Saturday, February 12, 2011

Click Go The Shears


Click go the shears boys, click, click, click,
Wide is his blow and his hands move quick,
The ringer looks around and is beaten by a blow,
And curses the old snagger with the bare-bellied joe.

Verse 1
Out on the board the old shearer stands,
Grasping his shears in his thin bony hands
Fixed is his gaze on a bare-bellied yoe,
Glory if he gets her, won't he make the ringer go.

Verse 2
In the middle of the floor in his cane bottomed chair
Sits the boss of the board with his eyes everywhere,
Notes well each fleece as it comes to the screen,
Paying strict attention that it's taken off clean.

Verse 3
The colonial experience man, he is there of course,
With his shiny legging's on, just got off his horse,
Gazes all around him like a real connoisseur,
Scented soap and brilliantine and smelling like a whore.

Verse 4
The tar-boy is there waiting in demand
With his blackened tar-pot in his tarry hand,
Spies one old sheep with a cut upon its back
Hears what he's waiting for it's "Tar here Jack"

Verse 5
Now the shearing is all over, we've all got our cheques,
So roll up your swags and it's off down the trace,
The first pub we come to it's there we'll have a spree,
And everyone that comes along it's 'Have a drink on me.'

Verse 6
There we leave him standing shouting for all hands,
Whilst all around him every 'shouter' stands,
His eye is on the keg which now is lowering fast,
He works hard, he drinks hard, and goes to Hell at last.


  1. Gee, those shearers had skinny bums, didn't they?

    This was probably the first Australian folk song I ever heard. I still love it. It was on a record by Lionel Long. We had two albums by Lionel Long, but it's not a name you hear any more.

  2. Just a couple of quick comments -- as a song with fairly wide distribution, it is not surprising to me that there are a lot of variant lyrics about.
    e.g. I've heard "blue bellied yoe" instead of bare-bellied in the sense of blue=red and a ewe with no belly wool would be showing red skin.

    I've a recording of this from the Smithsonian Folkways records -- interestingly the collector from the US was here in 1956-7 which is actually towards the early end of the folk revival here in Australia. The full lyric that he recorded follows:

    Out on the board, my lads, the blade shearer stands
    Grasping his shears in his thin bony hands.
    And his bleary eyes are fixed on a blue bellied ewe,
    Saying, “If I only get you, well I'll make the ringer go!”

    Click go the shears, boys, click, click, click
    Wide is the blow and his hands are moving quick
    And the ringer looks around and he's beaten by a blow.
    And he curses the old snagger with the blue-bellied ewe.

    Out on the floor in a cane bottomed chair
    Sits the boss of the board with his eyes everywhere
    He looks at each fleece as it comes to the screen,
    Saying, “By the living Jesus, can't you take 'em off clean?”

    The tar-boy is there, waiting on demand,
    With his tarry pot and his stick in his hand;
    He sees an old merino with a cut upon her back--
    This is what he's waiting for: “Oh, tar here, Jack!”

    You take off the belly wool and finickle out the crutch,
    Then go up the neck, for the rules they are such;,
    Clean around the horns, and the first shoulder down,
    A long blow up the back and then turn around.

    (Alternate chorus)
    Click, click ,click, that's how the shears go;
    Click, clickety click, oh my boys it isn't slow;
    You pull out a sheep and he lands you a kick,
    And still you hear the shears a-going click, click, click.

    When the shearing's over and we've all got our cheque,
    We'll roll up our blueys and we're off on the track
    The first pub we come to, well, it's there we'll have a spree,
    And everyone that comes along, it's “Have a drink on me!”

    I'm originally from the US, but after over 30 years in Australia, I'd say that
    I'm fairly comfortable with the Australian idiom. I personally think that John Greenway may have stuffed up a couple of bits above, but in particular, the verse describing the shearing is one that I've not seen anywhere else. I believe that it deserves to be preserved and discussed.


  3. Just a quick further comment -- Mark Gregory has found an early version of the lyrics from 1891 -- they're substantially different -- I include a link to a performance of these lyrics and an article from ABC, about them.

    And this from the National Library:

    The Bare Belled Ewe

    Oh, down at the catching pen an old shearer stands,
    Grasping his shears in his long bony hands ;
    Fixed is his gaze on a bare belled ewe,
    Saying " If I can only get her, won't I make the ringer go."

    Click goes his shears; click, click, click.
    Wide are the blows, and his hand is moving quick,
    The ringer looks round, for he lost it by a blow,
    And he curses that old shearer with the bare belled ewe.

    At the end of the board, in a cane bottomed chair,
    The boss remains seated with his eyes everywhere ;
    He marks well each fleece as it comes to the screen,
    And he watches where it comes from if not taken off clean.

    The "colonial experience" is there of course.
    With his silver buckled leggings, he's just off his horse ;
    With the air of a connoiseur he walks up the floor ;
    And he whistles that sweet melody, "I am a perfect cure."

    "So master new chum, you may now begin,
    Muster number seven paddock, bring the sheep all in ;
    Leave none behind you, whatever you do,
    And then we'll say you'r fit to be a Jackeroo."

    The tar boy is there, awaiting all demands,
    With his black tarry stick, in his black tarry hands.
    He sees an old ewe, with a cut upon the back,
    He hears what he supposes is--" Tar here, Jack."

    "Tar on the back, Jack; Tar, boy, tar."
    Tar from the middle to both ends of the board.
    Jack jumps around, for he has no time to sleep,
    And tars the shearer's backs as well as the sheep.

    So now the shearing's over, each man has got his cheque,
    The hut is as dull as the dullest old wreck ;
    Where was many a noise and bustle only a few hours before,
    Now you can hear it plainly if a pin fall on the floor.

    The shearers now are scattered many miles and far ;
    Some in other sheds perhaps, singing out for "tar."
    Down at the bar, there the old shearer stands,
    Grasping his glass in his long bony hands.

    Saying "Come on, landlord, come on, come !
    I'm shouting for all hands, what's yours--mine's a rum ;"
    He chucks down his cheque, which is collared in a crack,
    And the landlord with a pen writes no mercy on the back !

    His eyes they were fixed on a green painted keg,
    Saying " I will lower your contents, before I move a peg."
    His eyes are on the keg, and are now lowering fast ;
    He works hard, he dies hard, and goes to heaven at last.

    C. C.
    Eynesbury, Nov. 20, 1891.