[More lyrics will appear as we can get them typed in]

Yarri of Wiradjuri Pithead in the Fern   Who Was Here  Pack o' Pirates  The Sea and the Soil

Margaret Walters has recorded some of John's songs on her album Power in a Song, and the lyrics are at her site. Also -- many of John's songs have not yet been recorded by him, eg Bring Out the Banners and many other union/industrial songs -- several of which may be found on the site -- put "John Warner" in the search engine on that page to find them. There is a heap of other material you won't find online for a while - songs from John's Sandpit Picket (formerly called Millenium of the Child) series, his Old Sydney Town songs, and songs from his folk opera, Beef, Beer, and Breugel; his poems from The Briggs and Stratton Pump collection, and his mighty epic The Fisherman's Tour of Heaven -- but feel free to contact John or Margaret if you're interested.

Percentage Games

Words:  John Warner © 2011 (05.11.11)
Tune:  Calon Lan [Trad Welsh]
Simpler version of the tune “Miner’s Life”at:

Sample (Full Song)

One per cent plays games with money,
One per cent is in control,
One per cent controls our labour,
One per cent can buy our souls,
One per cent is greedy bankers,
One per cent plays stocks and shares,
One per cent owns starving nations,
They’re not one per cent that cares.

Ninety-nine per cent are angry,
Ninety-nine per cent declare
To the one per cent who own us,
Cut your profits, pay your share.

One per cent can ground an airline,
Hack computers, bug your phones,
One per cent has no compassion,
For the world it thinks it owns
Ninety-nine per cent are workers,
Unemployed or over aged,
With the rising cost of living,
Ninety-nine per cent enraged.

Ninety-nine per cent are angry,
Ninety-nine per cent declare
To the one per cent who own us,
Cut your profits, pay your share.

Pay the taxes you’ve avoided,
On our resources, pay the rent,
Cut the interest, increase wages,
Give us ninety-nine per cent.
One per cent had better listen,
One percent, let go of power,
Ninety-nine per cent have risen,
We’re prepared to seize the hour


JOIN YOUR UNION       (Full song, 1.5 Mb)

Words. John Warner 26.11.06
Tune Hymn "Bread of Heaven" - "Guide me oh thou great Jehovah/Redeemer"
Welsh tune: Cwm Rhondda. Composed by John Hughes (1873-1932).

Join your union, join your union,
Friends, we need our unions now,
Friends, we need our unions now


Thieves grow rich and liars prosper,
Milking profit's sacred cow.
They make war to make their money,
How we need our unions now.

Shake the souls of union leaders,
Shout the message clear and plain,
Leave the desk, desert the boardroom,
Fight the workers' cause again.

One man's pay for three men's labour,
Bosses' powers enshrined in law.
When our rights are torn and trampled,
How we need our unions more.

Quiet words did not avail us,
Patience only earned defeat,
Unity's our only answer,
Join your unions on the street.

Women's rights and women's wages,
Fiercely fought and barely won,
Children's care and education,
Go where all our hopes have gone.

Stand with us and swell the numbers,
We are the majority.
Sing in chorus, raise the banners,
Union is victory.

John Warner dedicates this song to singer Danny Spooner, with thanks "for making songs a weapon of mass reconstruction".

Yarri of Wiradjuri

Landpulse Yarri's Canoe Reprise
Murrumbidgee Water What Kind of Man Are You?
White Man Fool (Big Water Come Down) Tom Lindley's Dream
Yarri of the River 1 (Questions) Mother and Daughter
John Spencer's Punt Floodpulse
Black Sally Long Tom Lindley
Richard and Sarah Reward
Richard and Sarah Lament Building Bridges
Yarri's Bark Canoe Yarri's Requiem
Rooftop Shanty  


Walk the land easy,
You can feel the pulse beat,
Loud as a cockatoo's call
In the soles of feet.
Rhythms of water,
Dance of growth and decay,
Walk the land easy in the heat of day.

Then came an alien race,
Out of time and pattern, out of place,
They did not feel the pulse,
Imposing broken rhythm, fierce and false,
Pale of face, a people out of place.

Walk the land easy,
As Wiradjuri do,
Learn the pace of Emu and Kangaroo.
Pattern of season,
Daylight's pulse in the sky,
By the land's rhythm we live and die.

Then came the pale of face,
Made of us a strange and alien race,
Thrust us from our land,
Imposed their broken pulse with a heavy hand,
No pattern and no grace,
They made of us a people out of place.


Born in the highland snows,
Wild in her youth's descending,
Swiftly she fills and grows
Out on her floodplains, winding and bending,
Feeding the towering gums,
Bush in creek and gully,
Sharing her bounties wide,
Spreading soil in plain and valley.

Murrumbidgee fair, Murrumbidgee fertile,
Nurturing at your breasts we who walk here for a little while.
High on a ridge we stand, gazing in love and awe
Over the lands you made with your gentle hands: how rich the gifts you pour.

Over her years of floods,
Current twisting wild and strong,
Children she made in the land,
Creek and anabranch, pond and billabong.
Bright on the wide floodplain
Glints the rippling water,
Proudly side by side,
Flow the mother and the daughter.

Murrumbidgee fair, Murrumbidgee fertile,
Nurturing at your breasts we who walk here for a little while.
High on a ridge we stand, gazing in love and awe
Over the lands you made with your gentle hands: how rich the gifts you pour.

We have known the drought, we have seen her anger,
Hurling trees in her rage, we've known thirst and we've borne hunger.
Yet for those who seek, beauty waits in hiding,
In some shaded pools wait the fruits of her providing.

Silver mist like hair,
As the day is dawning,
Marks the river's way
As we hunt on a winter's morning,
Duck and cod from the stream,
Fruit and fungus, plant and seed,
Kangaroo on the plain,
See, she gives us all we need.

Murrumbidgee fair, Murrumbidgee fertile,
Nurturing at your breasts we who walk here for a little while.
High on a ridge we stand, gazing in love and awe
Over the lands you made with your gentle hands: how rich the gifts you pour.


White man fool to camp on the low ground,
Big water come down.
White fulla* learn the ways of the land or drown.

One white man crossed the Murrumbidgee,
Soon there followed ten,
Soon there followed carts and cattle,
Horses, women, children, men.

White man fool to camp on the low ground, Big water come down.
White fulla learn the ways of the land or drown.

Water's high down at the crossing,
Travellers wait for days,
Smart man here has set up a sly-grog,
Can't you see how the business pays.

White man fool to camp on the low ground, Big water come down.
White fulla learn the ways of the land or drown.

Smart man here has set up a sly-grog,
A saddler's put roots down,
Blacksmith, tailor, butcher, baker,
Before you know it, there's a town.

White man fool to camp on the low ground, Big water come down.
White fulla learn the ways of the land or drown.

And the floods they come and the floods they go,
Wiradjuri people warn and plead,
But what's two inches of mud in the shop
To the hopes of profit, the drive of need?

Build an attic up in the rafters,
Done in a day or so,
We'll be safe upstairs when the river rises,
What do the primitive natives know?

White man fool to camp on the low ground, Big water come down.
White fulla learn the ways of the land or drown.

* indigenous pronunciation of "fellow"


Gang gangs chatter, break of day,
Mists on Murrumbidgee lay,
Yarri's hunting, out on his bark canoe,
Two skilled hands a moment take,
To snap the neck of a fat, black drake,
Yarri, what kind of man were you?

On Brungle's hills where kestrels sweep
Above the white man's sullen sheep,
Yarri keeps the roaming herd in view,
Patient watch, long day, long night,
When August spits her hail with spite,
Yarri, what kind of man were you?

Yarri of Wiradjuri, what kind of man were you?
What dreams turned in your spirit
When the strange white folk came through?
Did their wonders take you by surprise?
Did they bully, bible and baptise,
But never see the land through your clear eyes?
Yarri, what kind of man were you?

Strangers not of Wiradjuri blood
Fill the flats like a rising flood,
Setting camp where wise folk never do,
Are they fools to leave to their well-earned doom,
Or kindred, born of the Mother's womb?
Yarri, what kind of man were you?

What made you bold, how did you learn,
To ride the tide at its wildest turn,
As it flowed between two peoples, old and new?
Reconciliation's spark,
You balanced tall on your boat of bark,
Yarri, what kind of man were you?

Yarri of Wiradjuri, what kind of man were you?
What dreams turned in your spirit
When the strange white folk came through?
Did their wonders take you by surprise?
Did they bully, bible and baptise,
But never see the land through your clear eyes?
Yarri, what kind of man were you?
Yarri, what kind of man were you?


I'm a smart man of business, John Spencer's my name,
I've dabbled me fingers in many a game,
At brewing and pharmacy I'm way out front,
But the best profits come from my old red gum punt

My old red gum punt, my old red gum punt,
To cross the Murrumbidgee is no easy stunt,
Yours truly, John Spencer, is well out in front,
With his pretty investment, his old red gum punt.

If you're feeling dyspeptic, I'll roll you a pill,
You can sample a drop from my wee backroom still,
But if you'd cross the 'Bidgee there's no need to hunt,
Right here at the bank is my old red gum punt.

       My old red gum punt, my old red gum punt etc

You can swim your team over, casks lashed to the dray,
While I take the ladies the elegant way,
But don't ask for credit, for that's an affront,
It's cash on the nail for my old red gum punt.

       My old red gum punt, my old red gum punt etc

Those black fellows warn not to build on the flat,
But Gundagai business won't put up with that,
It's bad for the growth, if I might be so blunt,
It'll be a big flood stops my old red gum punt

       My old red gum punt, my old red gum punt - etc

I've a stout iron cash box, a solid brass lock,
A good can of grease, and lots more in my stock,
I can swim a good mile, though I puff and I grunt,
But there's naught that I fear with my old red gum punt.

     My old red gum punt, my old red gum punt - etc


Sally Children chase frogs there at the creek,
Sally and white lady speak.
Black Sally's hand, pale Sarah's skin,
Yet same red blood flow within.
Your man have woman, your man have child,
Why he not fear when the river runs wild?
Beautiful lady, pale as the snow,
Take up your children and go.

Sarah I've mending and baking and washing to do,
And Richard would not have me talking to you,
But perhaps there's a moment to listen and stay,
And give Emmy and John chance to play.

Sally Since Sally was child she wandered free,
Why put down roots like a tree?
Yarri, my man, tender and strong,
He never stay one place long,
In every season, all that we need,
In caves where we gather, Bogong moth breed,
Beautiful lady, pale as the snow,
Take up your children and go.

Sarah I've no time for this, it's not good to hear,
We've come too far and we must settle here,
These little ones need a safe place to grow,
Come Emily, John, time to go.

Sally Till your folk came, along the bush track,
I never knew I was black.
What colour hands? what colour hair?
You, me have children to care.
When Murrumbidgee angry and high,
Mothers with young children die.
Beautiful lady, pale as the snow,
Take up your children and go.

Sarah There's fear in my spirit, I cannot deny
Dread of that river where young children die
I want to be strong but you trouble me so
Oh should I stay? Should I go?

(Sarah repeats her verse concurrent with Sally repeating her last verse)

When Murrumbidgee angry and high, There's fear in my spirit, I cannot deny
Mothers with young children die. Dread of that river where young children die
Beautiful lady, pale as the snow, I want to be strong but you trouble me so
Take up your children and go. Oh should I stay? Should I go?
Take up your children and go.


Sarah Richard, my love, let's move up to the high ground,
I'm sick of the drudgery after each flood.
Richard Sarah, we need to stay here for the business,
We can't lose the trade for six inches of mud.

S Richard, my dearest, old Black Sally warned me,
The river can rise higher up than we know.
R Sarah, stop heeding the tales of the natives,
The attic's quite safe, be the stream high or low.

Some of our dreams are of homes we are making,
Children and laughter and joy for the taking,
But older dreams warn us of dread and heart breaking,
As the land's ancient spirits go hunting.

S Richard, let's trade this old place for a new one,
Build on the high ground to comfort my fears.
R Sarah, the Governor says we must buy land,
And paying off such a loan might take us years.

S Richard, I dreamed of two tall, native women
Who netted our children like blacks do their fish.
R Sarah, I've debts for my leather and harness,
But I'll ask around town, love, if that's what you wish.

Some of our dreams are of homes we are making etc

S Richard, I beg of you, move for the children,
Emily, Caroline, Richard and John.
R Woman, desist from your fears and your nagging,
There's work at the crossing, I have to be gone.

Black Sally reprise:
When Murrumbidgee angry and high
Mothers with young children die
Beautiful lady, pale as the snow
Take up your children and go

R Sarah, I've spoken to Ryan this morning,
We'll move up the range to his place in July.
S Richard, my love, hold me close for a moment,
I fear for this good news, though I don't know why.

Some of our dreams are of homes we are making etc


Grieve for the memory of Richard and Sarah,
Emily, Caroline, Richard and John,
For great Murrumbidgee took them in her raging,
In the net of that cold, ancient mother -- they are gone


High in the trees through the current swirling,
Yarri comes on his bark canoe,
Where raging streams huge trunks are hurling,
Yarri comes on his bark canoe,
Little more than an eight foot plank
Cut from a red gum along the bank,
Riding easy where other boats sank,
Yarri comes on his bark canoe.

To gum tree branches or rooftops beaching,
Yarri comes on his bark canoe,
To the frightened, stranded, crying, reaching,
Yarri comes on his bark canoe,
They lie down flat on the sheet of bark,
To be sped ashore on this scant Noah's Ark,
Then out for more in the heaving dark,
Yarri comes on his bark canoe.


Slide down shingles, clinging tight,
Hold on, hold on
Steady with the feet, don't slip, don't fight,
Hold on, hold on,
Ease down flat, give the pilot room,
Hold on, hold on
Trust through the battering, shaking gloom,
Hold on, hold on.

Tree limb knives thrust out of the race,
Hold on, hold on
The bark heaves round and you hide your face,
Hold on, hold on,
Crossing the creek she bucks like a horse,
Hold on, hold on
Yarri fights her with all his force,
Hold on, hold on, hold on.


Safe to the rescued along the banks,
Yarri comes on his bark canoe,
Then away before you can speak your thanks,
Yarri goes on his bark canoe.

For out on the waters voices cry,
Some may not live, but none shall die,
As long as he has the strength to try,
Yarri comes on his bark canoe.

Corpses looming against the sky
Frozen or drowned in the tree tops high
Told of the cost, yet still to buy.
Yarri came on his bark canoe.
Yarri came on his bark canoe
Yarri came on his bark canoe


Through the savage gusts of hail
Until the black of night turned pale,
Each time you ventured out the risks were new.
Did you pay the cost alone
In aching muscle, nerve and bone?
Yarri, what kind of man were you?

Whatever motive drove you back
To face the river's fierce attack,
As strength began to ebb and dangers grew?
It's an awesome act of mind and will
That welded body, soul and skill,
Yarri, what kind of man were you?

Yarri of Wiradjuri, what kind of man were you?
What dreams turned in your spirit
When the strange white folk came through?
Did their wonders take you by surprise?
Did they bully, bible and baptise,
But never see the land through your clear eyes?
Yarri, what kind of man were you?
Yarri, what kind of man were you?

Music as that used for Richard and Sarah

I dreamed I lay by Murrumbidgee,
The silt-strand stank of mud and decay,
I saw two female forms a-talking ,
And here record what I heard them say.

Music as that used for Richard and Sarah

Mother Daughter, look here, what are these we have taken?,
What are these small spirits cowering here?
Daughter These ones are not of the land's ancient people,
Who go in silence and never in fear.

Mother Did they not know of our seasons of hunting?
Why should they winter so long on our range?
Daughter Well were they warned by Wiradjuri old men,
These are not ours and their ways are strange.

Mother Surely we sent their young women our dreaming?
Surely they fear for their children and kin?
Daughter They do not feel how the land's life is pulsing,
Nor see a heart under darker skin.

Mother Daughter, I see them camp here in their thousands,
Swarming like termites on our fruitful plains.
Daughter Mother I hear the land's people lamenting,
As these bleed their living from out of our veins.

Duo You fearful children, the fruit of our hunting,
Return to suckle the great mother's breast,
Be like our own, let fall fear and anger,
Drink deep oblivion - and rest.

[Tune of Landpulse]

Ride the stream easy, Jackey,
Work it with care,
Watch for the broken timbers hiding there,
Stand in the bow where you can
Feel the pulse beat,
Judging the current through the soles of feet,

With his single oar,
Rowing out to bring the trapped ashore,
The fearful pale of face
Clinging high above the surging race,
At his careful pace,
Jackie brings them safely to their place.

Ride Murrumbidgee, Jackey,
Drive out again,
Stretch bone and muscle through the freezing rain.
Set them numb white fullas to bailing that leak,
Fight the wild eddies as you cross the creek.

In the bow he stands,
Listening to the water and the land,
Lifting out of fear
The living, left of those who would not hear.
With others of his race,
Jackie stands, the right man in his place.

Set to Star Of The County Down (traditional tune)

My name is Thomas Lindley, as "Long Tom" I'm renowned,
My inn's the best in Gundagai, on the hills my sheep abound.
In early June of '52, with two stout drays well full,
I set out for the town of Yass to sell the season's wool.

For wool and ale and food and drink
Are but the means of life,
And what are these without the love
Of children, friends and wife.

When I returned to Gundagai, my heart with grief was sore,
To see the river's dreadful work, for the town stood there no more.
Sad men were laying bodies out and my spirit turned to lead,
To hear my wife and children all being numbered with the dead.

For wool and ale and food and drink
Are but the means of life,
And what are these without the love
Of children, friends and wife.

The Rose Inn's standing where it stood, a weary sight to view,
Mocking my beloved lost, and all the joys I knew,
But Long Tom Lindley does not bow beneath his load of pain,
Oh I shall grieve, but I shall strive, and win new life again.
No chorus

For here, where my lost children lie, and where good friends have drowned,
My aching soul declines to leave, for this is sacred ground.
And so Tom Lindley's hands must work with patience, strength and skill,
And we will build new Gundagai upon Parnassus hill.

Last chorus unaccompanied

For wool and ale and food and drink
Are but the means of life,
And what are these without the love
Of children, friends and wife.


Chorus What reward do we give the hero,
Who won back lives from the river's hand?
Name the prize for his worth and valour.
Solo Give him cattle, give him land.

Yarri How is the land a gift you can give me,
Land I've walked since my father's day?
Fish and birds, wombat, kangaroo,
These are the cattle along my way.

Chorus What reward do we give the hero,
For strength, endurance, courage, skill?
Solo Axes, rifles, pots and billies,
To ease his living on plain and hill.

Yarri Two good hands are my axe and rifle,
Shaping the spears that fell my prey,
Clay and pebbles my pots and billy,
The ants have what I can't bear away.

Chorus What reward do we give the hero,
Money, property, tools or food?
Solo How dare one of your race be
Ungrateful for our gratitude?

Yarri What I have done, I do for the people,
Bone of my bone, blood of my blood,
Would you not have done this for me,
Were I the prey of the Mother's flood?

Chorus What reward do we give the hero,
What reward for the lives he saved?
Solo Words in the mouth of a council speaker,
A plate of brass with his deeds engraved.

Yarri No reward have I ever asked you,
All I need is here to my hand,
Love and honour among my people,
The river's bounty, the endless land.

On my walkabout, now there are fences,
Sheep graze lands that my people knew,
This reward you give with one hand,
Taking all that I loved with two.

Chorus Take the honour we give you hero,
Wear its token as long as you live,
Land we take from a dying people,
What you ask we shall never give,
Solo The land we take, though you never forgive.


There are bridges on the plain for the bullock cart and train,
In the years that passed we've made the land anew,
But we still don't understand how you were of the land,
Yarri, what kind of man were you?

Ah what kind of folk are we with our cold prosperity,
Seizing all that comes within our view,
How the bitter memory galls, you built bridges, we built walls,
Yarri, what kind of man were you?

Yarri of Wiradjuri, what kind of man were you?
What dreams turned in your spirit
When the strange white folk came through?
Did their wonders take you by surprise,
Did they bully, bible and baptise,
But never see the land through your clear eyes?
Yarri, what kind of man were you?

Can we let go what we hold? Can a thief let go of gold?
Can law and business let go of the land?
For as long as we insist in keeping greed clutched in our fist,
What chance is there to take another's hand?

Yarri of Wiradjuri, what kind of folk are we?
Is there reconciliation? what hope we can agree?
Your voice cries out from the wounded land,
Your bark wheels round at your command,
And now you're reaching out your hand,
Yarri, if only we could see,
Yarri, if only we could see.

[music as for Murrumbidgee Water]

Now have the songs been sung,
Now is the story ended,
Told is the hero's tale,
Bold was his heart and his deeds were splendid,
Sing his spirit home,
Back to his people's dreaming,
Under the river gums,
Out on the plains by the waters gleaming;

Murrumbidgee fair, Murrumbidgee fertile,
Nurturing at your breasts we who walk here for a little while,
High on a ridge we stand, gazing in love and awe,
Over the lands you made with your gentle hands,
How rich the gifts you pour.

Pithead in the Fern

Winding Gear Gippsland Mining Man
Pithead in the Fern Blossom, the Mining Horse
Miner's Washin' Kitty Kane
Anderson's Coast The Boiler and the Horse
South Gippsland Mud Gippsland Schoolhouse
Dear Diary Drunks' Express
Great Southern Navvy Where Have the Kurnai Gone?
Devlin's General Store Trainghosts
Fires of '98  


© John Warner  tune: Kim Poole 14/11/93

Stark against the stormclouds stands a tower of wood and steel,
With a slash of iron cable and a pair of ten-spoked wheel.
The work of rule and compasses, all harsh and rigid line,
The Pithead tower of the Coal Creek Mine.

The wind sighs through the cabling with a cold and restless moan,
But from there you'll hear the noise of water rattling over stone,
And down beside that gurgling creek, where moss is deep and green,
The lacy fronds of ancient Tree Fern lean.

And there you'll see the story told in bark and fern and steel,
Of the dying of the forests with the coming of the wheel,
Of the making of a people in their fight to live and learn:
The legend of the Pithead in the fern.

© John Warner 12/09/92

Kardella's fencelined ranges
Suspend the clouds on rakes of Mountain Ash.
The chilly damp is sharp with sounds,
Among the rocks, swift waters fret and splash.
The smells of bark and fungus
Rise from the ground that crunches where you tread,
And, woven with that tapestry,
The tang of burning coal and baking bread.

Beside a stable doorway
A magpie pours its gifts of silver song,
Two sleepy Clydesdales snort and stamp,
Don't worry lads, your breakfast won't be long.
McConnell's forge is roaring,
A haze of smoke is drifting from the flue,
The anvil's distant ringing tells
Of work beginning while the day is new.

And the steam saws whine,
And hobnailed boots go crunching down the mine,
Iron souls and sweating backs all battling to earn
A living from that Pithead in the fern.

Among the rails and weatherboards
Blows a biting spray of drizzle rain.
A whistle from Jumbunna
Warns of the coming of the Outtrim train.
A pair of mighty Baldwins
Have fought the ranges' grades a hard ten mile,
Another hundred tons of coal,
Korumburra bound, with power and style.

The Mountain Ash and fern tree
Retreat before the flooding human tide,
There's farmland and there's industry
Where lyrebird and wombat used to hide.
We've gained and we have lost
In clawing out our living from the Earth,
But Coal Creek tells the story
For you and I to judge its final worth.

And the steamsaws whine,
And hobnailed boots go crunching down the mine,
Though the roaring days are over, there's a future we can learn
From the stories of that Pithead in the fern.


© John Warner 10/08/92

I came from Durham in '99,
Married a laddie from the Coal Creek mine,
The finest lad that a girl could ever know,
Till he brought me his washin' from the pit below.

Scrubbing the miner's clothes,
Scrubbing the miner's clothes,
All piled up in a ghastly stack,
Heavy as lead, and smelly and black,
And oh the pain in my aching back,
Scrubbing the miner's clothes.

Now your Korumburra miner is a grimy sort of bloke,
So I drop in his duds for an all night soak.
I'll take me a soap and I'll grate it like a cheese,
And chuck it in a bucket with his grubby dungarees.

I get me up before the peep o' light
My copper for to fill and my fire for to light,
I'll serve Tom his crib while the copper's on the boil,
Then gird up my muscles for a day's hard toil.
It's drag 'em from the copper to the rinsing tub,
Pound 'em with the dolly and scrub, scrub, scrub,
Pour away the mucky water, do it all again,
Heave 'em through the wringer and pray it doesn't rain.

Beyond Kardella, the sky's looking fine,
Basket up the washing to the old clothes line,
I'll bet when it's hung out and I've heaved up the prop,
The rain'll come a pourin' and the wind will drop.

Now all you maidens who to marriage do incline,
Never wed a laddie from the Coal Creek mine,
A squatter might be surly, a merchant might be mean,
A banker might be boring, but they're easier to clean.

© John Warner 8/5/93

Old Bass Strait roars like some great millrace,
     And where are you, my Annie?
And the same moon shines on this lonely place,
As shone one day on my Annie's face.

    But Annie, dear, don't wait for me,
    I fear I shall not return to thee,
    There's nought to do but endure my fate,
    And watch the moon, the lonely moon
    Light the breakers on wild Bass Strait.

We stole a vessel and all her gear,
And where are you, my Annie?
And from Van Dieman's we north did steer,
Till Bass Strait's wild waves wrecked us here.

A mile inland as our path was laid
And where are you, my Annie?
We found a government stockade
Long deserted but stoutly made.

And somewhere west, Port Melbourne lies,
And where are you, my Annie?
Through swamps infested with snakes and flies,
The fool who walks there, he surely dies.

We hail no ships though the time, it drags,
And where are you, my Annie?
Our chain gang walk and our government rags
All mark us out as Van Dieman's lags.

We fled the lash and the chafing chain,
And where are you, my Annie?
We fled hard labour and brutal pain,
And here we are, and here remain.

© John Warner 21/8/92

Arise, you Gippsland cockies, two hours before the sun,
You've sixteen God given hours to fill before the day is done.
So dress up thick and warm, my lads, likewise you lassies too,
The good South Gippsland mud awaits outside the door for you.

At Koo-Wee-Rup, it's murky grey, at Mirboo North, it's red,
That sticky, cold South Gippsland mud that weighs your boots like lead.

Then plod off to your milking shed that's just above the creek,
There's water leaking from the patch you hammered on last week,
Make sure you keep your cow's hind leg well tied against the stall,
Or down into the Gippsland mud she'll kick the milk and all.

None of that horse and cart round here, nor yet your bullock dray,
She'll sink above the axle, mate, and where she sinks, she'll stay,
Go build yourself a bullock sled, the thing they use on snow,
And sliding o'er the Gippsland mud you might more safely go.

A bloke to Korumburra came and went in for a drink,
He left his dray and bullock team which then began to sink.
When he came out and saw the sight, he swooned upon the spot,
For old South Gippsland's thirsty mud had swallowed up the lot.

You miners all at Outtrim, and Wonthaggi by the sea,
You farmers all at Tarwin Lower, come drink a toast with me,
To dear old England's friendly shores with daffodils in bud,
To debt, to gaol or anything but that damned Gippsland mud.

© John Warner 10/10/92

Dear Diary, I've been here this seven weeks,
In this hut of bark and canvas, with a roof that mostly leaks,
I write by the light of a rusty miner's lamp,
Listening to the dripping of the cold eternal damp,
And the drunken navvies roaring down at the railway camp.

Dear Diary, Bill's been gone these seven days,
Carting sleepers down at Bennison, or some such place,
Myself I keep on hearing all the noises of the night,
I just drift off to sleep, then I wake again in fright,
I'm glad for Bendigo the dog, he'd give them such a bite.

Dear Diary, All the creeks are up in flood,
There's not a space for comfort here that isn't red with mud,
I cannot dry our washing and there's nothing left to wear,
The Navvies cannot work in this, they mutter and they swear,
And Bill's been gone another week, and I'm too sick to care.

Dear Diary, This desolation never ends,
There's too few women in this camp, and none are really friends,
What was it Bill promised me, this lie of married bliss?
I'll be a mother very soon, the shape my belly is,
But who would bear their children in a country such as this?

Dear Diary, Some one shot our old dog Ben,
And I'm here in Nyora, all among these railway men,
Fearing through the dreadful night, so silent and so still.
The violence of the bitter men who labour down the hill,
And I startle at a shadow on the wall, and in comes Bill.

words: © John Warner 1/5/93
tune: traditional adapted John Warner

I'm a navigator on the Great Southern Line,
But I'll let you call me Navvy, lads, if you should so incline,
I've shovelled with me banjo over country down and up,
But I've never navvied nastier than Koo-Wee-Rup.
She's a big, black bog where a mortal man can drown,
And if it's snakes you're after, sure, the place won't let you down,
She'll swallow up your digging bar if you should let it fall,
They tell me there's a bunyip and I'm not surprised at all.

     We're the navigators and we'll dig the railway through,
     From Dandenong to Yarram in a couple of years or two.
     Put some damper in our bellies, some whiskey in our cups
     And we'll dig your muddy railway out of Koo-Wee-Rup.

To set up these embankments, sure it's taken us a while,
We have to build a trestle bridge or two to every mile,
We sink our pilings forty feet, for that is what it needs
To elevate your railway train six feet above the weeds.
We scrape and we hew, all in the drifting rain,
Until the tide comes in and fills our diggin's up again,
Someone will be drownded soon, I'll never understand
Why the buggers want a railway through this murderous piece of land.

* I'll stand on the embankment, wiping sweat from off me dome,
Look out across the hills and wish that I was back at home,
Then it's down into the bog, my banjo in my claw,
To shovel this reluctant muck, and shovel it some more.
Here comes the train with the engineer aboard
Cursing the delays that the budget can't afford,
But when he disappears, and the ganger gives a break,
I'll pour myself a whiskey and I'll kill another snake.

St Patrick from old Ireland made the serpents disappear,
And if we knew the truth of it, the fellow sent them here,
The way to use your banjo is, for every yard you make,
It's first you shovel mud, and then you belt a snake.
Good stout boots are the navvy's greatest mate,
Keeps 'em off your ankles, but by God, you feel the weight,
The clay builds up in layers and it sticks to them like glue,
And if your snake should bite it, then he'll lose a tooth or two.

There's complaints about our drinking, and quite likely they are true,
And you'd be drinkin' like a fish, to do the work we do,
And when we've had a bottle, then we fight like cats and dogs,
We swear and scare the ladies, then we sleep like logs.
Hey, that's the truth, for a man must cool his blood,
When he's digging up to Lang Lang through the snakes and through the mud,
Your engineer can scheme and scrape until he's black and blue,
It's us inland navigators that'll push the railway through.

words: © John Warner 19/10/93
tune: John Warner/Margaret Walters

Where can I get a cross-cut saw?
Devlin's General Store.
You can get a cross-cut saw
And anything else you're looking for,
It's been there since '94,
Has Devlin's General Store.

Where can I go to collect me mail?
Devlin's General Store
There you can collect your mail
That came from Melbourne town by rail
You can get a cross-cut saw [etc]

Where can I get a dozen eggs?
Devlin's General Store
You can get a dozen eggs
A washing line, some dolly pegs
There you can collect your mail [etc]

[And so on until the last verse:]

Where can I get some sly grog, mate?
Devlin's General Store,
You can get some sly grog, mate,
We just sold some to the magistrate,
* You can get a length of fuse
Several types from which to choose
You can get some gelignite,
Samsonite or dynamite,
* You can get some 12 gauge shot,
Powder, wadding, they've got the lot
You can get a liquorice strap,
A tupenny bunger, a rabbit trap,
You can get a carbide lamp,
A miner's pick or a ha'penny stamp,
You can get a set of spurs,
Flannel underwear, his or hers,
You can get a dozen eggs,
A washing line, some dolly pegs,
There you can collect your mail
That came from Melbourne town by rail,

You can get a cross-cut saw,
And anything else you're looking for,
It's been there since '94,
Has Devlin's General Store.

9. FIRES OF '98
© John Warner 19/11/92

I stand here and gaze over Strzelecki's Range,
And turn in my heart half a century of change.
Of country made fertile by sweat and the plough,
Endless good grazing for the horse and the cow.
Still I remember the small split slab hut,
The clearing we made in the towering Blackbutt.
The Bluegum and Dogwood, the stands of Tree Fern,
That fell to the axe, that we'd gather and burn.

   So pardon my tears when I try to relate
   The ashes and dust of the year '98.

At forty years distance, I dread to recall
How massive and close was that Eucalypt wall.
Of how days burned sultry, and rivers ran dry,
And how fear would come with the haze in the sky.
Sunset came early, the colour of rust,
Our throats raw with worry, the smoke and the dust,
And yet, with that nightfall, the dark never came,
Just the dull, lurid menace, the colour of flame.

The tongue has no words for the sound and the sight
Of the savage crownfire that tore up the night.
It melted our glassware, bent iron, split rock,
And it shattered our souls and we wandered in shock.
I remember a church hall, cool water and bread,
The bitter, hard sobs as folk wept for their dead,
The pitiful cries of burned cattle and sheep,
Those memories that still haunt the hills of my sleep.

The forests have gone with their fires and fears,
My Ranges enriched by the changes of years,
Grandchildren ask me of days long ago,
But I hide the bushfires, they don't need to know.
High on the ridges, like monument stones,
Stand single, grey treestumps, a dead forest's bones.
A shudder goes through as I lean on the gate,
And I turn from the pain of the year '98.

words: © John Warner 4/2/93
tune: Margaret Walters

I was born among the miners in the great South Gippsland hills,
I grew up in their comradeship, knew fierce pride in their skills,
I saw them pick in the three foot seams for thirty bob a week
For the Outtrim Howitt company, Jumbunna and Coal Creek.
I'm a Gippsland mining man.

I saw the forests on the range turned into posts and beams
For the short and twisted workings in those deadly, faulted seams.
I saw my father prop the ways with unremitting care,
For if the roof should drop, you get no second chance down there.
I'm a Gippsland mining man.

CHORUS: I'm a Gippsland mining man and I'll tell you while I can,
How the coal that drove the trains
Was paid in courage, loss and pain
By the family of the Gippsland mining man.

I saw a heartless manager lay off a dozen men,
And leave their families destitute by the cold stroke of the pen,
I've seen their quiet comradeship that helped them bear their lot,
As I went out with the others trapping rabbits for the pot.
I'm a Gippsland mining man.

I've seen a woman battle on, her man killed in a fall,
With seven kids to feed and clothe, no income left at all,
And I recall the angry men who dared the truth to tell,
With names like Idriess Williams, Jock Orr and Harry Bell,
I'm a Gippsland mining man.


And I've seen strikes a full year long, to keep our meagre pay,
I've seen a struggle lost, I've seen the families move away,
Their houses drawn by bullock teams on creaking timber carts
To the State mine at Wonthaggi to make another start,
I'm a Gippsland mining man.

I sit in Leongatha now, on any business day,
And watch the busy farming folk who spend ten times our pay,
The years have passed, my mates have died, the living will forget
Of how today's prosperity was bought in pain and sweat
By the Gippsland mining man.


words: © John Warner 9/3/93
tune: Margaret Walters/Kim Poole 9/3/93

Now Blossom was a mining horse,
    Among the coal and slack,
Who hauled the skips with all her force,
    Get out of that, gee up you beggar,
    Come here, gee off, whoa back.

Wonthaggi miners all did know ...
What happened when Bloss refused to go ...

Now Bloss came out of the bord one day ...
Pulled to a stand and blocked the way ...

She had a full and heavy load ...
Of skips which blocked the wheeling road ...

Now Harry the wheeler cursed and cried ...
But Bloss dug in whatever he tried ...

With ears laid back our Bloss stood fast ...
No man behind in the bord got past ...

So Mac, who fired the shots, did say ...
'Let's eat, we could be here all day' ...

But, as the lads got out their lunch ...
The roof caved in with a deadly crunch ...

Our Blossom saved the miners all ...
She stood between them and the fall ...

And when the rescue team dug through ...
The lads were alive and Blossom too ...

Which goes to show, now and again ...
The mining heroes weren't all men ...

© John Warner 8/11/93

I came up the Thomson with thousands of others,
When Walhalla's gold worked its wild, shining spell.
I was young, I was pretty, I called myself Kitty,
I offered the best jewels a woman could sell.
A length of fine velvet in well fitting burgundy,
Tight round the curves where a man's eyes would fall,
Lace at the edges and eyes full of laughter,
Oh young Kitty Kane was the pride of them all.

I might take a walk by the wild Thomson River
Where the Mountain Ash rise in the soft, misty rain,
There's gold in the range and there's gold in the memories
Of the lady of pleasure they call Kitty Kane.

* As the wealth from the mining flowed into the valley,
I moved from a shanty up to a hotel.
I'd seen enough squalor, I saved enough silver
To make me a place where I'd play the game well.
Pregnancy, injury, theft and brutality
Threatened and scarred me, again and again,
But in black lace and silver, I waltzed with the miners,
And shone in their vision, for I'm Kitty Kane.

The publican brought a piano from Melbourne,
I could tell you right now, it was never in tune,
But the work-weary diggers came crowding to hear it
When Samson would play in the late afternoon.
On nights when Walhalla lit up like a fire,
And the miners were roaring some boozy refrain,
There would always be eyes lit with lust and desire,
And bright gold for evenings with young Kitty Kane.

There were schemers and sailors and bearded old diggers,
Whose tough, hairy hides had the gravel ground in,
Young men far from home who still needed a mother,
And sad, furtive parsons who needed to sin.
Rough, drunken brutes with the manners of cattle,
Who let me lie bleeding and shaking in pain,
I've served them their drinks while my bruises were healing,
And I laughed and I shone, I was still Kitty Kane.

I've heard the men singing down at the piano,
That youth, it soon passes, and beauty will fade,
But I gave them their pleasure when I was past forty,
It's the light in the eyes made me queen of my trade.
Though Walhalla now is all merchants and farmers,
Whose wives see in me what they think of as shame,
I'll die in this valley with fine, singing memories,
My name's Kitty Kane, I was best in the game.

© John Warner 22/10/93

Now Harry did you hear the news, the manager's gone mad,
He wants to bring a boiler in, for it's the latest fad.
The horse is too expensive and he's found a better scheme,
He's setting up a cableway to move the coal by steam.

   A pox upon the Company, this is a nasty lurk
   To put the wheeler laddies and their ponies out of work,
   There's no one says it can't be done, a mighty thing is steam,
   But nothing beats the horse and man for working in the seam.

We all began as wheelers and it's how we learned the job,
Before we learned to hew and prop and how to ram the gob,
You've seen those narrow bends, old mate, you tell me how they can
Get round 'em with a cableway as well as a horse and man.

Now have you seen the boiler, it's a mighty thing, old mate?
It's like Ned Kelly's helmet, made of half inch iron plate,
There's rows of rivets everywhere, an engineer's delight,
It's taking miners' jobs away, and how can that be right?

Now Harry, did you hear the frightful bang the other night?
Some lads came from Wonthaggi with a little gelignite,
They packed it in the boiler and it split the thing apart,
And went the thirty miles back home all in a horse and cart!

© John Warner 22/10/93

I remember how the Ryans came to school
On old Tom, their father's Clydesdale, and he'd graze outside all day.
In summertime, we'd take them to the pool,
Among the rocks they'd swim there, unless the sky turned grey.
I still hear the sound of tables being chanted like a rhyme,
The rhythm of the slow, old clock that measured out our time;

    But how my throat still aches when I recall
    The golden names in rows on polished cedar on the wall.

The children always seemed to lose a father
From falling rock and timber in the coal mine's deadly ways,
Or dying from the foul air and the dust,
I've seen the mothers flinch as menfolk coughed away their days.
And the boys I taught as children went to war when they were men,
They came back sick and broken, or they came not back again;

Down all the busy years since I've been teaching
I've watched the children learn and grow, and then go out and die.
I ask myself is all our effort wasted
By companies that kill them and governments that lie?
Young Sally's playing 'Last Post' now, she's in the band, you see,
I can hear those bright, young voices singing 'Lord, abide with me';

© John Warner 6/04/93

I'll tell you all of the roaring day,
    In Korumburra town on a Friday.
From Jeetho out to Jumbunna way
Folks came in for to spend their pay
    In Korumburra town on a Friday.
The lads knocked off at the mining site,
To shop and gossip, drink and fight
From four o'clock till around midnight,
    In Korumburra town on a Friday.

    And it's 'Oh my darlin' Clementine',
    As the Drunks' Express lurches up the line,
    Taking the lads back to Outtrim Mine
    From Korumburra town on a Friday.

Now you could see it from the train ...
The miner's friend, the council's bane,
The sly grog shanty run by Kane ...
Now Old Kane was a cunning coot,
His whiskey source still in dispute,
And girls were there of strange repute ...

At one of the pubs where the miners meet ...
Comes the sound of voices raised in heat,
And a body hurled out onto the street ...
The body lies there, out for ten,
It looks like young Joe Kane again,
You shouldn't argue with mining men ...

Eleven o'clock and they close the bars ...
The drunks are singing to the moon and stars
As they pack them into the railway cars ...
Tomorrow they'll wake up sore and sick,
To work off with the shovel and pick,
The aches they've earned and the wounds they lick ...

The case is heard at ten o'clock ...
Now hear the courtroom gavel knock,
For young Joe Kane standing in the dock ...
Says Judge, 'A ten bob fine I think,
Or thirty days in the local clink,
For the things you did when worse for drink ...

words: © John Warner 27/10/93
tune: Kim Poole/Margaret Walters

'Where have the Kurnai gone?'
Cries the sea wind, blowing sand.
'Where are the fur-clad folk of mine,
Who cracked the shells above the tideline?
Cold the trail, they left no sign,
Where have the Kurnai gone?'

'Where have the Kurnai gone?'
Mourn the breakers on the reef,
'The land was stolen,' the hills replied,
'The forests felled, their home denied,
Driven and pursued, no place to hide.'
'Where have the Kurnai gone?'

'Where have the Kurnai gone?'
Asks the voice of an aching land
Where roads, and farms and mines were made
There were families slain, their hopes betrayed,
Weeping drowned in the noise of trade,
'Where have the Kurnai gone?'

'Where have the Kurnai gone?'
The question will not be stilled.
Angela Morgan died alone,
Last of the full blood Kurnai known,
But folk still live of her flesh and bone,
Justice may still be done
For the Kurnai who have not gone.
'Where have the Kurnai gone?'

© John Warner 10/10/92

Where the surf breaks by Kilcunda, there's a Ti-tree covered ridge,
Where the coal trains from Wonthaggi crossed a timber trestle bridge.
The wooden decks are rotting and there's no safe place to stand,
Its grey and weathered pilings have been grained by blowing sand.
Bass Strait's wind moans in the fencelines like a ghostly voice in pain
Like the wailing of the whistle of the westbound Melbourne train.

Coal from the earth, water, air and fire,
The prophet's cloud of rolling smoke forever clawing higher,
The mighty exhaust pounding as the steamer fights the grades,
Now the lines are derelict, the ghostly memory fades, the ghostly memory fades.

There's a line up to Jumbunna where the dairy cattle graze,
Bluegum sleepers lie decayed and fencelines cross the ways.
Along the great embankments rusting rails may still be seen,
But saplings grow among them and the grass is rich and green.
Once the Baldwins scaled these ranges with a pulse that shook the ground,
And they'd stall upon these gradients and their wheels scream wildly round.

The memory is haunted by the iron whistle blast,
The shouting children waving as the morning train rolls past,
The fireman glaring forward through South Gippsland's driving hail,
The jingle of the couplings and the rhythm of the rail.
Here's a rusting iron dogspike and a leaning crossing gate,
And I'm standing in the cutting, knowing that I'm years too late.


Who Was Here?

Newell Highway Telford's Bridge
Kilroy Was Here Not Scared
Harley Dinosaur Pale Horse/Gold, Gold, Gold!
Railway Widow's Blues William Conquest Turland
Kaikoura Railway Memorial Empire Hotel
The Bergen The Outside Track
Song of the Sheet Metal Worker I Will Stand Fast
Piper on the Hilltop  

John Warner (1985)

This song celebrates the Warrumbungle Ranges in inland NSW.  John first heard the tune, C.H.H. Parry's melody for the hymn 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind,' in his earliest childhood as a theme to a BBC radio programme, and it is adapted here from that memory.

Awake before the dawn within the spires of range
Where magpies ornate melodies
Engrave the chilly morning breeze
Beneath the towering stone,
Beneath the towering stone.

On nights of silver moon too rich to waste on sleep
In silence make your way to seek
The choirs of frog in swamp and creek
That sing beneath the stars,
That sing beneath the stars.

Out on the western plain beside the roaring road
Where trucks snarl by without a care
Are billabongs with ibis there
And wedge-tailed eagles soar,
And wedge-tailed eagles soar.

All you who love the earth
And make her ways your choice
Cry out against the noise of trade
Demand that silence should be made
So that all might hear her voice,
Her ancient, matchless voice.

Ewan MacColl (1980)

Too often, great feats of engineering are credited to the designer and history does not record the names of the workers whose sweat and blood infused the concrete.  The cheeky slogan, 'Kilroy was here,' first emerged during the Second World War and became a symbol for the universal worker.  As MacColl says, 'The one who not only gets up after the battle and walks away, but allows himself time to let you know he has done so.'

Who was here when they handed out the heavy jobs
Jobs with the hammer, the pick and shovel
Who choked in the foundry, froze in the fish docks
Eight days to the week?

Who was here with a mile of rock above him
Three foot seam in the darkness crouching
Stinging sweat in his eyes,
Powdered rock in his spittle
One hundred minutes to the hour?

Who was here in the furrowed fields crouched over
Pain shapes the question in bone and muscle
Roots and hands competing, fumbling, groping
Twenty-eight hours to the day?

Who was here in a world of steam and clamour
Feeding Leviathan in his cavern
Tasting the hot, sharp stink of metal
Six weeks to the month?

Hey there, dogsbody, what do they call you?
Who cleans up the mess when the fighting's over?
Who carries the broom the mop and the bucket
Thirty-six months to the year?

Smooth-faced, old-boy men instructed him
Geldings programmed his energy
Coached in running by men whose arches had fallen
Dead men taught him how to live

Kilroy, Kilroy, where has Kilroy gone?
Kilroy was here, see there's his mark
He came this way, he was wearing his number
Did no one see him pass?

John Warner (1991)

This story is true except that the dinosaur was actually a sheep. Written during John's 'Browns' period at Murrumbateman, NSW. Names have been changed to protect the sheep.

'Twas at the Murrumbateman tip when no one was about,
A giant egg lay in the sun and a dinosaur hatched out.
The only creature round the place, an ancient mother sheep
Adopted him at once instead of the lamb she failed to keep.
She called him Harley Davidson, her baby dinosaur,
From a picture in a magazine she'd seen some days before,
She sang him Sheep May Safely Graze and Baa Baa Black Sheep
Until her young triceratops was safely fast asleep.

And it's oh my! you never saw before
Such a thumping great triceratops like Harley Dinosaur!

Now in the paddock by the tip, young Harley grew and fed
And by three weeks had overtopped his mother by a head.
And soon some forty head of sheep and half a dozen rams
Saw one bright, young triceratops at play among the lambs.
But springtime brings the shearing, the crutching and the like
Of the sorts of things they do to sheep to keep down blowfly strike,
And so one worthy grazier, by name of Thomas Scroggs
Set out upon his motorbike and with him four sheep dogs.

The Honda roared across the land with rattles, thumps and bangs,
When Harley heard the racket, something ancient bared its fangs,
And as the sheep in panic fear all fled in leaps and bounds,
A fully grown triceratops stood up to face the hounds.
Now Blue and Dolly, Bill and Meg were sheepdogs of the best,
Prize winners all though they might be, they'd never faced this test.
'Get in behind!' cried Farmer Scroggs, his face a wrathful frown,
So in behind the log they got and kept their heads well down.

At this the farmer's face went red, he said a nasty word,
And revved his motor-cycle round to catch that fleeing herd.
But Harley charged that mean machine, his great feet squashed it flat,
He chased the farmer up a tree and that, my friends, was that.
And so we leave good Farmer Scroggs his features turning black
His sheep behind their dinosaur can laugh at all attack
I'll leave his dogs behind their log and terminate my rhyme
By saying 'Harley Davidson beats Hondas, every time!'

John Warner (1996)

NSW railway enginemen on long trips were often away two or three days longer than the journeys required as they stayed in barracks until rostered to drive a return train. Family life was not considered important enough by the authorities to allow a return trip at the railway's expense. The Garratt Locomotive was one of the world's biggest and belched massive smoke plumes when fighting the steep grades in the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley.

Come all you women, hear me complain,
Don't mix with a man who drives a train
Or you'll be sorry, you'll be blue
Every time a train goes through.

You pack his crib the night before,
He's up and eating by half past four
It's still pitch dark when he shuts the door
And you hear his train go through.

Many the night you lie and dream
Of how you and him could raise some steam
Shunting and coupling to and fro,
Pull the regulator till the steam valves blow

But you're all alone at the break of day
With your man two hundred miles away
It's a 'barracks' shift so he's bound to stay
Till another train goes through.

The right of way's just out the back
Where the coal-train Garratts rumble up the track,
Dropping soot and cinders till your washing's black
Every time a train goes through.

That man of mine, he's proud and tall,
Moves his body like a cannon ball
But he's off before dawn at the shift-boy's call
And another train goes through.

Oh he'll be back in another day,
But you can't build dreams on a hogger's pay
And when he's back home, how a girl could weep,
It's food and bath and 12 hours' sleep.

So come all you women, hear me complain,
Don't mess with those fellas who drive the train
You'll be so sorry, you'll be so blue
Eveny time a train goes through,
Every time a train goes through.

John Warner (1987)

The memorial stone at Kaikoura Railway Station, South Island, New Zealand reads: 'In memory of those who lost their lives during the construction of the Wharanui-Parnassus section of the South Island Main Trunk Flatway 1930-1945'

So Christopher Wren's Memorial at St Paul's Cathedral, London, England: 'If you seek his memorial, look around you. '

On a cold Kaikoura morning
When drizzle draped the land in gray,
And darker grey the headland loomed
Where surf thumped, snarling up the bay,
A gull flashed silver over rocks
Fringed with white lace
Where the kelp beds heaved,
And beauty lived in the drab and dark
Without a flash of colour relieved.

The station faced a shingle beach
And hung and dripped with gentle rain.
I heard the pulsing diesel song
That spoke the coming of the train.
The screaming of a single gull
Drifted across where the breakers roll,
The loco hooter's soft reply,
The echo of a common soul.

And who was Charlie Johnston then?
Did Vernon Willis leave a wife?
How did Robert Kitto die,
And Roy Frank Chapman yield his life?
They were not seen at Alamein,
Bill O'Connell faced no gun,
John Turich's hands worked iron and rock
Alongside Oscar Cottington.

With pick and crowbar, maul and axe
Through beetling crags swept by the tide
They drove the railway down the coast
As working men they lived and died.
The Wharanui track runs through
Great tunnels within the ocean's sound,
Hewn through the cliffs in nature's spite,
For their memorial, look around.

And I look upon my people's work
And wonder at my pride and pain,
The thump of seas a counterpoint,
Beside the rumbling of the train.
The majesty of stone and rain
The whisper of the ocean's breath
All say more than the mind can hold
This balancing of life and death.

Jez Lowe (1986)

The crew from a Finnish ship are flung ashore in a gale, buried unnamed and unknown on foreign sand. Jez Lowe reaches for the heart of grief with intricate poetry. Jez, from the north of England, has several albums on the Fellside and Green Linnet labels.

Sleep, why d'you wake me with these dreams you bring?
      Dreams came to me where I lay
And deep the melody the wild waves sing.
      And my love is far, far away

Oh and pity the hearts the wild waves part
My love sails the bonny barque, the Bergen.

They heap their nets upon the decks by light ...
And creep out gentle at the dead of night ...

They reap a harvest from a cold night's sea ...
It leaps with the herring 'neath his decks for me ...

But steep waves rise above his cold bare head ...
Oh keep him safe to lie here in my bed ...

It weeps with rain tonight where my love lies ...
Oh sweep the foreign sand from out his eyes ...

John Dengate (1974)

Sydney songwriter John Dengate wrote this song for his father, Norman William Dengate (1908-89), who had to leave the family orchard to work in a factory.  He became a very skilled tradesman and his fine light fittings still adorn the Sydney Post Office building in Martin Place.  Carlingford was once a rural area far from Sydney;  now it's just another suburb.  The tune John set to this song is 'The Valley of Knockanure'.  This song and more of John's pungent songs are to be found on a Larrikin CD, The Follies of Pollies.

Oh, when I was a boy in Carlingford full sixty years ago,
The eucalypts grew straight and tall and the creeks did sweetly flow.
But times were hard when the old man died and the orchard would not pay
So I left the land for the factory bench and I'm working there still today.

I have earned my bread in the metal shops for forty years and more
My hands are hard and acid-scarred as the boards on the workshop floor
My soul is sheathed in Kembla steel and my eyelids have turned to brass
And the orchard's gone, and the apple trees where the wind whispered through the grass.

The work bench is my altar where I come to take the host.
Copper, brass and fine sheet steel:   Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
The sacramental wine of work grows sour upon my tongue;
Oh, the fruit was sweet on the apple trees when my brothers and I were young.

John Warner (1989)

John was moved by the unexpected sound of bagpipes being played near the Spence shops in Belconnen near Canberra.  The moment was climaxed by a dramatic summer thunderstorm rising over the Brindabella Range, an outcrop of the Snowy Mountains.  A 'pibroch' is a traditional bagpipe air serving as a call to battle or a lament .

It's a hot December evening
And there's herald of a change
In the mighty clouds that roll across
The Brindabella Range.

There's a piper on the hilltop
By the supermarket square,
And his pibroch falls like sunset clouds
Above the city air.

The chattering of kids at play,
The sullen roar of cars
The thunder of a jet plane's flight
Above the rising stars.

I sit beside my window
And I listen to the town
And an aching air, an old lament,
Like mist comes drifting down.

Then Spence gives way to Glencoe,
Bonny Charlie's at Dunbar,
And the 'Flowers of the Forest,'
They all are gone awa'

A breeze disturbs the silent leaves,
Rolling thunder brings the change
With the pibroch for Belconnen Town
By the Brindabella Range

John Warner (1994)

The navigation canals that cries-cross England are magnificent feats of engineering and recap a gruelling, but picturesque life style.  Typical of adventurous Victorian engineers, Thomas Telford chose to take his canal in a flying leap of iron 120 feet above a river.  John did NOT cross this bridge in a canoe, he walked across holding Margaret's hand...

Her age might be forty, though wrinkles tell lies
And long years of labour are drawn in her eyes,
She puffs her old pipe, leaning outboard to see
Where Telford's great bridge spans the vale of the Dee.
Her husband's asleep in his close, narrow bed,
After 15 hard hours, he could scarce raise his head,
It's seventy feet from the helm to the bow,
She leans to the tiller, it's her turn right now.

    So butter some bread, Sally, brew us some tea
    For it's cold on old Telford's Bridge over the Dee.

It's a fine narrow boat that she handles with skill
On the Shropshire Canal as it weaves through the hills,
With coal for Llangollen, or roof slates for Chirk,
Three children to manage and long hours of work.
Her Sally's below brewing tea hot and strong,
If she's owt like her ma, she'll be courting e'er long,
Aye, then there'd be childer before you could know,
And small enough room in the cuddy below.

She's painted the buckets with rich love and care,
Wild roses and castles run riotous there,
But there's no time for fantasy, dreams and such stuff
For the cut's narrowed down to the Bridge's lean trough

The aqueduct's channel is seven feet wide,
With a stout iron rail on the broad towpath side,
On the off side there's nothing, no shelter at all,
She steers from the hatchway, 3 feet from the fall.
The Dee's foaming waters roar distant below,
The wind up the valley will bluster and blow,
And six year old Ted sits up high on the horse,
But she's seen it before & she steers a true course.

Captain, the Clydesdale, bows his noble mane,
And plods proudly on through the fierce scuds of rain,
The towline cunves upward, wind-snatched to the lee,
And ninety-five tons rides high over the Dee.
The steam engine's coming, or so she's been told,
But she'd not trade old Captain for all the Oueen's gold
And there's Tom a-waking he'll soon want his tea,
Where Telford's great bridge spans the vale of the Dee.

John Warner (1993)

Who doesn't remember the childhood fears of monsters under the bed! 'Humungous' - modem composite word of dubious meaning derived from the 'Dungeons and Dragons' subculture.

Now I was watching this mighty show
About aliens on the video,
With tentacles and glowing eyes
And laser guns of humungous size.
There were skeletons and the Walking Dead
When dad came in and he said 'Bed.'
'Aw, come on dad, that's a bit rough,'
But right in the middle, he turned it off.

And I'm not scared, not scared,
You heard what I said.
I'm going to the bathroom
If I can get out of this bed!

They've tucked me in, they've turned out the light,
There's some funny sounds on the street at night,
I'd get my dinosaur, he's real neat,
But what if something grabs my feet?
Really, I'm not scared, there's nothing in the dark
With iron claws and teeth like a shark,
There's none of those things and they can't scare me
But I can't move and I want to have a - drink.

I'm getting out of bed, there's nothing underneath
With bony fingers and long, green teeth,
No snakes, no spiders creeping down the wall,
Why can't I move if there's nothing there at all?
My tummy's really aching and that's no joke,
I shouldn't have chocolate after fizzy coke,
No vampires flying across the moon,
But this bed'll be wet if I don't move soon...

Aaaahh! Mum's getting up, the passage is lit,
I can get up too and have that - drink,
Tomorrow's Halloween, if the weather's fine,
I'm going 'Trick or Treat' dressed as Frankenstein.
There'll be werewolves, witches and their cats,
Ghosts and ghouls and vampire bats,
Some folk are in for a terrible fright
But I'm keeping my torch in bed tomorrow night.

John Warner (1995)

'Behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death' The Revelation of John the Divine, vi, 8.

Walking among the landforms of Garibaldi Gully at Young (previously known as Lambing Flat, I could get no sense of the atmosphere of the goldrush days.  The sun, the regrowing vegetation, the gurgling of water and the playing of ducks and wild binds left nothing to tell of the turbulent history.  The ghosts spoke through other voices.  In a sense it's good that the land is clearly healing, but those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

We came from California like a locust plague in flight,
We fell upon the landscape and we changed it overnight.

    Gold, gold, gold, the pale horse follows in the path of gold

Cities opened up like flowers where the gold rose like the sun,
But the day failed of its promise, we left ghost towns and moved on.

We won our wealth and drank it, our roots too weak to hold,
Those who made their pile and settled strove for other things than gold,

Like gallows traps lurk mineshafts wherever we have been,
Tailing dumps and mullock heaps stand useless and obscene.

We travelled fast as rumour, we were months ahead of law
We were grief to the Dakota, to the Maori we were war.

We brought death and dispossession where we cradled, sluiced and panned,
The Chinese and the Koories felt the old Grey Rider's hand.

From the mangroves by the Palmer, to Kiandra's killing cold,
Sacramento to Cardrona saw the landscape torn for gold.

But you'll not find our memory among the slagheaps in the bush
Our ghosts ride with the pale horse to the hopeless cry of 'Rush!'

John Warner (1995)

William Turland was a magnificent character who made his place in the history of Lambing Flat by pick and shovel:  the first to pave the streets in front of his business, to plant shade-trees on the street, a baker, blacksmith, farrier, horsecoper and hotel owner, with a subtle touch at the sly grog still.  The impression we gained of Hannah was of an equal and powerful influence.  This story, from early in their lives, was told to John by Pat Emmett who was particularly moved by it.  The town of Lambing Flat is now known as Young.  The tune is a version of the Scarborough Settler's Laments.

I'm William Conquest Turland, and when I was young and bold,
I left old Market Harborough to mine Australian gold.
I saw the rebel banner hoist, the fight at Ballarat,
And I loved and married Hannah in the town of Lambing Flat.

I forged the picks, I shoed the hacks, I laboured in the heat,
My Hannah bore two children, we thought our joy complete,
Then gold was found at Grenfell, the Lachlan side nor'west,
And so, like fools drawn to a snare, we followed with the rest.

But fever took the children, their skins were clammy wet.
It turned like iron in the heart to hear them moan and fret.
We washed them, cooled them, prayed for them, and ached to hear their cries;
At length a sullen silence fell and the bitter drone of flies.

I dug two graves beside the creek where old Dick's bridge now stands,
And I can still feel Hannah's grasp a-trembling in my hands,
The road ahead holds children, home and labour, land and friend,
But I held Hannah, sobbing hard, where one road found its end.

So let the Lachlan keep its gold or others make their pile.
We'll go no further down this track, but tend their graves the while,
For earth can yield no fairer prize, however rich the lode
Than the wealth we gave back to the soil along the Grenfell road.

John Warner (1994)

Our previous joint album, 'Pithead in the Fem,' has a song about a lady of negotiable affection called Kitty Kane.  She plied her trade in the Victorian gold mining town of Walhalla and was too good a subject for just one song.  In this song, that familiar, but irksome creature of traditional folk song - the eavesdropper - gets his comeuppance.  The tune is a variation on 'The Farmer's Toast'.

Early one morning I stood in Walhalla
By the Empire Hotel at the break of the day.
And somewhere upstairs there were two lovers talking,
So softly I listened to what they did say.

Why are you stirring, my darling, my dearie?
It's dark even now and the moon sheds no beam.
I've just heard the footstep of Coker, the fireman,
He's off to the minehead to start raising steam.

Why are you rising, my fine, lusty lover,
Surely there's hours till the break of the day?
Shake off the wine from your last night's carousing,
And look through the window, the light it is gray.

Why are you dressing your warm, shapely body,
Sliding up garters and lacing your stays?
The room's to be cleaning, the bed's to be making,
And both of us working like all other days.

As the sun rose, I was still in Walhalla,
Beside that hotel above cold Stringer's Creek,
Charmed by the words of those two secret lovers,
I drew even closer to where they did speak.

Where are my trousers, my boots and my jacket,
Where is my wallet, you sour faced whore?
Your wallet's right here till you've paid for your pleasure,
Your clothes, where you led them right there on the floor.

The hooter is sounding, the skips will be rolling
And soon the gold batteries will rattle the ground.
If you're late again, they will fire you this time
If you're out of cash, then you needn't come round.

You're a slut! You're a thief, Christ, a man must be senseless
To waste all his money on drink and a whore!
An hour ago I was 'darling' and 'dearie'
And I'll wager this evening you'll be back for more.

Well, here's thirty pieces of my hard earned silver,
The last evening's money I'm wasting on you.
The loss is your own, of both silver and pleasure,
If one man does not, many others can do.

And when he had gone out the door in a flurry,
She drew from the bedside her old chamber pot,
Out of the window she emptied the contents,
I was listening below and collected the lot.

Hark to the eavesdropper cursing at morning,
Don't sniff too long at his curious smell,
But from his cruel fortune take heed and take warning
Don't listen to lovers at the Empire Hotel.

Henry Lawson (1896), tune Gerry Hallom (1982)

Henry Lawson's fellow scribblers for "The Bulletin" were "the careless men" whose mateship was like that of the swagmen on the lonely bush tracks.  The group fed apart as they each felt the need to prove themselves in the "mother country."   A special thanks to Chris Kempster for his interpretations of Lawson and his wonderful collection "The Songs of Henry Lawson."

There were ten of us there on the moonlit quay and one on the for'ard hatch;
No straighter man to his mates than he had ever said: "Len's a matchl"
'Twill be long, old man, ere our glasses clink, 'twill be long ere we grasp your hand!.
And we dragged him ashore for a final drink, till the whole wide world seemed grand.

   For they marry and go as the world rolls back they marry and vanish and die
   But their spirit shall live on the outside track, as long as the years go by.

The port-lights glowed in the morning mist that rolled from the waters green;
And over the railing we grasped his fist as the dark tide came between.
We cheered the captain and cheered the crew, and our mate, times out of mind;
We cheered the land he was going to and the land he had left behind.

We roared Lang Syne as a last farewell but my heart seemed out of joint;
I well remember the hush that fell when the steamer passed the point.
We drifted home thought the public bars, we were ten times less by one
Who had sailed out under the morning stars, and under the rising sun.

And one by one, and two by two, they have sailed from the wharf since then
I have said good-bye to the last I knew, the last of the careless men,
And I can't but think that the times we had were the best times after all,
As I turn aside with a lonely glass and drink to the barroom wall.

Fred Small (1986
© Pine Barrens Music)

Margaret attended an Anglican boarding school in far north Oueensland in the fifties.  It was really quite a happy time, but this song recalled some "ancient horror," sorted them all out, and then laid them to rest.  Thanks, Fred!  Fred Small has many albums to his credit - on Rounder and Flying Fish.

The echoes of childhood whisper violence
    Cold winds beating out of the past
Rage in your throat, muffled silence
    Hold on, I will stand fast.

In the darkness your guardians had left you ...
None to hear your cries, none to defend you ...

    I will stand fast I will stand fast,
    You are safe in the daylight at last
    Nightmare and fear, they have no power here
    I will stand fast

I will listen to the terrors that tried you ...
I will cradle the child that breathes inside you ...
Though you take the shape of a hundred ancient horrors ...
Though you strike at me and flee into your sorrow ...

Birds flash upon a branch in winter ...
Ice in the sun begins to splinter ...
You will walk with no fetters to bind you ...
All the love you have wanted will find you ...


Pack o' Pirates

Pack o' Pirates  Me, the Wolf, and the Bear
Mountain Shay  Hermit Crab
River Chat Mum's Got to Go
 Dinosaur Duo  Listen to the Frogs
Sirens on a Rainy Night

Llewellyn Walking

 Tugboat Calypso (Sydney Harbour Tugs) Consternation Time

John Warner  ©  11/10/96

We're a pack of pirates, what are we?
Pirates, pirates, yo ho ho!
Rattling along on a rolling sea,
Pirates, pirates, yo ho ho!

Patches on our eyes and big, black hats
Cannon, cutlasses and yellow-eyed cats
Heave her up and away we go!

Pirates, pirates, yo ho ho!

We've a big fat ship with room in the hold ...
For plunder, prisoners, silver and gold ...
If there's no gold in the loot we take,
We'll take lemonade and a chocolate cake ...

Under the Harbour Bridge we'll sail ...
The Skull and Crossbones at our tail ...
We'll bombard a ferry or two,
With water bombs full of paint and glue ...

Out through the Heads in our pirate barque ...
Followed by a pack of hungry shark ...
Mean black fins follow in our wake,
I wonder if sharks like chocolate cake? ...

Don't we look such a scurvy crew? ...
Covered in chocolate, paint and glue ...
Didn’t we had a such a lovely day?
Won't mum have a few words to say? ...


John Warner  ©  13/5/97

Listen awhile, ‘cos I've things to say,
Of a steam locomotive they call the Shay,

Shay's coming round the bend,
Shay's coming round the bend,
She's a slow old loco,
Shay's coming round the bend

Gleaming pistons thrust and pound,
But the wheels on the track grind slowly round.

Logs from the forest, coal from the mine,
She drags them slow round the mountain line

It's a heavy old train she drags behind,
The bogies rumble, creak and  grind.

Cliffs glow red as the day turns pale,
She's far away, hear the whistle wail.


John Warner   ©  15/10/96

'River, river where do you flow
With your water the colour of tea,
Golden red in your sandy bed,
Do you flow to the wild, green sea?'

'No', said the river 'I flow inland,
Sink down deep in the rocks and the sand,
Under the gidgee and the mulga tree
Where the desert people can drink me.'

Earth belongs to all, she belongs to no-one
She belongs to herself.


John Warner & others  ©  1994/5

Stegosaurus, Stegosaurus,
Stomping through the swamp on his three-toed feet,
Stegosaurus, Stegosaurus,
He eats vegetation, but he don't eat meat.

[Cooper, Maybanke, 1995]

Tyrannosaurus Rex is built like a tree,
When I saw him coming,I had to have a wee,
I was so scared I had to flee [aagh!]
What would he do to me?

[Adie, Hyde Park, 1994]


John Warner  ©  3/7/97

Lightning flashes, thunder roars,
Loud on the roof the water pours,
On nights like this I stay indoors,
But out on the street I hear - 

Sirens on a rainy night,
Shiny black road and flashing light,
I'm in my bed all snug and tight,
And there's sirens on a rainy night.

Under the street lamp’s orange glow,
In a splash of spray, hear the ambulance go,
Siren's sound lets the injured know,
That help is on its way.

On shimmering tar the car lights gleam,
Traffic lights hold back the stream,
Fire engine sirens scream,
As they speed past the waiting cars.

Wipers sweeping left and right,
Driver glares through the watery night,
Heroes riding out to fight,
With danger, flood and fire.

6. TUGBOAT CALYPSO (Sydney Harbour Tugs)
John Warner   ©  5/11/96

Wonga, Walana, Waratah, Woona,
Wombi, Wilga and Shirley Smith.

We are the harbour tugs, see the way we glide
To where the big ships heave on the rolling tide,
Cargo ships are huge, wind and tide are strong,
Hear our engines sing as we shove the ships along.

The south east wind whips up Botany Bay,
And we cut the swell into whirling spray,
Bow fenders press to the ship's steel wall,
As we shove her up the harbour through the rainy squalls,

We're blunt and busy, we're broad and tough,
And the skipper has us out when the seas are rough,
In the blazing days or the freezing nights,
We bring the big ships safe under the harbour lights



John Warner  ©  11/10/96

 There's a bear in there
     There’s a bear in there
With a wrinkly skin,
And while he's there,
I'm not going in,
     Not going in
     Not going in
     While he’s there,
     I’m not going in.

I can tell …
By the hideous smell,
There's probably a wolf in there as well …

I'm not scared …
Just a little unsure,
But in I go with a terrible roar …

Out they go …
The wolf and the bear,
Didn't I give them such a scare …

Mum and Dad …
Certainly agree
There isn't any monster quite like me …



John Warner   © December 1996

There are empty shells on the ocean floor
Where the resident animal lives no more
When a crab like me needs a place to hide
From the eel or the octopus, I move inside.

I squeeze and wriggle inside,
Where it's not too narrow and it's not too wide,
I'm shy and small and I've got no pride,
I just squeeze and wriggle inside.

I'm a hermit crab and if you knock on my door,
I'll wiggle my feelers and snap a claw,
But I'm not sad if I  find no shell,
'Cos a rusty old soup can will do quite well.



John Warner  ©  5/11/96

You can't put off the moment any more,
Mum's picked up the baby and she's walking out the door,
It's a hug and a cuddle and out she goes,
And a sad, lumpy throat as the door has to close.

Mum's got to go, Mum's got to go,
So cry a while, dry your eyes,
And give your nose a blow,
But your mates are all around you
And we all know how much it hurts
When your Mum's got to go.

There's lots of friends if you should need a hug,
There's books, toys and pillows all piled up on a rug,
So wipe away the tears, come and join us, mate,
And we'll keep time flying till your Mum comes in the gate.

Cantonese Chorus

Mama yu fain gong, Mama yu fain gong,
Zhau fai sau seing wan yu guai,
Geung noh lek zhou dou
Bong pung yau hoi sam yau loh,
Yun yun doh zhi dou,
Nei hoh seung sam, Mama yu fain gong.




John Warner  ©  30/3/96

Listen to the frogs, frogs are a-talking
Out on the wetlands, down by the creek
Listen to the frogs, when you're out a-walking
You'll hear lots of secrets when the frogs speak.

There's a thousand types of frogs with a thousand different voices,
But they know well what they like and hate,
If a voice is missing from the wetlands' chorus,
We'd better take a look at things before too late

They say 'Yuk, yuk, you're mucking up the country,
Ridit, ridit of detergent, oil and salt,
Queek, queek, there's millions of us a-dying,
And we'll all disappear if you don't call a halt'.



John Warner  ©  Oct 1996

Sometimes, when the screaming just goes on,
I wonder why I work here.
When a teething baby will not be consoled,
Does caring cost us too dear?
When a child is crying, so are several more
And helplessness abrades the spirit raw.
But today I saw Llewellyn walking,
A frown of concentration on his face,
On new and shaky muscles, Llewellyn rose to stand,
Leaned into his first, bold step, refused the offered hand,
There should have been a peal of bells,
Should have been a band,
Today I saw Llewellyn walking, Llewellyn walking.

I've seen Llewellyn watching others play,
I've seen his calculation,
Wondering just what it is they do.
I've heard his cruel frustration.
Why should a driven hero have to crawl,
Or travel leaning on a table or a wall?
But today I saw Llewellyn walking,
That struggle won so many times before,
He tottered, seeking balance from the shadow to the sun,
As Nolan, Phoebe, Rachel, Jake and Natalie had done,
With fiery passion in his eyes, driving him to run
Today I saw Llewellyn walking, Llewellyn walking

There can be no Current Market Price
On what was done today,
This victory of patience, care and love
On a humble labourer's pay.
This lifts the carer's life above the stress,
The smell of nappies, disinfectant and the mess,
Today we saw Llewellyn walking,
Tomorrow Nina, Emily or Sam,
They'll feel their muscles harden as they cling to chair and wall,
Light up with excitement as they step out strong and tall,
And we'll be there behind to hug their courage if they fall,
Today we saw Llewellyn walking, Llewellyn walking.
Llewellyn walking.



John Warner   ©  13/8/96

Uh Uh, Oh No, It's  consternation  time today,
Uh Uh, Oh No, What's teacher going to say?

We knocked something over with a great big BANG
Quite agitating everyone in the gang,

Uh Uh, Oh No, It's  consternation  time today,

Who spilled the paint? Who turned on the hose,
Who's got yoghurt from their toes to their nose.

Here we stand all in a row,
Doing our amazing consternation show,
Hands on our hips, big round eyes,
Shaking our heads to show you our surprise.