Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Cane-cutter's Lament

From Ron Edwards' "Big Book of Australian Folk Songs"

Non-flash audio for iPhone, iPad etc

How we suffered grief and pain
On the banks of the Barron cutting cane
We sweated blood we were as black as sin
And the ganger he put the spur right in

The greasy cook with sore-eyed look
And the matter all stuck to his lashes
He damned our souls with his half baked rolls
And he'd poison the snakes with his hashes

The first six weeks so help me Christ
We lived on cheese and half boiled rice
Mouldy bread and cats meat stew
And corn beef that the flies had blew

The cane was bad the cutters were mad
The cook had shit on the liver
And I'll never cut cane for that bastard again
On the banks of the Barron River

So now I'm leaving that lousy place
I'll cut no more for that bugger
He can stand in the mud that's red as blood
And cut his own bloody sugar

Collected by Ron Edwards from Stan Dean (and others) of Cairns, who said it was based on an old hymn. Ron Edwards writes "This ballad is known all along the coast and the second line was altered to fit different areas 'On the Isis', 'On the banks of the Herbert' etc." (Notes from Mudcat. The Barron River is a major waterway in the cane-growing area of North Queensland.


  1. Good song and well sung. I feel moved to write a song about working as a resident medical officer at a public hospital. Same vibe. The hospital cafs were pretty terrible, but not quite that bad.