After the chairman had said Bobby Burns' well-known grace
Some hae meat wha canna eat,
An' some can eat, but want it,
But we hae meat an' we can eat,
An' sae the Lord be thankit.
the company made an onslaught on the edibles before them, and as the cold weather had sharpened the edges of their appetites the tables were soon relieved of a little of their weight. When all had been allowed ample time for this part of the business of the evening, the chairman rose and said that aim of the annual dinners was to cement the feeling, of good fellowship that existed amongst the members of the organization—the New South Wales Engine-drivers and Firemen's Association. All who were employed by the department were allowed certain holidays; and it was his opinion that by this annual dinner they both showed their appreciation of the boon and gave any who had grievances to complain if a chance to ventilate them. A bond of unity was established amongst fellow.workmen by these gatherings. He asked them to drink the health of " The Queen" in bumpers and with three cheers.
The request was responded to with great heartiness.
Mr. Gannon, M. P., said that his name had been put down on the programme for an address ; but he was rather in the dark as to what he should say, for he had not received a hint about the subject on which he was expected to address them. To use a legal phrase it appeared to him that he was being got at " under false pretences," as he had made no preparation or study for a speech. (Laughter.) He felt, however, that it was a compliment possessing great pleasure for him to have received an invitation to the dinner. He had whenever he could endeavoured to promote the happiness of the working-men of the colony; but he wished them to understand that when he spoke of working-men he did not allude to those people who although they were of the class of workmen were merely loafers able to work, but unwilling. Labour as a calling was as honest as any other. He himself, though in a different line to themselves, was a working - man ; and after an experience and observation ex- tending over many years he had come to the conclusion that no man in New South Wales who possessed health and strength and was not afraid to work, need be poor. It was not at all times wise to make a long after-dinner speech, especially when reporters, whose presence might perhaps act as a check on some of them, were there. The social feeling that prevailed amongst the workingmen present he had noticed with great pleasure, and the intelligence they evidently possessed was also very gratifying to observe. There was a time when he used to think engine drivers and firemen were a shoddy lot of fellows ; but since then he had discovered his mistake, as he had never met more able or more intelligent work men. There had been many slurs cast upon them in Parliament when the Licensing Bill was being discussed ; but he certainly did not believe in them. He considered it was a monstrous piece of injustice to contend that if refreshment-rooms were established on the railway lines drunkenness would be promoted amongst the drivers and firemen. If they wanted to drink there were other places were they could get the liquor, or they could carry it with them; and if they did not want to drink the existence of the refreshment-rooms would not cause them to do so. During the many years that he had travelled on the railways of this colony he had never seen any of the drivers or firemen the worse for liquor. In other colonies—Queensland and Victoria—there were refreshment-rooms all along the lines of railway ; and complaints of drunkenness amongst their drivers and firemen were never heard. It would be a great boon to travellers to have these refreshment rooms, especially when trains were running all night, a fact that should not be overlooked or neglected. They would not do harm in the way of promoting drunkenness, because, as could be noticed every day, notwithstanding the most stringent provisions to foster sobriety, drunken men were to be seen at all times and on all occasions. Men and women would not be made sober by act of Parliament, and the absurd restrictions imposed by the now Licensing Bill tended to encourage fraud and deception and thus demoralized men more than the liquor would. A question that ought to be considered in connection with drivers and firemen was the long hours they were compelled sometimes to work. By a return lately laid before the House he saw that on some lines in the colony men were kept at work for twenty-one consecutive hours. In that case it was impossible for men to do their work properly. Such long hours must impair their energies and strength ; and if an accident were to occur through it, it would perhaps be uncharitably set down to drunkenness. He would do all in his power to remedy this bad state of things and, in conclusion he assured them that it would always give him much pleasure to attend their annual dinners. (Cheers)
Mr. Hairsine proposed the health of " The Commissioner of Railways," eulogizing that officier warmly. He said that Mr. Goodchap had the good wishes and esteem of all the employes in the department. The toast was drank with musical honors.
Mr. J. Harkness said that he had been requested to respond on behalf of the Commissioner, and for that gentleman he therefore begged to tender them his best thanks for the enthusiastic manner in which they had received the toast. It was a mark of respect that Mr. Goodchap was entitled to, as he would always see strict justice done between man and man.
Mr Chicken here favored the company with the well-known motto song, "All that Glitters is not Gold".
The next toast—that of "Our Officers"—was proposed by Mr. T. McFadgen.
Mr. Proctor, in replying, said that it gave him great pleasure to be present that evening. During his term of office in Goulburn he had always found the drivers ready and willing to perform their work ; and that fact he thought it was his duty to mention.
After a song from Mr. Morgan, Mr. J. Starky proposed the toast of " Our Rail ways" He said the duty of proposing the toast was one that gave him great pleasure. He was glad to see Messrs. Teece and Gannon, members of Parliament, present that night, as they would have opportunity of judging of the character of the men who had invited them. Mr. Gannon's reference to the refreshment-room was very proper. It was unjust for anyone to imagine that the opening of the rooms on the lines would induce the men to indulge in drink. He had associated with the railway employees for a great number of years, and he could say that it would be impossible to find a more sober lot of men in the city. It was a great mistake amongst many people to imagine that a driver or fireman had no possibility. Such was not the case, for where passengers were carried the driver of the engine had as much responsibility in the care of human life as the captain of a ship, perhaps more, for sometimes they had charge of as many as 2000 souls. The toast was drunk enthusiastically.
Mr. J. G. Dennis responded. This colony was indebted to her railways, and nowadays a country could not call itself civilized unless it had a system of railway extension. Railways were a great benefit in opening up the country ; by their aid vast areas had been thrown open that but for it would have been comparatively useless. It was very necessary that railway employee should be men who thoroughly understood their duties, for al- though the railways might be well constructed and the engines properly made, they would be useless if not in the hands of competent men. Drivers of locomotives were invested with a great responsibility that required all their attention ; and before entering upon their duties they had to pass a medical examination. He felt greatly honored in being asked to respond to the toast.
Mr. Stuart then gave a recitation, after which Mr. Teece, M.L.A., thanked them for their kindness in sending him an invitation to be present at the banquet. He was pleased to meet so many who were employed by the most progressive department in the colony. The hardships they had to encounter, and the anxiety attendant on their duties, made their responsibilities greater than those of any other government servants. The warm manner in which they had drunk the health of the commissioner and their officers he had observed with pleasure. It showed that they respected those above them, and the absence of any grievance was an additional satisfaction ; but he felt sure that if anything calling for complaint ever did occur Mr. Goodchap was just the man who would rectify it. The long number of hours which the men were sometimes compelled to work had been referred to by Mr. Gannon ; but it had been found impossible to place any fixed limit on the hours of labour, as there were so many things against it. As was well known the Government was the largest employer of labour in the colony by far; and the Commissioner was bound to take that important fact into his careful consideration. Some time ago a resolution was passed in favour of the eight-hour system ; but up to the present it had been found impracticable to carry it out in the case of the divers and firemen. The Commissioner had, how ever, done something, and under the present regulations fifty-five hours a week was fixed as the maximum amount of labour for the workman. It was still possible that the eight-hour system would be introduced in its entirety in the railway department especially as the advisability of establishing double shifts for each day had been mooted—(applause)
Mr. Hunter proposed the health of " Our Visitors," saying he was glad to see two delegates from Victoria present, and one each from Sydney and Bathurst. He hoped that at all their annual dinners they would be favoured by the presence of representative from other places.
Mr. Fowster (Melbourne), in responding, expressed the pleasure he felt in being the representative of the drivers and firemen of Victoria at an important re-union like the present. He was a strong believer in the good effect of these dinners in causing the settlement of grievances, and the sinking of ill-feeling. The high opinion expressed by members of Parliament of the engine-drivers and firemen of New South Wales had pleased him greatly to hear. There was an erroneous idea prevailing in this colony as to the result to the employers opening refreshment rooms on the railway lines, and it was untrue that the accidents in Victoria had been caused by drunkenness on the part of the drivers. He must congratulate this colony on the state of the lines and the rolling-stock, but he did not think that the drivers should be so insulted as.to have the imputation thrown at them that they could not be trusted within a refreshment room. From what he had seen of Goulburn he believed that the city had a great future before it ; and, before he sat down, he must thank them heartily for the manner in which he and his fellow visitors had been received. (Applause.)
Mr. Highe (Melbourne) and Mr. Chicken (Bathurst) also responded in suitable terms. Mr. Palmer next gave a recitation, and Mr. Morgan played a selection on the bagpipes. Mr. Mustard then proposed " Our Mechanics, the toast being warmly received.
Mr. Harkness replied in a neat and sensible speech. He said he liked reunions like the present, as they were the means of renewing old friendship, and because they were open to officers and men in every branch of the department. Considering that there were so many good mechanics in Goulburn, it had occasioned him much surprise that monied men had not endeavoured to establish local industries. The situation of the town was remarkably favorable for such enterprises, and its mineral deposits were another argument in favor of such a line of action. He concluded by thanking the company for the manner in which they had drunk the toast.
Mr. J. Watson sang "The White Squall."
Mr Doyle, in proposing the health of "Our Pumpers," was warmly commendatory of his subject. The toast was drunk heartily. Mr. McKellar responded, and :dwelt: upon the good feeling that existed between the pumpers and the drivers' and firemen, and the amiable way in which they worked together.
After a song—" The Old Log Cabin in the Lane"—by Mr Fox, Mr. Williams proposed the toast " The Ladies," Mr. Wadsworth reponding.
Mr. Starkey proposed the health of " The Host. and Hostess," speaking in great praise of the sumptuous repast Mr. and Mrs. Bruton had set before them.
Mr. Gannon; at their desire returned thanks on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Bruton. "The Secretary and Committee of the Banquet," proposed by Mr. Gannon, was responded to by Mr. Dennis (secretary) for himself and the committee.
Mr. Highe sang "Irish Stew." Mr. Frost proposed the health of "The Chair- man," and after Mr. Gannon had spoken to the toast it was drunk enthusiastically, with cheers and musical honors. The Chairman replied, and the company, having sung the National Anthem, were prepairing to depart, when the toast of "The Press," which had been accidentally omitted from the programme, was proposed and drank, and responded to by the representatives of the local journals. The company then dispersed, and thus ended one of the most enjoyable evenings ever spent in Goulburn.