vivid mise en scene unfamiliar to most.

In the era in which the collected ballads were composed men were exploited at pittance wages. They were mulcted in the company stores at which they were forced to buy. At night they went home to hovels, only less grimy than the pits they had left.

It is not to be wondered at that in America trade unionism began in the collieries. Nor is It to be wondered that the ballads of the mines should exhibit such uniform bravery. Their artistic accomplishment aside, the bravery of the ballads and songs collected by Korson is their most impressive characteristic. The miners' gratefulness to the union is celebrated in a ballad called "On Johnny Mitchell's Train," of which this is the chorus:

I'll bid you all adieu now.
Let you bid me the same
The strike is nearly o'er.
With Joy I'm near insane.
Heres health unto the union.
Which is very strong, they say;
Likewise the conductors
On Johnny Mitchell's train.

There do not appear to have been any ballads or songs peculiar to the mining districts in Australia. One song known on every field is the "Red Flag," but this, of course, was not composed here, and does not hold the significance of those songs written by miners in America. The writers of ballads and songs in America have usually composed their pieces following tragic disasters, or, as the ballad expressing appreciation to the union suggests, after long strikes. 

We have had long strikes in the industry in Australia, but our tragedies, numerous though they have been, and sometimes of considerable magnitude; are, happily, not to be compared with the major disasters in American mines. There have been, and are now, in the industry, those amateur poets who have composed verses about work mates and parts of the mines in which they are employed, but these have been purely personal, or of merely local interest.

We have coal-mine heroes here-the men who have braved black gas-filled mines following explosions, and who nave worked unceasingly for hours and hours to extricate men buried beneath tons of coal and timber, and facing extreme danger themselves. 
They are respected by their fellow men. No ballads or songs are written of their deeds. Perhaps it is not the Australian way.


Notes - From the NSW Newspaper The Newcastle Sun 7 Jan 1939 p. 5. 

The author of this review did not know of the collections of Australian mining songs we now have access to. The authors of those songs include the work of the Wollongong poet Melinda Kendall, the Newcastle poet Josiah Cocking, the poems and songs of Jock Graham, the wharfie poet Ernest Antony, the more recent work of Merv Lilley and Dorothy Hewett, and of course those of Don Henderson. The article does however show that a daily newspaper in Newcastle could carry such a review knowing that it would be read and appreciated by its local readers.
Warren Fahey and others "Man of the Earth ~ Songs and Ballads of the Australian Mining Industry" 1974 LP


Google Books - George Korson, Minstrels of the Mine Patch published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, 1938.

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Monday, 26 March 2018

25th Anniversary - Australian Fancy Dress Ball at the Burland Community Hall, Newtown, 1979 Bush Music Festival

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Extract from 1979 Bush Music Festival program.

Thanks to Julie Bishop for starting the conversation & to Helen Romeo & Ann Pidcock for their memories and photos. 

If you come across a photo of two delightful Gumnut babies, I would love to see it. It was the highlight of a ?Ball long ago, when Sally and Stuart were dressed as such, and danced Frogpuddles together. I can only hope that Bob caught it.


I remember the Ball - I believe it was an Australian costume ball the Friday night before a Festival.... I think maybe the 1980 BMC Festival. Anne Pidcock would remember. I came as a lagerphone and Bob came as a bush base. Sally and Stuart came as gumnut babies. I remember Ann D'arcy came as Elizabeth Gould. Someone came as a "dunnycan" man wearing shorts and a singlet and a large can on is shoulder and peanut butter smeared on his arms  I will have a look at my photos - I don't think I have a photo of the gumnut babies but I might be able to date it and then you can look up Bob's photos....

I'm sorry but I don't have a photo of the Gumnut Babies but a professional photographer was also taking photos on the night, so I'm sure there is one around somewhere. Sally and Stuart would be sure to have it. I'm attaching a photo that was taken of David and myself - we went as Jackie Howe and Lola Montez.

The occasion was a Fancy Dress Ball in September 1979, as part of the Bush Music Festival that year and the venue was the Burland Community Hall in Newtown. I believe the hall has now been converted to offices.  

It was a great night. There was one lady I remember, a friend of Helen's, who came as "Bush Music" and she somehow managed to decorate herself with leaves and twigs plus sheet music. It was very inventive. But Snugglepot and Cuddlepie really stole the show. I think Sally's mother helped with the costumes. 

Cheers, Anne

Thanks Anne - I knew you would remember.  What a great photo of the two of you!!

Just had a look in my photo album and these two photos are sitting next to another photo labeled BMC Festival 1979 (also included for Sandra) and then the next lot of photos are from the 1980 Subscription Ball. So it has to be the 1979 Festival!!

My friend, Marilyn came as "Bush Music" - I am dressed as a lagerphone (took me ages to sew (yes sew not staple) those bottle tops to my skirt and vest) and Bob came as a bush bass. Sally's Mum did do a great job with all the costumes she made.

1.  Helen (lagerphone) & Bob Brain (bush bass)    
(Helen Romeo collection) 
2.Marilyn (
Bush Music) & Helen Brain (lagerphone)    (Helen Romeo collection)

3. Dave Johnson (
Jackie Howe) & Anne Pidcock (Lola Montez)   (Anne Pidcock collection) 

4. Extract from review of Festival, Stringybark & Greenhide, 1(4), 1979

Other pictures will be added as found or received!

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Thursday, 22 March 2018

Minutes of the Conference held on the 9th of February (1957), at the Esperanto Hall, Milson's Pt., Sydney.

Click on each page for a wide-screen image.

Minutes of the Conference held on the 9th of February, at the Esperanto Hall, Milson's Pt., Sydney, Convened by the Bush Music Club at which representatives of the Billabong Band, Victoria, Queensland Bush Music Club and the Brisbane Singers were represented. 

These Minutes were inside a damaged Minute book, containing Annual & monthly Bush Music Club minutes from April 1957 monthly meeting to March 1978 AGM.

Minutes of the Bush Music Club 24th October, 1954 to 11th March 1955

A search of the Archives might lead to the minutes between March 1955 to March 1957.

The record of the meeting before lunch is on 5 numbered narrow pages, & the afternoon proceedings are typed on 7 wider pages. Both sections were stapled together.

Unfortunately the minutes break off at the end of page 7, part of the way through an address by the Secretary of the Folk Lore Society, Mr Edgar Walters. (The final page might not have been included, or had been very carefully removed - supposition with no proof.)
Review of the Conference in Newsletter, Vol. 3(1), June 1957

The conference was not mentioned in Singabout.


Photo & letter in Stringybark & Greenhide, vol.6, no.1, (1986??)













no further pages survive, though they might be found elsewhere in the Archives.

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Friday, 16 March 2018

Bob Bolton Collection - Queen Victoria Ball, 2003

Mulga wire no.154, Dec 2002, p.5



(all photos copyright Bob Bolton) 

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Thursday, 15 March 2018

Bob Bolton collection - Anzac Heritage Ball & picnic. 29th April, 2002

Mulga Wire 148, Dec 01, p.4

Mulga Wire no. 151, June 2001,








(all photos copyright Bob Bolton)

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