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The Song of the Sheetmetal Worker

[John Dengate]

Danny Spooner sang John Dengate’s Song of the Sheetmetal Worker on his 2007 CD of fairly contemporary Australian songs, Emerging Tradition. He noted:

John Dengate’s songs run the gamut of human experiences; often humorous and biting he has long been a chronicler of the Australian political and social experience. Proud of his Irish and working class background, John has combined the two in this tribute to his father, written in 1974. John’s haunting words are carried on the Irish Air for the Valley of Knockanure.


Danny Spooner sings The Song of the Sheetmetal Worker

Oh, when I was a boy in Carlingford
All sixty years ago,
The eucalypts grew straight and tall
And the creeks did sweetly flow.
But times was hard when the old man died
And the orchard would not pay,
So I left the land for the fact’ry bench
And I’m working there still today.

I’ve earned my bread in the metal shops
For forty years or more,
My hands are hard and acid-scarred
As the boards on the workshop-floor,
My soul is sheathed in Kembla steel
And my eyelids have turned to brass.
And the orchard’s gone, and the apple trees
Where the wind whispered through the grass.

The workbench is my altar
Where I come to take the host,
Copper, brass and fine sheet steel—
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
The sacramental wine of work
Grows sour upon my tongue.
Oh, the fruit was sweet on the apple trees
When my brothers and I were young.