Monday, February 25, 2019

The Banks Of The Brisbane River

Words and Music:  John Thompson

The Turrbal people saw her born
The banks of the Brisbane river
Their memories, they still live on
The banks of the Brisbane river
The dreaming days they may be gone
But long may the dreaming continue on
We live the dreams and sing the songs
On The banks of the Brisbane river

A storm blew Finnegan and Parsons North
To the banks of the Brisbane river
Mr Thompson never made it ashore
The banks of the Brisbane river
To the Illawarra they were bound
But on Moreton Island they ran aground
They laboured north until they found
The banks of the Brisbane river

Lord Brisbane sent John Oxley north
The banks of the Brisbane river
He anchored the Mermaid just offshore
The banks of the Brisbane river
Though they thought him long since dead
Finnegan met them at the heads
The natives had kept the convict fed
On the banks of the Brisbane river

Named for the governor of New South Wales
The banks of the Brisbane river
1823 saw white mans sails
By the banks of the Brisbane river
Thousands of settlers to her were bound
She soon became young Queensland’s town
Federation heard the cheers resound by
The banks of the Brisbane river

The bridges they stretch from side to side
The banks of the Brisbane river
The mighty Story bridge was Queensland's pride
On the banks of the Brisbane river
The shipyards they are long since gone
The iron wood wharves have been torn down
The banks have burst through the streets of the town
The banks of the Brisbane river

She saw our rise
She’ll see our fall
The banks of the Brisbane river
Her gentle waters will outlive is all
Long may her gentle waters run
Past the mangrove mud and past the town
That gave us our lives and gave her a name
The banks of the Brisbane river.

The mighty serpent flows to this day
The banks of the Brisbane river
Through a great glass town she winds her way
Past the banks I’d the Brisbane river
From Stanley’s heights in the great divide
Damned at Wivenhoe then onto the tide
When the city cats purr
She’s our joy and pride
The banks of the Brisbane river.

A new song.  I've had the subject in mind for some time it only recently emerged.  The Brisbane River is the defining feature of my home town.  The "Mr Thompson" referred to was the third of the convicts who escaped from the New South Wales colony and became significantly lost on their way to landing about 800km (500 miles) North as the crow flies from their planned destination.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Our Jack's Come Out Today

Words: Unknown
Tune: WJ Devers

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.

Song of the Sheet-Metal Worker

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

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.

Winds of Fortune

John Caldwell

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


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.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

(What Will We Do With) Maud Butler

Words and music:  John Thompson

Mark Cryle was kind enough to tell me about the amazing Maud Butler, a seventeen-year-old girl who was so keen to help the war effort in 1915, that she bought up a uniform one piece at a time and then stowed away on a troop ship.  Twice!

Her amazing story is well worth telling.  There are some especially good links online to original news stories about her exploits:

and for her persistent offending:

Maud Butler had a brother in the army
And so she made her way to Sydney town
At 17 she knew her mind
She wouldn't just be left behind
And so Maud tried to join the army

Oh, what will we do with Maud Butler?
She dresses as a soldier and she wants to go to war
She jumped a ship to cross the foam
Better than any stay-at-home
The prettiest little soldier-boy the Army ever saw.

A lovely farmer's daughter from old Kurri Kurri town
When she tried to sign on as a nurse they turned the poor girl down.
So she bought herself some soldier's gear
Cut her hair and wiped her tears
And she climbed up a rope to board a transport

Three days in a life-raft with not a bite to eat
Til bold as brass she walked the decks, the sailor-boys to meet
An officer saw her walking about
Her boots were wrong, they found her out.
Poor Maud was put ashore in dear old Melbourne

Only two months later, Maud was back on board again
Another attempt to see the front, in the company of men
I'll do my bit to help the war”
She told them when she was back on shore
"I just want to be a soldier"

This young girl's an example to all of those who shirk
Where other's would have given up, Maud Butler went to work
A lesser girl would have had enough
But Maud was made of sterner stuff
So raise a cheer and sing of Miss Maud Butler

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Waltzing Matilda

Words:  Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson
Tune:  A variation on Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigielea by Robert Barr (1770-1836)

Oh, there once was a swagman camped in the billabong,
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?

(Chorus:) Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda my darling,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
Waltzing Matilda and leading a waterbag,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

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

Up came the Squatter a-riding his thoroughbred,
Up came Policemen - one, two and three,
Whose is that jumbuck you've got in the tucker-bag?
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

The swagman he up and he jumped in the water-hole,
Drowning himself by the coolibah tree,
And his ghost may be heard as it sings by the billabong,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Australia's best known song has a rich history.  Written in 1895 by Banjo Paterson it has been adopted and adapted many times.  Dennis O'Keeffe's Waltzing Matilda site is a great place to start the journey of research into this fascinating subject.

I've printed the original lyrics above.  Observant listeners will note that the version sung here varies a little from the original.  These variations represent both the folk process and the varying ways in which this song is learnt by school-children around Australia.  (Any timing variations are my responsibility as conductor).  The suggestion at the very end of the recording came from James Rigby.

This recording was made on Friday, 20 January, 2012 at the Celtic Southern Cross Summer School in Victoria and was sung by all the attendees at the school.  I thank them all for their support and their contribution to the blog.  The illustration to this post is a photograph of the group by Phil Green.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Aeroplane Jelly Song

Words and Music:  Albert Francis Lenertz

I've got a song that won't take very long,
Quite a good sort of note if I strike it . . .
It is something we eat, and I think it's quite sweet,

And I know you are going to like it.

I like Aeroplane Jelly

Aeroplane Jelly for me.
I like it for dinner, I like it for tea,

A little each day is a good recipe,

The quality's high as the name will imply,

And it's made from pure fruits, one more good reason why...

I like Aeroplane Jelly

Aeroplane Jelly for me.

It is difficult to describe the significance of this song to those who did not experience it growing up in Australia.

The song was written by Albert Lenertz, the business partner of Bert Apleroth, founder of the company which created Aeroplane Jelly crystals.  Originally performed as a radio jingle in 1930 it has continued in use to the present day.  In the 1940s it was played on radio up to 100 times a day (charming as it is, this is a horrifying thought).  Aeroplane Jelly Crystals are still Australia's best-selling brand.

An indication of this commercial jingle's impact on the Australian psyche can be found by its presence in both the National Library and Australian Film and Sound Archive collections.

While I am a great fan (lime being my favourite flavour) I am in no way sponsored by Aeroplane Jelly.  

NB.  The applause on this track occurs only in my imagination.

This (the last official song on this blog) was recorded using three of my tiredest voices and a bass concertina.