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Bring Out the Banners

[words John Warner, music trad.]

Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman sang John Warner’s song Bring Out the Banners in 2006 on their CD Unity. They commented:

John Warner wrote this song to sing at an exhibition of Union Banners at Trade Hall in Sydney in September 1997 around the time of the Australian maritime workers’ dispute. The union movement has a tradition of using hymn tunes as a vehicle for songs of struggle as the tunes were often well-known and, as in this case, powerful musically, and ideal for the function.

The first verse was John’s response to seeing a late 19th century photo of an eight-hour day march in which a locomotive, apparently under steam, led a procession of railway union workers.

Danny Spooner sang John Warner’s song Bring Out the Banners on his 2007 CD of fairly contemporary Australian songs, Emerging Tradition. He noted:

In April 2006, Australia, the first country in the world to win the Eight-hour Day should have celebrated proudly that 150-year old achievement. Today’s apathy about our early social contract, and systematic attacks on the union movement prompted John Warner to write this workers’ rallying call. Inspired by an old photograph John set his words to the tune Oxford, which also carries the words of the hymn See Amid the Winter’s Snow. The song deserves to become the anthem of all workers and the Trade Union Movement throughout the world.

Paul and Liz Davenport sang Bring Out the Banners on their 2011 Hallamshire Traditions CD Spring Tide Rising. and on the 2013 Seville House anthology Kelham Island Voices. They commented in their album’s notes:

Union banners are works of folk art. They are also becoming rarer. Our village not only has a working pit but it also has a rapper team associated with that pit. The badge on our dancers’ kit is also to be seen in the centre of the local NUM branch banner. We’re very proud of that so we learned this song. Thanks to Dave [Webber] and Anni [Fentiman] for bringing the song to our attention and to Maltby Phoenix Sword Dancers for keeping the faith.


Danny Spooner sings Bring Out the Banners

In a faded photo like a dream,
A locomotive under steam
Rolls with the ranks of marching feet
And union banners on the street.

Chorus (after each verse):
Bring out those banners once again,
You union women, union men,
That all around may plainly see
The power of our unity.

I’ve seen those banners richly made
Proud symbols all of craft and trade,
The union names in red and gold,
Their aspirations printed bold.

Boilermakers, smiths and cooks
Stevedores with cargo hooks,
Declare their union stout and strong
Rank on rank before the crowd.

They won for us the eight-hour day,
The won our right to honest pay,
Victorious their banners shone
How dare we cede what they have won?

Today, when those who rule divide,
We must be standing side by side,
Our rights were bought with tears and pain,
Bring out those banners once again.