Monday, February 28, 2011

Flash Jack From Gundagai


Non-flash audio for iPhone, iPad etc

I've shore at Burrabogie and I've shore at Toganmain
I've shore at Big Willandra and out on the Coleraine
But before the shearing was over I longed to get back again
Shearing for old Tom Patterson on the One Tree Plain

All among the wool boys all among the wool
Keep your blades full boys keep your blades full
I can do a respectable tally myself whenever I like to try
And they know me round the backblocks as Flash Jack from Gundagai

I've shore at Big Willandra and I've shore at Tilberoo
And once I drew my blades boys upon the famed Barcoo
At Cowan Downs and Trida as far as Moulamein
But I was always glad to get back again to the One Tree Plain

I've pinked them with the Wolseleys and I've rushed with B-bows too
And shaved them in the grease boys with the grass seeds showing through
But I never slummed a pen my lads whatever it might contain
When shearing for Old Tom Patterson on the One Tree Plain

I've been whaling up the Lachlan and I've dossed on Cooper's Creek
And once I rung Cudjingie shed and blued it in a week
But when Gabriel blows his trumpet lads I'll catch the morning train
And push for Old Tom Patterson's on the One Tree Plain

Another classic from AB Paterson's Old Bush Songs.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Ballad of Johnny Golden

Words: Sigerson Clifford
Tune: John Thompson

Let Kerry's sons remember well the men who marched alone
As they tramped the hills and mountains to bring Caitlín her throne.
It was in 1867 when O'Connor did command
And by his side the man who died out in Van Diemen's land.

First at Kells Station they drew rein to face Coastguard Dingwall
And to take from him his rifle, his powder and his ball.
He said, "This is a bad nightís work for any rebel band
And you'll all face transportation unto Van Diemen's land".

They said, "We do not fight alone for Ireland is aflame
And men are marching on the hills to spoil a Saxon game.
Like Mitchell and like Smith O'Brien we'll fight and take our stand
And if we fail we'll risk the jail or face Van Diemen's land".

At Drung Hill then beside the bridge they shot a policeman down
And searching in his pockets found a letter to the Crown.
O'Connor read and grimly said, "We can't fight now as planned
And may God keep us in his care far from Van Diemen's land".

And Talbot, Massy, Corydon where are you all today?
Your hearts you sold for English gold and you swore their lives away.
In Tralee town the judge looked down upon that rebel band
And he sentenced Johnny Golden to far Van Diemen's land.

O'Reilly, Griffin, Donovan, O'Connell and O'Shea,
Conway, Sheehan and O'Brien their names are strong today.
They're masters in their own house now; they plough and till the land
But brave young Johnny Golden lies in Van Diemen's Land.

For he sleeps today where lonely waves wash over Australia's shore
And never again he'll see the glen of lovely sweet Foilmore.
But Foilmore's sons remember well that gallant Fenian band
And forget not Johnny Golden out in Van Diemen's land.

Notes from Tim Dennehy's website:
John Golden (1844-1883) came from Foilmore, Kells near Cahersiveen and took part in the premature Fenian Rising of February 12th 1867. He was captured, sentenced to five years penal servitude, placed on board the Hougoumont and shipped to Fremantle Prison, Australia. After his release he settled in New South Wales where he married Ellen Feehan and they had seven children. He died on September 7th 1883 aged thirty-six years.

(The Hougoumont was the ship which brought the Fenian rebels to Australia who were later to escape on the Catalpa.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ned Kelly Was Born In A Ramshackle Hut


Ned Kelly was born in a ramshackle hut,
He battled since he was a kid,
He grew up with duffers and bad men and thieves
And learned all the things that they did.

Ned Kelly would ride from the back-country hills,
He'd ride into town like a lord,
He'd steal all the squatters' fine horses, and then
He would take them back for the reward.

At sixteen young Ned was a wild, reckless lad,
Helped hold up a coach without fear,
But he was arrested, remanded, and then,
They put him in gaol for a year.

When he came out, he was bitter and hard,
Far worse than he ever had been,
He robbed and he plundered, became a wild boy,
The wildest Australia had seen.

He shot down the troopers who came on his track,
And laughed at the price on his head,
Ten thousand pounds for the whole of the gang,
And two thousand pounds just for Ned.

The bank at Jerilderie next took his eye,
This job brought him lots of renown,
He wasn't contented to stick up the bank,
But he held up the whole flaming town.

Down at Glenrowan they held up the pub,
They were having a drink and a song,
The troopers rode up and surrounded the place,
The Kellys had waited too long.

Ned came out shooting, a gun in each hand,
And wearing his armour of steel,
He was fifteen times wounded before he fell down,
Never more would he plunder and steal.

They took him to Melbourne, and nursed him to health,
The Judge said, 'You're guilty!' to Ned,
A rope from a rafter, the sun in the east,
And the famous Ned Kelly was dead.

Some say he's a hero who gave to the poor,
While others 'A killer!' they say,
It just goes to show the old saying is true,
The saying that 'Crime does not pay.'

Yet when I look round at some people I know,
And the prices of things that I buy,
I say to myself, 'Well, perhaps after all,
Poor Ned wasn't such a bad guy.'

From the Original Bushwhackers and Bullockies Band -"The Shearer's Dream" LP 1980.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Old Palmer Song


The wind is fair and free, my boys, the wind is fair and free
The steamer's course is north, my boys, and the Palmer we will see
The Palmer we will see, my boys, and Cooktown's muddy shore
Where I've been told there's lots of gold, so stay down south no more

So, blow ye winds, heigho
A-digging we will go
I'll stay no more down south, my boys
So let the music play
In spite of what I'm told
I'm off in search of gold
I'll make a push for that new rush
A thousand miles away

They say the blacks are troublesome, and spear both horse and man
The rivers are all wide and deep, no bridges them do span
No bridges them do span, my boys, and so you'll have to swim
But never fear the yarns you hear, and gold you're sure to win

So let us make a move, my boys, for that new promised land
And do the best we can, my boys, to lend a helping hand
To lend a helping hand, my boys, where the soil is rich and new
In spite of the blacks and unknown tracks, we'll show what we can do

The Palmer River gold rush took place in 1872. While treated lightly in this song, historians of the time refer to a state of "open warfare" between the indigenous inhabitants of the area and the newly-arrived gold-miners.

To the tune of Ten Thousand Miles Away.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Stockman's Last Bed


Be ye stockmen or no, to my story give ear.
Alas! for poor Jack, no more shall we hear
The crack of his stockwhip, his steed's lively trot,
His clear "Go ahead, boys," his jingling quart pot.

For we laid him where wattles their sweet fragrance shed,
And the tall gum trees shadow the stockman's last bed.

Whilst drafting one day, he was horned by a cow.
"Alas!", cried poor Jack. "It's all up with me now!
For I never again shall my saddle regain,
Or bound like a wallaby over the plain."

His whip it is silent, his dogs, they do mourn;
His steed looks in vain for his master's return.
No friend to bemoan him, unheeded he dies.
Save Australia's dark sons no one knows where he lies.

Now, stockmen, if ever on some future day,
After the wild mob you happen to stray,
Ride softly the creek beds where trees make a shade,
For perhaps it's the spot where poor Jack's bones are laid.

From the Queensland Native Companion Songster (1865). Recorded by Burl Ives on his 1958 album, Australian Folk Songs.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Time is a Tempest/Travelling Through The Storm

John Broomhall/additional lyrics by John Thompson

Time is a tempest and we are all travellers
We are all travellers, we are all travellers
Time is a tempest and we are all travellers
Travelling through the storm.

Our cities are crowded, our forests are falling
War clouds above, angry voices are calling
Five minutes to midnight, there's no time for stalling
It's time to share our load.

So lift up your voices and sing of the wind and rain
Sing of the wind and rain, sing of the wind and rain
Lift up your voices and sing of the wind and rain
Travelling through the storm.

Time is a tempest and we are all travellers
We are all travellers, we are all travellers
Time is a tempest and we are all travellers
Travelling through the storm.

One of my favourite contemporary Australian folk songs. Learnt from the Keith McKenry/Alan Scott recording "Travelling Through The Storm" in 1997. Alan only sang the first two verses on the album and so I wrote the third verse, later recording it with Martin Pearson on Never the Twain: Live at the Pod.

I've subsequently recorded it twice more with Nicole Murray on cloudstreet albums (Dance Up The Sun and Clouds on the Road. The recording above is from the second of these CDs, recorded live in Brisbane at the Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Arts, with the help of Rebecca Wright, Belinda Ford and an enthusiastic audience of singers.

The Catalpa


A noble whale ship and commander
Called the Catalpa, they say
Came out to Western Australia
And took six poor Fenians away

So come all you screw warders and jailers
Remember Perth regatta day
Take care of the rest of your Fenians
Or the Yankees will steal them away

Seven long years had they served here
And seven long more had to stay
For defending their country Old Ireland
For that they were banished away

You kept them in Western Australia
Till their hair began to turn grey
When a Yank from the States of America
Came out here and stole them away

Now all the Perth boats were a-racing
And making short tacks for the spot
But the Yankee she tacked into Fremantle
And took the best prize of the lot

The Georgette armed with bold warriors
Went out the poor Yanks to arrest
But she hoisted her star-spangled banner
Saying you'll not board me I guess

So remember those six Fenians colonial
And sing o'er these few verses with skill
And remember the Yankee that stole them
And the home that they left on the hill

Now they've landed safe in America
And there will be able to cry
Hoist up the green flag and shamrock
Hurrah for old Ireland we'll die


The Catalpa tells the story of the 1876 rescue from the West Australian convict settlement of six convicts. Wikipedia has a fair summary of the story here, and you'll find some excellent images and account of the history on the Voices of the Outback site.

The tune used here is a variation of Rosin the Bow.

Recorded in Fremantle.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Farewell to Greta


Farewell my home in Greta now my sisters fare thee well
It breaks my heart that we must part but here I dare not dwell
The brand of Cain is on my brow my hands are stained with gore
So I must roam in future years throughout the Australian shore

Even now the price is on my head and bloodhounds on my trail
All for the sake of gaining gold my freedom they assail
But if they cross or check my path by all I hold on earth
I'll give them cause to rue the day their mothers gave them birth

I'll shoot them down like kangaroos that roam our country wide
And leave their bodies bleaching upon some woodland side
A prey to every prowling bird the hawk and carrion crow
It's thus I'd serve each the cowardly curs who'd cause my overthrow

Oh Edward dearest brother you know you should not go
All for to be encountered by such a mighty foe
You know the country well dear Ned go take your comrades there
And profit by your knowledge of the wombat and the bear

To eastward lies great Morgan's tower and reaching to the sky
North-east by east the mighty range of Gippsland's mountains lie
Three troopers came a riding one kiss before we part
Now haste and join your three comrades Dan, Joe and Stevie Hart

The first song on this blog regarding the bushranger, Ned Kelly. The song recounts an imagined conversation between Kelly and his sister before the Kelly gang's gun battle with police at Stringbark Creek, in which 3 troopers were killed.

From the "Australian Folk Song" site:
In Stewart & Keesing's Old Bush Songs a note says this song was collected by Max Brown from Mrs Barry, of Beechworth, Victoria, and said to have been sung about 1879. This tune was collected from Mrs C. Peatey of Brunswick by Norm O'Connor and R. Michell of The Folk Lore Society of Victoria in 1959, and printed in Gumsuckers' Gazette , Sept. 1963.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Australia's Answer

Words: W.T.Sievey
Music: J.B.Connolly

When the call went forth from England,
For men to raise the flag,
Australia's sons were ready
To hoist the dear old rag.
The Mother Country calling
Could never call in vain;
Australia's ready answer
Will always be the same.

Can you hear Australia marching
Her sons down to the sea?
She'll send her best and bravest
To fight 'gainst Germany;
That grand old flag of Union,
The good old Union Jack,
She'll carry across the ramparts,
And WHO shall drive her back?

Our men are sure and steady,
And we can always claim -
When Australia sends her sons out -
They are worthy of her name;
When our boys start in to battle,
They'll hoist the good old flag;
Midst shot and shell and rattle,
Australia's lads won't lag.

Can you hear Australia marching
Her sons down to the sea?
She'll send her best and bravest
To fight 'gainst Germany;
That grand old flag of Union,
The good old Union Jack,
She'll carry across the ramparts,
And WHO shall drive her back?

The Kaiser's threats don't harm us,
We are not afraid of war;
The good old British Empire
Has heard the same before.
The boast and bluff of tyrants,
We'll answer with our guns;
The bluffers will have less to say
When they meet Australia's sons.

Can you hear Australia marching
Her sons down to the sea?
She'll send her best and bravest
To fight 'gainst Germany;
That grand old flag of Union,
The good old Union Jack,
She'll carry across the ramparts,
And WHO shall drive her back?

The outbreak of World War One was met with a great outburst of enthusiasm and patriotism in Australia. From a population of fewer than five million, 416,809 men enlisted, of which over 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner. "Australia's Answer" was published in 1914. While perhaps not strictly a folk song, this is a fine example of the patriotic songs of the time, particularly with its references to Australian troops proudly carrying the Union Jack into battle.

A downloadable pdf of the original music for this song can be found at the National Library of Australia website.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wallaby Stew

Cecil Poole

Poor Dad he got five years or more as everybody knows
And now he lives in Maitland Jail with broad arrows on his clothes
He branded all of Brown's clean skins and never left a tail
So I'll relate the family's woes since Dad got put in jail

So stir the wallaby stew
Make soup of the kangaroo tail
I tell you things is pretty tough
Since Dad got put in jail

Our sheep were dead a month ago not rot but blooming fluke
Our cow was boozed last Christmas Day by my big brother Luke
And Mother has a shearer cove for ever within hail
The family will have grown a bit since Dad got put in jail

Our Bess got shook upon a bloke he's gone we don't know where
He used to act around the shed but he aint acted square
I've sold the buggy on my own the place is up for sale
That wont be all that isn't junked when Dad comes out of jail

They let Dad out before his time to give us a surprise
He came and slowly looked around and gently blessed our eyes
He shook hands with the shearer cove and said he thought things stale
So he left him here to shepherd us and battled back to jail

The first version of this song that I heard referred to Boggo Road prison in Brisbane (rather than Maitland Jail in the original). I've used that lyric as Boggo Road is a prison that I visited regularly while working as a young lawyer in Brisbane in the early 1990s. The illustration above is of that jail.

Written by Cecil Poolein 1897 with the original title 'When Dad Comes Out of Gaol'. First published in the Bulletin that year. Printed in Stewart and Keesing's Old Bush Songs. Dr Percy Jones' included the song in his collection with this note, "Sung sixty years ago by a Mr Hulbert. Mrs E. Joan Bowran, Tallangatta".

From the sleeve notes of A.L.Lloyd's 1958 recording, Across the Western Plains:

Two young fellows who had been working on the Darling Downs were walking back home to Port Adelaide. Following the Lachlan River, they called in at a station for rations. The boss didn't like their looks and wanted them to move on, but the boy who did the butchering skinned a hamstrung lamb for them, and they rewarded him with a song about Wallaby Stew. Their song was tangled up with another called Country Gaol, ad it didn't make much sense. When they'd gone, the boy missed his good skinning knife, but he did recover the Wallaby Stew song, nearly thirty years later and twelve thousand miles away, when Edgar Waters of Sydney, on a visit to England, showed him a coherent set of words, probably from the collection of Percy Jones. The tune is widely known among seaman to the words of According to the Act (the influence of sailor tunes on Australian folk songs is worth studying). Perhaps the tune gained a readier foothold because it is related to the older and more handsome melody used for The Cockies of Bungaree.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Indian Pacific

Slim Dusty

From coast to coast by night and day, hear the clickin' of the wheels
The hummin' of the diesel, of her ribbons of steel
Carryin' the memories of a nation built by hand
See the Indian Pacific span the land

She's the pride of all the railway men 'cross country where she flies
From blue Pacific waters to where the mountains rise
By lakes and wide brown rivers, through desert country dry
See the Indian Pacific passin' by

Oh the Indian Pacific she goes rollin' down the track
Five thousand miles to travel before she's there and back
Beside the line, a drover waves his battered old grey hat
And kids are catchin' yabbies down by the river flat
And a woman hangs her washing in a backyard near the line
As the Indian Pacific's rollin' by

Hear the whistle blowin' lonely 'neath the Nullabor star light
Saluting those who walk across the track she romps tonight
Callin' to the railway camp and the fettlers on the line
I'm the Indian Pacific, right on time

From the silver of the Broken Hill to old Kalgoorlie gold
She mirrors all the colours of the land so hard and old
Then the western clouds are blooming and the air is just like wine
And the Indian Pacific's makin' time

Oh the Indian Pacific she goes rollin' down the track
Five thousand miles to travel before she's there and back
From the waters of the western sea to the eastern ocean sand
The Indian Pacific spans the land
Oh the Indian Pacific spans the land

The Indian Pacific travels from Sydney to Perth across the Nullarbor Plain. A great trip. Nicole and I finished the journey this morning.

For more info, visit the Great Southern Rail website.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Ballad of Eureka

Words: Helen Palmer
Tune: Doreen Jacobs

They're leaving ship and station,
They're leaving bench and fold,
And pouring out from Melbourne
To join the search for gold.

The face of town and country
Is changing ev'ry day,
But rulers keep on ruling
The old colonial way.

"How can we work the diggings
And learn how fortune feels
If all the traps forever
Are yelping at our heels?"

"If you've enough," says Lalor,
"Of all their little games,
Then go and get your licence
And throw it on the flames!"

"The law is out to get us
And make us bow in fear.
They call us foreign rebels
Who'd plant the Charter here!"

"They may be right," says Lalor,
"But if they show their braid,
We'll stand our ground and hold it
Behind a bush stockade!"

There's not a flag in Europe
More lovely to behold,
Than floats above Eureka
Where diggers work the gold.

"There's not a flag in Europe
More lovely to the eye,
Than is the blue and silver
Against a southern sky.

Here in the name of freedom,
Whatever be our loss,
We swear to stand together
Beneath the Southern Cross."

It is a Sunday morning.
The miner's camp is still;
Two hundred flashing redcoats
Come marching to the hill

Come marching up the gully
With muskets firing low;
And diggers wake from dreaming
To hear the bugle blow.

The wounded and the dying
Lie silent in the sun,
But change will not be halted
By any redcoats gun.

The Eureka Stockade was erected by miners in Victoria protesting against increased licence fees. It represented one of the first large-scale armed revolts against colonial authority. Although short-lived, it remains a vibrant feature of Australian history, romanticisedand adopted by the Left and by nationalists in various ways. There are many sources of information about the Eureka Stockade. This link is a reasonable starting point.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Diamantina Drover

Hugh McDonald

The faces in the photograph have faded
And I can't believe he looks so much like me
For it's been ten years today
Since I left for Old Cork Station
Sayin' I won't be back till the drovin's done

For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina
And a drover finds it hard to change his mind
For the years have surely gone
Like the drays from Old Cork Station
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

Well it seems like the sun comes up each mornin'
Sets me up and takes it all away
For the dreaming by the light
Of the camp fire at ni-ight
Ends with the burning by the day

For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina
And a drover finds it hard to change his mind
For the years have surely gone
Like the drays from Old Cork Station
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

Sometimes I think I'll settle back in Sydney
But it's been so long it's hard to change my mind
For the cattle trail goes on and on
And the fences roll forever
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina
And a drover finds it hard to change his mind
For the years have surely gone
Like the drays from Old Cork Station
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina
And a drover finds it hard to change his mind
For the years have surely gone
Like the drays from Old Cork Station
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

Hugh's classic Australian song, quickly adopted into the folk scene both in Australia and Ireland.

Recorded with Nicole Murray on harmonies.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Can't Abide

Trad/John Dengate

I can't abide the government's front bench, send them away to the Germans or the French
I can't abide Costello's shallow sneer - won't someone make the bastard disappear?

I can't abide that bloody awful Kemp, bring back the gallows, the hangman and the hemp
Take Peter Reith and dump him in the tide. Him I particularly can't abide

Poor little John deserves our sympathy, born neath the star of mediocrity
Pat his wee head and send him off to bed, then hide the key lest he abide with me

I can't abide the government's ministry, Senator Vanstone's worse than dysentry
Send her away without the least delay - dont pour the tea lest she abide with me

Sink them the swine, an iceberg would be fine. Far, far away in distant Hudson Bay
As they go down they'll warble while they drown, flat and off-key, they'll be despised by me

I can't abide the government's front bench, send them away to the Germans or the French
Take Peter Reith and dump him in the tide. Him I particularly can't abide

A great bit of political satire by John Dengate. Written during the fiercely divisive Australian waterfront dispute in 1998, between Patrick Stevedores and the Maritime Union of Australia. You'll find a review of events from one perspective in Tom Bramble'sWar on the Waterfront published by the Brisbane Defend Our Unions Committee.

Cast of characters:

"Poor little John" - John Howard (Prime Minister)
Peter Costello (Treasurer)
Peter Reith (Industrial Relations Minister)
David Kemp (Education Minister)
Amanda Vanstone (Employment Minister)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fremantle Gaol


Now beware all you wayward young fellows,
Take heed of my sorrowful tale;
Transported to Western Australia
For a convict in Fremantle Gaol

Oh my darling she cries every morning
Oh, my darling she cries every day

They told us to build our own prison,
A broad arrow dungeon of stone
With a high prison wall on the hilltop
And a cold narrow cell all alone

It's seven long years I've been taken,
I've been flogged with the chains that I've worn
What hope has a man without freedom
He'll wish that he never was born

There's a convict who struck down his gaoler,
From the quarries of labour he fled;
With the trackers and dogs in his footsteps
And a felon's reward on his head.

Now beware all you wayward young fellows
Take heed of my sorrowful tale
For tomorrow they take me and hang me
From the gallows of Fremantle Gaol.

To the tune of "Tarpaulin Jacket", from "The Wildflower Songsheet of Australian Ballads", printed in WA by Imperial Printing Co Pty Ltd (undated).

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Bullockies' Ball


The teams were camped along the gully, soon the news flew round about
Plans were worked out by Pat Skulley, to give the boys a grand blowout
We had an awning of tarpaulin, kegs and casks came quickly rolling
Then the boys and girls came strolling, to have a burst at the Bullockies' Ball.

Oh, my hearty, that was a party
Help yourself, free, gratis all
Lots of prog and buckets of grog
To swig away at the Bullockies' Ball

First came Flash Joe, but Jimmy was flasher Hopping Billy the one-eyed boss
Brisbane Sal and the Derwent Slasher Billy the Bull and Paddy the Hoss
Nanny the Rat, the real macassar Brisbane Bess and Mother McCall
All came rolling up together, to have a burst at the Bullockies' Ball

Soon pint pots began to rattle, the cry was "Pass the rum this way!"
The boys began to blow their cattle, and the ladies, of course, must have their say
Sal said she'd take cheek from no man, down to a dish of hash did stoop
She got a smack in the eye with a doughboy, put her sitting in a bucket of soup.

Oh then, boys, there was the ructions, man the tucker and let fly
Brisbane Bess with a hunk of damper caught Flash Joe right in the eye
Nanny the Rat, the real macassar, with a frying pan a dozen slew
He got a clip with a leg of mutton, took a dive in an Irish stew

There was a wallowman Doughy Rolly Foley, said he's put them to the rout
Seized a junk of roly-poly, but a poultice of pigweed stopped his mouth
Now, this raised his old woman's dander, into an awful tanter flew
"Fair play" cried she to a bleedin' overlander, "You pumpkin-peeling,toe rag snob!

Last Chorus
Oh, my hearty, that was a party
Help yourself, free, gratis all
Blackened eyes and broken noses
That wound up the Bullockies' Ball

A parody of Finnegan's Wake with John Wilson from Bath on Greg's Jack Spira guitar. Recorded at the kitchen table at Greg and Lynne Hudson's house in Lawson in the Blue Mountains.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weevils in the Flour

Words: Dorothy Hewett
Tune: Mark Leydon (1965)

On an island in a river
How that bitter river ran
I grew on scraps of charity
In the best way that you can
On an island in a river
Where I grew to be a man.

For dole bread is bitter bread
Bitter bread and sour.
There's grief in the taste of it
There's weevils in the flour
There's weevils in the flour.

And just across the river
Stood the mighty BHP.
Poured pollution on the water
All the lead of misery
And its smoke was black as hades
Rolling hungry to the sea.
In those humpies by the river
We lived on dole and stew
While just across the water
Those greedy smokestacks grew
And the hunger of the many
Filled the bellies of the few.

On an island in a river
How that bitter river ran
It broke the banks of charity
And baked the bread of man
On that island in a river
Where I grew to be a man.

For dole bread is bitter bread
There's weevils in the flour
But men grow strong as iron upon
That black bread and sour.

I first heard this song being sung by Phil Brown at the New Exchange Hotel in Brisbane in around 1982.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Click Go The Shears


Click go the shears boys, click, click, click,
Wide is his blow and his hands move quick,
The ringer looks around and is beaten by a blow,
And curses the old snagger with the bare-bellied joe.

Verse 1
Out on the board the old shearer stands,
Grasping his shears in his thin bony hands
Fixed is his gaze on a bare-bellied yoe,
Glory if he gets her, won't he make the ringer go.

Verse 2
In the middle of the floor in his cane bottomed chair
Sits the boss of the board with his eyes everywhere,
Notes well each fleece as it comes to the screen,
Paying strict attention that it's taken off clean.

Verse 3
The colonial experience man, he is there of course,
With his shiny legging's on, just got off his horse,
Gazes all around him like a real connoisseur,
Scented soap and brilliantine and smelling like a whore.

Verse 4
The tar-boy is there waiting in demand
With his blackened tar-pot in his tarry hand,
Spies one old sheep with a cut upon its back
Hears what he's waiting for it's "Tar here Jack"

Verse 5
Now the shearing is all over, we've all got our cheques,
So roll up your swags and it's off down the trace,
The first pub we come to it's there we'll have a spree,
And everyone that comes along it's 'Have a drink on me.'

Verse 6
There we leave him standing shouting for all hands,
Whilst all around him every 'shouter' stands,
His eye is on the keg which now is lowering fast,
He works hard, he drinks hard, and goes to Hell at last.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Plains of Emu


Farewell to my country, my kindred, and my lover
Each morning and evening is sacred to you.
While I toil the long day, without shelter or cover,
And fell the tall gum, the black-butted and blue
Full often I think of and talk of thee, Erin:
Thy heath-covered mountains are fresh in my view.
Thy glens, lakes and rivers, Loch Conn and Kilkerran
While chained to the soil on the Plains of Emu

The iron-bark, wattles, and gum trees extending their shade,
Under which rests the shy kangaroo
Shall be felled by the blest, who have hope o'er them bending
To ease their rude toil, though far exiled from you
But alas, I've not hope, peace or honour to grace me
For each feeling was crushed in the bud as it grew
While "never" is stamped on the chains that embrace me
And ceaseless my thrall on the Plains of Emu

Dearest mother, thy love from my bossom shall never depart
But shall flourish, untainted and true.
For hard was my fate, far from thee to be driven
But force gained the day, and now I suffer for you
Oh, spare her the tear, and no charge lay upon her
And weep not, my Nora, her tears to renew
But cherish her age, until night closes on her
And think of the swain who still thinks but of you.

Our names shall still live, though like writing in water
Confined to the call of the wild cockatoo
As each wattle-scrub echo repeats to the other our names,
Then each breeze will hear me sighing anew.
But dumbed be my tongue if my heart should cease its motion
Or if the isle I forget where my first breath I drew
Each affection is warmed with sincerest devotion
And the tie it is unbroken on the Plains of Emu.

Also know as the Exile's Lament, this recording is from the cloudstreet album, The Fiddleship, recorded by Graham Bradshaw in Coventry in 2004.

The following notes come from the Folk and Traditional Song Lyrics site. The tune I use is my own variation.

These words were published in the Sydney Gazette, 26 May 1829 and
apparently attributed to "M" of Anambaba. The setting is Emu Plains, an
agricultural establishment and convict settlement 57 kilometres west of
Sydney. The apparent author would,be an Irish political convict, perhaps a
rebel of 1798, on lifetime sentence, felling the native timber to clear the
land for farming.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Clancy of the Overflow

Andrew Barton Paterson ('Banjo')

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just "on spec", addressed as follows, "Clancy, of The Overflow".

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
"Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving "down the Cooper" where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city,
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the 'buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I somehow rather fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal --
But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of "The Overflow".

Words by Andrew Barton ("Banjo") Paterson, tune by Wallis and Matilda. Banjo's poem was first published in The Bulletin, an Australian news magazine, on 21 December 1889. You'll find an interesting (if dated) version to a different tune here, sung by John Cameron in 1955.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Eumerella Shore


There's a pretty little valley on the Eumerella shore
Where I've lingered many happy hours away
On my little free selection I have acres by the score
When I unyoke my bullocks from the dray

To my bullocks I will say, "Now, no matter where you stray,
For you'll never be impounded any more,
For you're running, running, running on the duffer's piece of land,
Free selected on the Eumerella shore."

When we find a mob of horses, and the paddock rails are down,
Though before that they were never known to stray,
Oh how quickly we will drive them to some distant inland town
And sell them into slavery far away.

To Jack Robertson we'll say, "You've been leading us astray,
For we'll never go a-farming any more,
For it's cheaper running cattle on the duffer's piece of land
Free selected on the Eumerella shore."

From Ron Edward's Great Australian Folk Songs, taped from the singing of Sam Long (b. 1894) of "The Glue Pot", Wondecla, Queensland, 25 March 1965.

Ron notes that the correct spelling is probably "Umaralla" from the river by that name near Cooma, NSW. There is also a town on that river called Numeralla.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Razor-Back Mountain


Razor-Back Mountain is near Kyogle in the Border Ranges between New South Wales and Queensland.

Notes from Ron Edwards "Great Australian Folk Songs"

"The Razor-Back Mountain" was sent to me by Nancy Keesing on 8 June 1971. She had discovered it in Hill's Life in New South Wales (28 December 1832). It goes to the tune of "The Tight Little Island".

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Springtime It Brings On The Shearing

Oh, the springtime it brings on the shearing,
And it's then that you'll see them in droves,
To the west country stations all steering,
A-seeking a job off the coves.

cho: With my ragged old swag on my shoulder
And a billy quart-pot in my hand,
I tell you we'll astonish the new chums
To see how we travel the land.

You may talk of your mighty exploring,
Of Landsborough, McKinley, and King;
But I feel it should only be boring
On such frivolous subjects to sing.

For discovering mountains and rivers
There's one for a gallon I'd back,
Who'll beat all your Stuarts to shivers:
It's the man on the wallaby track.

From Billabone, Murray, and Loddon
To far Tatiara and back
The hills and the plains are well trodden
By the men on the wallaby track.

Oh, and after the shearing is over
And the wool season's all at an end,
It is then that you'll see those flash shearers
Making johnny-cakes round in the bend.

One of the more popular old Australian songs. As well as being recorded by many Australian performers, this song was also included on Burl Ive's Australian Folk Songs album in 1958.

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

One of the best known of all Australian folk songs, this was collected in Victoria by Dr. Percy Jones. John Meredith found a rather different version in New South Wales, and most of Dr. Jones' words turn up in some verses called The Wallaby Track, which were published by a bush poet called E.J. Overbury in 1865. Maybe some bush singer read Overbury's words and set some of them to a tune; that was a common habit with bush singers. Maybe Overbury heard a bush song, and took some of the words into one of his own poems; that was a common habit with bush poets.

coves: station managers or owners.

billy quart pot: an indispensable item of the bush nomads' gear; a can, here of quart capacity, in which water could be boiled and food cooked.

new-chums: newly arrived immigrants.

Flash shearers making johnny-cakes round in the bend: a contrast in the lot of the shearer at different seasons of the year is implied; during the shearing season he is fl ash (shows an exaggerated sense of his own importance), because he is earning good wages and respect for his skill; when the shearing season is over, and he is unemployed, he is reduced to camping out in the open by some river bend, and living on a diet consisting mainly of camp-made bread (a johnny cake is, roughly speaking, a kind of small damper).

Note: from the original album notes by Edgar Waters, supplemented by Stuart Heather.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bound For Van Diemen's Land

Tune: traditional
Arrangement: Coope, Boyes and Simpson/Thompson

Come all you gallant poachers,
That ramble void of care,
That walk out on a moonlight night
With dog and gun and snare.
By the keepers of the land, my boys,
One night we were trepanned,
And for fourteen years transported
Unto Van Dieman's land.

Bound for Van Dieman's land, brave boys,
Far, far across the sea;
If you don't stand with cap in hand,
Transported you will be.

And as we sail, blows wild the gale,
Dark shadows guard the grill;
They try in vain our minds to chain,
Our thoughts of freedom kill,
And as we sulk in convict hulk,
Aye, shackled feet and hand,
But men be free who poachers be
Bound for Van Dieman's land.

Oh, if I had a thousand pounds
All laid out in my hand,
I'd give it all for liberty
If that I could command;
Once more to Ireland I'd return,
And be a happy man,
And bid adieu to poaching
And to Van Dieman's Land.

The second verse is from Jock Purdon's version of the song, which was arranged by Coope Boyes and Simpson to the tune used here (Jock of Hazledean) and the chorus added. The first and third verses are from better-known traditional versions. The end result falls somewhere between fakesong and the folk process in action. I include it here as a song worth singing. Lots of discussion and various versions to be found here. The full lyrics to Jock Purdon's variation are on Mudcat.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Justice On The Mines

Another anonymous gem from the Big Book Of Australian Folk Songs.

The day it was wet and the court it had met
And His Worship was lively and free
The courthouse a shanty, and Constable Lanty
Had the prisoner chained to a tree

"What's the case?" asked His Worship, as backward he leant
While his pipe he was comfortably lighting
Is it murder, or robbing with dire intent?
"No, Your Worship. This fella's been fighting"

"Fighting, indeed, to make men's noses bleed.
This indeed is a trifle too frisky
Lanty just go to the pub down below,
And bring me a good nip of whisky"

The constable went on his mission intent
And came back, to His Worship's great joy
But his hand it came down as he said with a frown
"You've watered it, Lanty, my boy"

"I can do that myself and the whisky itself
Is not my old tap, you know well
You may think that I'm tight, but I'll prove I'm all right
As this verdict will presently tell."

"You see the mail-coach has just come into town
Take the prisoner and into it bang him
From the place where he stands. Mind, obey my commands.
From the coach take him and hang him!"

"But, Your Worship! The case is assault at the most
You really don't mean what you say
Consider the case in some other place
And the verdict, please give us next day"

"Don't know what I mean! Take that, you spalpeen"
Said the Court, as in fury it rose
His right hand at once grasped the constable's sconce
While his left struck him full on the nose

A scuffle ensued twixt the trap and the beak
The diggers came round them delighted
They'd have seen the thing through if it lasted a week
'Til the quarrel was properly righted

At length it was over, and thoroughly sober
His Worship, to put them a fright in
Set the prisoner free, who was chained to a tree
On paying two guineas for fighting.

Recorded with Steve Cook on guitar.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Maid of Australia

More a song about an imagined Australia than a true song of this land, but I thought I'd stretch the theme today. (It's also unlikely that the relationship unfolded in this way outside the imagination of the author).


As I walked down by the Oxborough Banks
Where the maids of Australia do play their wild pranks,
By a shady green bower I sat myself down,
Where the birds sang so gaily, enchanting all round
In the forest of native Australia,
In the forest of native Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

Oh I had not been long at that beautiful scene
Where the fields are delightful, the trees evergreen,
When a lovely young damsel to me did appear.
From the banks of the river she quickly drew near,
She's a native of happy Australia,
She's a native of happy Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

She tore off her clothes and before me she stood
As naked as Venus just come from the flood.
She looked me in the face and smiling said she,
“This is the robe that nature gave me
On the day I was born in Australia,
On the day I was born in Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.”

She leapt in the water without fear or dread,
Her beautiful limbs she quickly outspread,
Her hair hung in ringlets, her colour was black,
“Kind sir, you can see how I swim on my back
In the stream of my native Australia,
In the stream of my native Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.”

Being tired of swimming she came to the bank,
“Assistance, kind sir, or I surely shall sink.”
Like lightning I flew, took her out by the hand,
My footing I lost and we fell on the sand.
She took me to the bush of Australia,
She took me to the bush of Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

Oh we sported together in the highest of glee,
In the fairest Australia you ever did see.
My hair to her beautiful breast was inclined
Till the sun in the west all its glories resigned
To this beautiful maid of Australia,
To this beautiful maid of Australia,
Where the maidens are handsome and gay.

These notes from Mainly Norfolk:

[Roud 1872 ; trad.]

Harry Cox sang The Maid of Australia on the anthology Songs of Seduction (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 2; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968), and in another recording by Leslie Shephard in Catfield, Norfolk, on October 9, 1965. That one was included in 1996 on the Topic anthology Hidden English: A Celebration of English Traditional Music, and in 2000 on his Topic CD box, The Bonny Labouring Boy. Steve Roud commented in the latter's sleeve notes:

This song of male wish-fulfilment has only rarely been reported in Britain—perpaps its risque subject-matter kept it out of collector's notebooks, but it is pretty mild by modern standards. The fact that all three known English versions are from East Anglian singers—Walter Pardon and Sam Larner being the other two—is most probably a coincidence. It is reported only once from Canada, but several times in the USA (see Guy Logsdon, The Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing, 1989).

Peter Bellamy recorded The Maid of Australia during the sessions for his 1979 Topic LP, Both Sides Then, but it was left out and didn't find its way onto it before the CD reissue in 1992. The recording was included, however, on his 1983 cassette Fair Annie: English, Irish, Australian and American Traditional Songs, on the 1986 Fellside anthology Flash Company, and in 1999 on Free Reed's Peter Bellamy anthology, Wake the Vaulted Echoes.

Martin Carthy sang The Maid of Australia on Brass Monkey's fifth album Flame of Fire; this track was reissued on the anthology Evolving Tradition 4. He commented in the former record's sleeve notes:

I think of Maid of Australia as a sweet piece of Pre-Raphaelite fantasy and I think that it's true to say that it has only ever been found in Norfolk. What's sung here is a mixture of versions of Harry Cox and Walter Pardon, and according to the latter, the song was forbidden in certain pubs. The late and much lamented Peter Bellamy was the first person I heard actually singing it so there is a very large dollop of him to be found here. And thank him very much.

Mainly Norfolk also gives three alternative lyrics. I have chosen the Martin Carthy lyrics to my own arrangement.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Cane-cutter's Lament

From Ron Edwards' "Big Book of Australian Folk Songs"

How we suffered grief and pain
On the banks of the Barron cutting cane
We sweated blood we were as black as sin
And the ganger he put the spur right in

The greasy cook with sore-eyed look
And the matter all stuck to his lashes
He damned our souls with his half baked rolls
And he'd poison the snakes with his hashes

The first six weeks so help me Christ
We lived on cheese and half boiled rice
Mouldy bread and cats meat stew
And corn beef that the flies had blew

The cane was bad the cutters were mad
The cook had shit on the liver
And I'll never cut cane for that bastard again
On the banks of the Barron River

So now I'm leaving that lousy place
I'll cut no more for that bugger
He can stand in the mud that's red as blood
And cut his own bloody sugar

Collected by Ron Edwards from Stan Dean (and others) of Cairns, who said it was based on an old hymn. Ron Edwards writes "This ballad is known all along the coast and the second line was altered to fit different areas 'On the Isis', 'On the banks of the Herbert' etc." (Notes from Mudcat. The Barron River is a major waterway in the cane-growing area of North Queensland.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bill From Erskineville

By John Dengate

I'm pleased to meet you, my name's Bill,
I'm working in a factory in Erskinville.
You have to crawl and conditions are a crime
But you get a few dollars worth of overtime.
Hooray, ain't life grand;
I'm saving the deposit on a block of land.

I met a young fellow selling real estate -
He's running from the coppers in another state.
And he's the friend of a generous gent
Who's lending money at twenty percent.
Hooray, life's a lark;
I'm swimmin' in the water with a finance shark.

I had a couple of dollars on a short-priced horse
Running in a welter on the Rosehill course
But too much weight and too little pace
And the bugger finished twelfth in a twelve-horse race.
Hooray, faithful nag;
Ferryin' the money to the bookie's bag.

I had a little flutter on the poker machines
And I won a dollar forty when it paid three Queens,
So I chases the aces around the wheels
Now I can't afford the money for to pay for meals.
Hooray, feed the slot;
Haul upon the handle till you lose the lot.

Lottery tickets have me up shit creek;
I was twenty off a five-dollar prize last week.
The tyres on my car are all worn through
And the registration's overdue.
Hooray, hip-hurrah
For a worn-out, second-hand Holden car.

I said to my wife, "We've reached the stage
Where we cannot manage on a single wage."
Now she pulls beer in the pub saloon
And the kids run wild in the afternoon.
Hooray, name your brand,
I'm drinkin' the deposit for a block of land.

I'm pleased to meet you, my name's Bill
I'm working in a factory in Erskineville

Used with the kind permission of the author. John recalls writing this song in 1972 or 1973, when it won a song-writing competition run by the Newcastle Trades and Labour Council. A well-known identity on the Australian folk scene, John continues to write and to busk around Sydney. The National Library of Australia holds some great recordings of both his songs and biographical interviews (link). I learnt this one from the singing of Glen Donald.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Past Carin'

Words: Henry Lawson
Music: Steve Ashley

Now up and down the siding brown
The great black crows are flyin',
And down below the spur, I know,
Another `milker's' dyin';
The crops have withered from the ground,
The tank's clay bed is glarin',
But from my heart no tear nor sound,
For I have gone past carin' —
Past worryin' or carin',
Past feelin' aught or carin';
But from my heart no tear nor sound,
For I have gone past carin'.

Through Death and Trouble, turn about,
Through hopeless desolation,
Through flood and fever, fire and drought,
And slavery and starvation;
Through childbirth, sickness, hurt, and blight,
And nervousness an' scarin',
Through bein' left alone at night,
I've got to be past carin'.
Past botherin' or carin',
Past feelin' and past carin';
Through city cheats and neighbours' spite,
I've come to be past carin'.

Our first child took, in days like these,
A cruel week in dyin',
All day upon her father's knees,
Or on my poor breast lyin';
The tears we shed — the prayers we said
Were awful, wild — despairin'!
I've pulled three through, and buried two
Since then — and I'm past carin'.
I've grown to be past carin',
Past worryin' and wearin';
I've pulled three through and buried two
Since then, and I'm past carin'.

'Twas ten years first, then came the worst,
All for a dusty clearin',
I thought, I thought my heart would burst
When first my man went shearin';
He's drovin' in the great North-west,
I don't know how he's farin';
For I, the one that loved him best,
Have grown to be past carin'.
I've grown to be past carin'
Past lookin' for or carin';
The girl that waited long ago,
Has lived to be past carin'.

My eyes are dry, I cannot cry,
I've got no heart for breakin',
But where it was in days gone by,
A dull and empty achin'.
My last boy ran away from me,
I know my temper's wearin',
But now I only wish to be
Beyond all signs of carin'.
Past wearyin' or carin',
Past feelin' and despairin';
And now I only wish to be
Beyond all signs of carin'.

I first heard this song in the mid-80's being performed by Lonnie Martin as part of the La Boite production of The Kelly Dance, a play by John Romeril, in Brisbane.

The words were first published in the Australian Magazine, Sydney, 30th May, 1899.

While at first I was unclear as to the origin of the tune (mistakenly believing like many others that it originated from either Mara Keik or Phyl Lobl) the writer of the tune has been in touch. Steve Ashley wrote this tune for the Bushwackers after they met up in Rotterdam back in the late seventies, along with three other Lawson settings (Freedom On The Wallaby, Old Joe Swallow and Faces In The Street), all of which can be found in the Second Bushwackers Songbook.