Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Past Carin'

Words: Henry Lawson
Music: Steve Ashley

Now up and down the siding brown
The great black crows are flyin',
And down below the spur, I know,
Another `milker's' dyin';
The crops have withered from the ground,
The tank's clay bed is glarin',
But from my heart no tear nor sound,
For I have gone past carin' —
Past worryin' or carin',
Past feelin' aught or carin';
But from my heart no tear nor sound,
For I have gone past carin'.

Through Death and Trouble, turn about,
Through hopeless desolation,
Through flood and fever, fire and drought,
And slavery and starvation;
Through childbirth, sickness, hurt, and blight,
And nervousness an' scarin',
Through bein' left alone at night,
I've got to be past carin'.
Past botherin' or carin',
Past feelin' and past carin';
Through city cheats and neighbours' spite,
I've come to be past carin'.

Our first child took, in days like these,
A cruel week in dyin',
All day upon her father's knees,
Or on my poor breast lyin';
The tears we shed — the prayers we said
Were awful, wild — despairin'!
I've pulled three through, and buried two
Since then — and I'm past carin'.
I've grown to be past carin',
Past worryin' and wearin';
I've pulled three through and buried two
Since then, and I'm past carin'.

'Twas ten years first, then came the worst,
All for a dusty clearin',
I thought, I thought my heart would burst
When first my man went shearin';
He's drovin' in the great North-west,
I don't know how he's farin';
For I, the one that loved him best,
Have grown to be past carin'.
I've grown to be past carin'
Past lookin' for or carin';
The girl that waited long ago,
Has lived to be past carin'.

My eyes are dry, I cannot cry,
I've got no heart for breakin',
But where it was in days gone by,
A dull and empty achin'.
My last boy ran away from me,
I know my temper's wearin',
But now I only wish to be
Beyond all signs of carin'.
Past wearyin' or carin',
Past feelin' and despairin';
And now I only wish to be
Beyond all signs of carin'.

I first heard this song in the mid-80's being performed by Lonnie Martin as part of the La Boite production of The Kelly Dance, a play by John Romeril, in Brisbane.

The words were first published in the Australian Magazine, Sydney, 30th May, 1899.

While at first I was unclear as to the origin of the tune (mistakenly believing like many others that it originated from either Mara Keik or Phyl Lobl) the writer of the tune has been in touch. Steve Ashley wrote this tune for the Bushwackers after they met up in Rotterdam back in the late seventies, along with three other Lawson settings (Freedom On The Wallaby, Old Joe Swallow and Faces In The Street), all of which can be found in the Second Bushwackers Songbook.


  1. I've been asked to speak at the annual meeting of the Henry Lawson Society at Footscray Park in Melbourne this Sunday afternoon. This is a first for me, and is of course a great honour and privilege. I hope to shed some light into some of the lesser known corners of poor Henry's life. Hugh McDonald (ex-Redgum) will also be there, as will the well known playwright Barry Dickins, Lawson look-alike Jim Howard, and many others. Anybody interested in finding out more information about the day should ring Richard Tate, President, The Henry Lawson Memorial & Literary Society Inc. (PH: 03.97857079) All welcome.

  2. So far as the tune is concerned, it is almost the same as the version on my copy of the Bushwackers 'Bushfire' LP. The song is listed there as 'Lawson/Ashley', but I don't know who 'Ashley' is.

  3. A little research reveals 'Ashley' to be 'Steve Ashley'. I see he is an English folk singer-songwriter, with his own web-site. I don't know him, but I expect many will.

  4. From Mal Lloyd: "John, you ask about the writer of the tune. Chris Kempster's book has two versions, one by Phyl Lobl in Gmaj and the other by Steve Ashley in Bm. I think your version is closest to the second."

    Unfortunately, my copy of the book is still in storage. But thanks everyone.

  5. Going back through my paperwork - according to the sheet music I was given - the tune is attributed to Mara based on the Phyl Lobl

  6. Mara! used Steve Ashley's tune on their self-titled LP (1980s) .... and so does John, here.
    Steve does have street cred : http://www.singsongpr.biz/news/steve_ashley2.htm
    and there's also his website : http://www.steveashley.co.uk/discography.html

    Cheers, all.

  7. Hi John, Congratulations on the website. It's gorgeous and so useful. This is Phyl Lobl's Past Carin'



  8. From Steve Ashley:

    Hi there folks,

    I chanced upon your Australian Folksong a Day site and was interested to see that you have uploaded a version my setting of Past Carin’ (with some confusion regarding the origin of the tune).

    So to put your record straight, this is the tune I wrote for The Bushwackers, many years ago.

    It was later covered by Mara! and Martin and Jessica Simpson among many others. Somewhere along the line the second line of the tune has been weakened slightly at the beginning (by repeating the first part of the first line). Apart from this, the rest of the tune is as I wrote it.

    To hear the actual tune please listen to The Bushwackers ‘Bushfire’ version, or Shanley Dell’s performance on ‘Jubilee’ (25th Anniversary Bushwackers Concert album) or, most recently, by Dobe Newton on his A Convict Can’t Be Trusted album.

    Best wishes – Steve Ashley