TO THE WORKMEN OF THE LAND WILLIAM STITT JENKINS Dedicates “The Song of the Sons of Toil.” (Air – Scot’s what hae.)

Sons of labour through the land,
Men of hard and horny hand,
‘Gainst each proud oppressor stand,
And ye shall be free.
Though the Press at times may rail,
Keep from brandy, rum and ale,
Then your efforts ne’er shall fail,
But the people see.
Ye for honest ample pay,
Eight hours working every day,
Eight for sleep and eight for play,
Or your minds to free.
From the love of paltry “notes,”
From the fear of “plural votes,”
From the men of sable coats,
Soul and body free.
[Trusting] in your own right hand,
Be a firm united band,
Then no “Williams” in the land
Can your cause o’erthrow.
Then no puny child of clay
E’er shall have his stubborn way,
But to regions far away
Bundle up and go.
Fear ye not such selfish elf,
Caring only for himself;
Heed ye not his hoarded pelf,
Nor his moneyed friends.
Hold together, might and main;
From John Barleycorn abstain;
Glorious sunshine for your pain
Soon shall make amends.
Brothers of the Austral isle
Soon shall fortune on you smile
Noble-hearted sons of toil –
People great and small.
Better days shall on ye shine,
Seated near your fig and vine,
In that good and happy time
God protect you all.
Geelong, 13th January, 1864.

Title:To the Workmen of the Land

Author:William Stitt Jenkins

Publication:Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

Date:March 26TH 1864

Keywords:class, morality, politics, song, work


This poem was written in the Australian town (now city) of Geelong and is addressed to Australian workers but serves in this context to entice emigration from a Lancashire region whose cotton industry was yet to recover from the effects of the American blockade. There is a sense here of a contrasting rural idyll in the sunshine, offering a lifestyle which includes eight hours a day each for work, play, and rest – a work-life balance that few British workers could enjoy. There are also elements of class tension included, in references to ‘moneyed friends’, and temperance, discouraging the noble ‘sons of toil’ from indulging in ‘brandy, rum, and ale’. – SR