We Made the Steel – Living Tradition

We Made the Steel: Songs of the Steel Industry in 1960s New South Wales

Private Label RF043CD

 [From Living Tradition #96 (May 2013) – UK folk magazine published in Kilmarnock, Scotland.]

The Roaring Forties is a group of strong individual singers, renowned for the powerful impact they make when singing together. They are Chris Maltby, Tom Hanson, John Warner, Margaret Walters and Robin Connaughton. Each is a respected singer in their own right, but they love singing together choosing songs that tell of real people, their lives and work. The complement their traditional repertoire with original compositions concerning Australia’s social and industrial history,

For 16 years from the mid 1960s, Robin worked in the steel industry in Wollongong. Over the years since, he has regaled the group with many fascinating stories from that time. With some encouragement from writer, John Warner, Robin has turned this material into song and verse, This has resulted in a CD packed with ripping yarns, dry humour, poignant laments and lots of great choruses. John has written a couple too.

Themes touched on include the displacement of indigenous people in Hill 60, the despoliation of the environment in Red Kembla, where everything turns red from the dust that the converters make; illness and leukemia in The Price of SteeI; the relationship of workers to each other and the bosses in The Ballad of Lovely Tom, Machinery vesus Man and George Talks to Steel; with pranks and risktaking in Mount Ousley, The Galvanising Shop and The Strange Death of Georgie Bell; women in the workplace in The Sankey Benson Press Shop and the pride of workers have in the workplace in Steelers March. And we simply adored the tales of The Steelworks Cat – catching mice etc but still nicking half of your lunch.

Four songs make use of traditional tunes like the Ash Grove and Little Chance, while three are unaccompanied. The songs give a fresh feel to themes that will resonate in the UK across the ex-industrial heartlands. A treat for listeners as well as singers – we can hear many of these songs becoming classic folk club material in future years.

A full set of notes with pictures and explanations of the origins of each song is available.

Kathy and Bob Drage.

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