Friday, February 7, 2014

An Australian Folk Song A Day: (What Will We Do With) Maud Butler

An Australian Folk Song A Day: (What Will We Do With) Maud Butler: Words and music:  John Thompson Mark Cryle  was kind enough to tell me about the amazing Maud Butler, a seventeen-year-old girl who...

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

(What Will We Do With) Maud Butler

Words and music:  John Thompson

Mark Cryle was kind enough to tell me about the amazing Maud Butler, a seventeen-year-old girl who was so keen to help the war effort in 1915, that she bought up a uniform one piece at a time and then stowed away on a troop ship.  Twice!

Her amazing story is well worth telling.  There are some especially good links online to original news stories about her exploits:

and for her persistent offending:

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Maud Butler had a brother in the army
And so she made her way to Sydney town
At 17 she knew her mind
She wouldn't just be left behind
And so Maud tried to join the army

Oh, what will we do with Maud Butler?
She dresses as a soldier and she wants to go to war
She jumped a ship to cross the foam
Better than any stay-at-home
The prettiest little soldier-boy the Army ever saw.

A lovely farmer's daughter from old Kurri Kurri town
When she tried to sign on as a nurse they turned the poor girl down.
So she bought herself some soldier's gear
Cut her hair and wiped her tears
And she climbed up a rope to board a transport

Three days in a life-raft with not a bite to eat
Til bold as brass she walked the decks, the sailor-boys to meet
An officer saw her walking about
Her boots were wrong, they found her out.
Poor Maud was put ashore in dear old Melbourne

Only two months later, Maud was back on board again
Another attempt to see the front, in the company of men
I'll do my bit to help the war”
She told them when she was back on shore
"I just want to be a soldier"

This young girl's an example to all of those who shirk
Where other's would have given up, Maud Butler went to work
A lesser girl would have had enough
But Maud was made of sterner stuff
So raise a cheer and sing of Miss Maud Butler

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Waltzing Matilda

Words:  Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson
Tune:  A variation on Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigielea by Robert Barr (1770-1836)

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Oh, there once was a swagman camped in the billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he looked at the old billy boiling,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

(Chorus:) Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda my darling,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
Waltzing Matilda and leading a waterbag,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Down came the jumbuck to drink at the water-hole,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he put him away in his tucker-bag,
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

Up came the Squatter a-riding his thoroughbred,
Up came Policemen - one, two and three,
Whose is that jumbuck you've got in the tucker-bag?
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

The swagman he up and he jumped in the water-hole,
Drowning himself by the coolibah tree,
And his ghost may be heard as it sings by the billabong,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Australia's best known song has a rich history.  Written in 1895 by Banjo Paterson it has been adopted and adapted many times.  Dennis O'Keeffe's Waltzing Matilda site is a great place to start the journey of research into this fascinating subject.

I've printed the original lyrics above.  Observant listeners will note that the version sung here varies a little from the original.  These variations represent both the folk process and the varying ways in which this song is learnt by school-children around Australia.  (Any timing variations are my responsibility as conductor).  The suggestion at the very end of the recording came from James Rigby.

This recording was made on Friday, 20 January, 2012 at the Celtic Southern Cross Summer School in Victoria and was sung by all the attendees at the school.  I thank them all for their support and their contribution to the blog.  The illustration to this post is a photograph of the group by Phil Green.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Aeroplane Jelly Song

Words and Music:  Albert Francis Lenertz

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I've got a song that won't take very long,
Quite a good sort of note if I strike it . . .
It is something we eat, and I think it's quite sweet,

And I know you are going to like it.

I like Aeroplane Jelly

Aeroplane Jelly for me.
I like it for dinner, I like it for tea,

A little each day is a good recipe,

The quality's high as the name will imply,

And it's made from pure fruits, one more good reason why...

I like Aeroplane Jelly

Aeroplane Jelly for me.

It is difficult to describe the significance of this song to those who did not experience it growing up in Australia.

The song was written by Albert Lenertz, the business partner of Bert Apleroth, founder of the company which created Aeroplane Jelly crystals.  Originally performed as a radio jingle in 1930 it has continued in use to the present day.  In the 1940s it was played on radio up to 100 times a day (charming as it is, this is a horrifying thought).  Aeroplane Jelly Crystals are still Australia's best-selling brand.

An indication of this commercial jingle's impact on the Australian psyche can be found by its presence in both the National Library and Australian Film and Sound Archive collections.

While I am a great fan (lime being my favourite flavour) I am in no way sponsored by Aeroplane Jelly.  

NB.  The applause on this track occurs only in my imagination.

This (the last official song on this blog) was recorded using three of my tiredest voices and a bass concertina.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Shall We Do With The Daily Papers

Words:  Unknown
Tune:  Traditional (What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor)

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Down in old Melbourne four harlots do dwell
The four daily papers that we know so well,
The Sun and the Herald, the Argus and Age
Just four little birds in the one gilded cage.

Four workers one cribtime sat down in a bunch;
They were reading their papers and eating their lunch,
When the eldest, a fellow called Militant Mick
Says, "The lies that they print, why they fair make me sick"

"Now the front page is full of the wars, hot and cold,
That are helping the millionaires pile up more gold,
And appeals to us workers to please do our bit"
He turns over the page, as the boys all say "S . . t!"

"The second page holds all the editor's thoughts
On how to smash unions by using the courts,
And how to make money by growing more wool"
He turns over the page as the boys yell out "B . . l!"

"Three, four and five are for killers and drunks,
And the Folies Bergeres in their transparent trunks,
The rapes and divorces, the scandal and shock."
He turns over the page, as the boys shout out "C . . k!"

"Six is the page for the Toorak to-do,
Who's getting married, and who is up who,
And the frantic old antics of the socialite sluts."
He turns over the page and the boys all say "N . . ts!"

"The next fifteen pages for the births and the deaths,
Use Chlorophyll toothpaste to sweeten your breaths,
Buy from Foy and Gibson, Myer or Buck."
He turns over the page as the boys mutter "F . . k!"

"The back page says Jan's a good thing for the Cup,
Or maybe Morse Code, if they smarten him up,
Or they might all dead heat, that's if none of them falls."
He turns over the page and they all shout out "B . . ls!"

"Now listen here, comrades, this press isn't free,
It's bought by the bosses for hard L.S.D
This I must tell you, no matter what comes --
It's sole use for us is for wiping our b . ms!"

So they folded their papers and cut them up small,
Put a string through the corner, hung them up on the wall,
And in this way found a use for each page
Of the Herald and Argus, the Sun and the Age.

The following Tuesday a letter they read
From the Acting Director of Sewage, who said,
"Dear Sirs, the papers you've flushed down the drain
Are corrupting my t . . ds, so don't do it again."

Now the moral of this is quite easy to see,
If we want a press that really is free,
That will help all us workers get out of the mess
We must pitch in and fight for the working-class press.

I find myself in Melbourne today and had the misfortune to read a copy of the Herald-Sun in a cafe this morning.  Accordingly, I was delighted to find this ditty among the material I have collected in the process of assembling the blog.  I've added the chorus at beginning and end to round it out.

From John Meredith's notes in the National Library of Australia.  The bowdlerised lyrics are as they appear in the original typed notes.

The illustration to this post is the header from the Melbourne Argus on Melbourne Cup Day (Tuesday, November 4, 1952).  Morse Code (who had placed third in 1950 and fallen in 1951) failed to place.  This likely dates this song to that year.  Morse Code had been a clear favourite for some weeks leading up to the Cup.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Hardest Bloody Job I Ever Had

Words:  Unknown
Tune:  Traditional ('Ard Tack)

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I'm a shearer, yes I am, and I've shorn them sheep and lamb
From the Wimmera to the Darling Downs and back,
And I've rung a shed or two when the fleece was tough as glue
But I'll tell you where I struck the hardest tack.

I was down by Yenda way, killin' time from day to day,
Till the big sheds started moving further out;
When I struck a bloke by chance that I summed up in a glance
As a cocky from a vineyard round about.

Now it seems he picked me too, well, it wasn't hard to do,
As I had my tongs a-hanging at the hip,
"I've got a mob", he said, "of about two hundred head,
And I'd give a ten pound note to have the clip."

I says: "Right, I'll take the stand": it meant getting in me hand;
And by nine o'clock we'd rounded up the mob
In a shed sunk in the ground - yeah, with wine casks all around,
And that was where I started on me job.

I goes easy for a bit while me hand was gitting fit,
And by dinner time I'd done some half a score,
With the cocky picking up, and handing me a cup,
Of pinkie after every sheep I shore.

The cocky had to go away about the seventh day,
After showing me the kind of kegs to use:
Then I'd do the pickin' up, and handing me a cup,
Of pinkie after every sheep I shore.

Then I'd stagger to the pen, grab a sheep and start again,
With a noise between a hiccup and a sob,
And sometimes I'd fall asleep with my arms around the sheep,
Worn and weary from me over-arduous job.

And so six weeks went by, until one day with a sigh,
I pushed the poor old cobbler through the door,
Gathered up the cocky's pay, then staggered on me way,
From the hardest bloody shed I ever shore.

Another from Warren Fahey's Australian Folk Songs and Bush Ballads, published with the following note:

Wine grapes have been grown in Australia from the days of early European settlement and they are celebrated here in this wonderful song charged with bush humour and imagery, especially when the shearer falls asleep "with his arms wrapped around the sheep, worn and weary from the over-arduous job."  This version is taken from the singing of Mr Jack Davies, a soldier-settler in the Leeton district, New South Wales, and included in John Lahey's "Great Australian Folk Songs" under the title "Ard Tack", with a note:  "It is a song any shearer would relish, but more so in that part of Murrumbidgee, where vineyards and sheep can so easily go together."

The illustration to this post is a photograph from the National Library of Australia entitled "Shearer shearing a sheep's back with mechanical shears, Australia, ca. 1890"

Come, Sing Australian Songs To Me!

Words:  John O'Brien (Patrick Joseph Hartigan)
Tune:  John Thompson

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Come, Little One, and sing to me
  A song our big wide land to bless,
Around whose gentle parent-knee
  We've twined the flowers of kindliness.

Your eyes are clear Australian blue,
  Your voice like soft bush breezes blown;
Her sunshine steeps the heart of you,
  Your tresses are the wattle's own.

What, no Australian song, my child,
  No lay of love, no hymn of praise?
And yet no mother ever smiled
  With our dear country's winsome ways:

You sing the songs of all the earth,
  Of bower and bloom and bird and bee;
And has the land that gave you birth
  No haunting, native melody?

Your poets' eager pens awake
  The world-old themes of love and youth.
The pulse of life, the joy, the ache,
  The pregnant line of earnest truth;

They dress you these in native guise,
  And interweave with loving hand
The freshness of your rain-washed skies,
  The colours of your sunlit land.

What, no Australian song, my dear?
  And yet I've heard the cottage ring
With notes the world would pause to hear,
  When at their work your sisters sing.

They sing the songs of all the earth,
  Of tender sky, and dimpling sea,
But all their strains have not the worth
  Of one Australian song, for me.

I've heard the harp the breezes play
  Among the wilding wilga-trees;
I've swept my world of care away
  When bush birds lift their melodies;

I've seen the paddocks all ablaze
  When spring in golden glory comes,
The purple hills of summer days,
  The autumn ochres through the gums;

I've seen the bright folk riding in
  O'er blooms that deck the clovered plain,
And neath the trees, when moonbeams spin
  Their silver-dappled counterpane.

What, no Australian song, my pet?
  No patriot note on native horn,
To bind the hearts in kindness met,
  And link the leal Australian-born?

Yet every exile, wandering lone
  Our happy careless homes among,
May live the best his heart has known
  Whene'er his country's songs are sung.

You sing the songs of all the earth,
  Of alien flower and alien tree:
But no one, in my grief or mirth,
  Will sing Australian songs to me.

You sing of every land but mine,
  Where life is lifting neath the sun.
Still all its spirit seems ashine
  In you, my little laughing one.

Your eyes are clear Australian blue,
  Your face is towards the future set:
The bounding, gladsome heart of you
  Is hers-and only hers, my pet.

Ah, Little One, what dreams would rise
  If, nestled here upon my knee,
You'd flash those soft Australian eyes,
  And sing your country's songs to me!

From John O'Brien's Around the Boree Log.

The Overlanders set this poem to music on their album, Songs of the Great 
Australian Balladists.  I used the first line of their melody as a starting