We Made the Steel – Trad & Now

Trad & Now - June 2014[From Trad and Now vol 13, no. 5, June 2014, p. 66]

Sydney-based folk group, The Roaring Forties, featuring the talents of Margaret Walters, John Warner, Chris Maltby, Tom Hanson and Robin Connaughton, has produced a beautifully packaged CD that provides an intriguing insight into the steel industry of the 1960s NSW.

The album explores a variety of themes including the likely drinking culture that surrounds those with “a blast furnace gullet” (The Booze Fairy and Steelers’ March), the migrant experience (Ballad of Lovely Tom, Parts 1-6), and the central role that women played in the industry (The Sankey-Benson Press Shop).

It is on the poignant Hill 60, however, that the Roaring Forties packs the greatest punch.

It’s difficult to imagine the hardest of hearts remaining unmoved by the stark insight into the devastating displacement of indigenous peoples.

The acts of “the invaders” stain the land and ultimately lead to sorrow and despair being drowned in bottles of “Whitefella poison”. The touching references to natures (“the reeling birds” and the pelicans in flight”) symbolise all that is lost or under threat and highlight the perversity of the invader’s actions.

The nightmarish vision of “bloody tears”, flaming sky, “endless thunder”, “barbed wire, concrete and the gun” and the “smoky ironworks” that “shroud[s] the land in night” is likely to haunt the listener long after this thought-provoking track ends.

CD review by Graham Blackley

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