The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #168402   Message #4069776
Posted By: Sandra in Sydney
27-Aug-20 - 01:25 AM
Thread Name: Rise Up Mudcat Songbook - Australia
Subject: RE: Rise Up Mudcat Songbook - Australia
Gotta have Union Street by Alistair Hulett

Siege of Union Street video
THE SIEGE OF UNION STREET (words & music by Alistair Hulett) words taken from 'The Cold Grey Light of Dawn' by Alistair Hulett & Dave Swarbrick
Musikfolk Ltd, 1997.

The Unemployed Workers Union was formed in Melbourne during the Great Depression to fight evictions by heartless landlords of destitute families for non-payment of rent. A Sydney branch soon followed and the UWU drew thousands into it's ranks. Matters came to a head in Union Street in the inner city suburb of Erskinville in Sydney, when over a thousand militants fought a pitched battle with police that lasted several days. The tenants were a 'war widow' and her children, so emotions were running high and the struggle received much media coverage
The Communist Party was deeply committed to supporting the UWU and the police had assistance from the covert right wing paramilitary group identified by D.H. Lawrence in his novel "Kangaroo." Casualties on both sides were high but the issue was finally resolved when the Labor State Premier, Jack Lang, introduced legislation to protect the unemployed from being thrown out of their homes. Jim Munroe, a founding member of the UWU is the source of the material on which much of this song is based.

You should have seen us down at Erko
Fourteenth August, Saturday night
To Newtown, Stanmore, Enmore and Petersham
Calls went out 'Workers unite!'
We built a bloody great wall
With planks and boards full seven foot tall
We didn't mind the howling wind and sleet
When we stood around the fire at Union Street

The man from the shop said put it on tick
The kids came round with bottles and bricks
There was Irish stew and home-made lemonade
They were grand old days on the barricade

I never thought I would join a party
Carry a card or see things red
The sight of bare foot children crying
Out on the pavement turned my head
Their old man's over in France
Flapping like a rag on a barbed wire fence
Their Mum does what she can to make ends meet
And she's down at the siege of Union Street

The cops came down and they came down hard
They must have numbered five hundred strong
They called us reds and they cracked our heads
To teach us poor sinners right from wrong
I learned a lesson that night
It's all out war when you stand and fight
I saw those brisk young coppers on their beat
Behave like thugs in Union Street

Sunshine danced on the broken glass
It shone like diamonds as morning broke
The cops were back by the railroad track
And the streets were filled with working folk
They'd bashed us bloody and raw
But it forced Jack Lang to change the law
Now the landlords have to cop it sweet
And the Red Flag flies over Union Street

The man from the shop gave out licorice sticks
To the kids who cleaned up the bottles and bricks
Down the years those memories never fade
Of the grand old days on the barricade.