Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Old Keg of Rum


My name is old Jack Palmer, and I once dug for gold
And the song I'm going to sing you recalls the days of old
When I'd plenty mates around me, and the talk would fairly hum
As we all sat together round the old keg of rum

The old keg of rum, the old keg of rum
As we all sat together round the old keg of rum

There was Bluey Watt, the breaker, and old Tom Hynes
And little Doyle, the ringer, who now in glory shines
And many more hard doers, all gone to Kingdom Come
We were all associated round the old keg of rum

When the shearing time was over in the sheds on the Bree
We'd raise a keg from somewhere, and we'd all have a spree
We'd sit and sing together till we got that blind and dumb
That we couldn't find the bung-hole of the old keg of rum

There was some would last the night out, and some would have a snooze
And some were full of fight, boys, but all were full of booze
Till often in a scrimmage I have corked it with my thumb
Just to stop the life from ebbing from the old keg of rum.

Well, now my song is ended, I've got to travel on
Just an old buffer skiting of days dead and gone
But I hope you youngsters round me will, perhaps in years to come
Remember Jack Palmer and the old keg of rum

A version of this song was published in Paterson's Old Bush Songs. This version is from An Anthology of Australian Poetry to 1920 , edited by John Kinsella in 2007 (link)

The Bushtracks of Australia

Words: Jean F Gillespie
Tune: John Thompson

The bush tracks of Australia
Run, dusty, through the day,
And whisper to the gum trees
That guard their sun-kissed way.
They chatter with the breezes,
And dance among the flowers;
And send their love songs ringing
Through perfume-laden hours.

The bush tracks of Australia
Run westward from the sea;
For they love the unbound bushland,
That stretches wide and free.
They clamber to the hilltops,
And wave at skies of blue;
And where the kookaburras laugh,
You'll hear them laughing, too.

Oh, the bush tracks of Australia
Go rambling through my heart;
They wave across the ocean,
And smile when moonbeams dart.
They beckon in my dreaming,
And no matter where I roam;
Their voices ever follow me.
And call, "Come home, come home."

A small gem found on the vast Rhymes Rudely Strung blog of Perry Middlemiss which notes the publication of this poem in The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 April 1933 and that "nothing is known about the author of this poem".

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Northwards to the Sheds

Words: Will H Ogilvie
Tune: Unknown

There's a whisper from the regions out beyond the Barwon banks,
There's a gathering of the legions and a forming of the ranks,
There's a murmur coming nearer with the signs that never fail,
And it's time for every shearer to be out upon the trail;
They must leave their girls behind them and their empty glasses, too,
For there's plenty left to mind them when they cross the dry Barooo:
There'll be kissing, there'll be sorrow much as only sweethearts know,
But before the noon to-morrow they'll be singing as they go;
For the Western creeks are calling,
And the idle days are done,
With the snowy fleeces falling,
And the Queensland sheds begun.

There is shortening of the bridle, there is tightening of the girth,
There is fondling of the idol that they love the best on earth,
Northward from the Lachlan River and the sun-dried Castlereagh,
Outward to the Never-Never ride the "ringers" on their way.
From the green bends of the Murray they have run their horses in,
For there's haste and there is hurry when the Queensland sheds begin;
On the Bogan they are bridling, they are saddling on the Bland,
There is plunging and there's sidling -- for the colts don't understand
That the Western creeks are calling,
And the idle days are done,
With the snowy fleeces falling,
And the Queensland sheds begun.

They will camp below the station, they'll be outting peg and pole,
Rearing tents for occupation till the "calling of the roll,"
And it's time the nags were driven, and it's time to strap the pack,
For there's never license given to the laggards on the track.
Hark! The music of the battle: it in time to bare our swords!
Do you hear the rush and rattle as they tramp along the boards?
They are past the pen-doors picking light-wooled weeners one by one;
I can hear the shear-blades clicking, and I know the fight's begun!

First published in The Bulletin, 8 June 1895, and again in the same magazine on 26 August 1959;
and then later in Fair Girls and Gray Horses by Will H. Ogilvie, 1958.

Another gem from Alan Musgrove's Songs They Used To Sing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Poor Ned

Trevor Lucas

Eighteen-hundred and seventy-eight
Was the year I remember so well.
They put my father in an early grave
And slung my mother in gaol.
Now I don't know what's right or wrong
But they hung Christ on nails.
Six kids at home and two on the breast:
They wouldn't even give her bail.

Poor Ned, you're better off dead;
At least you'll get some peace of mind.
You're out on the track, they're right on your back -
Boy, they're gonna hang you high!

You know I wrote a letter 'bout Stringy Bark Creek
So they would understand
That I might be a bushranger
But I'm not a murdering man.
I didn't want to shoot Kennedy
Or that copper Lonigan.
He alone could have saved his life
By throwing down his gun.

I'd rather die like Donahoe,
That bushranger so brave,
Than be taken by the Government
And treated like a slave
I'd rather fight with all my might,
As long as I'd eyes to see;
I'd rather die ten thousand deaths,
Than die on the gallows tree. †

You know they took Ned Kelly
And they hung him in the Melbourne Gaol.
He fought so very bravely
Dressed in iron mail.
But no man single-handed
Can hope to break the bars.
It's a thousand like Ned Kelly
Who'll hoist the flag of stars. ‡

†: A light rewrite of stanza 7 (of 8) "Young Ned Kelly" (or "My Name is Edward Kelly") collected <1959 by the Moreton Bay Bushwhackers (Queensland Folklore Society) and published Queensland Centenary Pocket Songbook, 1959, p. 16.

‡: A minor reworking of the last verse of John Manifold's "The Death of Ned Kelly", published: The Death of Ned Kelly and Other Ballads, London 1941.

Mudcat was invaluable for this one with the tireless Bob Bolton's work evident in the above lyrics and notes.

First recorded by Fotheringay, and later covered by Redgum as a traditional song, this song by Trevor Lucas is a standard in the Australian bush-band repertoire.

Here's the original:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Our Don Bradman

Jack O'Hagan

Who is it that all Australia raves about?
Who has won our very highest praise?
Now is it Amy Johnson, or little Mickey Mouse?
No! it's just a country lad who's bringing down the house.
And he's

Our Don Bradman - And I ask you is he any good?
Our Don Bradman - As a batman he can sure lay on the wood.
For when he goes in to bat
He knocks ev'ry record flat,
For there isn't any thing he cannot do,
Our Don Bradman - Ev'ry Aussie: dips his lid to you.

Our Don Bradman - Now I ask you is he any good?
Our Don Bradman - As a batsman he is certainly "plum pud".
Tate and Larwood meet their fate,
For it's always "shut the gate"
When our boy from Bowral hits four after four.
Our Don Bradman - Always manages to top the score.

Woodfull, Grimmett, Ponsford, Kippax and the rest,
Proved that they were equal to the best,
How gallantly and nobly, we know they've done their share,
But there's one tops them all, a real Devil-may-care.
And he's

Our Don Bradman - And I ask you is he any good?
Our Don Bradman - As a batman he can sure lay on the wood.
How's that Mister Lyon, poor fish,
Must just sit and wish and wish,
That our Don had never come across the foam,
Our Don Bradman - What a welcome waits for you back home.

Our Don Bradman - Now I ask you is he any good?
Our Don Bradman - As a batsman he is certainly "plum pud"
Tho' those cricketers now gone.
Trumper, and Spofforth and so on,
Wrote their names forever in the Hall of Fame,
Our Don Bradman - Is the greatest ever played the game.

Jack O'Hagan wrote this song in time for the broadcasting of the 1930 Ashes Test Series between England and Australia in England.

It was during the 3rd Test of this series (at Leeds) that Bradman scored a then world record innings of 334.

The illustration to this post is a photograph of Bradman on his way to that record.

This clip shows Bradman filmed during that tour.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Poor Ned Kelly

Smiling Billy Blinkhorn

Let me tell you all a story of a bad man of fame
A dinky-di Aussie, Ned Kelly was his name
Born down in Victoria on 11-mile creek
His mother and his father, they were both of them Micks

At sixteen years he was one tough guy
The crimes he committed, oh me oh my
He'd steal all the horses for miles around
Then collect all the rewards for them and paint the town

Poor Ned Kelly
A tougher guy you never knew
Poor Ned Kelly
His brothers and his sisters too

He robbed the stations and he robbed the mail
He held up the bank of New South Wales
He had all the colonials on the run
He shot holes in officers just for fun

Ned and his gang ran fast and free
They bailed up the bank at Jerilderie
Captured half the town and locked them away
Spent their time in the pub for the rest of the day

Poor Ned Kelly, liked his beer I see
Poor Ned Kelly, he ain't got nothing on me

Finally they caught him and they threw him in the can
Shot down all his cobbers to the very last man
Tried him and convicted him and wouldn't give him bail
And they hung him to a rafter in the Melbourne Jail

Some years have gone since Ned passed away
There's lots of his cobbers carrying on today
What with income tax and wages tax and car tax and the price of taxi-cabs and the rest coming due
and the beer going up in price and apart from that all the things we gotta buy, well.
Poor Ned Kelly wasn't such a bad guy.

Poor Ned Kelly,
It's easier to do today
Poor Ned Kelly,
They don't even have to run away.

Written and recorded by Smiling Billy Blinkhorn in 1940. Covered by the Bushwackers and included in their song book. Blinkhorn was Canadian and this may explain the country feel and North American idioms (eg "they threw him in the can"!).

A version by the writer can be found here, from an album entitled, Australian Balladeers Remembered.

These notes from a CD re-release of Blinkhorn's recordings:

Billy is a Canadian who immigrated to Australia and had a successful, but short career through the 1940s. All of his 18 songs that have been previously released in 1940 and 1947 with basically guitar, but also 3 with band accompaniment consisting of great fiddle and accordion work in romantic Canadian style. Billy, who passed away in 1977, was not only a great singer. His yodeling was fantastic, too. This CD is of great historical meaning and will please both fans of old Canadian and Australian country music.

NB. The similarities between this melody and that of the later (and arguably more famous) Ballad of Jed Clampett are likely to be coincidental - the latter was written for the Beverly Hillbillies in 1962.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ronald Ryan

Mark Cryle

Non-flash audio for iPhone, iPad etc

Right-click to download

Ronald Ryan was the poor bastard son
of a drunken miner who died of black lung
That was the depression, he was born in 25
mother turning tricks just to keep the kids alive

That's a good start for a life of crime
he was no gangster, strictly small time
but a 13 year stretch, he'd do 5 for sure
a Friday 13th, November 64

If there's a hard way to live
If there's an easy way to die
If he leadeth me
The quiet waters by
don't ask me for my tears
Or for whom the bells toll
He can't save my neck
Can he save my soul

Ronald was a schemer
Rising for a fall
With Peter Walker he went over that wall
One Pentridge warder lay dead as he fell
Who pulled that trigger
You probably can tell

3 weeks after the boys had flown the coop
Tipped off in Sydney, the cops made their swoop
In the dock he stood there
Sentence was read
Guilty of murder, hanged until dead

the judge and jury never thought he would swing
But the men in power had votes to win
give me law and order
the cry of the day
Ronald Ryan was the bastard who paid

While there's a gathering at the Coburg hotel
Ronald takes communion inside his cell
One nip of whisky before he goes
Candles and protests out on Sydney Road

They fit the shackles, then they fit the cap
They hit the lever, you plummet through the trap
the hangman's table, it's all worked out
Pray that the rope is strong and the beam is stout

Executed at 8 a.m. on 3 February 1967 in Pentridge gaol, Ronald Ryan was the last man to be judicially hanged in Australia. This song by Brisbane's Mark Cryle, was performed by Steve Cook and John Thompson at the Top Half Folk Club in Darwin on 2 June, 2011.

The photograph is of Ryan at the time of his arrest.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Australian Through and Through

Tony Miles

Now I've never been a shearer, never seen a shearing shed
And I don't suppose I'd recognise a sheep
I've never been a drover bringing dusty cattle over
or died of thirst beside a dried up creek
I've never been a digger on a worked out worthless claim
A rowdy rouse about or jackaroo
Never cut a field of cane, never drove a bullock train
But I'm bloody well Australian through and through,
my oath I am! I'm bloody well Australian through and through

I've never boiled me billy by a bloody billabbong
There's better ways than that your days to spend
No one humps their swags no more, what a flamin' bloody bore!
When you can duck off in the Kingswood each weekend
Now there's a mighty waggon! It's a ripper of a car
Designed for our conditions, though it's true
It's made by General Motors, but you'd hardly even notice
'Cause it's bloody well Australian through and through
My oath it is! Yes it's bloody well Australian through and through

I've never crossed the nullabor or trekked the Birdsville Track
I can't tell a wallaby from kangaroo
I know the Kookaburra 'cause its laugh is like no other
But I've only seen Koalas in a zoo!
'Cause I've been o.s. you know (that's short for overseas!)
And I've taught these poms and wogs a thing or two
And it made me feel damn proud to stand out in the crowd
Being bloody well Australian through and through
My oath I did! Being bloody well Australian through and through

'Cause there's nothing overseas that we haven't got at home
We're as cosmi - bloody - politan as them!
With "Dallas" on T.V., the best of BBC
And good old Reg Grundy on Channel Ten!
We've go disco - bloody - fever from Toorak to Tennant Creek
The Bee Gees and Olivia Newton too!
Our stars we have our share of them, and although they sound American
They're bloody well Australian through and through
My oath they are! They're bloody well Australian through and through

So let's sing no more of swaggies or Ned Kelly and his gang
Let's sing a more sophisticated theme
No longer are we hicks from the international sticks
We're jet - setters on the inter - global scene
So let us hold our heads up 'cause we've bloody well arrived
And sing no more of tied - down kangaroos - sport!
At last we've come of age, it's the universal rage
Being bloody well Autalian through and through
My oath it is! Being bloody well Australian through and through.

Written by the Brisbane folkie and songwriter Tony Miles.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Cabbage-Tree Hat

Words: Unknown
Tune: Henry Russell (The Ivy Green)

There's something neat in a cabbage-tree hat,
When it fits the wearer's crown;
There's in it a sort of jaunty look,
With its streamers hanging down.
Let others boast of the felt or brab,
I cannot with them agree,
For nobody looks so like a swell,
As a man with a cabbage-tree.

Go where you will round Lambing Flat,
Every digger wears his cabbage-tree hat,
Go where you will, now think of that,
You're right it you've got a cabbage-tree hat.

Let the roughs and the muffs talk as they will
Of the rowdy cabbage-tree mob;
It's no paltry tile that costs a pound,
And adjust to adorn your nob.
Roam as you will round Sydney town,
The lasses will all agree,
You're just the man to escort them out,
If you've got on a good cabbage-tree.

It's been worn by men of every clime,
Though Australians bear the sway;
Though used at the present day.
No matter what caste, or class, or creed,
Whether rich or poor they be;
They'll never want a friend in need,
If they've got a good cabbage-tree.

The rich look down on the poor man's coat,
If but seedy it appear;
But a cabbage-tree hat is a different thing,
For it's free from a wealthy sneer,
New chums will wear it to ape old hands,
And get bush logic pat;
Yet, where would they be twixt you and me,
If minus the cabbage-tree hat.

The cabbage-tree (Livistona Australis), or Australian cabbage palm was used to waterproof shelters or make a distinctive hat, which marked established settlers from new arrivals.

This song included in Ron Edward's Great Australian Folk Songs and credited to Chanson's Sydney Songster.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Love's Request

Words: Unknown
Tune: Nicolo (We Have Lived and Loved Together)

Thy form it is airy and slight, love,
Its graces are free from restraint
Thy hair sheds a halo of light, love,
Round features like those of a saint.
Oh, to bathe in the light of thine eyes,
What destiny sweeter could be?
But visions of doubt will arise, love.
Could you make me some damper for tea?

Thy mouth is s fountain of song, love
Whence melody flows like a stream,
To list to thee all the day long, love
Would be pleasure too sweet for a dream.
But my couraage to ask for thee fails, love
To accept my hand, oh, would you stoop?
And again, if I brought you the tails, love.
Would you make me some kangaroo soup?

And so then I bid thee farewell, love
And my claims to another, I yield.
But you will not grieve, I can tell, love
There are others than me in the field.
You can sing, you can play, you can dance, love
But your feelings I don't mean to hurt
Your charms you would greatly enhance, love
Could you make me a Crimean shirt?

From The Native Companion Songster (1889).

Fanny Bay

Words: Unknown
Tune: Dr Arthur Collahan

With a couple of little drinks to make us happy
And a couple of little beers to make us gay
And a couple of little gins to keep our strength in
You'll find yourself at last in Fanny Bay

Some are white and some are black and some are yellow
And some are old and some are young and gay
But what costs you thirty bob in Castlereagh Street
You can get for two and six in Fanny Bay

Fanny Bay is the name of the jail in Darwin, Northern Territory. This song was collected by Ron Edwards from Bill Harney in the 1950s.

The tune is the well-known Galway Bay written in 1947 by neurologist, Dr Arthur Colahan.

The illustration to this post is a photograph of the old gates to Fanny Bay prison.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Leaving the Land

Eric Bogle

It's time to go now, Jenny, no need to close the door
What if the dust gets in the house, it doesn't matter any more
You and the dust have been at war for far too many years
Now the war is over, Jenny dear

Leaving the land, leaving the land
Leaving all I've ever been and all the things I am
Leaving the land

Remember when I brought you here those long bright years ago
For all that time you've been my heart and this land has been my soul
The long bright days are over now but still the heart beats on
But Jenny dear, the soul is gone

And all I see around me sings to me of the past
Four generations loved this land, never thought I'd be the last
All that toiling all that dreaming, birth and death and toil and pain
it was all for nothing, all in vain

It's time to go now, Jenny, drive quickly down the track
We'll never see what lies ahead if we keep on looking back
Behind is just an empty house, old memories and ghosts
And our small dreams, gathering dust

A classic from Eric Bogle.

The illustration to this post is Red Landscape by Russell Drysdale

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Pommy's Lament


All you on emigration bent,
With home and England discontent,
Come listen to my sad lament
About the bush of Australia.

Illawarra, Mittagong,
Parramatta, Wollongong,
If you wish to become an orang-outang
Well, go to the bush of Australia.

Once I possessed a thousand pounds,
Says I to meself how grand it sounds,
For a man to be farming his own grounds
In the promising land of Australia.

When coming out the ship got lost,
In a very sad plight we reached the coast,
And very nearly made a roast
For the savages of Australia.

Escaped from thence I lighted on
A fierce bushranger with his gun,
Who borrowed my garments, every one,
For himself in the bush of Australia.

Sydney town we reached at last,
Says I to meself, all danger's passed,
Now I'll make me fortune fast
In the promising land of Australia.

So off I went with cash in hand,
Upon the map I bought my land,
But found it naught but barren sand
When I got to the bush of Australia.

Of sheep I got a famous lot;
Some died of hunger, some of rot,
But the divil a lot of rain we got
In this promising land of Australia.

My convicts, they were always drunk,
And kept me in a mighty funk,
Says I to meself as to bed I sunk,
I wish I were out of Australia.

Of ills I've had enough, you'll own,
But something else my woes to crown,
One night my bark hut tumbled down
And settled me in Australia.

Of cash and homestead thus bereft,
The ruddy spot I gladly left,
Making it over by deed of gift
To the savages of Australia.

Now stones upon the road I break,
And earn my seven bob a week.
'Tis better surely than the freak
Of settling down in Australia.

Credited to Muriel Whalan in Meredith and Scott's Authentic Australian Bush Ballads which dates this song to the early 19th Century and notes the use at the time of aboriginal words in "nonsense" choruses.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Miner


The miner he goes and changes his clothes
And then makes his way to the shaft
For each man well knows he's going below
To put in his eight hours of graft

With his calico cap and his old flannel shirt
His pants with the strap round the knee
His boots watertight and his candle alight
His crib and his billy of tea

The platman to the driver will knock four and one
The ropes to the windlass will strain
As one shift comes up, another goes down
And working commences again

He works hard for his pay at six bob a day
He toils for his missus and kids
He gets what's left over and thinks he's in clover
To cut off his 'baccy in quids

And thus he goes on, week in and week out
To toil for his life's daily bread
He's off to the mine, hail, rain or shine
That his dear ones at home may be fed

Digging holes in the ground where there's gold to be found
And most times where gold it is not
A man's like a rabbit with this digging habit
And like one, he ought to be shot

Another from Ron Edwards collecting legacy. Mark Gregory has these notes:

'The Miner' comes from the later period of gold mining after the alluvial gold was exhausted. It's a song about deep shaft gold mining and this version was collected in 1959 by Norm O'Connor and Maryjean Officer from Mrs. R. Sayers, Bulumwaal, Gippsland. Ron Edwards collected two versions one in 1965 from Mrs T. Jenkins in Cairns and one in Fruitgrove, Qld in 1970 from Tony Davis.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Down in the Goldmine

Words: Unknown
Tune: Joseph Bryan Geoghegan

Coolgardie folk remember well, the torrent from the sky
Westralia's tunnels took the flood, men were forced to fly
It chilled the blood to have to hear the wailing whistle blow
As miner Vareschetti lay, a thousand feet below.

It's down in the goldmine, underneath the ground
Floods are apt to fill the mine, men are apt to drown
Dare the dark and the dreary water, send a diver down
Deep down in the gold mine, underneath the ground.

They heard a hammer down below and ran to break the news
To dare the gloomy catacomb, they sent for diver Hughes
It's half a hope or sudden death, no are you game to go
Where miner Vareschetti lies, a thousand feet below.

Fremantle found the diving gear, a train began to roar
The engine got the right of way, a hundred miles or more
It hit the track at 65 and it set the night aglow
Where miner Vareschetti lay, a thousand feet below.

A million gallons rose above the captive in the cave
Then diver Hughes, he brought him up and he left an empty grave
And life can keep a lamp alight if we are game to go
Where miner Vareschetti lay, a thousand feet below.

A song I found in a folio entitled, Moondyne Joe and Other Sandgroper Ballads. It is a parody of a music hall song, Down in the Coal Mine. This link is to the story which I first read about the rescue of this Italian miner from a flooded goldmine in the desert in 1907.

Enquiries around the folk scene in Australia have not revealed the songwriter's name. Any advice would be appreciated.

This recording taken from The Circus of Desires, cloudstreet's most recent album.

The illustration to this post is a contemporary photograph showing Modesto's rescuers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Convict Maid


Ye London maids attend to me
While I relate my misery
Through London streets I oft have strayed
But now I am a Convict Maid

In innocence I once did live
In all the joy that peace could give
But sin my youthful heart betrayed
And now I am a Convict Maid

To wed my lover I did try
To take my master's property
So all my guilt was soon displayed
And I became a Convict Maid

Then I was soon to prison sent
To wait in fear my punishment
When at the bar I stood dismayed
Since doomed to be a Convict Maid

At length the Judge did me address
Which filled with pain my aching breast
To Botany Bay you will be conveyed
For seven years a Convict Maid

For seven long years oh how I sighed
While my poor mother loudly cried
My lover wept and thus he said
May God be with my Convict Maid

To you that here my mournful tale
I cannot half my grief reveal
No sorrow yet has been portrayed
Like that of the poor Convict Maid

Far from my friends and home so dear
My punishment is most severe
My woe is great and I'm afraid
That I shall die a Convict Maid

I toil each day in greaf and pain
And sleepless through the night remain
My constant toils are unrepaid
And wretched is the Convict Maid

Oh could I but once more be free
I'd never again a captive be
But I would seek some honest trade
And never become a Convict Maid

These words from Mark Gregory's Australian Folk Songs site, the tune from a YouTube clip of Tina Lawton.

The illustration is an 1850 broadside which includes the lyric.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Way Down Eurobin

Words: Stan Dean
Tunes: Swanee River

Way down Eurobin, Ovens Valley,
Where we reside,
Growing hops and picking for a tally
Good for the beer inside

All the world may be sad and bleary
Feeling all alone
But we are always so bright and cheery
Hopping away down at home.

Awaking fresh and bright each morning
Breathing the smell of hops
Gone before is drowsiness and yawning
Fighting fit for unions and cops

"Flowers of the forest" pickers gather
Hooking down from the wire
Checking weights from kids, Mum and Father
Calling each other a liar.

So may you who like your evening snorter
Give a thought to how it's made
Never let it be known that you have bought a beer
With a dash of lemonade.

Another from Ron Edwards, this collected from Stan Dean of Cairns, a song he wrote in the 1920s as part of a skit he wrote while picking hops in Victoria.

The illustration is of hop-picking in Tasmania.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Forbes Flood


Another great disaster has come upon this land
Out where the Lachlan River flows on its way so grand
Was in the month of August and the town was bright and gay
And the folks out on the lachlan they were happy all the day

And then the skies grew cloudy and the rain came fallen down
All day the mighty torrents came falling to the ground
The streams throughout the country kept swelling day by day
Until the angry Lachlan, it was roaring on its way

And then there came a warning , the levees cannot stand
A brave important struggle to save their native land
But still the raging water kept pounding at the shores
Until it broke the levee banks and into Forbes it poured

How many homes were flooded and brave men knelt to pray
As all that they had cherished was madly swept away
The world will gladly help them to pay the awful cost
But no-one can ever give them back the treasures they have lost

We can't explain the reason these great disasters come
But we all must remember to say "Thy will be done"
And though the good may suffer for other people's sins
There is a crown awaiting where eternal life begins.

This song probably refers to the flood of 1870.

Taken from Alan Musgrove's Songs They Used To Sing album.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sweet Mary of Kilmore

Words: Unknown
Tune: Traditional (Harry Power?)

As I strolled out one morning
The birds did sweetly sing
And being Sunday morning
The village bells did ring
As I walked on contemplating
On nature's beauty store
I beheld a lovely maiden
Twas Mary of Kilmore

She on the grass was seated
A young man by her side
He asked if she would name the day
That she would be his bride
He was her own true lover
For I heard the vows he swore
That he would ever constant be
To Mary of Kilmore

She said, "My dearest Henry"
"I wish that we had never met"
"Since my parents won't give their consent"
"For me to marry yet"
"And about you, dearest Henry"
"They bade me think no more"
"But separation is worse than death"
Said Mary of Kilmore

"If your parents have objections"
"There's one thing we can do
We can go down to Melbourne town
And there I'll marry you
This very night we'll take a flight
So gather up your store
Oh, that I'll do quite willingly
Said, Mary of Kilmore

So this wronged yet beautiful maiden
Her lovers wish did keep
But out her bedroom window
When her parents were asleep
She shed no tears at parting
Though her heart was troubled sore
She made haste to meet her lover
Did Mary of Kilmore

And soon by coach and horses
They were quickly whirled away
They arrived in Melbourne town
At 10 o'clock next day
So attractive was the cottage
And the bridal dress she wore
She soon became a wedded wife
Did Mary of Kilmore

But her husband proved a gambler
Which caused her many a tear
And to his home he'd not return
Til day was drawing near
Though attractive was the cottage
All by the tranquil shore
She did not feel contentment
Poor Mary of Kilmore

And one day when meditating
With sorrow at her lot
She was handed in a letter
Which caused her blood to start
It told she was no wedded wife
Though the wedding ring she wore
And that the marriage was all a sham
Poor Mary of Kilmore

So she took her infant in her arms
And across the fields did roam
To visit again with a broken heart
Her childhood's happy home
But she found the cottage as she left
With ivy towering o'er
For her parents died of broken hearts
Poor Mary of Kilmore

So now my pitiful story
I'll bring it to an end
Her husband he's in Pentridge
Her child is with a friend
And within the Kew asylum
You'll hear the mournful roar
Of that wronged but beautiful maiden
Poor Mary of Kilmore

Mentioned by Russel Ward in his autobiography as having been heard from Hoopiron Jack. Keith McKenry reports that Ward thought the song was marked by "maudlin sentimentality" and "deserving of oblivion"

Keith McKenry found further lyrics in the National Library archive and included it in his Lost Folk Songs of Australia collection.

A Roller-coaster ride of adventure and romance. Derived at least in part from an Irish song of the same name.

Kate Burke put this tune to the words, the tune being from a song about the bushranger, Harry Power

The illustration to this post is a photograph of Kew Asylum.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Farewell Dan and Edward Kelly


Farewell Dan and Edward Kelly,
Farewell Byrne and Steve Hart too,
With the poor your memory liveth,
Those who blame you are but few.

Thirty policemen did besiege you
In the hotel owned by Jones,
Then was our gallant leader;
Nothing left you but the bones.

Dirty policemen did outdo you,
In a manner I am told,
Dirty policemen did outdo you,
For a paltry sum of gold.

Farewell Dan and Edward Kelly,
Farewell Byrnes and Steve Hart too,
With the poor, your memory lingers,
Those that blame you are but few.

Lyrics and notes from Mudcat:

A conglomeration of the available fragments. The first:

Recorded by John Meredith from the singing of Jack Luscombe, aged 86 (in March, 1953), of Ryde, N. S. W. Luscombe learned the song in Queensland during the 1890s. The second stanza appearing In "The Bulletin" of June 10th, 1882.

The verses:

Collected by Warren Fahey from Cyril Duncan (source: 1- cassette collection of ABC Radio programs: While the Billy Boils, A Panorama of Australian Folklore, devised and scripted by Warren Fahey, Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1981. [ISBN 0 6442 975817]

The illustration is a contemporary newspaper illustration. The caption reads:


Friday, June 10, 2011

The Terrorist Song

Words: John Dengate
Tune: Trad (The Knickerbocker Line)

As I was walking down the road, he suddenly appeared:
A bloody turbaned Moslem with a big Bin Laden beard;
I asked, "Are you a terrorist, is that your bloody lurk?"
He said, "No, I'm a carpenter, I'm on my way to work."

I watched him, tracked him, rang up A.S.I.O.
I dobbed him into Alan Jones on talk-back radio.
I may not be a beauty and I don't have any sense
But, by God, I know my duty to the national defence!

They're going to bomb the Harbour Bridge then quiet as a mouse,
They'll sneak up with explosives and blow up the Opera House.
They're going to blow up Murphy's pub. I've heard about the plot…
I hope they get the pokies 'cause I'm losing quite a lot.

There's terrorism everywhere; it makes a man afraid…
I’m buying a machine gun and I'll build a barricade.
You'll have to know the password if you come and visit me.
Shoot first, ask questions later mate, that's my philosophy.

My Aunty May's eccentric; "You’re paranoid," she said.
She doesn't believe the terrorists are underneath the bed.
She reckons it's "hysteria"… I don’t know what she meant…
She said she’s far more frightened of the Federal Government.

John Howard will protect us, he is very strong and brave;
He's passing legislation that will make you all behave!
You won't be facing Mecca on that silly bloody mat
You'll all be Church of England, Abdul, cogitate on that!

Final Chorus
Watch them, track them…

Another parody from the wonderful pen of John Dengate.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Death of Ben Hall


Come all Australia's son to me, a hero has been slain
Murdered by cowards in his sleep along the Lachlan Plain

So do not stay your manly grief, but let the tear drops fall
For all Australia mourns today the death of brave Ben Hall

He never robbed a needy man as all his records show
But staunch and loyal to his mates and manly to the foe

No mark of Cain was on his brow, no widow's curse did fall
Only the robbing rich man feared the coming of Ben Hall

For ever since the good old days of Turpin and Duval
The poor men's friends were Outlaws then, and so was brave Ben Hall

But savagely they murdered him, those cowardly blue-coat imps
Led to where he lay asleep by sneaking Peelers Pimps

So do not stay your manly grief, but let the tear drops fall
For all Australia mourns today the fate of brave Ben Hall

Another classic about Ben Hall.

Recorded many times, this version from Gary Shearston's 1965 album, Traditional Australian Songs of Bolters, Bushrangers and Duffers.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dunn, Gilbert and Ben Hall


Come all you sons of liberty and listen to my tale
A story of bushranging days I will to you unveil.
'Tis of those valiant heroes, God bless them one and all!
We'll sit and sing: 'God save the King, Dunn, Gilbert, and Ben Hall.'

Ben Hall he was a squatter, and he owned six hundred head;
A peaceful, quiet man was he until he met Sir Fred.
The troopers burned his homestead down, his cattle perished all.
'I've all my sentence yet to earn, was the word of brave Ben Hall.

John Gilbert was a flash cove, and young O'Meally too,
With Ben and Bourke and Dunn and Vane they all were comrades true.
They bailed the Carcoar mailcoach up and made the troopers crawl.
There's a thousand pound set on the heads of Dunn, Gilbert, and Ben Hall

From Bathurst down to Goulburn town they made the coaches stand,
While far behind, Sir Frederick's men were labouring thro' the land
Then at Canowindra's best hotel they gave a public ball:
We don't hurt them that don't hurt us, says Dunn, Gilbert, and Ben Hall.

They held the Gold Commissioner to ransom on the spot ,
But young John Vane surrendered after Micky Bourke was shot.
O'Meally at Goimbla did like a hero fall;
But 'We'll take the country over yet,' says Dunn, Gilbert, and Ben Hall.

They never robbed a needy man, the records go to show,
Though staunch and loyal to their mates, unflinching to the foe;
So we'll drink a toast tonight, my lads, their memories to recall.
Let us sit and sing: 'God save the King, Dunn, Gilbert, and Ben Hall!'

A version compiled by John Manifold. Posted to Mudcat by Bob Bolton in 1998.

The illustration to this post is a sketch of John Gilbert, bushranger.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Free-Selector's Daughter

Words: Henry Lawson
Tune: Traditional

I met her on the Lachlan Side --
A darling girl I thought her,
And ere I left I swore I'd win
The free-selector's daughter.

I milked her father's cows a month,
I brought the wood and water,
I mended all the broken fence,
Before I won the daughter.

I listened to her father's yarns,
I did just what I `oughter',
And what you'll have to do to win
A free-selector's daughter.

I broke my pipe and burnt my twist,
And washed my mouth with water;
I had a shave before I kissed
The free-selector's daughter.

Then, rising in the frosty morn,
I brought the cows for Mary,
And when I'd milked a bucketful
I took it to the dairy.

I poured the milk into the dish
While Mary held the strainer,
I summoned heart to speak my wish,
And, oh! her blush grew plainer.

I told her I must leave the place,
I said that I would miss her;
At first she turned away her face,
And then she let me kiss her.

I put the bucket on the ground,
And in my arms I caught her:
I'd give the world to hold again
That free-selector's daughter!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Sandy Maranoa

Words: A.W.Davis
Tune: Traditional (Little Sally Waters)

The night is dark and stormy and the sky is clouded o'er
Our horses we will mount and ride away
To watch the squatters' cattle through the darkness of the night
And we'll keep them on the camp till break of day

For we're going going going to Gunnedah so far
And we'll soon be into sunny New South Wales
We shall bid farewell to Queensland with its swampy coolibah
Happy drovers from the sandy Maranoa

When the fires are burning bright through the darkness of the night
And the cattle camping quiet well I'm sure
That I wish for two o'clock when I call the other watch
This is droving from the sandy Maranoa

Our beds made on the ground we are sleeping all so sound
When we're wakened by the distant thunder's roar
And the lightning's vivid flash followed by an awful crash
It's rough on drovers from the sandy Maranoa

We are up at break of day and we're all soon on the way
For we always have to go ten miles or more
It don't do to loaf about or the squatter will come out
He's strict on drovers from the sandy Maranoa

We shall soon be on the Moonie and we'll cross the Barwon too
Then we'll be out upon the rolling plains once more
We'll shout hurrah for old Queensland with its swampy coolibah
And the cattle that come off the Maranoa

Also known as Maranoa Drovers. Another from Paterson's Old Bush Songs.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Swaggies Have All Waltzed Matilda Away

Alistair Hulett

You came to this country in fetters and chains
Outlaws and rebels with numbers for names
And on the triangle were beaten and maimed
Blood stained the soil of Australia
Dookies and duchesses, flash lads and whores
You worked their plantations and polished their floors
Lived in their shadow and died in their wars
Blood stained the soil of Australia

Does it quicken your heart beat
To see tar and concrete
Cover the tracks of the old bullock dray
Have you grown so heartless
To christen it progress
When the swaggies have all waltzed Matilda away

Driven like dogs from your own native home
Hardship and poverty caused you to roam
Over the bracken and over the foam
Blood stained the soil of Australia
Then in the fever for fortune and fame
You caused the poor blacks to suffer the same
Imprisoned on missions or hunted for game
Blood stained the soil of Australia

Its two hundred years since you came to this land
Betrayed by the girl with the black velvet band
And still to this day you don’t understand
Blood stained the soil of Australia
Koori and white, old Australian and new
Brothers and sisters of every hue
The future is ours, take the wealth from the few
And raise the Red Flag in Australia

Let it quicken your heart beat
The road’s at your own feet
Travel it lightly and travel it well
And don’t speak of success
Or christen it progress
Til the swaggies can all waltz Matilda as well

Alistair Hulett (1951-2010) was a great songwriter and social activist. This song was recorded with a band he formed in Sydney, Roaring Jack and was included in their 1988 album, Cat Among the Pigeons.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Waterwitch


A neat little packet from Hobart set sail
For to cruise 'round the westward for monster sperm whales;
Cruise in the westward, where the stormy winds blow,
Bound away in the Waterwitch, to the west'd we go.

Bound away, bound away, where the stormy winds blow,
Bound away to the west'd in the Waterwitch we go.

Oh it's early one morning just as the sun rose;
A man from the masthead cries out: 'There she blows!'
'We're away!' cried the skipper, and springing aloft;
'Three points on the lee bow and scarce three miles off.

'Get your lines in your boats, my boys, see your box-line all clear,
And lower me down, my bully-boys, and after him we'll steer.
Now the ship, she gets full, my boys; to Hobart we steer,
Where there's plenty of pretty girls and plenty good beer.

'We'll spend our money freely with the pretty girls on shore,
And when it's all gone we'll go whaling for more.'
Bound away, bound away, where the stormy winds blow,
Bound away in the Waterwitch, to the west'd we go.

The Waterwitch was a whaling ship based in Hobart in the 1860s. This song was published in collections in the mid-twentieth century. I've used a tune based on the Wongawilli version.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Justice to Them

John Thompson

Down through the years, again and again.
The blue fist moves in; the names ring with shame
The Springboks, the marches, up in Cedar Bay
We saw our rights and our freedoms get taken away

12 women and men with his fate in their hands
They let him go free and I don't understand
How he walked out the door and he claimed victory
What's justice to them isn't justice to me.

Mr Fitzgerald came onto the scene
Gunn thought the old joke would keep the boys clean
But the pimps and the coppers, the stories they could tell
Another two years and the government fell

The truth came to light and Sir Joh came to trial
With a wave for the cameras and an arrogant smile
But the jury was deadlocked, they couldn't be satisfied
That when the old man told his story, the premier had lied

Now was justice done, was justice observed
Or was justice twisted and mangled and turned
When justice drops the charges, when the guilty go free
What's justice to them isn't justice to me.

A song I wrote after the former Queensland premier, Sir Johannes Bjelke-Peterson's trial for perjury resulted in a hung jury and the decision was taken to not order a re-trial. The history of the Bjelke-Petersen government, the Fitzgerald hearings and the ultimate renovation of the Queensland political system are dealt with extensively in Evan Whitton's book, The Hillbilly Dictator. Well worth a look.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission site has a good summary of the Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct, including a link to the full report. The early chapters are an amazing summary of Queensland political history of the time.

Joh held the office of Queensland premier from 1968 until 1987. The illustration to this post is a photograph of him in full-flight.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Black Velvet Band


Twas in the city of London, in apprenticeship I was bound
And many's the happy sweet hour, I spent in that dear old town
One day as I was walking, along my usual beat
A pretty little young maiden, came tripping along the street

And her eyes they shone like diamonds, I thought her the pride of the land
The hair that hung down on her shoulders was tied with a black velvet band

One day as we were walking, a gentleman passed us by
I could she was bent on some mischief by the roving of her eye
Gold watch she picked from his pocket and slyly placed it into my hand
I was taken in charge by a copper - bad luck to that black velvet band

Before the Lord Mayor I was taken: "Your case sir, I plainly can see
And if I'm not greatly mistaken you're bound far over the sea
It's over the dark and blue ocean Far away to Van Diemen's Land
Away from my friends and relations and the girl with the black velvet band

A song of many versions dating back to roughly the 1830s.

This version from Singabout, Volume 5, Number 1 (1963).

The illustration is a photograph of early Peelers, members of the first police force.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Banks of the Reedy Lagoon


The sweet scented wattle sheds perfume around,
Enticing the bird and the bee,
As I lie and take rest, in a fern-covered nest
In the shade of a Currajong tree.
High up in the air I can hear the refrain
Of the butcher bird piping his tune,
For the Spring in her glory has come back again
To the banks of the reedy lagoon.

I've carried my bluey for many a mile,
My boots are worn out at the toes,
And I'm dressing this season in different style
From what I did last year, God knows!
My cooking utensils, I'm sorry to say,
Consist of a knife and a spoon;
And I've dry bread and tea, in a battered Jack Shea
On the banks of the reedy lagoon.

Oh where is poor Frankie (and how he could ride!)
And Johnny the kind hearted boy?
They tell me that lately he's taken a bride
A Benedick's life to enjoy.
And Mac the big Scotsman? I once heard him say.
He wrestled the famous Muldoon.
But they're all far away, and I'm lonely today
On the banks of the reedy lagoon.

Oh where is the lady I often caressed,
The girl with the sad dreamy eyes?
She pillows her head on another man's breast
Who tells her the very same lies!
My bed she would hardly be willing to share
Where I camp in the light of the moon!
But it's little I care, for I couldn't keep square,
On the banks of the reedy lagoon.

First heard from Peter Bate at the Top End Folk Club.