Friday 1 January 2021

From the Archives - Norman Brown, by Jennie Richards. Mulga Wire no.76, December 1989

Mulga Wire no.76, December 1989, pp. S1-S4

A Sad Day on the Coalfields.   
Slowly with expression. Words and music by Roger Grant, Weston, 6/12/30.  Roger was a miner in Weston, 20 miles from Rothbury.  Lyrics, history & audio here 
Below Norman Brown's grave in his family plot at Greta graveyard

From Jennie, August 2020

I've just been reading December 1957 Singabout on the blog & hadn't realised that Dorothy Hewitt's poem about Norman Brown was published so early. Have I told you that Norman Brown was my first cousin once removed? Norman's mother Laura, and my maternal grandmother Edith, were sisters. My mother was only 5 when Norman died; my middle name is Grace after Norman's sister Dorothy Grace Kidd (Laura had Norman when she was 17 and unmarried, she later married Albert Kidd and they had Dorothy Grace) who died at 15.

Mum often spoke of both Norman and Gracie - Dorothy Grace seems to have been called Gracie - I think she was close to Auntie Laura. Poor Laura; in her mid 40s she had lost both of her children young and in sad circumstances. I don't remember Laura, she died when I had just turned one.

There's always a family story behind every tragedy, even one that makes the history books.

First time I realised that was in December 1979; I had just put Doug to bed and caught the tail end of a story on ABC news about miners marching to a memorial to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Norman's death.  I rang them and they read out the full story to me, and that's when it hit me - that this was bigger than just a story which had come down in my family.

The first time Kevin and I went to a BMC night ... would have been in about the mid 80s ... Margaret Walters sang that song, I had never known of it. I introduced myself and told of my connection, which they found interesting.

It's an odd feeling - difficult to describe - that something in your family you have grown up knowing about is considered "history", in fact a very important part of labour history, as it's the only time police have fired on demonstrating workers in Australia. Before we left Sydney we saw an exhibition called "Policing the Depression" at the Police and Justice Museum near Circular Quay; part of it was devoted to the industrial trouble on the Hunter Valley coalfields in the 1920s, including Norman's death.

Jennie also sings Graham Seal's The country knows the rest another well known song about Rothbury and Norman Brown, Graham's soundcloud page 

Further information 

Resources – Norman Brown & the Rothbury Riot (Terry Callaghan History and Genealogy) - includes coroner's report 


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