One of the most fascinating stories from Australian mining heritage came from Lithgow and concerns a strike in 1911 at the Hoskin’s Mine. Somewhat ironically set to the tune ‘When The Sheep Are In The Fold, Jenny Dear’, the song tells of a lengthy strike that tore Lithgow apart, setting families against families as desperate workers struggled to survive without work. The introduction of strikebreaker labour fuelled the fires further. The miners had asked for an increase of tuppence a tonne and the mine owner, Charles Hoskins, foolishly retaliated by reducing their rate by tuppence. Each day, as the strikebreakers arrived to work the mine, the Lithgow miners union brass band would greet them and play the ‘Death March’. After a couple of months, emblazoned by their success in keeping the mine going, the strikebreakers started to dance to the music. All hell broke loose. The miners raced down for the biggest Donnybrook of their lives, locked the strikebreakers in the boiler room, torched Hoskin’s new T-Model Ford and then turned their attention on the police. All ideal fodder for folksong.

I collected this song from Jack Mays in Lithgow in 1973, and recorded it the following year for the first album to be issued on my Larrikin Label.

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Warren Fahey is a Sydney-based Cultural Historian, author and performer. His Australian Folklore Unit site offers resources on Australian history, music and folklore.