Women’s History Month: Margret RoadKnight

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Margret RoadKnight was, and is, a folk singer. She credits (or blames!) folk singers Glen Tomasetti and Malvina Reynolds for bringing her into the folk scene during the Vietnam War period. She performed at many rallies protesting the war; in this excerpt, she reflects on the May 1970 Moratorium.

Margret RoadKnight interview


Margret: I don’t look back and say, Oh, we were young and foolish. No, no, we weren’t that foolish. It’s almost the done thing to look back and say, Oh, yeah, well, silly me when I was young. No: it was the exact opposite for me, I was branching out and discovering things and people and issues and what have you, because I never went to university, so I even blame the folk music scene for being my university, because really through the songs, and the scene was, well, that’s how I got to study, study in quotes there politics and poetry and parody and, and history and geography and whatever, through the scene and the songs. And then you’d get tapped on the shoulder to come and sing for various causes. And usually, well, if I agree with the cause – almost always I did – happy to do it. You look back and think, should have stamped my foot occasionally and said production values should be up a bit higher than that. I look at the classic photo of me on the back of a truck in Bourke Street, I think – and the whole of Bourke Street is locked down with half a million… 

Alex: That’s the first moratorium I think? 

Margret: Yeah the moratorium, yeah. And I mean, there’s a few photos of that, and one of them you can see Jim Cairns behind me on the truck. But if you look closely, you know, there’s one microphone. I’ve got an acoustic, we didn’t do plug-in guitars back then. And I have an acoustic guitar and one microphone. And well, for start, you needs a minimum of two, outdoors with you know, rather large gathering on the back of a truck. However, that seems to work. That was part of the tapestry that obviously did the trick.

Alex: So aside from the shocking production values, what was that like to perform at the moratorium? 

Margret: Look, if it wasn’t for the photo I wouldn’t even remember, I mean, I remember being – really it is the photos, thank goodness some people took photos or whatever. We didn’t tend to document things like everything is documented now from womb to tomb, you know. So it is rather good to go through them; I have heaps of photos. I wish I’d been clever enough to write on the back of them where and when and who. It works as a “Oh, yes. Oh, that’s right.” I don’t remember who asked me to do it. I don’t remember who else was on the back of the truck apart from you know, knowing that obviously, Jim had a few words to say. I mean, it was also one of you know – that was the beginning of the women’s movement sort of era, you know, you’d be singing for this that and the other but I never went to a consciousness raising group session or anything. You know, I was, I never was also one of those other people who did all the hard work, like the organising or the licking of stamps, and all of that sort of thing. I just, I did the glamour stuff. You know, the – you do something for three minutes and people clap. It was good to be involved, happy to be involved. And if I felt like it was helping the cause, so much the better. 

If you know a Melbourne woman who was involved in protesting against the Vietnam War, please leave a comment!

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