Based on Henry Lawson's poem 'The Union Buries its Dead,' Joe Wilson's Mates is set in a small country town during the 1890s. Joe Wilson is a stranger in town, with no known family or friends. When he dies, he is found to be carrying a union card, so the local members decide to honour one of their own with a decent funeral. The narrative sees the sweating union men making frequent stops on their way to the graveyard to rest, drink beer, and bicker.
'Bob, a young country bumpkin with a heart of gold, is always helping people in distress.
'He is attracted to Hannah, a pretty, young Salvation Army girl, but she is clearly disapproving of his friendship with three prostitutes who pay a visit to the town.
'Hannah, however, is not all she seems to be, but Bob is not one to censure, nor abandon his generous ways.'
'Kind-hearted Bob: ABC to Show Series Based on Lawson', The Canberra Times, 4 January 1980, p.9.