Both Jack and Jim had worked the Lithgow mines all their lives and on the tapes they explain the old system of coal mining and also, in detail, the various words that have mostly passed out of local use. They are extremely descriptive and the tapes are recommended for anyone interested in the coal industry and word usage. They also lived through the 1930s Depression and Jack described his life in some detail and especially how his wife sent him out to work each day with a brown paper bag sandwich. When I asked where he had got work he shyly explained how he didn’t. He would go and hide in the scrub outside of Lithgow and come home each night – so the neighbours didn’t pity the family since they didn’t have anything to spare either! He also explains the story of the Hoskins Strike in 1911. It was from Mr Mays that I got the songs ‘When You Give That Tuppence Back Charlie Dear’ and ‘The Lithgow Strike Jingle’ – both about the Hoskin’s strike.
Jack Mays had a pamphlet on one of the worst ever mining disasters. The song had been sent to all the mining towns to raise money for the families. It was printed by J Purtell and sold for one penny
The Eldorado Mining Disaster
Jingle on the Lithgow Ironworks Tunnel Struggle
Printed as a one-penny broadside by the Lithgow-Hartley District 8 Hour
Committee and dated 11 August 1911 and signed by Richard Northey
(Secretary). It was quite common to sell these penny sheets to raise money for
relic/funds and this one supported the Ironworks Relief Fund. It was collected
in manuscript form from Mr Jack Mays of Lithgrow in 1973. I have recorded a version of this song on my ABC Record release ‘Larrikins, Louts & Layabouts’
There lies poor Les Darcy
Way down in Tennessee
There lies poor Les Darcy
His mother’s pride and Joy
Yes Maitland’s fighting boy
All I can think of tonight
Is to see Les Darcy fight,
How he beats them,
Simply eats them
Every Saturday night
And people in galore
Said they had never saw
The likes of Les before
Upon the stadium floor.
They called him a skiter
But he proved to them a fighter
But we lost all hope
When he got that dope
Way down in Tennessee.
The next song has a noble history in that it came from the horrific 1911 strike at Hoskin’s Mine in Lithgow. According to jack and Jim “The strike went on for many months and divided the whole of Lithgow, families against families. It was tragic especially since the strike came about after the miner’s asked for an increase of tuppence in the ton. Hoskins responded by lowering their rate by tuppence.”
When You Give That Tuppence back, Charlie Dear
(Tune: When The Sheep are In The Fold, Jenny Dear)
Jim Champion was a retired Lithgow miner I interviewed about
the ‘bad old days’. He told me in 1973 that: ‘Miners were a dying
race that had been killed off by the system. In the old days we
worked hard and played hard and there was real comradeship with
the Lithgow miners because the mine owners also owned the
town—lock, stock and barrel. Music was very important to our
community and we loved to hear songs, poems and stories about
miners. It made us feel as one.’
The following came from Jim.
Two Miners’ Toasts
May God above send down a dove
With wings as sharp as razors
To cut off the lousy bastards’ heads
That lowered the brace boys’ wages.
Not a penny off our pay
Not a minute on the day
Two quid on the pay
And a shorter working day!
In The Coal Mine
God! You don’t know what it is—
You in your well-lit sky,
Watching the meteors whizz,
Warm, with the sun always by.
God! If you had but the moon
Stuck in your cap for a lamp
Even you’d are of it soon,
Down in the dark and the damp.
Nothing but blackness above
And nothing that moves but the cars
God! If you wish for our love –
Fling us a handful of stras.
Note: Anon from Jim Champion 73 Jim added ÒOh, lots of local miners knew that one.