> Danny Spooner > Songs > Thirty-Ton Line

Thirty-Ton Line

[Don Henderson]

Danny Spooner sang Don Henderson’s Thirty-Ton Line on his 2007 CD of fairly contemporary Australian songs, Emerging Tradition. He noted:

When Don Henderson died on 20 August 1991, Australia lost one of its most prolific song makers. He was committed to the betterment of working conditions and a more peaceful world, and this song, written in 1979, reminds us that the lives of workers are constantly put at risk by employers seeking the cheaper option. As an ex-tug skipper the song evokes many memories for me.


Danny Spooner sings Thirty-Ton Line

Purpose-built tugs with line boats attending
Berth big, bulk coal-carriers in open seas,
To fulfil that function, the union contended
Required four deckhands, Fenwick’s said three.
Three deckhands and a motorman just couldn’t handle
Sixteen inch polyprop double dead-eyes.
When the tow-hook was blacked, the company gambled
On a tension winch, ten inch calm sea compromise.

Chorus (after each verse):
Broadsound, Belyando, Nebo, Serina
The sea snaps your hawsers like thin strands of twine.
Broadsound, Belyando, Nebo, Serina
Hundred-tons bollard-pull, thirty-ton line.

At two in the morning they’ve made fast the Martha,
At nine the Academy Star had been berthed;
Then all tugs and line-boats returned to the harbour
Their work being finished, the crews they dispersed.
But at five the same evening storm warnings were sounding
Cyclone approaching, no time for delay,
At their berths the big bulkies were taking a pounding,
Broadsound and Belyando must get them away.

With all engines driving the two tugs went pounding,
Got lines in the Martha on wharf number two,
Though twelve foot green water on their decks was crashing
The order “Use maximum power” had come through.
With the whole hull vibrating and the tension winch screaming
Then came the moment that all tug-men dread,
The sudden lurch forward and the broken line whipping
The thoughts of old ship mates, the injured, the dead.

The Martha was cleared just as our line had parted,
The Academy Star was on wharf number one,
Though the help we could offer was nought but a token
In her state, that help would be better than none.
But time and again we tried to position
To get her away with all possible speed,
But with jury-rigged lines and in such bad conditions,
Three deckhands and a motorman couldn’t succeed.

Only part loaded, riding high in the water,
The Academy Star could not be controlled,
For the strong on-shore wind had her hard on the quarter,
She slammed at the pylons ’till her hull had holed.
But still Utah’s bosses and those who do their will,
Put tugs to sea short on gear, undermanned;
One million dollars will be the repair bill,
They’d pay that in preference to one more deckhand.