By Mick Armstrong
The 1894 Shearer's strike was one of Australia's most violent industrial conflicts. However the violence is commonly portrayed as pointless - the odds were overwhelmingly against the shearers and there was no way that they could win.
There is no doubting the desperate circumstances confronting them. Yet the scale of the militant resistance mounted by the shearers prevented the authorities and the pastoralists from having it all their own way. One of the most successful of the shearers actions was the burning of the riverboat, the Rodney which was transporting scabs up the Darling River.
Although the 1894 strike was one of the most militant in Australia's history, no serious account of it has been published. The burning of the Rodney is mentioned in passing as some quaint or shocking incident in numerous books, but almost invariably the authors get even the most basic facts of the story wrong.
This is the first attempt to return to the primary sources and to separate fact from legend.