Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wallaby Stew

Cecil Poole

Poor Dad he got five years or more as everybody knows
And now he lives in Maitland Jail with broad arrows on his clothes
He branded all of Brown's clean skins and never left a tail
So I'll relate the family's woes since Dad got put in jail

So stir the wallaby stew
Make soup of the kangaroo tail
I tell you things is pretty tough
Since Dad got put in jail

Our sheep were dead a month ago not rot but blooming fluke
Our cow was boozed last Christmas Day by my big brother Luke
And Mother has a shearer cove for ever within hail
The family will have grown a bit since Dad got put in jail

Our Bess got shook upon a bloke he's gone we don't know where
He used to act around the shed but he aint acted square
I've sold the buggy on my own the place is up for sale
That wont be all that isn't junked when Dad comes out of jail

They let Dad out before his time to give us a surprise
He came and slowly looked around and gently blessed our eyes
He shook hands with the shearer cove and said he thought things stale
So he left him here to shepherd us and battled back to jail

The first version of this song that I heard referred to Boggo Road prison in Brisbane (rather than Maitland Jail in the original). I've used that lyric as Boggo Road is a prison that I visited regularly while working as a young lawyer in Brisbane in the early 1990s. The illustration above is of that jail.

Written by Cecil Poolein 1897 with the original title 'When Dad Comes Out of Gaol'. First published in the Bulletin that year. Printed in Stewart and Keesing's Old Bush Songs. Dr Percy Jones' included the song in his collection with this note, "Sung sixty years ago by a Mr Hulbert. Mrs E. Joan Bowran, Tallangatta".

From the sleeve notes of A.L.Lloyd's 1958 recording, Across the Western Plains:

Two young fellows who had been working on the Darling Downs were walking back home to Port Adelaide. Following the Lachlan River, they called in at a station for rations. The boss didn't like their looks and wanted them to move on, but the boy who did the butchering skinned a hamstrung lamb for them, and they rewarded him with a song about Wallaby Stew. Their song was tangled up with another called Country Gaol, ad it didn't make much sense. When they'd gone, the boy missed his good skinning knife, but he did recover the Wallaby Stew song, nearly thirty years later and twelve thousand miles away, when Edgar Waters of Sydney, on a visit to England, showed him a coherent set of words, probably from the collection of Percy Jones. The tune is widely known among seaman to the words of According to the Act (the influence of sailor tunes on Australian folk songs is worth studying). Perhaps the tune gained a readier foothold because it is related to the older and more handsome melody used for The Cockies of Bungaree.


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