“Thirty Shillings a Month” turns into $1,000 overnight!

The $1,000 Monster Meeting Song Award first prize has been taken out by Martin McKenna with his song “Thirty Shillings a Month”.

The judges’ decision was a popular one. “He really nailed the political situation of the time,” was a sentiment expressed by many in the 200 strong audience that had packed the Theatre Royal for the concert of finalists.

Martin McKenna on stage with his railway spikes courtesy Eliza Tree.

Thirty eight songs had been entered, far exceeding the expectations of the organisers. The judging panel shortlisted fourteen of the songs and these were performed in a concert MCed by ABC Centralvic’s Jonathan Ridnell. From Bannit’s explosive opening performance of Bill McAuley’s “Our Rights Democratic” through to Rod Willaton’s “Eighteen Fifty One” performed by Crosswind a wide cross section of musical genres entertained the crowd.

The diversity of musical styles and approaches that have developed from a single starting point was amazing,” said Jan Wositzky, one of the judges. “The challenge was to write the best song about, or based upon, the 1851 Monster Meeting of diggers at Forest Creek. The resulting diversity and concert showcased many, many talented songwriters and musicians.”

Martin McKenna - no time for celebrations.

In his role as patron of the Award noted singer-songwriter Shane Howard performed several of his compositions. Shane also spoke of the challenges of writing historical songs, and offered words of praise and encouragement to the performers who had presented such a wonderful concert.

The winner, Martin McKenna was obviously thrilled with his win. He is a full time farmer and occasional song writer with an interest in the colonial history of Australia. He sometimes sings, usually unaccompanied, at a monthly session at the Trentham Hotel, and other places (if allowed). His great grandfather arrived from Kilkenny, Ireland in the colony of Victoria in September 1854 and headed for the diggings, including Forest Creek, before settling in Kyneton where he had a brewing and malting business. When the land acts were passed in the 1860s he took up land in the Baynton district where Martin and his wife Christine still live and farm.

Second prize went to Northcote’s Frank Jones and Christy Wositzky-Jones for “Father Dear”, and third prize to Eaglehawk’s Jamie Roberts with “The Cards that Fell”. In presenting the winners their cheques, Parks Victoria’s Kate Millar congratulated not only the prize winners, but all the entrants.

The Monster Meeting Song Award gave us a memorable night, one where history was well and truly made!

Footnotes:
Martin McKenna will be performing “Thirty Shillings a Month” at the 2010 Monster Meeting Celebration in Chewton on Wednesday 15 December, along with Frank and Christy’s 2nd prize-winning “Father Dear” and fellow finalist Doug Owen’s “Three Quid for the Privilege”.

Martin McKenna can be heard at the Trentham Hotel on the last Friday of each month (resuming after the Christmas break).
The photos are of Martin on stage, and back at work in the shearing shed.