AUSTRALIAN RAILWAY STORY

Railway Voices CD: 6. SECOND CLASS WAIT HERE

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Chris Kempster folksinger and researcher on the life of Henry Lawson

The thing that comes to my mind about Lawson and "Second Class Wait Here", and the roaring days, the times of which he wrote, was that it was time of transition from the massive times of the sailing ships, the great sailing ships that opened up the world ... into the steam age, with the railways in particular, as bringers of news, of goods, carriers, transport. He came to Sydney in 1884, he was apprenticed at Hudson Brothers at Clyde as a carriage painter. I understand he worked on the trains there, too, but mainly on coach painting. In "Second Class Wait Here", he sort of refers to his thoughts about the segregation of classes. The class distinctions. If you were not of the right background and didn't dress right, you went to the second class toilets, and he said in the poem there,

That a man must feel revengeful, for a boyhood such as mine,
God I hate the very houses, near the workshop by the line.
And the smell of railway stations and the roar of running gear,
And the scornful seeming signboards saying, Second Class Wait Here.

Railway Voices a CD of Australian railway workers stories with songs and poems