11 Mar 2013

Labour Day

Galloway and Stephens

by Clem Parkinson

Who were the men who led the fight that won the eight hour day?
The men to whom we owe a debt we never can repay
Their names will live forever though they lie beneath the clay
'Twas no one else but Galloway and Stephens.

It was Galloway and Stephens who pioneered the trail
Who led the band of working men determined to prevail
And so we stand together as their names we proudly hail
And shout "hurrah" for Galloway and Stephens.

Back in the dark satanic days - a time when life was bleak
The workers toiled from dawn to dusk for 60 hours a week
Until they said "We'll make a stand - no time for being meek
We'll put our trust in Galloway and Stephens".

They were the honest working men the history books ignore
To tell instead of emperors and jingoistic war
And crooked politicians, worthless monarchs by the score
We'd trade them all for Galloway and Stephens

So far our Labour Day has gone well. Sleeping until 10:30 am makes the day somewhat shorter than our usual, but has put everyone in a remarkably good mood. Later, after we get out of our dressing gowns, we're going to take the dog for a walk and grab a coffee at our local cafe, the one with outside tables and a doggie water bowl and great coffee and chai flavoured cupcakes.

This afternoon we're going to visit the Eight Hour Day Monument and have a bit of a stroll down Lygon Street.

"Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest".

In 1856, the building workers of Melbourne fought and won a campaign to shorten the working week from 60 to 48 hours. That's what we're commemorating today, Labour Day.

The James Galloway and James Stephens from our song above were stonemasons. Galloway was corresponding secretary of the Stonemason's Society; Stephens, the president. Both of them led the 8 hours campaign in 1856. The bosses had agreed to honour an 8 hour day, but on 21st April, the agreed upon commencement day, Stephens learned that two bosses were refusing to allow their workers to work the agreed shortened hours. He called a meeting of the 700 men building The University of Melbourne, and they marched around the other building sites. All the other workers from these sites joined them, and they resolved to strike until the two recalcitrant bosses caved. They did that same night.

"Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest".

Our proportion is a little out of kilter today, I'll admit, but we're sure grateful that we don't work 60 hours a week nowadays.

How are you commemorating Labour Day?


  1. lol I always think of the farmers. Somehow I think very few of them get 8 hour days, 40 hour weeks. And where would we be without them?

  2. Glad to hear that you are enjoying Labour Day. We in the ACT are enjoying Canberra Day and celebrating our 100th birthday. We woke up early to watch to sunrise (see Wednesdays blog post for piccies).

    PS We don't have Labour Day until October!!

  3. I love that your Labour Day has more meaning to it than our Labor Day, which is basically just a weekend extension. Sleeping until 10:30 sounds heavenly!

  4. Thanks so much for this history lesson, I had no idea! We celebrate labour day in October. Yes I'm so glad we don't have 60 hour weeks!

  5. We all celebrate Labour Day on different days because we all got the 8 hour day on different days! I think!!


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