After the death of a pedestrian, due to poorly maintained brakes, crowds jammed Auckland’s Queen Street to cheer tramway workers who, led by Welsh born Arthur Rosser, went on strike in 1908 to protest the sacking of one of their members without explanation. After four days the men returned to work and a special investigation found their protest was justified.
Beg pardon; what's that you say, sir? You want to hear the tale
Of the time when we men came out, sir, an' made the tyrants quail?
When we covered ourselves with glory, an' showed the public 'ow
We could prove that we were 'eroes when we faced a bally row?
'Tis a 'soul-enthralling tale, sir, for we fought 'gainst fearful odds,
And we proved that we were 'eroes, tho' they thought we was senseless clods,
Two hundred and fifty we mustered, an' you'll seeit was no great fun
For the odds they was 'eavy against us — the enemy numbered one.
And our uniforms might be dirty, but our 'earts was firm and true,
For we knew we had Rosser with us, an' the mighty public, too;
And Rosser 'e called a meeting, an' we cheered when we 'eard him say
That me an' my mates made 'istory,when we went on strike that day.
An' he said, "Boys, I won't forsake yez, for, tho' I'm a bold Jaipee,
I'd chuck it before I'd leave yez!" So we gives 'im three times three.
For ain't 'e a slap-up 'ero? An' so is A, J. Black.
Who told us to keep our 'earts up, an' laugh at Walklate's slack.
Oh, there's many a 'orny 'anded 'as a 'eart that is boundiu' free.
An' a 'ero's soul within 'im, just like my mates and me.
Well, we 'eld our union meetin's, an' I made a speech myself—
I'm a pretty good 'and at yappin', tho' I ain't got a lot of pelf,
But there's many an 'orny-'anded 'oo's a horator like a torf.
Want to prove it? 'Ear the Socialists on Sundays near the wharf.
Then we drew up resolutions— they wasn't exactly meek,
But we wanted to show our strength, sir; we was sick of Walklate's cheek.
An! we carried them all together— unanimous, just to show,
That our 'eroes 'arts was beatin' in sympathy, you know.
But the manager wouldn't listen to his poor, down-trodden men,
For 'e 'adn't learnt we was 'eroes, So we started to teach 'im then.
An' as each man brought his car, sir, to the terminus, there 'e stopped,
An' 'e stepped from 'is car in glory, as 'is 'andle bars 'e dropped.
You should 'ave 'eard the crowd a- cheerin', for their sympathy went witb us,
An' they shook our 'orny 'ands, sir, an' tbey made a pretty fuss.
For they knew that we was 'eroes, so they cheered us loud an' long,
For they knew we was fellow workers, an' they saw that our cause was strong.
An' the brave red flag went wavin' from the window overhead,
An' I felt that for that flag, sir, I'd 'ave willin'Iy dropped down dead.
Wot tho' it were but a kerchief, wot tho' it wanted a wash,
You may sneer at my 'igh hemotions, but your sneer is simply bosh.
There's many a 'orny 'anded can fight with an iron will,
An' carry 'imself like a 'ero, too' 'e can't pay 'is butcher's bill.
There's many a 'orny 'anded 'oo can give 'is employer knocks,
An' make 'im change 'is mind, sir, tho' 'e cannot change 'is socks.
So we leapt from our car in triumph, an' the rest was quite a treat,
For we'd nothin' to do, you see, sir, except to sleep an' eat
Wot's that? Wot about our families? Lor' love a duck! You see,
They must pay it they'd own a 'ero— that's a josser same as me.
Wot does Capital do but loaf, sir? Deny it if you can,
An' it lives on the fierce exertions of the 'ard-pushed workin' man.
Well, the Labour Department got frightened, it was funny, if you like
But they didn't say we was 'eroes; they said we was out on strike!
An' they wired to J. A. Millar, while we laughed to think 'ow 'e
Would tremble to think 'e was dealin' witb 'eroes such aa we;
An' Poole 'e up an' told us he was with us every time,
An' 'e shook us by the 'and, sir, 'e's a 'ero, too, sublime.
An' you ought to 'ave seen the scene, sir, when we met at 'alf-past two,
An' Rosser 'e sed we was 'eroes, as we'd done wot we ought ter do.
I'm a poor, 'ard-working man, air, but 1 wiped away a tear
When I eard our Arthur speakin', an' I sed, sez I, "'Ear! 'Ear!"
Then we went to our 'omes that evenin', to prepare for to-morrer's fray,
An' I sez to the wife: "I'm a 'ero." But she never sed, " 'Ooray!"
No; she only asked for my wages, an' wot she an' the kids would do
If the strike should last much longer; sez I; " Wot's that to you?"
I told 'er I was a 'ero, as Arthur Rosser sed
That I'd covered myself with glory, but she told me to go to bed.
It was more than I could stand, sir, so I up and told 'er straight.
"You'll know," I sed, "I'm a hero, when it's p'raps" I sed, "too late."
An', I sed, "You'll be sorry then, for," I sed, " the 'ard things wot you sed."
I sed, "To-night, see!" But she sed, sed she, "Wot rot!"
So I smoked a mournful pipe, sir, an' I read that evenin's Star,
An' I saw 'Enery Brett admitted wot 'eroes we fellows are.
Then I went to bed, and slept, sir, as a 'ero ought to do,
An' I wondered if J. J. Walklate was tryin' to slumber, too.
Well, I went down town in the mornin', to see what was doin' there,
An' I put my Sunday clothes on, an' I neatly curled my 'air.
An' I left the wife a-sniffin', an' as she sniffed, she sed,
"Suppose this strike continues, where will me and the kids get bread?"
But I only waved my 'and, sir, with an 'eroic kind of smile,
An' I went to town, an' I walked, sir, in my most 'eroic style,
An' I met a lot of people 'oo'd shook 'ands with me yesterday,
And may I forever be jiggered if they didn't turn away.
No 'ands were outstretched to grasp me, an' I thought, "Well, this is strange."
An' then, of course, I struck it— the reason of the change,
I'd my uniform on before, sir, but I 'adn't it on that day,
An' that, you see, was the reason why the people turned away.
But I thought, "'Tain't right that a 'ero should be insulted thus."
So I stuck up a kind old gent, sir, gettin' out of a Ponsonby 'bus.
Sed I, "I'm one of the 'eroes. Shake 'ands!" But I grieve to tell
That the gent 'e cursed just shocking an' 'e told me to go to— well
The place I needn't mention. But that gent was full of fight,
An' 'e spluttered, " You bally brigand, I'd to walk five miles last night,
An' it cost me sixpence this mornin' to get a ride to town;"
An' 'e didn't call me a 'ero, 'e called me a silly clown.
Oh, 'e cussed, did that dear old gent, sir, till I blushed like a bloomin' rose.
An' 'e said if 'e found 'that Rosser' 'e'd punch 'im on the nose.
So I left 'im to cuss at leisure, an' walked about the street,
Till it came to the hour they'd mentioned when the unions 'ad to meet.
An' we met, and we met again, sir, and we went on meetin' till
I got fair sick o' the meetin's, but they went on meetin' still.
An' I did'nt know 'ow it'd end, sir, but I don't mind tellin' you
I got sick of bein' a 'ero, an' I wanted some work to do.
For wot's the good of a 'ero, when each night in that 'ero's life
'E gets a lengthy lecture from 'is un'eroic wife,
An' the salary of the 'ero shows signs of gettin' small,
An' there may soon come a time, sir, when there's darned well none at all.
An' now shake 'ands; good-bye, sir, you won't forget my tale.
In the long, long winter evenin's, when the yarns are growin' stale.
You can tell the boys my story, of the 'eroes of tbe cars;
They'll be known to future ages just as well as Nelson's tars,
For there's never a doubt we're 'eroes, we've proof of that fact, you know.
For Arthur Rosser has told us, an', of course, 'e ought to know,
For Arthur's a 'ero 'imself, sir; you can tell it by his phiz,
So go and look at Arthur, if you'd know wot an 'ero is.
The end