This is my first issue as Editor of The Hummer. I would like to thank Nick Dyrenfurth on behalf of the Sydney Branch of the ASSLH for his exemplary work as Editor and contributor to The Hummer, as well as his active participation in the branch.
This issue features an article by Ron Ringer tracing the early economic and social history of an occupation that helped to build Sydney – brickmaking. Drawing on research for his book The Brickmasters, Ron explores the changing nature of brickmaking technology and work organisation, and how this affected the workers who laboured in often difficult conditions from the earliest days of European colonisation through the nineteenth century.
A moving contribution from Adelaide poet Geoff Goodfellow, Elegy for Chris, reminds us that the high incomes on offer today in the mining industry can come at a high personal cost. Worker safety and the effect of accidents on workers’ families were also the main themes of a recent Branch event at Sydney Trades Hall commemorating the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic. Sue Tracey reports on the talks, while Margaret Walters provides background and lyrics to two of the songs that were performed at the event.
Music is also the focus of a talk given by Silvia Salisbury at the National Folk Festival in Canberra this year. Silvia reflects on the highlights of a performing career spanning sixty years in theatre and music, with an emphasis on the rich Australian bush tradition. Silvia continues to perform in the Sydney Trade Union Choir.
Sue Tracey contributes a review of the latest book by union official, senior tribunal member and author Jim Macken, What Is to Be Done? The Struggle for the Soul of the Labour Movement. Drawing on a lifetime of involvement in industrial relations, the book outlines the author’s concerns with the direction taken by the political and industrial wings of the labour movement and their difficulties confronting the increasingly precarious nature of work. Sue has also contributed an obituary for union activist and campaigner for equal pay, Betty Spears.