Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Cross of the South




Words: Kenneth Cook,
Tune: Traditional (Kelly the Boy From Killane)






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'Twas the month of December, the year fifty-four
When the men of Eureka rebelled.
And they swore that the flag they had made for themselves
Ever proudly aloft would be held.
The miners took arms in the stockade that day,
The bold word passed from mouth to mouth
'We will stand by this flag and the stars that it bears,
White stars of the Cross of the South'.

The hot blood of the heroes ran fast in their veins,
There was but one man they obeyed.
The hero of heroes they chose from their ranks
Peter Lalor their hero they made.
Peter Lalor said, 'We must stand by our guns,
Fear not the cannon's fierce mouth!
For I see the soldiers are gathering now
To tear down the Cross of the South'.

Captain Thomas charged the Eureka Stockade,
Three hundred troops by his side.
Fire and steel met them there and they fell back again,
But the first of the miners had died.
The smoke from the battle had scarce cleared away
When the soldiers came charging once more,
The miners were killed as they stood 'round their flag
Or fell from the wounds they bore.

Bold Peter Lalor lay shot on the grund
Where the soldiers had left him for dead,
And the flag that he loved lay there by his side,
The white stars all stained with red.
Peter Lalor he rose on his knees in the dust,
Wild words poured from his mouth:
'You can murder us all in black tyranny's name,
But you can't kill the Cross of the South'.



Based on an American Civil War song of the same title.

The illustration for this post is an engraving by George Rossi Ashton (artist) and F. A. Sleap (engraver), 1888. Held in the State Library of Victoria Pictures Collection. It depicts the taking of the oath at the Eureka Stockade

The oath:

We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bold Jack Donohue




Unknown





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In Dublin town I was brought up that city of great fame
My parents reared me tenderly there's many did the same
Being a wild colonial boy I was forced to cross the main
And for seven long years in New South Wales to wear a convict's chain

Oh I'd been no longer than six months upon Australian shores
When I turned out as a Tory boy as I'd often done before
There was Macnamara from yonder woods and Captain Mackie too
They were the chief associates of bold Jack Donahoe

As O'Donahoe was taken for a notorious crime
And sentenced to be hanged all on the gallows high
But when he came to Sydney gaol he left them in a stew
For when they came to call the roll they missed Jack Donahoe

As O'Donahoe made his escape to the woods he did repair
Where the tyrants dared not show their face by night and day
And every week in the newspapers there was published something new
Concerning that bold hero boy called brave Jack Donahoe

As O'Donahoe was walking one summer's afternoon
Little was his notion that his death should be so soon
When a sergeant of the horse police discharged his carabine
And loudly called to O'Donahoe to fight or else resign

“It never shall be said of me that Donahue the brave
Surrendered to a policeman or became an Englishman's slave"
For I'll range these woods and valleys like a wolf or kangaroo
Before I'll work for Government said bold Jack Donahoe

Nine rounds the horse policeman fired till at length a fatal ball
He lodged it in O'Donahoe's breast and it caused him to fall
As he closed his mournful eyes to this world he bid adieu
Good people all both great and small pray for Jack Donahoe



Irishman, convict, bushranger and multiple-escapee, Jack Donohue was one of Australia's most famous bushrangers.

From AL Lloyds Old Bush Songs:

Donahue came to Australia from Dublin on the transport “Ann & Amelia” in 1825. An old hand says: “He was only twenty when he arrived here, but he was a second Napoleon. He was short, but a model of muscle and bone... He often said he was never designed for a prisoner and whilst he lived he would be free...” Twice he escaped from the iron gang, and the second time he and his band terrorised the Nepan countryside for a brief two years before he was trapped and shot by the police. The ballad must have been made by an admiring Irish convict shortly after Donahue's death. It has a contempt for the law, a pride in the outlaw's independence, an appreciation of Donahue as the kind of man “who would fight till hell freezes over, and then write on the ice: Come on, you bastards!” It is this spirit which has kept the ballad of Jack Donahue going all these years since the troopers shot him in the Bringilly scrub on September 1st, 1830


The tune used here is taken from the Australian Folk Songs site:

This version collected by Alan Scott from Mr H. Beatty of Hawthorne Qld. In his booklet The Donahoe Ballads gives some 16 tunes that have been collected.

The illustration to this post is the famous pencil drawing of the dead Jack Donohue by Sir TL Mitchell. The original is held in the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Holy Dan




Words: Unknown
Tune: John Thompson






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It was in the Queensland drought;
And over hill and dell,
No grass – the water far apart,
All dry and hot as hell.
The wretched bullock teams drew up
Beside a water-hole –
They’d struggled on through dust and drought
For days to reach this goal.
And though the water rendered forth
A rank, unholy stench,
The bullocks and the bullockies
Drank deep their thirst to quench.


Two of the drivers cursed and swore
As only drivers can.
The other one, named Daniel,
Best known as Holy Dan,
Admonished them and said it was
The Lord’s all-wise decree;
And if they’d only watch and wait,
A change they’d quickly see.

’Twas strange that of Dan’s bullocks
Not one had gone aloft,
But this, he said, was due to prayer
And supplication oft.
At last one died but Dan was calm,
He hardly seemed to care;
He knelt beside the bullock’s corpse
And offered up a prayer.
"One bullock Thou has taken, Lord,
And so it seemeth best.
Thy will be done, but see my need
And spare to me the rest!"

A month went by. Dan’s bullocks now
Were dying every day,
But still on each occasion would
The faithful fellow pray,
"Another Thou has taken, Lord,
And so it seemeth best.
Thy will be done, but see my need,
And spare to me the rest!"

And still they camped beside the hole,
And still it never rained,
And still Dan’s bullocks died and died,
Till only one remained.
Then Dan broke down – good Holy Dan –
The man who never swore.
He knelt beside the latest corpse,
And here’s the prayer he prore.

"That’s nineteen Thou has taken, Lord,
And now You’ll plainly see
You’d better take the bloody lot,
One’s no damn good to me."
The other riders laughed so much
They shook the sky around;
The lightning flashed, the thunder roared,
And Holy Dan was drowned.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Bushman's Song





Words: AB Paterson
Tune: Unknown






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I'm travellin' down the Castlereagh, and I'm a station hand,
I'm handy with the ropin' pole, I'm handy with the brand,
And I can ride a rowdy colt, or swing the axe all day,
But there's no demand for a station-hand along the Castlereagh.

So it's shift, boys, shift, for there isn't the slightest doubt
That we've got to make a shift to the stations further out,
With the pack-horse runnin' after, for he follows like a dog,
We must strike across the country at the old jig-jog.

This old black horse I'm riding -- if you'll notice what's his brand,
He wears the crooked R, you see -- none better in the land.
He takes a lot of beatin', and the other day we tried,
For a bit of a joke, with a racing bloke, for twenty pounds a side.

It was shift, boys, shift, for there wasn't the slightest doubt
That I had to make him shift, for the money was nearly out;
But he cantered home a winner, with the other one at the flog --
He's a red-hot sort to pick up with his old jig-jog.

I asked a cove for shearin' once along the Marthaguy:
`We shear non-union here,' says he. `I call it scab,' says I.
I looked along the shearin' floor before I turned to go --
There were eight or ten dashed Chinamen a-shearin' in a row.

It was shift, boys, shift, for there wasn't the slightest doubt
It was time to make a shift with the leprosy about.
So I saddled up my horses, and I whistled to my dog,
And I left his scabby station at the old jig-jog.

I went to Illawarra, where my brother's got a farm,
He has to ask his landlord's leave before he lifts his arm;
The landlord owns the country side -- man, woman, dog, and cat,
They haven't the cheek to dare to speak without they touch their hat.

It was shift, boys, shift, for there wasn't the slightest doubt
Their little landlord god and I would soon have fallen out;
Was I to touch my hat to him? -- was I his bloomin' dog?
So I makes for up the country at the old jig-jog.

But it's time that I was movin', I've a mighty way to go
Till I drink artesian water from a thousand feet below;
Till I meet the overlanders with the cattle comin' down,
And I'll work a while till I make a pile, then have a spree in town.

So, it's shift, boys, shift, for there isn't the slightest doubt
We've got to make a shift to the stations further out;
The pack-horse runs behind us, for he follows like a dog,
And we cross a lot of country at the old jig-jog.


From The Man From Snowy River And Other Verses by Banjo Paterson. The tune is that collected by John Manifold and included in the Penguin Australian Song Book and recorded by Dave De Hugard on Freedom On The Wallaby.

The prelude from Paterson's book:

I have gathered these stories afar,
In the wind and the rain,
In the land where the cattle camps are,
On the edge of the plain.
On the overland routes of the west,
When the watches were long,
I have fashioned in earnest and jest
These fragments of song.

They are just the rude stories one hears
In sadness and mirth,
The records of wandering years,
And scant is their worth
Though their merits indeed are but slight,
I shall not repine,
If they give you one moment's delight,
Old comrades of mine.

Friday, May 27, 2011

With My Swag All On My Shoulder





Traditional





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When first I left Old England's shore
Such yarns as we were told
As how folks in Australia
Could pick up lumps of gold
So, when we got to Melbourne town
We were ready soon to slip
And get even with the captain
All hands scuttled from the ship


CHORUS:
With my swag all on my shoulder
Black billy in my hand
I travelled the bush of Australia
Like a true-born native man


We steered our course for Geelong town
Then north west to Ballarat
Where some of us got mighty thin
And some got sleek and fat
Some tried their luck at Bendigo
And some at Fiery Creek
I made a fortune in a day
And spent it in a week


For many years I wandered round
As each new rush broke out
And always had of gold a pound
Till alluvial petered out
'Twas then we took the bush to cruise
Glad to get a bite to eat
The squatters treated us so well
We made a regular beat


So round the lighthouse now I tramp
Nor leave it out of sight
I take it on my left shoulder
And then upon my right
And then I take it on my back
And oft upon it lie
It is the best of tucker tracks
So I'll stay here till I die


A variation of The Roving Journeyman, an English 19th Century broadside. (One version, printed between 1813 and 1838, can be viewed from the Bodleian Library collection here).

From the 1924 edition of Paterson's Old Bush Songs. Mark Gregory notes that the tune is a variation of The Boys of Wexford.

The illustration for this post is a photograph by Alex Poignant from the National Gallery of Australia collection.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Old Bullock Dray





Trad





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Oh! the shearing is all over and the wool is coming down
And I mean to get a wife, boys, when I go up to town,
Everything that has two legs represents itself to view,
From the little paddy-melon to the bucking kangaroo

CHORUS::
So, it's roll up your blankets and let's make a push,
I'll take you up the country and I'll show you the bush.
I'll be bound you won't get such a chance another day,
So come on and take possession of my old bullock dray.

I've saved up a good cheque I mean to buy a team,
And when I get a missus, boys, I will be all serene,
For, in calling at the depot they say there's no delay,
To get an off-sider for the old bullock dray.

Oh, we'll live like fighting cocks, for good living I'm your man,
We'll have leather-jacks, johnny cakes and fritters in the pan,
And if you'd like some fish, I'll catch you some soon,
For we'll bob for barramundies round the banks of a lagoon.

Oh, yes, of beef and damper I'll take care we'll have enough,
We'll boil in the bucket such a whopper of a duff,
And our friends will dance, in the honour of the day,
To the music of the bells of the old bullock dray.

Oh, we'll have plenty girls, yes, you must mind that,
There'll be flash little Maggie, and Buck-jumping Pat,
There'll be Stringy-Bark Joe, and Greenhide Mike,
Yes, my colonials, just as many as you like.

Now we'll stop all immigration, we won't need it any more,
We'll be having young colonials, twins by the score,
And I wonder what the devil Jack Robertson would say,
If he saw us promenading round the old bullock dray.


Bob Bolton posted this version of the lyrics on Mudcat in 1999 (see discussion here). The tune is from the singing of Declan Affley presented as part of Warren Fahey's ABC presentation "Cupid Was A Digger".

Bob notes:



The first field-collected version was probably that published in 1956 in Singabout, Journal of Australian Folk Song v.1, #1, p16 and on the other side of Alan Scott's 78rpm Wattle record - the one and only folk song record to penetrate the local hit charts ... in 1956. (And which seems to have been missed by Ron, in his otherwise magnificent index.)

This version was collected from Stan Wakefield and is essentially the same as Chris quoted above, except for the change of one stanza for another and the fact that a few phrases seem to flow more easily - or it may just be that they are the more familiar versions today. The tune is also the same as Ron Edwards published 13 years later; essentially the "A" part of Old Zip Coon or Turkey in the Straw slowed right down.



There are many versions of this song (as noted on the 'cat). You'll find another here.


The illustration was taken in 1918 and is from the Dalton Family Papers, held by the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Black Sheep





Words: Will H Ogilvie
Tune: The Overlanders (?)





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They shepherd their Black Sheep down to the ships,
Society's banned and cursed ;
And the boys look back as the old land dips —
Some with a reckless laugh on their lips,
And some with a prayer reversed.


CHORUS:
And it's Goodbye, England! and farewell, Love
And maybe it's just as well
When a man falls short of his Heaven above
That he drops to the uttermost Hell.


And the anchor lifts and the sails are set :
Now God to your help. Black Sheep !
For the gay world laughs " They will soon forget !"
But fired in the embers of old regret
The brand of the world bites deep.


They turn their Black Sheep over the side
To land on a stranger's shores ;
To drift with the cities' human tide,
Or wander away where the rovers ride
And the flagless legion wars.


And Hope for some is a broken staff
And for others a golden stair,
Who live for the echo of Love's low laugh
Or Somebody's face in a photograph.
Or a coil of Somebody's hair.


And some that have carried a parting gift
May kiss it and fling it away
Far over the clouds that no winds lift
To follow where our dead hopes drift
And rest where dead hopes may.


They bury the Black Sheep out in the Bush,
And buiy them none too deep
On the cattle camps and the last gold rush,
And the grasses grow over them green and lush
And the bush- winds sing them to sleep.


Aiid it's goodbye struggle and farewell strife
And maybe it's just as well
When a man goes down in the Battle of Life
That he shorten his road to Hell


From the Overlanders 1978 double album, Songs of the Great Australian Balladists.

Words from Will H. Ogilvie's Fair Girls and Gray Horses With Other Verses (1907). (Full text linked here).


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Canecutters Lament (#2)





Words: Unknown
Tune: My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean






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There's a girl in the township of Mossman
Believe me she's something to see
With eyes like the stars in the heavens
She looked like an angel to me.

Tail on, tail on, tail on you canecutters, tail on, tail on
Tail on, tail on,
She looked like an angel to me.

I went into town with my cane cheque
My senses were all in a whirl
I made my way into the bar-room
To gaze on this wonderful girl.

Tail on, tail on, tail on you canecutters, tail on, tail on
Tail on, tail on,
To gaze on this wonderful girl.

I pushed my way up to the counter
My barmaid she slipped me a drink.
In no time we're quite well acquainted
She drooped one sweet eye in a wink

Tail on, tail on, tail on you canecutters, tail on, tail on
Tail on, tail on,
She drooped one sweet eye in a wink

My cash must have vanished like water
Twas late the next day I awoke
I found myself out in the gutter
My angel was gone- I was broke

Tail on, tail on, tail on you canecutters, tail on, tail on
Tail on, tail on,
My angel was gone- I was broke

Now you cutters have all heard my story
So mark you the moral quite well
A girl maybe looks like an angel
But you never can tell, ne'er can tell.

Tail on, tail on, tail on you canecutters, tail on, tail on
Tail on, tail on,
But you never can tell, ne'er can tell.


Another from Singabout, volume 4, Number 4 (1962). Published with these notes:

Sent in by Jimmy Laycock of Ravenshoe, North Queensland, who says "when I tried to think back, some of the words eluded me, but this is a pretty close approximation."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bluey Brink




Unknown





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There once was a shearer by name Bluey Brink
A devil for work and a devil for drink
He could shear his two hundred a day without fear
And drink without winking four gallon of beer

Now Jimmy the barman who served out the drink
He hated the sight of this here Bluey Brink
Who stayed much too late and who come much too soon
At evening, at mornin, at night and at noon

One morning as Jimmy was cleaning the bar
With sulphuric acid he kept in a jar
Old Bluey came yelling and bawling with thirst
Whatever you've got Jim just hand me the first

Now it aint in the history, it ain't put in print
But Bluey drunk acid with never a wink
Saying that's the stuff Jimmy, well strike me stone dead
This'll make me the ringer of Stephenson's shed

Now all that long day as he served out the beer
Poor Jimmy was sick with his trouble and fear
Too worried to argue too worried to fight
Seeing the shearer a corpse in his fright

Now early next morning, he opened the door
And along come the shearer, asking for more
With his eyebrows all singed and his whiskers deranged
And holes in hide hide like a dog with the mange.

Says Jimmy and how did you find the new stuff?
Says Bluey it's fine but I've not had enough
It gives me great courage to shear and to fight
But why does that stuff set me whiskers alight?

I thought I knew drink, but I must have been wrong
For what you just give me was proper and strong
It set me to coughing and you know I'm no liar
But every cough set me whiskers on fire


Another collected by AL Lloyd, this time from Across the Western Plains (1958).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Great Northern Line





Words: Unknown
Tune: Trad ('Musselburgh Fair')






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My love he is a teamster, a handsome man is he,
Red shirt, white moleskin trousers and hat of cabbage-tree;
He drives a team of bullocks, and whether it's wet or fine,
You'll hear his whip a-cracking on the Great Northern Line.


CHORUS:
Watch him, pipe him, twig him how he goes,
With his little team of bullocks he cuts no dirty shows;
He's one of the flash young carriers that on the road do shine,
With his little team of bullocks on the Great Northern Line.

And when he swings the greenhide, he raises skin and hair,
His bullocks all have shrivelled horns, for Lordy, he can swear!
But I will always love him, that splendid man of mine,
With his little team of bullocks on the Great Northern Line.

When he bogged at Mundowie and the bullocks took the yoke,
They strained with bellies on the ground until the bar chain broke,
But he fixed it up with fencing wire and brought wood from Bundamine,
With his little team of bullocks on the Great Northern Line.

When he comes into Tamworth you will hear the ladies sigh,
And parents guard their daughters for he has a roving eye;
But he signals with his bullock whip as he comes through the pine,
With his little team of bullocks on the Great Northern Line.



From Singabout, Volume 4, Number 4, 1962. A variant of the Knickerbocker Line, sung by Duke Tritton and Sally Sloane. Chloe and Jason Roweth have the following notes:

H.P. 'Duke' Tritton (1886 - 1965) sang 'The Great Northern Line' for collector John Meredith, who included the song in his book "Folk Songs of Australia Volume 1". Duke had originally learnt the song while fencing in the Warrumbungles, from Jack Large, who came from around Mudgee area in NSW..

The photograph is by Kerry and Co and shows a wheat wagon at Narromine railway station in New South Wales. From the Sydney Powerhouse collection.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Look Out Below!




Charles Thatcher





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A young man left his native shore,
for trade was bad at home.
To seek his fortune in this land,
he crossed the briny foam.

And when he came to Ballarat,
it put him in a glow,
to hear the sound of the windlasses
and the cry. "Look Out Below!".

Wherever he turned his wandering eyes
Great wealth he did behold,
and peace and plenty hand in hand,
by the magic power of gold.

Quoth he, ""As I am yong and strong
to the diggin's I will go,
for I like the sound of the windlasses
and the cry, "Look Out Below!".

Among the rest he took his chance,
and his lick at first was vile,
but still he resolved to persevere,
and at length he made his pile.

So says he, "I'll take my passage
and home again I'll go,
and say farewell to the windlasses
and the cry, "Look Out Below!".

Arrived in London once again,
his gold he freely spent.
And into every gaiety
and dissipation went.

But pleasure, if prolonged too much,
oft causes pain you know,
and he missed the sound of the windlasses
and the cry, "Look Out Below!".

And thus he reasoned with himself
"Oh why did I return?"
For a digger's independent life
I now begin to yearn.

Here, purse-proud lords the poor do oppress,
but there it is not so.
Give me the sound of the windlasses
and the cry, "Look Out Below!"

So he started for this land once again
with a charming little wife.
And he finds there's nothing that comes up to
a jolly digger's life.

Ask him if he'll go back one day,
he'll quickly answer, "No",
for he loves the sound of the windlasses
and the cry, "Look Out Below!".


Charles Thatcher was also the author of the song Where's Your License, posted here on April 9.

These words come from a post on Mudcat:

My parents had a book and record, published in 1970 by Jacaranda Press, by Peter O'Shaughnessy, Russell Ward and Graeme Inson, titled "The Restless Years".
Peter O'Shaughnessy, Marian Henderson and Alex Hood sing the song by Charles Thatcher, titled "Look Out Below", accompanied by band members Ron Carson, Richard Brookes and Robert Iredale.


The tune is from Mark Gregory's Australian Folk Song site (where slightly different words appear), reported as collected by John Meredith with the tune being from Sally Sloane.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Our Jack's Come Out Today




Words: Unknown
Tune: WJ Devers






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Our Jack's come out today, my boys,
And very glad is he;
He got six months in Brisbane gaol
But now at last he's free
His hair's cut short, he had to work
For which he got no pay,
But all is past, he's out at last
Our Jack's come out today

Our Jack's come out today, my boys,
And it would make you stare
To hear the yarns he spins about
The coves he met in there
Some in for life, which he thought hard
Some screwed up for a day,
But all is past, he's out at last
Our Jack's come out today

Our Jack's come out today, my boys,
And isn't Polly glad
She had to pawn the things he shook
And found out she was had.
The price she got was not enough
To keep her for a day
But all is past, she's right at last
Our Jack's come out today!


One of two parodies of an older English song, Our Jack's Come Home Today. Ron Edwards notes that this version was first published in The Native Companion Songster of 1889.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Tent Poles Are Rotten




Words: Henry Lawson
Tune: Unknown (Dave de Hugard?)





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The tent poles are rotten and the campfire’s dead
And the possums may ramble in the trees overhead
I’m humping my bluey far out in the land
And the prints of my bluchers sink deep in the sand
I am out on the wallaby humping my drum
And I come down the road where the sundowners come

It is nor’west by west o’er ridges and far
To the plains where the cattle and sheep stations are
With the sky for my roof and the earth for my bunk
And a calico bag for my damper and my junk
And scarcely a comrade my memory reveals
The spirit still tingles in my toe and my heels

When my tent is all torn and my blankets are damp
And the fast rising waters flow down by the camp
And the cold water rises in jets from the floor
I lie in my bunk and listen to it roar
And I think of tomorrow how my footsteps will lag
As I tramp ‘neath the weight of a rain sodden swag

But I think of the honest old light in my home
When the stars hang in clusters like lamps in a dome
And I think of the hearth where the dark shadows fall
And the campfire I build in the wildest place of all
But I’m following my fate for I know she knows best
I follow she leads and it’s nor’west by west

Though the way of a swagman is mostly uphill
There are joys to be found on the wallaby still
When the day has gone by with its tramp and its toil
Your campfire you build and the billy you can boil
There’s comfort and peace in the bowl of you clay
Or the yarn of a mate who is tramping that way

But beware of the city where it’s poison for years
In the pleasure you find in drinking long beers
Where a bushman gets bushed in the streets of the town
Where he loses his friends when his cheques are knocked down
He’s right ‘til his pocket is empty and then
He must waltz his old bluey up the country again


From Dave De Hugard's 1970 album, Freedom on the Wallaby. The words are a slight variation on the original by Lawson (See the Mudcat discussion on this topic here).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cane Killed Abel




Words: Merv Lilley
Tune: Chris Kempster






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I was a cane cutter, but now I'm at sea,
Stool it, and top it, and load it my boys
Once cane killed Abel, but it won't kill me,
Stool it, and top it, and load it my boys

There was an old seaman who sang this refrain,
He stood to the bar and he filled up again.

I rose every morning about half past three,
To cook me my breakfast, my dinner and tea.

I worked very hard until I went to sea,
Once cane killed Abel, and it almost killed me.



Mark Gregory's Union Songs site has the refrains as "load it up high" and "Load it up wet and load it up dry". This version from Singabout, Volume 1, Number 1, Summer, 1956.

You can watch a short film, Cane-cutting and Mateship on the National Film and Sound Archive website.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sailor Home From The Sea




Words: Dorothy Hewett
Music: Martyn Wyndham-Read






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Oh Cock of the North with a dream in his hand
My love has come home to this beautiful land
He bursts through the door with his eyes like the sun
And his kitbag crammed full of the treasures he's won

A coral from Broome and a tall Darwin tale
A pearl and a clam and the jaws of a whale
My kitchen is filled with the smell of the sea
And the leaping green fishes my love brings to me

Oh tumble your treasures from Darwin and Broome
And fill with their glory this straight little room
With the sun of the morning ablaze on his chest
My love has come home from the north of north-west

And deep in our bed we'll lie and we'll be
We'll kiss and we'll listen to the rain on the sea
Warm as the summer, we've lived winter long
My love has come home like King Solomon's song


From Martyn Wyndham-Read's 1973 LP, Harry The Hawker is Dead..


These notes from the folkcatalogue blog:

The poem, by Australian communist poetess Dorothy Hewett, was published in 1963, MW-R wrote the tune “back in about 1964” and played it to audiences in Britain on his return in 1967.

Some time after it morphed into a song called Cock of the North, a staple in the repertoire of Finbar and Eddie Furey. MW-R explains the, erm, folk process:

“I well remember singing my tune to Sailor Home From The Sea into Eddie Furey’s tape recorder circa late 1960′s and then in the early ’70′s being on tour in Germany and staying at Willy Schwenken’s house,” he recalled. “Willy made records of the vinyl variety and also had an extensive collection. While browsing through some of these I saw that there was a recording of the Furey’s live concert at some hall.

“One of the tracks was I think Cock of The North. So, being curious, I played that track, sure enough it was Sailor Home From The Sea having been, as Bob Bolton so accurately describes as ‘being painted green’, something about having learnt the song from their grandmother and it was all about gun running, to be honest I am not too sure about this bit being on the actual record but I am sure that I have heard them introduce it this way.

“One thing I am sure of is that each time I have seen Eddie and asked him about this he has always had a pressing engagement in a different direction.”





Monday, May 16, 2011

Song of the Sheet-Metal Worker




Words: John Dengate
Tune: Traditional (Valley of Knockanure)





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Oh when I was a boy in Carlingford all sixty years ago,
The eucalypts grew straight and tall and the creeks did sweetly flow,
But times were hard when the old man died and the orchard would not pay
So I left the land for the factory bench and I'm working there still today.

I have earned my bread in the metal shops for forty years and more
My hands are hard and acid-scarred as the boards on the workshop floor.
My soul is sheathed in Kembla steel and my eyelids have turned to brass
And the orchard's gone, and the apple trees where the wind whispered through the grass.

The workbench is my altar where I come to take the host.
Copper, brass and fine sheet steel-father son and holy ghost.
The sacramental wine of work grows sour upon my tongue;
Oh the fruit was sweet on the apple trees when my brothers and I were young.


Another mighty song from a great writer from Sydney.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Thousand Miles Away




Charles Flower (?)





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Hurrah for the old stock saddle, hurrah for the stockwhip too
Hurrah for the baldy pony boys to carry me westward ho
To carry me westward ho my boys that's where the cattle stray
On the far Barcoo where they eat Nardoo a thousand mile away

Then give your horses rein across the open plain
We'll crack our whips like a thunderbolt nor care what some folks say
And a running we'll bring home them cattle at Narome
On the far Barcoo where they eat Nardoo a thousand mile away

Knee deep in grass we've got to pass the truth I'm bound to tell
Where in three weeks them cattle get as fat as they can swell
As fat as they can swell my lads a thousand pound they weigh
On the far Barcoo and the Flinders too a thousand mile away

So fit me up with a snaffle and a four or a five inch spur
And fourteen foot of greenhide whip to chop the flaming fur
I'll yard them flaming cattle in away that's safe to swear
I'll make them Queensland cattlemen sit back in the saddle and stare

Hurrah for the old stock saddle, hurrah for the stockwhip too
Hurrah for the baldy pony boys to carry me westward ho
To carry me westward ho my boys that's where the cattle stray
On the far Barcoo where they eat Nardoo a thousand mile away



Reportedly written by Charles Flower (author of The Broken Down Squatter), a landholder on the Darling Downs. The Australian Folk Songs site notes its first publication as in the Queenslander in 1894.

The Barcoo River in western Queensland, Australia that rises on the northern slopes of the Warrego Range, flows in a south westerly direction and unites with the Thomson River to form Cooper Creek.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Winds of Fortune




John Caldwell






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Wake up, wake up, my friends, the hour is late
The days go swiftly by, such is our fate
What is the life of man, we live, we die
The deck beneath our feet, above the sky

Chorus:

Blow winds of fortune and speed our boat
Ebb and flow ocean on which we float (repeat)
The waves roll round the world, the sweet rain falls
The breeze goes swiftly by, the sea-bird calls
The winds roll round the world, our sails to fill
Our helmsman holds the oar, blow where they will


And when the winds do fail, as fail they must
We shall unship the oars, our backs to trust
And we will work again with honest toil
If we're to walk again on native soil.


Nicole heard this beautiful song being sung by the writer, John Caldwell at the Guildford Folk Club in Victoria. Keryn Archer taught it to us at the National Folk Festival sessions a little later. This recording from the cloudstreet album, The Fiddleship.

The illustration for this post is an engraving by the French artist, Gustave Doré.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The F-111




Words: Lyell Sayer
Tune: Traditional (Johnny Lad)





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Now, Mr Robert Menzies was walking down the street,
And thinking of our airforce which was mostly obsolete;
"Our Canberra bombers are getting old as hell,
I'd better call up Uncle Sam and see what he can sell."

Chorus:
Oh, the F-one-double one it is a lovely plane,
It flies at twice the speed of sound and scatters bombs like rain,
It's wings go back and forward, it's the latest thing around,
It's a pity that it isn't safe to take it off the ground.

He said to Uncle Sammy, "We want to buy a plane
To save our lovely country from going down the drain;
We want to scare some Asians, so see what you can do."
The answer was, "Bob, buddy, we've got just the thing for you."

Bob said, "We'll take two dozen." The plane they had to make,
And soon they had one ready, its first flight for to take,
It whistled down the runway with a dreadful roaring sound,
And then broke up in little bits and fell back on the ground.

They sent six off to Vietnam, the country to defend,
To wipe out all the Viet Cong and cause the war to end,
But Ho Chi Min said, "Comrades, don't waste our precious shells,
These brand-new planes the Yankees have all fall down by themselves."

Now years have come and years have gone, and we all still depend
On our nice old Canberra bombers our country to defend;
The plane's prices double every time one takes a spill,
And if Sir Robert was still here, we'd make him pay the bill.

And when they are all ready, and we have paid the fee,
Our Generous Uncle Sammy will make delivery,
But I doubt if it will be much good to him or you or I,
At the present rate of accidents we've got a week's supply.


The General Dynamics F-111C was a controversial aircraft purchased by the Royal Australian Air Force in 1963. Problems began with a 10-year delay in delivery. For more, see Wikipedia

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Marching Song of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade





Words: Unknown
Tune: Trad (Marching Through Georgia)






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We’re horsemen from Australia of the good old British breed,
We rallied to the colours when we heard the Empire’s need,
You bet we’re out to play the game, and if we don’t succeed,
We’ll join our mates who took the count before us.

CHORUS:
We are, we are, the Third Light Horse Brigade.
We face the odds with ne’er a man afraid,
We lost our gallant comrades and there’s many a score unpaid,
Undaunted still we’re out for what’s before us.


Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and Signallers, Field Ambulance and Train
We did our bit at Anzac, where we’d like to go again,
For though we got it in the NEK, we’ll fight with might and main,
To square our mates who took the count before us.


Send the news to Kitchener, tell Birdwood with a snap,
Say that we Australian boys are busting for a scrap.
We want to tackle Germany and wipe her off the Map,
Then toast our mates who took the count before us.




Lyrics and notes from the Desert Column site (Australian Military History of the Early 20th Century):


In an effort to rebuild the 3rd Light Horse Brigade after the withdrawal from Gallipoli in December 1915, the GOC, Brigadier General Antill turned to music to assist in the bonding process. Selecting the music to the popular American Civil War tune, "Marching through Georgia", was the easy part. To play the tune, the 8th Light Horse Regiment band was reconstituted and began rehearsing on 12 January 1916. Within in two days, the band gave their first performance. To generate additional enthusiasm, on 16 January 1916, Antill announced a competition for an aspiring poet within the Brigade to put words to the tune which were distinctly Australian. As an added incentive, a prize of one guinea [£1/1/- or in 2008 AUD, about $420] was offered for the best entry. The prize was claimed a week later.


More detail on the history of the 3rd Light Horse (South Australian Mounted Rifles) can be found here.

For further reading, detail and to order uniforms (!) check out the Light Horse Association website.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Ham Fat Man




Words: Walter Cassell
Tune: Traditional (The Cuckoo's Nest)






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White folks attention, and listen to my song
I'll sing to you a ditty and it won't detain you long
It's all about a pretty girl, whose name was Sara Ann
And she fell deep in love with the ham fat man

CHORUS:
Ham fat, soap fat, candle fat or lard,
Ham fat, cat fat, or any other man
Jump into the kitchen as quick as you can
With my roochee, coochee, coochee, the ham fat man.

The ham fat man, he fell deep in love
All with Sara Ann, to be his turtle dove
She dwelt in Sydney market, no.13 was her stand,
And she sold polony sausage to the ham fat man.

Now the ham fat man, he couldn't stand the press
For every day she wanted to buy a new dress
His money it was gone and the faithless Sara Ann
She hooked it off to Bathurst with a Chinaman

Oh, all you young men, take warning by my ditty
Never trust a girl that lives in Sydney city
For they're bound to play you falsely, and cheat you if they can
Or serve you as they served out the ham fat man.


From Ron Edwards' Great Australian Folk Songs, collected from the Sydney Songster (1865-1869).

An example of the late nineteenth century blackface minstrel song popular in Australia at the time.

Coincidentally (?) an American version of this song was published in the United States by Wehman Publishing in one of their songbooks between 1884 and 1899: De Ham Fat Man

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Ryebuck Shearer




Traditional




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I come from the south and my name is Field
And when my shears are properly steeled
It's a hundred and odd I have very often peeled
And of course I'm a ryebuck shearer

CHORUS:
If I dont shear a tally before I go
My shears and stone in the river I'll throw
And I'll never open Sawbees or take another blow
And prove I'm a ryebuck shearer


There's a bloke on the board and I heard him say
I couldn't shear a hundred sheep in a day
But some fine day I'll show him the way
And prove I'm a ryebuck shearer


Oh I'll make a splash but I wont say when
I'll hop off my tail and I'll into the pen
While the ringer's shearing five I'll be shearing ten
And prove I'm a ryebuck shearer


There's a bloke on the board and he's got a yellow skin
A very long nose and he shaves on the chin
And a voice like a billy goat pissing in a tin
And of course he's a ryebuck shearer


Collected by John Meredith in 1953 from the singing of Jack Luscombe.

Meredith also collected the words from Ernie Sibley in the beer garden of the Orient Hotel in Mudgee, NSW.

An excerpt from the book Folk Songs of Australia:
"The four remembered verses were taken down, and after another beer Ernie set off on his pushbike. Ten minutes later he jumped off his bike and breathlessly added the chorus that he had suddenly remembered along the road".

First published in Singabout, volume 2, no.1, in 1957.

The illustration to this post is the painting, The Ryebuck Shearer by Hugh Sawrey (1923-1999).

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Old Bark Hut




Unknown





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Oh, my name is Bob the Swagman before you all I stand
And I've had many ups and downs while travelling through the land
I once was well-to-do my boys but now I am stumped up
And I'm forced to go on rations in an old bark hut

In an old bark hut in an old bark hut
I'm forced to go on rations in an old bark hut

Ten pounds of flour ten pounds of beef some sugar and some tea
That's all they give to a hungry man until the Seventh Day
If you don't be mighty sparing you'll go with a hungry gut
For that's one of the great misfortunes in an old bark hut

In an old bark hut in an old bark hut
For that's one of the great misfortunes in an old bark hut

The bucket you boil your beef in has to carry water too
And they'll say you're getting mighty brash if you should ask for two
I've a billy and a pint-pot and a broken-handled cup
And they all adorn the table in the old bark hut

In an old bark hut in an old bark hut
And they all adorn the table in the old bark hut

Faith, the table is not made of wood as many you have seen
For if I had one half so good I'd think myself serene
'Tis only an old sheet of bark God knows when it was cut
It was blown from off the rafters of the old bark hut

In an old bark hut in an old bark hut
It was blown from off the rafters of the old bark hut

And of furniture there's no such thing 'twas never in the place
Except the stool I sit upon and that's an old gin-case
It does us for a safe as well but you must keep it shut
Or the flies would make it canter round the old bark hut

In an old bark hut in an old bark hut
Or the flies would make it canter round the old bark hut

If you should leave it open and the flies should find your meat
They'll scarcely leave a single piece that's fit for man to eat
But you musn't curse nor grumble what won't fatten will fill up
For what's out of sight is out of mind in an old bark hut

In an old bark hut in an old bark hut
For what's out of sight is out of mind in an old bark hut

In the summertime when the weather's warm this hut is nice and cool
And you'll find the gentle breezes blowing in through every hole
You can leave the old door open or you can leave it shut
There's no fear of suffocation in the old bark hut

In an old bark hut in an old bark hut
There's no fear of suffocation in the old bark hut

In the winter-time preserve us all! to live in there's a treat
Especially when it's raining hard and blowing wind and sleet
The rain comes down the chimney and your meat is black with soot
That's a substitute for pepper in an old bark hut

In an old bark hut, in an old bark hut
That's a substitute for pepper in an old bark hut

I've seen the rain come in this hut just like a perfect flood
Especially through that great big hole where once the table stood
There's not a blessed spot me boys where you could lay your nut
But the rain is sure to find you in the old bark hut

In an old bark hut, in an old bark hut
But the rain is sure to find you in the old bark hut

So beside the fire I make me bed and there I lay me down
And think myself as happy as the king that wears a crown
But as you'd be dozing off to sleep a flea will wake you up
Which makes you curse the vermin in the old bark hut

In an old bark hut, in an old bark hut
Which makes you curse the vermin in the old bark hut

Faith such flocks of fleas you never saw they are so plump and fat
And if you make a grab at one he'll spit just like a cat
Last night they got my pack of cards and were fighting for the cut
I thought the Devil had me in the old bark hut

In an old bark hut, in an old bark hut
I thought the Devil had me in the old bark hut

So now my friends I've sung my song and that as well as I could
And I hope the ladies present won't think my language rude
And all ye younger people in the days when you grow up
Remember Bob the Swagman and the old bark hut

In an old bark hut in an old bark hut
Remember Bob the Swagman and the old bark hut


Another from Paterson's Old Bush Songs. Lyrics from Mark Gregory's Australian Folk Songs site.

Recorded with an 1859 Wheatstone baritone concertina.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ship Repairing Men




Lyrics and Music ©Harry Robertson,
and subsequently ©1995 Mrs Rita Robertson, Brisbane, Australia





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From the workshop off we go, toolkits heavy in our hands,
To a big ship that’s come in, from a trip to foreign lands,
Salty streaks of rust have marked her, but her moorings hold her tight,
And we’ll work to fix her engines, all today and half the night.

CHORUS:
Don’t wait up for me this evening — I’ll be out all night again
Working on the Brisbane River with the ship repairing men.

Oil-fired boilers throb with power, drinking up the furnace heat,
Water turns to driving steam to make the engines beat,
But the feed pump’s sighing wail to us cuts through all other sound,
As it sings a song of triumph, for the valves that we have ground.

Engine bearings that knocked and hammered through the wild and stormy seas,
Will be machined and fitted till they run with silent ease,
And that winch that rattles every time the piston turns the shaft,
Will hum along and sing its song to men skilled in their craft.

When you see an ocean liner glide between the river banks,
And the Captain in his gold braid orders men of lesser ranks,
Have you thought perhaps this stately craft might never sail again,
If it wasn’t for the toil and sweat of ship repairing men


The illustration is a photograph taken in 1963 of the Evans Deakin shipyard in Kangaroo Point on the Brisbane River. One of my favourites of Harry Robertson's songs, I learnt this one in the Brisbane sessions.



As adminstrators of the copyright in Harry's songs on behalf of Rita Robertson, Evan and Lyn Mathieson have asked that I include the following:

As longterm friends of Harry and Rita Robertson and family, Evan and Lyn Mathieson had the good fortune to learn many of Harry's songs directly from the man himself immediately as they were being written. SHIP REPAIRING MEN was one of them. It was written in the 1960's when Harry was working in ship repair at the Evans Deakin shipyard at Kangaroo Point, and the Cairncross drydock downstream at Colmslie, on the Brisbane River. Harry explained to us how he used the rhythm of his tune to simulate the rhythm of the ship's engine. Sadly Harry never professionally recorded SHIP REPAIRING MEN, but the following mp3 from Evan Mathieson's CD "HARRY'S LEGACY" gives a true rendition of Harry's original tune and his finger-picking guitar accompaniment style.




Harry Robertson was a singer songwriter in the true "oral tradition". He was not literate in musical notation so he did not write scores for his songs. His tunes were passed on by the actual singing in the true oral tradition. His words were very carefully chosen and worked in beautifully with the rhythm of his tunes. Harry's lyrics and music came from his his lifelong love of the works of Robbie Burns, and the oral tradition heritage of his own musical Scottish family.

At the request of Harry's widow Mrs Rita Robertson, so that Harry's great songs will live on, Evan Mathieson has recorded many of them on his two CD's "HARRY'S LEGACY" and "TRIBUTE TO HARRY ROBERTSON — 1923-1995". Both CD's are available through the www.tradandnow.com website.

The words for Harry Robertson's songs are available on his official website www.harryrobertson.net

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Swagman's Dream




Unknown





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Twas in the lovely Queensland bush, a worn out swagman lay
His head was pillowed on his sway, his thoughts were far away.
The scenes of bygone happy days before his vision passed.
The scenes that long had passed away too happy for to last

Take me to my little farm beside the running brook
And on my wife and children dear, O, once more let me look.
Alas, those joys that thrilled his heart, and caused bright hopes to be
Was only visions of the past in that poor swagman's dream.

It was poverty through raging drought caused him to lose his farm,
Cruel death had claimed his wife, and ended life's sweet charm
His children he was forced to leave for charity to keep
And he aloe was left to bear his sorrow, keen and deep.

Footsore and worn in search of work, he wandered day by day
Through long and lonely miles of bush he tramped his weary way
Until weary, sad and sick at heart, no hopes within him gleam,
He falls asleep, and home once more he sees it in a dream.

In dreamland he again beheld his far-off home
Where he was forced by poverty an outcast for to roam
Once more he's standing by its side beside the running stream
Then greets his wife and family and murmers in a dream

Then suddenly he feels a sting, and wakens with a start,
A cruel adder in his flesh has seized its deadly dart
He knows that he is called upon to cross death's icy stream
And in that peaceful land he meets the loved ones of his dream.


Another from Australian Tradition, Issue 19, March 1969:

Collected by R.Michell of the Queensland Folklore Society from Enos Newitt, 1963.

Sung by Albert and Enos Newitt of Bundaberg, Queensland. The origin of the song is uncertain, but they may have learned it from their eldest brother, who was a trooper during the shearers' strikes of 1891-2, but more probably learned in the Bundaberg district.

The song is a mixture of bush subject-matter and Victorian sentimentality - not really a typical bush song at all, but a hybrid.


The illustration to this post is Down On His Luck by Frederick McCubbin

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Overlanders




Traditional





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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.

CHORUS:
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".

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Humping Old Bluey




Trad.




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Humping old bluey; it is a stale game,
And that I can plainly see.
You're battling with poverty, hunger, sharp thorn,
Things are just going middling with me.

Now shearing's all over, and I'm such a swell ...
I'm riding a very fine hack.
If my friends were to see me - I'm not humping bluey,
I'm pushing a bit further back.

Humping your drum, and that after rum -
Wasting your young life away;
You're battling with poverty, hunger, sharp thorn,
Things are just going middling, I say.


This song was collected by the Sydney Bush Music Club from 70-year-old ex-shearer, Ron Mantan, who learnt the song when he was seven years old. First published in Singabout, Vol 3, #3,The Bush Music Club, Sydney, NSW, Australia. From Gary Shearston's Here and There, Now and Then album.