Up in Broken Hill, a city built on mining, I found another example of bitter union and company fights. The Matron at the base hospital, Mrs Frances McDonald, had a family background in an early union struggle that resulted in a prolonged strike in 1918. Strikebreakers were brought into the then small community. One of the locals who voted to side with them, becoming a blackleg, was named Bailey. Showing that simple twists of a well-known song can be an effective tool in class warfare, the locals took to singing:

Won’t you come home Bill Bailey,
Won’t you come home?
I moan the whole day long,
I’ll do the cookin’, honey,
I’ll pay the rent,
I know I’ve done you wrong…

There wasn’t even the need to localise or change the words. The singing of the song, loaded with venom, was enough to ridicule and taunt Bailey.

Mrs McDonald also knew the famous song ‘Don’t Go Down The Mine, Dad’ however, she had joined it with another song, ‘The Miner’. Here is Mrs McDonald singing the song.

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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.