Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Norman Brown

Words:  Dorothy Hewett
Tune:  Traditional (Bold Nelson's Praise)

There was a very simple man,
Honest and quiet, yet he became
The mate of every working man,
And every miner knows his name.

Oh Norman Brown, oh Norman Brown
The murderin' coppers they shot him down,
They shot him down in Rothbury town,
A working man called Norman Brown.

"An honest man," the parson said,
And dropped the clods upon his head,
But honest man or not, he's dead
And that's the end of Norman Brown.

Coal bosses wiped their hands and sighed,
"It is a pity that he died."
It will inflame the countryside,
And all because of Norman Brown.

At pit-top meetings and on strike
In every little mining town,
When miners march for bread and rights
There marches honest Norman Brown.

He thunders at the pit-top strike,
His voice is in the women's tears,
With banner carried shoulder-high
He's singing down the struggling years.

A miner's pick is in his hand,
His song is shouted through the land,
A land that's free and broad and brown,
The land that bred us Norman Brown.

Last chorus
Oh Norman Brown, oh Norman Brown,
The murderin' coppers they shot him down.
They shot him down in Rothbury town,
To live forever ... Norman Brown.

With thanks to Tony Suttor.  Recorded on the 1974  album, Man of the Earth- Songs and Ballads of the Australian Mining Industry.

Norman Brown, aged 29 was killed and forty-five others were injured by police in 1929 during what becam known as the Rothbury Riot.  These notes from Wikipedia:

In 1929 colliery owners on the Northern New South Wales coalfields combined as the Northern Collieries Association. On Thursday 14 February 1929 the mine employers gave their 9,750 employees 14 days notice, that they (the miners) should accept the following new conditions:

"A wage reduction of 12½ per cent on the contract rates, one shilling ($0.10) a day on the "day wage" rate; all Lodges must give the colliery managers the right to hire and fire without regard to seniority; all Lodges must agree to discontinue pit-top meetings and pit stoppages".

The miners refused to accept these terms, and on Saturday 2 March 1929, all miners were "locked out" of their employment.

In September 1929, the NSW State Parliament introduced an Unlawful Assembly Act designed to suppress the miners, which authorised police to break up any gatherings.

During December 1929 about 4,000 miners were demonstrating against the introduction of non-union labour into the Rothbury mine by the conservative Thomas Bavin State Government who had taken over the colliery. The State Government called in 400 officers from the New South Wales Police from other districts to protect the colliery and allow the entry of non-union labour. On the morning of 16 December the miners had marched to the mine gate led by a pipe band. When the miners charged the gate, they were met by baton charges by the police and hand to hand clashes. Then the police drew their revolvers and shot into the crowd.

This from the Barrier Miner newspaper, 18 December 1930, reporting on the unveiling of the monument to Norman Brown depicted above:

Special trains brought about 2500 men to West Maitland to-day for the unveiling of the monument to the memory of Norman Brown, who was fatally shot in the Rothbury riot last year: A mass meeting had been arranged to follow the ceremony. There was an absence of violence. A brief service was conducted at the Greta Church-of England and at the monument.

Mr. T. Hoare, the miners' northern president, delivered an abusive address before the unveiling of the
monument. His remarks displeased a large section of the crowd.

Bill The Bullocky


While travelling over the mountain
I heard a maiden cry
There goes old Bill the Bullocky
He's bound for Gundagai
Through eating beef and damper
His shit was stiff with clay
No better man through sand or dirt
Was Bill the Bullocky

With Spark and Charley in the lead
And on the pole old Ball,
Who bent his back, nor cared a damn
If the others pulled at all
It was then that Nobby broke the yoke
Blucher poked out Baldy's eye
And the dog shit in the tucker box
Nine miles from Gundagai.

From Ron Edwards Big Book of Australian Folk Song, with the following note:

Bill the Bullocky was collected from Percy Skinner, Cairns on 6 April, 1965.  He was born in Casino, NSW, in 1889 and learned this song in 1905 while working as a bullock driver in the Clarence River area, where he was engaged in hauling out timber.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Six White Boomers

Rolf Harris and John Brown

Early on one Christmas Day, a Joey Kangaroo,

Was far from home and lost in a great big zoo.
Mummy, where's my mummy? They've taken her a-way.

We'll help you find your mummy, son. Hop up on the sleigh.

Up beside the bag of toys little Joey hopped,

But they hadn't gone far when Santa stopped.

Unharnessed all the reindeer and Joey wondered why,

Then he heard a far off booming in the sky.

Six white boomers, snow white boomers,

Racing Santa Claus through the blazing sun.
Six white boomers, snow white boomers,

On his Australian run.

Pretty soon old Santa began to feel the heat,

Took his fur-lined boots off to cool his feet,
Into one popped Joey, feeling quite okay,

While those old man kangaroos kept pulling on the sleigh.

Joey said to Santa, Santa, what about the toys?

Aren't you giving some to these girls and boys?
They've got all their presents, son, we were here last night,

This trip is an extra trip, Joey's special flight.

Soon the sleigh was flashing past, right over Marble Bar,
Slow down there, cried Santa, it can't be far,

Come up on my lap here, son, and have a look around.

There she is, that's Mummy, bounding up and down.

Well that's the bestest Christmas treat that Joey ever had,

Curled up in mother's pouch feeling snug and glad.
The last they saw was Santa heading northwards from the sun,

The only year the boomers worked a double run.

Folk?  It has endured in memory and custom...  I won't push the point.  Merry Christmas.

This one was a big hit for Rolf in 1960.

And for completeness, the six white boomers (kangaroos who pull the sleigh in the South) were:

Jackeroo, Bluey, Curly, Two-up, Desert-Head and Snow

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Old Stag


The old stag leaned against the fence,
He was too tired to walk,
The butcher pulled out his knife and steel
And the beast began to talk

Misguided man, oh do you mean
To perpetrate this crime?
Don't sell me to your customers
And tell them that I'm prime.

For many a mile on the parched outback,
With never a day to spare,
My master kept me to the yoke,
And God knows he could swear.

I've cancer, blots and pleuro,
I can scarcely draw my breath,
Pray let me take my bones aside
And die a natural death.

The butcher laughed a greasy laugh,
And poking out his tongue,
Said, "I'll tell them that you're lucerne fed,
And I'll kid them that you're young.

They do not know of what they eat,
The people of this town,
And God sends the likes of you old man
To keep the prices down.

Should any of my patrons die
Through catching of your ills,
I hope to Christ it will be those
Who never pay the bills.

With that he knocked the poor wretch down
And ut him up for scrag,
Next day he winked the other eye
As he dealt them out the stag.

From Ron Edwards Big Book of Australian Folk Songs, with the following note:

The Old Stag or The Bull Stag is better known as a recitation than as a song, and most old bushmen in the North know at least a few lines of it.  The present text was collected from Arthur Nevins, Cairns, on 12 March 1965.  He had learned it on Normanby Station in the Gulf Country around 1928.  The tune came from Bill Scott who had it from Noel Sligar, who in turn had learned it from his father during the 1930s in the Snowy River area of North-East Victoria.

Salt Junk

Words:  Saul Mendelsohn
Music:  Alfred Lee

I am a roving jackeroo and often take pot luck
From Maranoa to Paroo, of wonga, turkey, duck.
The squatters pretty daughters vie to serve me with the best,
I pass their daintiest willing by an choose salt junk for zest.

Salt junk is my delight, it is my favourite,
The wealth of dear Australia, boys -  the common wealth of Australia, boys -
What ever may betide, by this I will abide -
Of all the meats which grace the hall, salt junk's the king of all.

I am no glutton, no, not I, but this I will avow,
I like a savoury mutton pie, it's jam you must allow,
I also like a kidney stew, roast fowl is my delight,
Of oysters I can gorge a few, still junk's my favourite.

Invited by the Governor, Sir Thomas and Sir Sam,
Or Tozer, Cowley, Theodore, to cod and wiltshire ham;
To fete the guests they have a knack, and that is their vocation,
To English, French and German tack, but junk is collation.

When my remittance comes once more I am the favourite,
Again the invitations pour to parties every night,
The civil service girls I treat, the choicest in the lnad,
For jollity they can't be beat, and I am in demand.

Another from Saul Mendelsohn (Brisbane Ladies), this song is set to the tune of Champagne Charlie, a popular 19th century song by Alfred Lee and George Leybourne.

From the Hurd Collection.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Woodford Drover

Words: Unknown
Tune:  Traditional (All for me Grog)

It was one Friday night, when the stars shone out bright,
And the drovers had emptied the bottle.
Those rough Milton cattle, they came with a rattle
Through logs, over stumps, and through wattle.

Our horses in splendour, we all well remember,
Raced hard for the lead, but in vain;
There was Jack came a crash, up a Moreton Bay ash,
And through it lost hold of his rein.

Then onward we sped, it would wake all the dead,
To hear the great row that we made:
You may talk of Mongolians, and also Napoleon—
You'd think 'twas their men on parade.

On, onward we drew to the lead but a few,
While the wattlo cut like a knife blade;
Still onward we flew to the lead all but two,
For tbe pace it was hot that we made.

When at last we caught them a lesson we taught them;
We wheeled them and rung them in rough timber tall,
I have ridden in thick brushes, and also great rushes,
But I think this the worst of them aIl.

One night-horse—a stranger—not knowing his danger,
Raced headlong and stumbled, then fell;
Not a sound was then heard, but the screech of a bird,
And the far distant sound of a bell.

And there he lay dead, while the rider his head
He had struck 'gainst an old iron bark;
There the horse lay, and his bones to this day
Yoa can see by daylight or dark.

And before the day broke, when the men in camp woke,
They found every hoof bad cleared out;
Not a word one spoke, for they knew 'twas no joke,
Said the Boss," Now, my lads, put aboat."

That day when we mustered together we clustered,
Each man was put in his place;
Our loss it was nought, for we were but three short,
To the watchman that was no disgrace.

Our second, moreover, was an off-handed drover,
Thro' summer and winter he'd weathered;
So now the trip's over, farewell Woodford drover,
Our store bullocks they are delivered.

Another from The Queenslander, this time from Saturday 22 September 1894.  Attributed only to "H".

The illustration to this post is a photograph of Queensland drovers from around 1880.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Our Brave Steeds

Words:  Unknown
Tune:  Traditional (Ring the bell, Watchman)

I'll sing of the horses so gallant and bold -
That we rode far and fast in those brave days of old.
Days of our hot youth, long vanished away,
When riding meant danger, and danger meant play.

Then a cheer for the brave steeds that carried us o'er
The mountains and plains in those brave days of yore,
Days of our hot youth, long vanished away,
When riding meant danger, and danger meant play,

Remember the fierce chase, when madden'd with fright,
The wild horses broke into furious flight,
How down the steep mountain, and racing them hard,
We swept with them proudly right into the yard.

Remember, while smashing and crushing their track,
Through the vine-tangled brigalow the cleanskins made back,
How we beaded and rushed them right out on the plain,
'Mid the sweet-smelling wattle flowers falling like rain. . '

Remember the stout hearts that breasted the wave
When the yellow flood waters had else proved our grave
Remember old Jack on that waterless ride,-. .
How he toiled to the fountain, there lay down and died.

Around, the camp fire it's a glory to dwell ,
On the deeds of the chargers that carried us well,'
On some wonderful leap, or a glorious-run,
The journeys we'd made and the races we'd won.

The days of our hot youth have long passed away,
The brave steeds we once rode have turned-into clay;
Our eyes will grow dim and a tear trickle o'er
When we think of our gallant companions of yore.

Another from the Queenslander, this time from 16 March, 1895.

Published with the note:

Supplied by "Jumping Jenny," Belyando.

Belyando is on the road between Charters Towers and Emerald in Central Queensland.

The illustration to this post is a watercolour by Percy Lindsay from the book, Along The Western Road:  Bush Stories and Ballads.

Bushranger Gilbert's Song

Words: Unknown
Tune:  Traditional (Bonnie Dundee)

To his comrades in council thus Gilbert outspoke:
"Ere rangers go down there are crowns tobe broke;
Then each gallant youth that will plunder with me
Let him follow the banners of Gilbert the free."

Come fill up my cup, come fill up my can,
Come saddle my horses and call out my men;
Come load your revolvers and let us go free,
For you've not heard the last of O'Meally and me."

Brave Gilbert is mounted, he rides to the West,
In all that wild country his steed is the best,
From Cooma's fair stables he took him by force,
And Cooma'a gay lords may lament for his loss.

Tho Weddin' has mountains, th'Aberorcmbie has caves,
While they have traps in tho East, in the West they have Braves;
And cockatoo settlers three thousand times three
Cry shares in the booty of Gilbert the free.

"We'll pillage your banks and we'll rob all your stores,
We'll rout your gold escorts and laugh at your laws;
We'll laugh at you all in the midst of our glee,
For you've not heard the last of O'Meally and me."

In the late 19th Century, the Queenslander's Flotsam and Jetsam column published old songs sent in by readers.  This song from the Queenslander, Saturday, 2 February 1895, with the note:

Supplied by GWEH, Moonee Ponds, Victoria.

John O'Meally was one of John Gilbert's gang and was involved in the robbery at Eugowra Rocks.

The illustration to this post is a sketch of Johnny Gilbert from the 1860s.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Rose Bay Ferry

Bernard Bolan

Every morning at 8:25
Down to the Rose Bay wharf I drive
Park my Humber underneath a tree
Pop along the gangplank and then I'm free
Free says you, but how can that be?
For you always finish up at Circular Quay
So doubting Tom I shall explain
When I get on board I sing this sweet refrain

Where are we going today, Mr. Nicholson?
Where is the going to be?
Don't turn left, turn right down the harbor
And out to the open sea
Throw away your compass, right hand down
And it's out through the heads we go
So ho! let's be merry on the Rose Bay ferry
If we run out of petrol we'll row Yo Ho!
If we run out of petrol we'll row

Monday Java, Tuesday Spain
Wednesday's it's Tokyo and back again
The only trouble is, they isn't any Gents
But what do you want for 20 cents?
Off with me raincoat and me woolly vest
See the naked ladies on my chest
Today is Friday, so hold on tight
'Cause we're off to Trinidad and back tonight

Where are we going today, Mr. Nicholson?
Where is the going to be?
Don't turn left, turn right down the harbor
And out to the open sea
Pull up your anchor, pull your finger out
And wave goodbye to your home
We're off to Nantucket, so give that man a bucket
'Cause it's choppy when you're out on the foam Yo Ho!
It's choppy when you're out on the foam

Sometimes when I get up late
I only reach the jetty at half past 8
But that doesn't ruin my world-wide trip
'Cause the 8:37 is a battleship
Off on the dot with our guns on high
We mince up Manley as we pass by
If you're out of rockets, just pop upstairs
You can get 'em from the chappy who collects the fares

Where are we going today, Mr. Nicholson?
Where is the going to be?
Don't turn left, turn right down the harbor
And out to the open sea
For though we look like dudes and doctors
At heart we are men of the sea
So Ho! let's be merry on the Rose Bay ferry
Until we get to Circular Quay
We finish up at Circular Quay

From the wonderful Bernard Bolan.  In the 1970s this song reached number 1 on the charts.

Poison Train

Mick O'Rourke

This old town has had its day

All the people moved away

And the houses standing empty
In the dry and the dusty day

No one cares for this old town

Now the money's not around

And the railway lines are rusty

And the station's falling down


There's a light down the line
Let it shine, shine, let it shine

There's a camp down the way

All the fettlers will be coming home today

When the railway opened here
All the gutters flowed with beer

And the people stood beside the line

To watch and wave and cheer

All the speeches that were made

When the bosses smiled and said

'The good times are just beginning
Follow us and you'll go ahead'

Well, they built the street so wide
It would be a thing of pride
To walk across it drunk
Or throw a stone to the other side

And the buildings grew so tall

You would tremble at the fall
But they've just dried out

And you would never know

There was anyone there at all

I still hear the tall man say

To the children at their play
'You'd better go home early

And you'd better stay away
Stay away from the line

Can't you hear the railway humming

The grass has grown too tall
And the poison train is coming

You feel sorry for the grass

All it did was grow too fast

All the weapons used against it

It was never made to last

And the man and his offsider
Are all dressed in black

As the poison train goes through the town
And blisters all the track

Well, it never lasted long
Half the town was packed and gone
And everybody was afraid
To be left there alone

All the people stayed away

And there was no celebration
Nobody made a speech the day
They closed the railway station

A great song from Mick O'Rourke.

The illustration to this post is a photograph of Poison Train Near Kingston from Johnny's Pages (A South Australian Railway Shunters Memories)

This song is from Songs of Australian Working Life, (Thérèse Radic, Greenhouse Publications, 1989):

... an important singer and songwriter of the Australian Folk Revival. O'Rourke was brought up on the Atherton Tableland, which seems to have provided the central image of this song. The train he refers to is the defoliant special used in tropis northern Queensland to keep the tracks free of weeds. O'Rourke equates it with the ruthlessness of economic forces against which the rural community feels powerless.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tailing A Kangaroo


Bill Swiggen and myself were bushed up in the mallee scrub,
For two long days and two ling nights we had not tasted grub,
And on the third, my blessed word, affairs looked rather blue,
When Bill descried, with joyful pride, an old man kangaroo.

This old man quite majestically sat upright on his tail,
He looked at us contemptuously, nor did he shake nor quail,
He seemed to say, 'To come this way, what business fried had you?'
'By Jove!” cried Bill, “I'd like to kill, that old man kangaroo.'

Without another word he rushed with waddy in his hand,
To where the old man kangaroo undauntedly did stand,
He aimed a blow but this hairy foe upon poor William flew,
And grabbed my mate, as sure as fate, this old man kangaroo.

He clasped him tightly in his arms and Bill began to roar,
A struggle so terrific, I had ne'er beheld before,
“Oh Tom, why blow my eyes, you know he'll break my back in two,
Come hither quick and fetch a stick, oh cuss the kangaroo.

At my approach the kangaroo made ready for a bolt,
But still he clung to William tight, he would not loose his holt,
But Bill you see, was twelve stone three, flesh, bones and muscle too,
That's overweight, the truth I state, for any kangaroo.

Them stealing up behind the brute, my bag I opened wide,
And pulling it down over his ears, I then securely tied,
It 'round his neck, this seemed to check his progress so I drew,
My dover out and with a shout, I tailed that old man kangaroo.

A kangaroo without a tail can't run we all well know,
So finding his appendage gone, he let poor Willie go,
He gave a shout, a gory tail I tell you but it's true,
Then with a jump he sunk, a lump of lifeless kangaroo.

My mate was slightly bruised about but scarcely he was freed,
\When turning round to me he says, “By George, we'll have a feed.”
Then Billy got the billy pot and cooked a splendid stew,
The sweetest meal I ever ate was that old man kangaroo.

I've used the words from Warren Fahey's collection of this song from the Australian Journal - July 1871, where it was attributed to Tom Tallfern.

I first came across this one in Singabout, Volume 4, Number 2 (1961) where it was published with the following note:

Sung by Simon McDonald, of Creswick, Victoria and collected by N.O'Connor and H. Pearce of the Folk Lore Society of Victoria in 1957.

I've used the tune from Singabout.

The illustration to this post is from an 1860 issue of the Illustrated London News entitled, Death of a Red Forester, An Old Man Kangaroo.

Friday, December 16, 2011



No lark in transport rides the sky
Nor leaves with early plaintive cry
But I must bid my last goodbye
My last fairwell to Stirling O

Though far away my heart's with you
Those happy hours from us they flew
And I must bid a sad adieu
A last fairwell to Stirling O

My comrades all now grieve for me
And one request I'll ask of ye
My faithful dog ye'll keep for me
When I am far from Stirling O

No more I'll wander through the glen
Or rob the roost of the pheasant hen
Nor chase the rabbit to its den
When I am far from Stirling O

Now fare you well my Jeannie dear
I hope you'll find another dear
And shed ye no a bitter tear
When I am far from Stirling O

So fare you well for I am bound
For twenty years to Van Diemen's Land
Think of me and what I've done
When I am far from Stirling O

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

One great Scots poet, Robert Burns, collected Scots folk songs, published them (often after considerable rewriting) and wrote songs of his own that were more or less in folk song style. Dozens of lesser poets also wrote songs more or less in the style of Scots folk song, and some of them actually passed into oral tradition. This seems to be such a song. In the 1950s the poet John Manifold gathered around him in Brisbane a group of people who were interested in performing folk music and songs. One of them was a Scots migrant. Nan Shanko. This is a song she carried with her from her native land.

The tune used here is from Mark Gregory's Australian Folk Songs site, where it is published with the following note:

Stirling O, Collected by Stan Arthur from Bob Gallagher, Brisbane 1958. Edgar Waters in his notes to the song in Tradition (April 1967) writes: "The number of convicts transported from Scotland to Australia was relatively small, but there are a good many Scottish songs about transportation. The present song seems to be still fairly common in oral tradition in Scotland. In recent years it has been recorded several times from oral tradition in Australia, but so far as I know always from Scottish migrants".

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Words:  Denis Kevans
Tune:  Bob Fagan

Some leave a marble monument, or a statue made of brass
That stands in cold retirement, getting tickled by the grass
Some leave a passive portrait they’ve commissioned for a fee,
But no one comes to sculpt or carve, or paint a pic of me.

Don’t worry, I’ve been carved up by experts, not a few.

Subbies, foremen use their knives to carve a pound or two.

I’ve been sculpted by the cleaver winds that scream up in the struts.
I’ve been painted by the mud and slush in bogging rickshaw ruts

I am a kind of portrait if you could read between
The lines that mark my face with time and see just what they mean
The leagues and laughs and lands I've known, the years of wear and tear
No gypsy woman on the earth could glean the stories there.

From the mullock heavy rickshaw to the hook that rides with ease,
From the sucking clay caught shovel, to the steel walk in the breeze,
From the jack pick gun’s staccato to the steady chisel chip,

I’ve worked upon my monument in a life’s apprenticeship.

From the convict’s pickmarked alphabet in Hawkesbury River stone 
To where the dogman carves his name in the concrete rise alone 
From mud in acres poured and squared, to the bright mosaic eye, 
I’ve worked upon my monument, and build before I die.

I see your monuments displayed in cavalcades of war,
In lands where you make ashes from the courage of the poor. 
In little children hobbling down to drink from sorrow’s well 
Looking sadly at their faces, cut to bits by petrol gel.

I see your monuments displayed in smog polluted air.
To the wraiths of black shawled mountains, in the wake of ‘I don’t care’ 
In oil choked harbours, upturned fish, and nuclear sullied seas
In forests felled, and deserts made from songbird’s aviaries

You’ve had your chance, you’ve run the world your way, we know it’s true. 
Your monuments stick in my craw, the monuments to you.
We leave the cities of the world cemented with our sweat
The cemeteries of our youthful years, but we’re not beaten yet.

For there’s a living monument to all we’ve lived and learned
The green bans we’ve created, and the victories we have earned 
And one day when our cities are but dust upon the air
The pollen from our fighting hearts will bloom again somewhere.

Australia's "Poet Lorikeet", Denis Kevans (1939 - 2005) first published this poem in the new South Wales Builders Labourers Federation Journal in 1970.

The song (with Bob Fagan's tune) has been performed in Australia as part of shows about the Green Bans disputes in Sydney.  Over a period of four years in the 1970s, over 40 development projects were delayed in the Sydney area by a union which had decided in 1970 to adopt a principle of social benefit in determining where to exert their industrial muscle.  Projects which threatened natural or heritage values where subjected to Green Bans.

Follow this link for a lengthier discussion of the Green Bans: http://www.dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/green_bans_movement.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Roma Downs

Words:  Unknown
Tune:  So Early in the Morning

Roma's Queen of the Western Downs
And hard by it is Roma Downs
A station fit for any King
And loud the boys its praises sing.

With game it is abounding
With game it is abounding
With game it is abounding
Perhaps you'd like to shoot.

A winding stream they call Blythe Creek
Provides fresh water for the sheep
With hook and line and bully frog
There you may catch a nice big cod

Shoals of fish are swimming
Shoals of fish are swimming
Shoals of fish are swimming
Try and catch a few

On the plains sometimes are dingoes found,
By the boundary-men as they make their round,
The boss he swears they kill the sheep
And to have their lives he'd lost his sleep.

Poison for the dingoes
Poison for the dingoes
Poison for the dingoes
Strychnines just the thing

The Horseshoe Bend's well known to fame
For big pot-shots at feathered game
At no other spot on all the run
Can there be had such whips of fun.

Big pot-shots for ever
Big pot-shots for ever
Big pot-shots for ever
Whips of fun for me.

Another from the Hurd Collection via Ron Edwards.

Roma Downs was the station owned by Charles and Horatio Flower, Charles being the author of The Broken Down Squatter.

The illustration to this post is of boys swimming in Lockyer Creek, Gatton.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Battle of Castle Hill

Words: John Dengate
Tune:  Traditional (The Maid of Fife)

I'll sing of Toongabbie, a place of renown
And events that occurred in the days fo yore.
Oh, the convicts working there lived a life of black despair,
It was all in the year of eighteen hundred and four.

Brave Cunningham said, "I will march at your head
If you'll throw off your fetters and follow me
And though Ireland's far away we will think of her today
As we fight for our lives and for our liberty.

The magistrate's house they burned to the ground.
'Twas a grand insurrection, a stirring sight
And it cannot be denied that the flogger's wretched hide
Was bruised and abused on that eventful night.

Parramatta here they come: so beat on the drum;
A rider spurs for Sydney and the loyalists arm
And without the least delay Samuel Marsden ran away
In a boat that he pinched from John MacArthur's farm.

There's a priest forced to ride by Colonel Johnstone's side
While the Rum Corps' red coast march in the rear.
Soon a bitter cup will spill on that road near Castle Hill
Where the convicts rest not knowing death is near.

See the dead on the road, hear the sharp command, "Reloa"
See the soldiers present, hear the volleys crash.
There's a dozen croppies more lying lifeles in their gore,
They're safe from the Reverend Samuel Marsden's lash.

This song from Singabout, Volume 6, Number 1, 1966.

Also known as the Battle of Vinegar Hill after the Irish rebellion of the same name, this was the first significant armed uprising by convicts against their military masters.

Wikipedia has a reasonable discussion of the rebellion and its surrounding events.

This site has further detail.

The illustration to this post is a contemporary sketch of the uprising.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Waltzing Matilda (Queensland Version)

Words:  Banjo Paterson

Oh there once was a swagman camped in the billabongs,
  Under the shade of a Coolibah tree;
And he sang as he looked at the old billy boiling
  "Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me."

  Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, my darling.
    Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.
  Waltzing Matilda and leading a water-bag.
    Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

Up came the jumbuck to drink at the waterhole,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee;
And he sang as he put him away in his tucker-bag,
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me."

Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, my darling.
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.
Waltzing Matilda and leading a water-bag.
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

Up came the squatter a-riding his thoroughbred;
Up came the policeman - one, two, and three.
"Whose is the jumbuck you've got in the tucker-bag?
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with we."

Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, my darling.
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.
Waltzing Matilda and leading a water-bag.
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

Up sprang the swagman and jumped into the waterhole,
Drowning himself by the Coolibah tree;
And his voice can be heard as it sings in the billabongs,
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me."

Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, my darling.
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.
Waltzing Matilda and leading a water-bag.
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

The Queensland version of this great song.

Loads of information exists on the web surrounding this song.  A decent starting point is this National Library of Australia site: Who'll Come A'Waltzing Matilda With Me?  The notes on this version (The Buderim Variant) include the following:

The Buderim tune was collected from an oral source by John Manifold in 1955 and discussed in Who Wrote the Ballads: Notes on Australian Folksong and included in Manifold's 1964 The Penguin Australian Song Book. Manifold's informant was John O'Neill from Buderim in south-east Queensland, thus lending the names ‘Buderim’ or ‘O'Neill’ to this variant of the Queensland version. This tune seems to have been widely disseminated not long after ‘Waltzing Matilda’ had become well known in the Winton district. O'Neill remembered his father singing this version when he was a boy under ten years old.

After his contact with Manifold, O'Neill also handed down the tune to a Mrs Joy Durst, who played in the Melbourne Billabong Band in 1956 (Harry Pearce Papers, NLA MS2765 Box 13). From there it passed into the hands of other folk revival bands and took on a new performance life. During the folk revival this tune more generally became known as the ‘Queensland version’.

There is of course an extensive discussion of this one on Mudcat.

And now is as good a time as any to include my favourite version of the alternative (and better known tune).  This from Ali Mills:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Gumtree Canoe

Words:  Silas Steele
Music:  AF Winnemere

By yon bonny river in a hut I was born
Made out of thorns and the wild yellow corn
It's there I met Julia so fair and so true
And we went for a row in my gumtree canoe

We will row, yes we'll row
Over waters so blue
Like a feather I'm a floating
In my gumtree canoe

With one hand on my banjo and my toe on the oar
I'll sing to my Julia - I'll sing as I row
And the stars they shone down on my Julia so true
On the night we rowed out in my gumtree canoe

Was for three solid days we sailed out on the bay
We could not get back -  we were forced there to stay
Then we spied a large ship flying the flag of true blue
And she took us in tow in my gumtree canoe.

An American song from 1847 which has picked up some Australian variations.

This tune collected by Warren Fahey and used on the 1977 album, Lime Juice and Vinegar.

The following is from Mudcat and the cover text:

Published in Boston (as much of the first-period minstrel music was) in 1847!  Only 4 years after Dan Emmett and the boys got the whole thing rolling!

The words by S.S. STEELE, Esq. as sung by A.F. WINNEMORE and his band of VIRGINIA SERENADERS.
Arranged for the Piano Forte by A. F. WINNEMORE.

1. The Gum Tree Canoe
2. Kate of Carolina (Note: other songs were sold with same cover)
3. Dinah Doe
4. Away to the Sugar Cane Field
5. Farewell to Georgia
6. De Eel Catcher's Glee

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Old Sydney Town

Phyl Lobl

The tank stream ran silent through shaded green banks,

When first I saw Sydney I offered no thanks.
And the pleasant bush scenery gave me no cheer,

For the eyes of a convict are blinded by fear.

Oh Old Sydney Town I once was a rover,

But now I can see that you've fair won me over,
From the Hero of Waterloo up at the Rocks

To Blackwattle Bay with its dirty old docks,

I'll sing of your pleasures that satisfy me
Of your harbour, your pubs and your Circular Quay

The stone and the sweat that they used for the Quay,

Was culled from the earth and poor bastards like me.
How I hated that stone from the Argyle Cut,

And I wished it were my bones they'd hung at Pinchgut.

They gave me a pardon and set me quite free,

But the white cliffs of Dover no more will see me,

For I'm working a ferry run, I'm doing fine

From Blues Point to Dawes Point I'm straight down the line.

Now Phillip he formed you for he chose the place,
Macquarie came after and quite changed your face,

But for prisoners of Old Mother England who slaved

To build up your city, no names are engraved.

Thanks to Phyl Lobl for this one from her 1980 album, Blackmeadow Thistle.   The lyrics are from her website, with the following note:

Warren Fahey needed a song about Old Sydney for a project with which he was involved. I did some research and came up with this song.

The version sung here is as I heard it in the 1980s Brisbane sessions.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Woodturner's Love Song

Phyl Lobl

If I had a piece of Maple, red or white or pink,
I'd turn you a set of chair legs so you could sit and think.
And when you sit and think love I hope you'll think of me,
For I'd like to be there in your thoughts if not in your company.

If I had a piece of Coachwood white and fine and pure
I'd turn you a handle smooth and round, a handle for your door.
And when I come to see you, you could make that handle spin,
And open up the door my dear, to let your true love in.

If I had a piece of Silky Oak of even textured grain
I’d turn you a lamp stand for your light, tapered tall and plain.
And when you turn your light on, I hope it'll be for me,
For you're the light of my life, the only one for me.

If I had a piece of Cedar, the grain well shot with red,
I'd turn you a set of corner posts for a fine double bed.
A bed for you to lie on with the one that you love best,
But I hope you'd lie with me love and farewell all the rest.

Yes I'm a turner, that's my trade, as you can plainly see,
But the thing I'd really like to turn is to turn your heart to me.
Alas in that I have no skill, I've never learnt the art,
And Cedar, Maple and Silky Oak don't make a lover's heart.

A cracker from Phyl Lobl from her 1980 album, Broadmeadow Thistle.

Lots of concertinas on this one!

There's a great discussion of this one on Mudcat too.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Girls In Our Town

Bob Hudson

Girls in our town, they just haven't a care
You see them on Saturday floating on air
Painting their toenails and washing their hair
Maybe tonight it'll happen

Girls in our town they leave school at fifteen
Work at the counter or behind the machine
And spend all their money on making a scene
They plan on going to England

Girls in our town go to parties in pairs
Sit 'round the barbecue, give themselves aires
Then they go to the bathroom with their girlfriend who cares
Girls in our town are so lonely

Girls in our town are too good for the pill
But if you keep asking they probably will
Sometimes they like you or else for the thrill
And explain it away in the morning

Girls in our town get no help from their men
No one can let them be sixteen again
Things might get better but it's hard to say when
If they only had someone to talk to

Girls in our town can be saucy and bold
At seventeen, no one is better to hold
Then they start havin' kids, start gettin' old
Girls in our town...
Girls in our town

Margaret Roadnight had a top 40 hit with this song in 1976.

I was unable to find a decent photograph of the writer of this song, Bob Hudson, but did discover this clip from the Paul Hogan show of Bob performing his even more famous, Newcastle Song.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Brolga's Laugh


The brolga laughs and the brolga shouts,

The brolga's there when there's rain about;
If it's going to rain he's sure to know,
And then he'll laugh 'Oh! oh! oh! oh!'

He laughs all night, and he laughs all day,

If it's going to rain he'll laugh and play;

If he laughs in the night it's sure to rain,

And then he'll dance and laugh again.

He mounts right up above the trees

And looks across for the north-east breeze;
He sees the clouds coming afar,

And then he laughs 'Ah! ah! ah! ah!'

He curves his neck and spreads his wings,
For the brolga does some funny things;
If it rains all night he'll laugh with glee,

Saying, 'Now there's water enough for me!'

The frog may croak and the duck may swim,

But the brolga's laugh's enough for him.

Men with guns and little to do

Will shoot the brolga through and through.

If they'd but work and pay their way

The brolga still could laugh and play.

He saw the bars that crossed the moon,

And thought 'Not now, but very soon.'

'The Brisbane man will have to swim,'

And the brolga's laugh's a hint for him.
They make their nest without a straw,

And lay one egg, for I've seen no more.

They'll hatch their young in the pouring rain,

And then they'll laugh and laugh again.

If a drought comes on, which it's sure to do,

The swamps all dry and herbage too.

They'll mount right up and away will soar,

And the brolga's laugh we'll hear no more

Till the rain return with its pattering glee,

Then the brolga's laugh will bring joy to me.

Found by Ron Edwards in the Hurd Collection (1895-1900) with the note "supplied by WS Bollon".

For more on the Brolga (Grus Rubicunda) follow this link.

Hey Rain/The Innisfail Song

Bill Scott

Hey rain, rain comin' down
On the cane, on the roofs of the town.

There's rain on me hands and rain on me face,
Oh muddy old Innisfail's a muddy wet place,
Hey rain, hey rain.
And there's rain in me beer and rain in me grub,
And they've just fitted anchors to the Garradunga pub,
Hey rain, hey rain.

There's a Johnstone River crocodile livin' in me fridge
And a bloody great tree on the Jubilee Bridge
Hey rain, hey rain.
And the monsoon sky has sprung a leak
From Flyin' Fish Point to the Millstream Creek,
Hey rain, hey rain.

And the storm clouds are so black and big
Theres an old flyin' fox in the Moreton Bay fig,
Hey rain, hey rain
It's the worst wet season we've ever had,
And I'd swim down to Tully, but it's just as bloody bad
Hey rain, hey rain.

Perhaps Bill Scott's best-known song.

Some very useful discussions (and snippets of additional lyrics) on Mudcat.

Recorded on my verandah in Brisbane in the first steady rain of December.

The illustration to this post is a photo taken in Innisfail's main street in 1925 during that year's floods.  Innisfail (as well as being my father's hometown) competes with Tully and Babinda each year for the golden gumboot for the highest rainfall.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Royal Charter


Good people all, attend, I pray,
Now I'll relate a sad calamity,
Of a dreadful shipwreck near Belmore Town
Of the Royal Charter while homeward bound.

From fair Australia with a pleasant gale
The Royal Charter for old England sailed
With a human cargo, her fate did rule
We ne'er but one reached Liverpool.

On Tuesday morning, I'm grieved to say,
Our fore and mainmast were cut away,
When our mizzen-top fell with a heavy crush,
And in the raging sea our ship did dash.

Brave Captain Taylor with his men so brave
Made all their efforts the ship to save
But notwithstanding all they could do
The Royal Charter she broke in two.

Now broadside on she drove on shore.
The lightning flashed and the sea did roar,
Brave Captain Taylor drowned it is true,
With ninety-seven of his gallant crew.

Now the total number that lost their lives
Was four hundred and fifty-five;
Of women and child we are assured
Not one escaped out of all on board.

Off the riggings lost their names I'll tell;
Was Williams, Thomson and James Bell,
There was Elfie and Philips and W.Jones
There was another, but his name's unknown.

And drowned in agony and anguish wild
The mother cried, "Do save my child!"
And the father strived in vain -
They were all engulfed in the raging main.

O God, 'tis frightful to think what crowds
Of drowned passengers clung to the shrouds
To hear their shrieks on the stormy sea,
As from the ship they were washed away.

So may the Lord look down on the deep distress
Of the widowed mothers and fatherless
Likewise the parents of the seamen brave
Who in the Royal Charter met a watery grave.

The Royal Charter was the most prominent victim of over 200 ships wrecked in what became known as the "Royal Charter Storm" off the Welsh coast on 26 October, 1859.

Another from Warren Fahey's Australian Folk Songs and Bush Ballads, published with the following notes:

On 25 October 1859, the Royal Charter, a combined steam and sailing ship from Melbourne bound for Liverpool, was lost off Moelfre on the island of Anglesey, Wales....

Almost at the end of its long voyage from Melbourne to England, the Royal Charter was carrying 452 passengers and crew and gold from the Australian goldfield valued at £320 000.

... EJ Moeran collected a ballad about the wreck from Mr JAmes Strong at Winterton, England, in July 1915.  It was published in his Songs Sung in Norfolk, 1923...

Currency Lasses


The Currency Lads can fill up their glasses
And drink to the health of the Currency Lasses,
The lass I adore, the one for me
Is the lass in the Female Factory.

Molly's her name - her name it is Molly
Although she was tried by the name of Polly
Tried and sentenced to death at Newry
The Judge was bribed and so were the jury.

She was sentenced to death at Newry Town
For stealing her mistresses watch and gown.
Her little boy, Paddy, will tell you the tale
His Father is turnkey at Newry Jail.

The first time I saw this comely lass
I was at Parramatta, goin' to Mass.
Says I, "I'll marry you in an hour"
Says she, "I'll go and get Father Power".

But I got into trouble that very same night.
Being drunk on the street I got into a fight.
A policeman came up and I gave him a box.
I was put in the watch-house and then in the stocks

It's very unpleasant as I remember
To sit in the stocks in the month of December
The wind is so hot with the sun right o'er
Sure, it's no place for a lover at all.

"It's very unpleasant", says I, "Mr Dunn,
For to sit here all day in the heat of the sun",
"Either that or a dollar", says he, "for your folly".
"If I had a dollar I'd drink it with Molly."

Now I'm out again, early and late.
Crying outside of the Factory gate
Sayin', "Mrs O'Reardon and Mrs Muldoon
Won't you let my Molly out very soon."

And the Currency Lads can fill up their glasses
And drink to the health of the Currency Lasses.
The lass I adore, the one for me
Is the lass of the Female Factory.

From Warren Fahey's Australian Folk Songs and Bush Ballads.  Collected by Warren from:

Botany Bay Eclogues in the Sydney Gazette, 4 July 1832. "An excellent new Song, as it ought to be sung  in the Theatre Royal, Sydney, by Mr Bert Levy, in the character of the ticket-of-leave holder"

Tweed & Lismore


I am a navvie that worked everywhere
East, west, north and south I vow and declare
Such terrible misfortune I never had before
As I had on that Railway, The Tweed and Lismore

Laddie Fol the Diddle eril Ol, eril Ol aye

Myself and Bill Lalie came up from the South
To see if we could get some cuts to take out
Old Kerril he promised us cuttings galore
On that railway they call the Tweed and Lismore

When we came to Bexhill 'twas on a hot day
We had no money or nothing to play
It came on to rain, and we lay on the floor
Beside that Railway, The Tweed and Lismore

There's one thing was in it, our credit ran light
If not, by my soul, a lot there would die
The people from Queensland came down by the score
To seek work on that Railway, The Tweed and Lismore

I next got a job with an axe in my hand
From lopping and chopping I scarcely could stand
My arms, they did ache and my hands they were sore
From working like blazes upon the Lismore

I next got a job with my horses and drays
The chaff it was dear boys, and so was the maize
Ten and sixpence a day they would give, and no more
And they run you like blazes upon the Lismore

Now our little 'Timie' was Brady by name
He came down from Queensland I tell to you plain
In stature he's small, but of cheek he's galore
And he'd sack you for smoking upon the Lismore

And now to conclude and finish my song
Mr McKeeley is big, fat and strong
While old Davie Morgan is a man to the core
And Kerril himself is a 'Bludde old Bore'

This note from Mark Gregory's Australian Folk Song site:

In his Big Book of Australian Folk Song Ron Edwards writes "The text of Tweed and Lismore was sent to me by the Richmond River Historical Society with a note: 'Composed by Ned McElligot, late of Bagotville.' Further enquiries failed to find anyone who knew the tune of the song until Wendy Lowenstein discovered it on a field recording which she thinks may have been made by collector Edgar Waters some years ago".

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Good Time Coming

Words: Unknown
Tune:  Henry Russell (The Good Time Coming)

There's a good time coming, boys, a good time coming,
When it will it's hard to say but I hope it will be some day
This good time coming.
A comic song oft tells hard truth in place of weapons stronger,
So now I'm going in to win, wait a little longer.

There's a good time coming, boys, a good time coming,
Squatters shan't permitted be to overrun this colony
In this good time coming,
Our members shall not squabble then to show which is the stronger,
Nor sell themselves to gain a place - wait a little longer.

There's a good time coming, boys, a good time coming,
Shepherds in the bush shan't be fed on damper, chops and tea
In this good time coming,
Then bullock drivers shall not swear, or taste a drink that's stronger
Than ginger beer when on the road -  wait a little longer.

There's a good time coming, boys, a good time coming,
Camp officials shall have sense and not try to give offence
In this good time coming
Some magistrates too will be found with love of justice stronger
And also know a little law -  wait a little longer.

There's a good time coming, boys, a good time coming,
Not a shicer shall be sunk not a digger e'er seen drunk
In the good time coming
Jumpers too shall be laid by, the rule of fashion stronger,
Bell-toppers worn when down the holes -  wait a little longer.

There's a good time coming, a good time coming,
Cases, Courts of Mines decide, shan't dissatisfy any side,
In this good time coming,
Mails shan't be behind their time, both ships and engines stronger
Shall not break down, or run ashore, wait a little longer.

There's a good time coming, boys, a good time coming,
Railways to the diggings made will Cobb' Coaches throw in shade,
In the good time coming,
Stations shall be large and fine, embankments, too much stronger
In fact they'll beat the Geelong line - wait a little longer

There's a good time coming, boys, a good time coming,
Young colonials han't be seen with their ladies at thirteen,
In this good time coming,
English girls shan't be allowed, though love than fire is stronger,
To marry flash John Chinamen - wait a little longer.

There's a good time coming, boys, a good time coming,
Then no single ship that comes shall e'er land us more new chums,
In this good time coming,
But be searched in Hobson's Bay by the police made stronger
And new chums sent back overland - wait a little longer.

From Coxon's Comic Songster with a melody by Henry Russell (composer of A Fine Old English Gentleman).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Anderson's Coast

John Warner

Now Bass Strait roars like some great mill race
And where are you, my Annie
And the same moon shines on this lonely place
As shone one day on my Annie's face

But Annie dear, don't wait for me
I fear I shall not return to thee

There's naught to do but endure my fate

And watch the moon

The lonely moon

Light the breakers on wild Bass Strait.

We stole a vessel and all her gear
And where are you, my Annie
And from Van Diemen's we north did steer
'Till Bass Strait's wild waves wrecked us here

A mile inland, as our course was laid
And where are you, my Annie?
We found a government stockade.
Long long deserted, but stoutly made.

And somewhere West Port Melbourne lies
And where are you, my Annie
Through swamps infested with snakes and flies
The fool who walks there, he surely dies

We hail no ships, though the time it drags
And where are you, my Annie
Our chain gang walk and government rags
All mark us out as Van Diemen's lags

We fled the lash and the chafing chain
And where are you, my Annie
We fled hard labour and brutal pain
And here we are and here remain

This wonderful song from John Warner and Margaret Walters' recording, The Pithead in the Fern.

These notes from the Cockersdale sleeve notes (via Mudcat):

Australian singer John Warner writes evocative and beautifully poetic songs, many drawing on Australian colonial history. Anderson's Coast concerns of a group of convicts who escaped Van Diemen's Land in a stolen ship, only to be wrecked by the notorious Bass Strait waves on the Gippsland coast (in Victoria). The explorer Strzlecki and his small band stumbled out of dense rainforest and encountered the marooned men. Strzlecki would probably have perished had it not been for his Koori guide Charlie Tarra and this group of convicts who led him to Anderson, a pioneer settler who ran cattle on the South Gippsland coast. Apparently the convicts were pardoned for their contribution to the explorer's survival.