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Gladstone Pier

Peter was a sailor
Swarthy lean and proud
He could take a schooner through a big sea swell
Aloof in the mainland crowd

She loved his quiet laughter
Like a boy he'd shrug and grin
Beach stretched wide at Port Mackay
With dreams upon the wind

He wore her name in a rose tattoo
Long weekends of gins and lime
She lived in Cairns made plans to move
Checkout girl part-time
And rumour said there's a boom ahead
You can make your future here
By the Gladstone pier

A two roomed five row shelter
Empty hopes, the damp, the flies
Prices hyped her face grew tight
And conversation died

And the foreman at the smelter said you're much too old
Try the cane fields further north
And the clerk at the market said we don't buy trouble
There's a strike down at the port

Then a six-day shift in a filthy pit
The drag lines gouging coal
The black dust gnaws at your lungs and pores
And anger rots your soul
And the queue round the block waits for you to drop
Can you take it for another year
By the Gladstone Pier

Every Sunday he'd walk alone
Casting pebbles at the passing waves
Plunge in brine cleanse his pride
A stronger man remains

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The crunch of shale and distant sails
Ached within his bones
Seeing ships upon the tide
Bound for ports unknown

Soon he drank for comfort
She grew bitter in the weeks between
The nights of beer and hollow cheer
When love became routine

They fought, she left him crying
Angry words in a last cafe
In desperation on a lonely night
She took the bus to Cairns next day

And Gladstone couples break that way
Mutual blame and no regrets
And boomtown blues just fade to grey
And all that's left are debts

He cried:
'I've got to leave this dirty old town
and the rattle of broken men
Break these chains and wash the pain
And put to sea again
Drained all my passion my anger and my fears
And sank them in a flagon
under Gladstone pier'

She saw him through the Greyhound window
As the dawn glowed on the chrome
Standing by the pier under sullen skies
Sea winds calling home

From Surfers up to Townsville
Past the high-rise colonies
Fast food, cheap hotels
And two more boomtown refugees