Bring out the Banners

Words: John Warner
Melody: adapted from “Oxford” by John Goss
Arrangement: Tom Bridges

Written by John Warner and arranged by Tom Bridges, this song was originally written for a May Day march, but applies equally to other union gatherings.

The song evokes the colourful vista of a line of passionate people standing up for a cause. Their multi-coloured banners are raised high to illustrate the losses, the victories, the pain and the joy of union struggles over the centuries.

These beautiful banners hang on the walls of union halls and buildings. The banners are most powerful when taken out in public, marched in the street and held high at rallies. They portray the values and the goals of the union movement. The banners symbolise the determination of the union movement across geographical regions and historical periods, to improve the conditions of working people. Trade unions want to improve the quality of the lives of individuals, families and communities.

We love to sing this song at marches and rallies where the banners speak more than a thousand words, of power in unity.


In faded photo, like a dream,
A locomotive under steam
Rolls with the ranks of marching feet
And union banners on the street.

Bring out the banners once again,
You union women, union men,
That all around may plainly see
The power of our unity.

I’ve seen those banners richly made
With symbols fair of craft and trade,
The unions’ names in red and gold,
Their aspirations printed bold.

Boilermakers, smiths and cooks,
Stevedores with cargo hooks,
Declare their union strong and proud,
Rank on rank before the crowd.

They won the eight-hour working day,
They won our right to honest pay,
Victorious their banners shone,
How dare we lose what they have won?

Today, when those who rule divide,
We must be standing side by side,
Our rights were bought with tears and pain,
Bring out the banners once again.

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