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The Jolly Swagman and Guy Fawkes; The same bloke?

As Australia Day draws near, while  compliling  Aussie songs for front bars, I've found myself drawn yet again to the story of struggle, revolution, violence and death.  I've had the honour of playing the song in eight different countries (that's me on the sqeezebos in this Youtube,playing a festival in Poland) and believe that if more people knew what was behind the song they wouldn't be so quick to leap back to their usual favourite; one about a rogue Irishman in Australia gunfighting to the death with the local cops- the Wild Colonial Boy.

To save regurgitating the yarn I ask you to follow this link  (not a long piece) where you find the story of an agitator of civil unrest who started creating trouble vritually from the moment he set foot in Australia. After being involved in dockyard unrest in Sydney, our Jolly Swagman worked his way northwards, to be involved in the kerfuffle surrounding the shearer's strike of 1891., best summed up in this Henry Lawson song. which led to a showdown several years later on a sheep station, during which the shearing shed was burned down.  Police responded by attacking the revolting unionists' camp, while, at a nearby waterhole, a man that would now be called a terrorist committed suicide.

Bouncing such notions around on Facebook, I received a response that the tale was "like Guy Fawkes".  Barry was right in more ways than he realised.  Not only are the two stories of a revolutionary, destruction by fire and the protagonist's death as the price, but they're also stories that have become iconic legends of rebellion commemorated annually,for so long after the times  of the tales that most of the celebrants have no idea what they're celebrating.

Think about it when someone puts on the CD at the Aussie Day barbeque.  It's amazing, really, that we're not making a wooden man, putting a swinging cork hat on it and burning our swagman in effigy.... but nooo, we grab a snag and a stubby and sing the chorus with gusto.  Not just in Australia either- wherever in the world Aussies are gathering on this day, this song will be heard.

Remember, Remember, the fifth of... umm.. when did it happen?  Ah well, we don't have the Queen's Birthday on the Queen's Birthday, so there's nothing wrong with Australia Day being a nominal date to continue the memoralisation of Australia's most famous activist, is there? 

"And his ghost may be heard.."   Yep, there's still a whisper of revolution in the wind, and always will be, for as many years as Waltzing Matilda is still sung.

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The funny and the "not so"

Geoff Pahoff"I'm pretty certain Iowahawk's reference to Cotton Mather was tongue in cheek. In fact I'm sure it was. A parody of the reaction to the results of the special election, especially media reaction". 

Indeed I did appreciate the humor.

One though can never really be 100% certain. According to some Dems the loss of Virginia, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts is the impending chaos for the Republican Party. A party which of course is now in "terminal decline". Delusional idiocy in politics, like in sport, has no limit.

The number one idiot comment I ever read was during last years election, and it'll take some beating. Republican supporter paraphrased a day or two before the vote: We can still win this one. Why is everyone giving up? Everybody knows what Democrat voters (polled). are like. A good load of them are just as likely to stay at home stoned and eating nachos. I'm predicting the shock result of the century.

Democracy in action

Geoff Pahoff "Paul, Iowahawk said on the eve of the election that if Scott Brown won he would be the first Republican elected in the state of Massachusetts since Cotton Mather.

The "tea party" crowd is wrongly labelled as Republican, far right, wacky, religious right etc. Sure, many of them lean Republican etc; however, many probably don't. I wouldn't hesitate in thinking that many amongst them voted Obama in the Presidential election.

They're a wide variety of "people", and while the "tea party" isn't a "political party" (probably unlikely in the longer run) they'll remain as such. They'll also change the way both parties electioneer and choose candidates. Actually, a very good thing.

Republicans are favoured at the moment because they're not in power. The point of Mass was of course to prove a point. The simple point of who really runs this show. Republicans shouldn't take more out of that than was intended. The wind can change very quickly indeed.

Democracy like it or not is about majority rule, and the majority isn't happy - and they haven't been happy for a long time - Obama being elected is proof of that. The days of saying the "right things" and doing the opposite are well and truly over. And it's probably too late for Obama - breaking faith is a terminal political disease.

Democracy has its problems to be sure; however, if one is using that system, one should be engaged to ones best ability. The "tea party" people are certainly engaging. Most of all they're asking for in Australian terms: A fair go.

Throw another cup of tea in the harbor

I'm pretty certain Iowahawk's reference to Cotton Mather was tongue in cheek. In fact I'm sure it was. A parody of the reaction to the results of the special election, especially media reaction. 

We the people.......

Jay Somasundaram "Perhaps we need a Boston Tea Party of our own"

In Massachusetts the Founding Fathers smiled (first time in a long time), whilst the so called President was crying. If he could understand why, he would deserve the title.

America has needed a titan for a long time, it's continually sent boy soldiers and a collection of clowns. None more so than the latest.

Helicoptor Ben may escape the hit list, plenty of others won't. The "tea party" is now easily the most popular party in America, than daylight, than the rest.

As it should be.

Still partying Paul?

Paul, Iowahawk said on the eve of the election that if Scott Brown won he would be the first Republican elected in the state of Massachusetts since Cotton Mather.

"America will soon descend into a post-apocalyptic fundamentalist hellscape of witch trials and cross-burnings, interrupted only by the ritual mass bulldozing of corpses killed by lack of access to affordable health care."

It's not what colour you are ...

.. it's, ..um.., what colour you are. 

A couple of extracts from Richard's link that caught my eye:

On February 26th 1891, the Australian Shearers’ Union resolved to admit Aboriginal workers without entrance fees. The Shakespeare hotel in Barcaldine allowed all Union members to drink there, including Aboriginal members, which made it one of the few places where Aborigines were treated equally in the 1890’s.


The Shakespeare hotel in Barcaldine declared their house union on March 6th 1891. They gave free beer to the unionists, and fired the Chinese chef.

I guess the early Labour movement recognised it would be fairly futile to attempt to extend the White Australia Policy to Aborigines


A shrewd observation

A shrewd observation from Geoff Pahoff. Got worse after Federation, the Aboriginals lost even the rudimentary  property rights allotted them under the previous British colonial system.

Makes for sad reading...

Lowitja O'Donahue

The Swaggies ghost is heard less in Australia and more in knock about places in the third world. But he'll be back when we emerge from our "Dreamtime", like our Indigenous brothers and sisters, two centuries ago.

At the moment, he'll be watching some gold-skinned Norma Rae attempting to organise a footwear factory in Manila or sweat shop in Bangkok as the bosses goons prepare to dish out another hiding.

He'll notice a deathsquad looking into some Indian trying to protect his family and ancestral lands from developers or ranchers in the Amazon or some other part of Latin America. He notice who organised the coup that put some military thug in power in one of the failed states of Africa or some resource rich feudal part of central asia or the Middle East.

His ghost had a quick look here, and found most of us were satisfied with the Higgins basic wage Settlement of the Federation years and the later Bretton Woods economic Settlement, apart from the eviction and soupkitchen ruckusses of the 'thirties. His work accomplished here, the ghost and his mate Joe Hill moved on to bear witness to the Spanish Civil War and then the other cruelties of the twentieth century.

 He'll remain disappointed that we went to sleep on a full belly, because he knew the price of freedom would be eternal vigilance. He'll be sad that we became the problem instead of the solution, although he and Joe will know we were lulled into apathy by consumerism and the false myths of tabloid culture that play on and feed off our innermost desires and fears.

They'll know that like ancient Athens or Rome, we''ll have had our day in the sun ( apart from global warming, of course! ) and are as now bound for obscurity as the Spanish Empire of the sixteenth century.

Too Toynbee or Spenglerist, you say?

Just realist, I say.

Not in our time or our kids time, or their kids time.

Enough people might fight for a lost cause to keep the ideas of freedom, identity and community awake for another generation or two.

By then the geneticists may have found some new ideas for drowning out disagreeable social impulses like those shared by the Swaggie, Joe Hill,  and and the other budding disciples who have sat beneath a since poisoned Tree of Knowledge to find out who and what they really were, throughout history


Thank you, Richard, for piquing my curiosity.

It appears that our government actually paid an American company copyright fees  to play the Waltzing Matilda at the Atlanta Olympics.

As we play the CD at the local Barbie, perhaps we should contemplate that we have simply moved from one type of dominion to another. Perhaps we need a Boston Tea Party of our own 

One man's terrorist is another man's folksinger on tour.

A terrorist? What for? For shoving a few jumbucks in his tucker bag?

Sounds a little harsh to me. Look, I'm sure the shearers camp would have been pretty revolting, as you say, it being Barcaldine and January and all, especially with all those unionists around. No doubt an itinerant Polish folksinger with a taste for bagged sheep could only have made things worse. And sure, that nasty of habit of exploding into song and drowning every time the cops show up would not have helped. Like Kenny in Southpark.

But a terrorist? In the same class as Guy Fawkes? (Now there's a man who really knew how to explode). Come on Richard. No way. There isn't even any evidence he was a Catholic.

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