Western Sydney train travel: A tribute to John Dengate

June 19, 2015

Earlier this week I received one of the best CD double albums in a long time: John Dengate’s Australian Son, which is now distributed by Shoestring Records in the Blue Mountains (and run by folksinger Pat Drummond). Dengate “was the closest heir to the legacy of Henry Lawson that this country has known”, writes Warren Fahey, in the Dengate obituary published in the Sydney Morning Herald obituary on August 19, 2013.

Many of Dengate’s songs “have already passed into that hazy territory where the song is known and the songwriter anonymous”, Fahey writes.

“Train Trip to Guildford” (1975) is one of them. This song was also my ode for a two and a half year period in the 1980s that I spent travelling by train all over Western Sydney.

From the opening stanza:

Waiting, waiting for the twenty past four to arrive;
Mate, the twenty past four doesn’t run any more,
The next train’s the quarter past five.

To:

But it’s Wentworthville, Pendle Hill;
We’re rattling towards Emu Plains.
I should have got out when I heard someone shout
At Granville, “You have to change trains.”

This was my song.

Sydney (Carlingford) born, Dengate captured this time and place – those interminable Western Sydney train journeys – during the age of the unheated “red rattlers” and prior to the construction of the “Y link” that connected Harris Park and Parramatta, the southern line to the Western line without having to change trains. I worked in Blacktown then, for the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), and I didn’t own a car. What was I thinking?

So I listen now – some 30 years later – to Dengate’s voice and his songs, yet again (my cassette tape of his songs long unusable). It was another time and another place, but that Australia of the 1970s and 1980s that Dengate writes and sings about makes us who we are now. Worth listening for anyone who has a sense of social history, or wants to understand.

Below, the Australian Son album cover:

John Dengate Australian Son album cover

 

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