The Illawarra Flyer

A poem by Raymond Southall ©1975

There was chaos at the station when the train came in on time
And the stationmaster looked on in dismay,
While the anti-nationalizers were struck speechless by the crime
Perpetrated by a villainous S.R.A.
All the railway workers gathered, from stations far and near,
There were songs from the Central Station choir,
As they hoisted the red flag and drank fifty kegs of beer
To the hero of the Illawarra Flyer.

As the news went down the line of the epoch-making feat,
The steelworkers stopped work for the day,
The pubs served them free grog, there was dancing in the street
And BHP forgot to dock their pay.
The people’s pride and joy was so deep and elemental
Like an earthquake it hit the southern shore,
Like a bishop getting high or a bargain at Crown Central
It shook the social order to the core.

There were stories that the papers gave to driver George Muldine
Plus an Ansett fortnight up in Bulli Pass,
There were blessings from the Pope and a message from the Queen
With the Order of St. Pancras (Second Class).
The State Minister of Transport spoke of ordinary folk
Whose work it was had made the railway great,
“I’d like them all,” he said, “to stop work and have a smoke,
While I go and put a dollar on their rate.”

Now from Wollongong to Sydney, when the Flyer hurtles past,
Every Illawarra worker and his mate
Will tell you that for sure the station clock is fast,
For the Illawarra Flyer’s never late.
Of course, there are those who will say that I am lying,
There are those who’ll discredit every story,
But those of us who’ve seen Illawarra’s Flyer flying
Know they’ve seen a flash of silver bound for glory.


"I wrote it in the mid-1970s, shortly after arriving in Australia from the U.K.  It’s a good-humoured piece at the expense of the old service between Wollongong and Central and Wollongong’s reputation at that time as a somewhat red industrial town.
I hope you like it and can find a slot for it somewhere in Australia’s railway story.
With best wishes,

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