Friday, May 6, 2011

The Overlanders


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There's a trade you all know well,
It's bringing cattle over.
On ev'ry track,
To the Gulf and back,
Men know the Queensland drover.

Pass the billy 'round boys!
Don't let the pint-pot stand there!
For tonight we drink the health
Of every overlander.

I come from the northern plains
Where the girls and grass are scanty;
Where the creeks run dry
Or ten foot high
And it's either drought or plenty.

There are men from every land,
From Spain and France and Flanders;
They're a well-mixed pack,
Both white and black,
The Queensland overlanders.:

When we've earned a spree in town
We live like pigs in clover;
And the whole year's cheque
Pours down the neck
Of many a Queensland drover.

As I pass along the roads,
The children raise my dander
Crying "Mother dear,
Take in the clothes,
Here comes the overlander!":

Now I'm bound for home once more,
On a prad that's quite a goer;
I can find a job
With a crawling mob
On the banks of the Maranoa.

From Australian Tradition, No. 19, March, 1960, published by The Folklore Society of Victoria and the Victorian Folk Music Club.

Notes published with the song:
The Overlanders has been in circulation in a number of versions for over 100 years. The earliest surviving one was current in the 1840s and published in the Queensland Camp Fire Song Book in 1865. Russel Ward quotes from this earlier verion.

"All sorts of men I had, from France, Germany and Flanders, Lawyers, doctors, good and bad, in my mob of overlanders" as an indicaiton of the mixture of educated and professional men among outback workers and the high standard of outback literacy. He also quotes this and other versions as showing hte nomadic habits of these pepole and their disrespect for policemen and the law.

The version included here passes "the billy round", in others, the bottle or the "wine cup" is circulated. The tune is that sung by the Victorian Folk Music Club. It is the same as the well-known tune printed in the Overlander Songbook, Bandicoot Ballads and hte Penguin Song book with the omission of a couple of the accidental notes. The original tune was probably well-known. John Manifold records having learnt it from his father in his youth adn then heard it again many years later from Vance Palmer who had collected it in Sth Queensland. Other versions are quoted in Hugh Anderson's Colonial Ballads and in Stewart and Keesing as being sung to different tunes, one called "Dearest Mae", and another, "The King of the Cannibal Isles".

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