Friday, July 29, 2005

Pig Iron Bob

Pig Iron Bob Posted by Picasa

Many moons ago I was working with an older white haired gent Allan (aka Big Al) in a production planning department located in a large factory. Allan had worked for Digital corporation (or Burroughs as it was then known) as a "hacker" in the old days, when a hacker meant you were a programmer, hacking your way through code. He ws eventually bundled out of Digital as part of a new broom clearout. He loved his beer, his pies and the South Sydney Swans which he later followed in mid 80s an early 90's as the Sydney Swans. We used to sometimes go to games when there were 2000 people at the Sydney Cricket Ground, having a whole Berwongle grandstand on the Eastern side to ourselves.

We started work at 3am at a rather large bakery and finished at around 11am. It was a strange environment, darkness, strong coffee, cigarette smoke, classical music in the background..... working on what at the time was state of the art production planning tools where we got talking a lot.

He could be described as a "cranky old bastard" with a wit and wordplay I haven't seen that often. Opinions on everything and contempt for most, he nicknamed one woman, Louise "anagram" for example. If you get the above nickname without asking he'd probably like you.

He questioned everyone and exposed weaknesses mercilessly. And yet we got on rather well, perhaps because even when he was berating me I was usually laughing. There was no vanity around this guy, he deflated it like an expert flourishing an epee much in the way of the old guys as Socrates, delighting in pricking one's pride, arguing mercilessly and having one question one's raison detre. The people he regarded well could have been counted on one hand.

We were either talking footy (AFL) or politics and such and one day we were talking about prime ministers. I mentioned Bob Menzies. "PIG IRON BOB!" came back the reply "HRRRMMMPPHHHHH" and that was almost it. After some gentle cajouling, he went on to explain how Menzies had something to do with all the scrap iron that went to Japan to build ships and planes that almost saw Australia invaded in WW2. I never really chased up the full story until now. Looking at it now, drawing a long bow, it is similar to all that iron ore going to China from Oz, being sold back as cheap Chinese products.

I found an old song written in 1964 to do with "Pig Iron Bob" on a MUA centenary album written by a guy called Clem Parkinson. As an aside, there aren't many people named Clem these days, it's one of those "old fashioned" names that seems to have died out. The MUA are the old "Painters and Dockers Union" now known as the Maritime Union of Australia. They have a rather colourful history which I may go into later.

Anyway..... here's the song. With fond memories and thoughts to old Al.

The Pig-Iron Song

a song by Clem Parkinson ©1964 Clem Parkinson

Did you ever stop to wonder why the fellows on the job
Refer to Robert Menzies by the nickname Pig-Iron Bob?
It's a fascinating tale though it happened long ago
It's a part of our tradition evey worker ought to know

We wouldn't load pig-iron for the fascists of Japan
Despite intimidation we refused to lift the ban
With democracy at state the struggle must be won
We had to beat the menace of the fascist Rising Sun

It was 1937 and aggressive Japanese
Attacked the Chinese people tried to bring them to their knees
Poorly armed and ill equiped the peasants bravely fought
While Australian water siders rallied round to lend support

Attorney General Menzies said the ship would have to sail
"If the men refuse to load it we will throw them into jail"
But our unity was strong - we were solid to a man
And we wouldn't load pig-iron for the fascists of Japan

For the Judas politicians we would pay a heavy price
The jungles of New Guinea saw a costly sacrifice
There's a lesson to be learned that we've got to understand
Peace can only be secured when the people lend a hand


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