To the Master Builders
From Ralph Kelly
Union Number 3492.

Mr Martin, sirs and gentlemen, I trust that you are well,

And disposed I hope to reading this story that I tell.

Though ill-equipped for writing, and silent in the past,

I take out my stub of pencil to have a say at last.

Of my years as builder’s labourer, you of course can’t know,

I count them on my callouses, and hair that’s streaked with snow;

And not one word against you have I ever thought or spoken,

My faith in toil and dignity remained throughout – unbroken.

For life is sweet for living, when you overlook the rough,

A job, a home, a loving wife, I guess just THAT’s enough.

Of course some builder’s labourers don’t share my own solution,

For we hear the many speeches for strike and revolution.

The world is full of discontent, and men are heard to say,

“There’s no future for the kind of man who takes the easy way.”

But take the easy way I have, for always I was taught

That peace is found in simple things with honest money bought.

But Life has reached a cross-road – I admit a little late,

And a lot of things I never saw, I learned outside your gate.

Locked out and sent home jobless! Me, who did his best!

Branded as a LABOURER, lumped with all the rest!

The sun came up next morning, I sat among my fears,

Thinking of the sweat I’d shed, counting up the years.

And I thought about the Union Hall where Union members stand

To speak the way that members do who wear the Union brand.

And their roar to lift the rafters in a savage battle cry

As I sat alone and doubting – today I wonder why.

For I find that I’m not young, but not too old to see the light;

Not too old to toil, sirs, and not too old to fight!

For all that I have loved – those things I cling to still;

If I must fight to keep them, then fight by God I will.

Yes, the Master Builders’ lockout has shown me where I stand,

And respectfully advise you – I wear the Union brand.

NSW Branch Records, Mitchell Library, Sydney, MSS 4879, Box 04262