Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Way to Gundagai

Words: Charles MacAlister?
Tune: Traditional

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Oh, boys, you've heard of Gundagai - to see that town I meant;
And so, upon the southern road towards Gundagai I went.
At Sydney town with merchandise I loaded up my dray,
And signed to get to Gundagai in three weeks to a day:
But keep to that agreement it was in vain to try,
When in the rains of forty-nine I left for Gundagai.

To view the Murrumbidgee banks I had made up my mind,
So bid good-bye to all my friends, and left them far behind;
And by and by I camped a night at Jugiong so green:
"A pretty place - but Gundagai's a far more pretty scene"-
That was what the people said as they came passing by,
When we camped at "Sugar" O'Brien's Creek, two miles from Gundagai.

But when I got to Gundagai, so far, and far away,
My Mr Henry Turnbull he just refused to pay
He said. "I've missed the races here, and all because of you,
I will not pay a halfpenny, you're three days overdue."
"Well, then, Mr Turnbull, you're a paltry rogue," said I,
As homeward bound I started from the town of Gundagai.

When next the spires of Goulburn town most joyfully I hailed,
To Mr Walsh, the lawyer there, the man who never failed,
I took my tale of injury, and Mr Walsh full soon
Made Mr Henry Turnbull sing quite another tune;
For Mr Walsh "adduced the Law", and thus the foe at bay,
Alias Henry Turnbull, made haste his debt to pay.
And now a moral I would add - let Trader never try
To "sharp" an honest teamster on the road to Gundagai.

Originally published in "Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South" (1907), a limited 750 copy edition by Charles MacAlister.

These notes from John Meredith's transcription of MacAlister's book (p.139).

It was not long till the author again visited Gundagai, as about eight months later (in July, 1849) I met Henry Turnbull - a Gundagai storekeeper - at the Woolpack Hotel, Sydney, and agreed with him to take up two tons of loading at 10 pounds per ton. Our contract was that, bar accidents, the goods should be delivered at Gundagai within twenty-one days. However, owing to heavy weather it was twenty four days before we (the Author, and his old "second mate"...) reached the town. In our cargo there was a consignment of saddles and bridles, etc. required for the Gundagai Races and as the meeting was just over, Mr Turnbull, though he took delivery of the goods, refused to pay a penny for the carriage from Sydney. He said our delay had lost him fully 50 pounds, nad the race goods would be left on his hands for a long time. He also said that as we were four days behind time, he had no liability in the matter. On reaching home I put my case before the late Charles Hamilton Walsh (the lawyer), and Mr Walsh simply said, "Well, Charlie, before fourteen days go by he'll be glad to pay you every penny, and find my costs, too" ... I got the money due within the time stated... Upon this Gundagai incident I composed an effucion entitled, "The Road to Gundagai" which, I believe, had a slight "vogue" among the carriers on the main southern road for some years. It ran as follows: -

I've set this song to the tune of "The Widow and the Devil" for no other reason than that I like the combination. I'm not aware of the tune originally used.

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