Monday, February 7, 2011

The Springtime It Brings On The Shearing

Oh, the springtime it brings on the shearing,
And it's then that you'll see them in droves,
To the west country stations all steering,
A-seeking a job off the coves.

cho: With my ragged old swag on my shoulder
And a billy quart-pot in my hand,
I tell you we'll astonish the new chums
To see how we travel the land.

You may talk of your mighty exploring,
Of Landsborough, McKinley, and King;
But I feel it should only be boring
On such frivolous subjects to sing.

For discovering mountains and rivers
There's one for a gallon I'd back,
Who'll beat all your Stuarts to shivers:
It's the man on the wallaby track.

From Billabone, Murray, and Loddon
To far Tatiara and back
The hills and the plains are well trodden
By the men on the wallaby track.

Oh, and after the shearing is over
And the wool season's all at an end,
It is then that you'll see those flash shearers
Making johnny-cakes round in the bend.

One of the more popular old Australian songs. As well as being recorded by many Australian performers, this song was also included on Burl Ive's Australian Folk Songs album in 1958.

The following notes are from the liner notes for this song from Gary Shearston's CD re-release of earlier recordings "Here and There: Now and Then".

One of the best known of all Australian folk songs, this was collected in Victoria by Dr. Percy Jones. John Meredith found a rather different version in New South Wales, and most of Dr. Jones' words turn up in some verses called The Wallaby Track, which were published by a bush poet called E.J. Overbury in 1865. Maybe some bush singer read Overbury's words and set some of them to a tune; that was a common habit with bush singers. Maybe Overbury heard a bush song, and took some of the words into one of his own poems; that was a common habit with bush poets.

coves: station managers or owners.

billy quart pot: an indispensable item of the bush nomads' gear; a can, here of quart capacity, in which water could be boiled and food cooked.

new-chums: newly arrived immigrants.

Flash shearers making johnny-cakes round in the bend: a contrast in the lot of the shearer at different seasons of the year is implied; during the shearing season he is fl ash (shows an exaggerated sense of his own importance), because he is earning good wages and respect for his skill; when the shearing season is over, and he is unemployed, he is reduced to camping out in the open by some river bend, and living on a diet consisting mainly of camp-made bread (a johnny cake is, roughly speaking, a kind of small damper).

Note: from the original album notes by Edgar Waters, supplemented by Stuart Heather.

1 comment:

  1. It might be a romantic notion, but I don't think any of the men on the wallaby track would have been a match for John McDouall Stuart. That guy was unique.

    I can't look at a photo like this and not feel sadness for how it would have looked a hundred years before, with Aborigines ruling the land rather than shearers.