Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Union Boy


When I first arrived in Quirindi, those girls they jumped for joy
Saying one unto the other, "Here comes a union boy"

"We'll treat him to a bottle, and likewise to a dram
Our hearts we'll freely give, too, to all staunch union men"

I had not been long in Quirindi, not one week, two, or three
When an handsome pretty fair maid, she fell in love with me

She introduced me to her mother as a loyal union man
"Oh mother, dearest mother, now he's gently joined the gang"

"Oh daughter, dearest daughter, oh, this can never be
For four years ago-oh, he scabbed at Forquadee"

"Oh mother, dearest mother, now the truth to you I'll tell
He's since then joined the union and the country knows it well"

"Now Fred, you've joined the union, so stick to it like glue
For the scabs that were upon your back, they're now but only few."

"And if you ever go blackleggin' or scabbing it likewise
It's with my long, long fingernails, I'll scratch out both your eyes"

"I'll put you to every cruelty, I'll stretch you in a vice
I'll cut you up in a hay machine and sell you for Chinese rice"

Come, all you young men, oh, wherever you may be
Oh, it's hoist oh the flag, oh, the flag of unity

Then scabbin' in this country will soon be at an end
And I pray that one and all of you will be staunch union men.

Collected by John Meredith from Bill Coughlin in Gulgong. Lyrics and notes from Meredith and Anderson's Folk Songs of Australia:

Coughlin was seventy when recorded, but had learned "The Union Boy" at Cassilis during a shearers' strike in 1902. He was only sixteen years of age at that time.

The illustration to this post is a photograph of a shearers' strike camp from 1884 from the La Trobe Collection, State Library of Victoria.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Leaving Nancy

Eric Bogle

In comes the train and the whole platform shakes,
It stops with a shudder, and a screaming of brakes,
The parting has come,and my weary soul aches,
I'm leaving my Nancy O

But you stand there so calmly determinedly gay,
And you talk of the weather and events of the day,
But your eyes tell me all that your tongue doesn't say,
Goodbye my Nancy O

And come a little closer,put your head upon my shoulder,
And let me hold you one more time,before the whistle blows.

My suitcase is lifted and stowed on the train,
And a thousand regrets whirl around in my brain,
And the ache in my heart is a black sea of pain,
Im leaving my Nancy O

And you stand there so calmly so lovely to see,
But the grip of your hand is an unspoken plea,
You're not fooling yourself,and you're not fooling me,
Good-by my Nancy O

For our time has run out and the whistle has blown,
And here I must leave you standing alone,
We have so little time and now the time's gone
Good-bye my Nancy O

And as the train starts gently to roll,
And as I lean out to wave and to call,
I see your first tears,trickle and fall,
Good-bye my Nancy O

Leaving Nancy was the first song Eric wrote for himself, about the pain as he left his mother Nancy at the train station when he was emigrating to Australia.

I first heard this song performed by Eric at the Rialto Theatre in Brisbane in the mid-1980s (before it burnt down).

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Road to Gundagai (Parody)

Words: Unknown
Tune: Jack O'Hagan (The Road to Gundagai)

There's a clapped-out old Ford
Made of rubber, tin and board
Along the road to Gundagai.
The radiator's hissing
And half the engine's missing
The oil-tank's running dry
There's water in the petrol
There's sand in the gears
She hasn't seen a garage for more than thirty years
But you should hear her roar
When the pedal hits the floor
Along the road to Gundagai.

One of many parodies of the famous Australian song. I learnt this one in the 1980s in the Brisbane sessions.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nine Miles From Gundagai


I'm used to punching bullock teams across the hills and plains
I've teamed outback these forty years in blazing droughts and rains
I've lived a heap of troubles down without a blooming lie
But I can't forget what happened to me nine miles from Gundagai

Twas getting dark the team got bogged the axle snapped in two
I lost my matches and my pipe ah what was I to do
The rain came on twas bitter cold and hungry too was I
And the dog sat in the tucker box nine miles from Gundagai

Some blokes I know have stacks of luck no matter how they fall
But there was I lord luvva duck no blessed luck at all
I couldn't make a pot of tea nor get my trousers dry
And the dog sat in the tucker box nine miles from Gundagai

I can forgive the blinking team I can forgive the rain
I can forgive the dark and cold and go through it again
I can forgive my rotten luck but hang me till I die
I cant forgive that blooming dog nine miles from Gundagai

But that's all dead and past and gone I've sold the team for meat
And where I got the bullocks bogged now there is an asphalt street
The dog ah well he took a bait and reckoned he would die
I buried him in that tucker box nine miles from Gundagai

The Dog on the Tuckerbox is one of the few characters in Australian song to have his own monument. Erected in 1932, it still marks a popular resting place for passers-by.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Two-Up Song

Words: Unknown
Tune: John Kellette (I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles)

I'm forever playing two-up
Tossing pennies in the air
They fly so high
Nearly reach the sky
When they come tails
I nearly die

Coppers always hiding
Hiding everywhere
I'm forever playing two-up
Tossing pennies in the air

A parody of the 1918 hit song, I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles. Learnt by Warren Fahey from his father, George. From Warren's Larrikins, Louts and Layabouts album.

Two-up is a traditional Australian gambling game. It is generally illegal in Australia, with the exception of ANZAC Day (April 25).

The illustration to this post is from the 5 Field Ambulance Association site:

Members of 2/5 Field Ambulance playing two-up at Blue Beach while waiting for orders to embark for the Oboe 2 operation. Identified are VX21315 Private (Pte) R H Wilshire (1); VX12179 Pte H H Hicks (2); QX38619 Pte R R Pershouse (3); QX50540 Pte C A T Lax (4); NX162657 Pte R J Shields (5); QX37746 Pte W L McGuire (6).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Cockies of Bungaree


Come all you weary travellers that's out of work just mind,
You take a trip to Bungaree and plenty there you'll find.
Have a trial with the cockies, you can take it straight from me,
I'm very sure you'll rue the day you first saw Bungaree.

Well how I come this weary way I mean to let you know,
Being out of employment I didn't know where to go.
So I went to the registry office and there I did agree
To take a job of clearing for a cocky in Bungaree.

His homestead was of surface mud, the roof of mouldy thatch,
The doors and windows hung by a nail with never a bolt or catch.
The chickens laid eggs on the table such a sight you never did see,
One laid an egg in the old tin plate of the cocky of Bungaree.

Well, it's early the very next morning, it was the usual go.
He rattled a plate for breakfast before the sun did show.
The stars were shining glorious and the moon was high, you see,
I thought before the sun would rise I'd die in Bungaree.

By the time I come into supper, it was just on half past nine
And when I had it eat I reckon it was my bedtime.
But the cocky he come over to me and he says with a merry laugh,
I want you now for an hour or two to cut a bail of chaff.

Well, when the work was over, I had to nurse the youngest child,
Whenever I cracked a bit of a joke the missus she would smile.
The old feller he got jealous, looked like he'd murder me
And there he sat and whipped the cat, the cocky in Bungaree.

Well, when I'd done my first week's work I reckoned I'd had enough,
I went up to that cocky and asked him for me stuff.
I came down into Ballarat and it didn't take me long
I went straight into Sayer's Hotel and blued me one pound one.

So now me job is over and I'm at liberty,
I'll never forget the day I met that cocky in Bungaree.

From AL Lloyd's Outback Ballads (1960).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Four Little Johnny Cakes


Hurrah for the Lachlan, boys, and join me in a cheer
That's the place to go to make an easy cheque each year
With my toad-skin in my pocket that I borrowed from a friend
Oh, isn't it nice and cosy to be camping in the bend?

With my little round flour-bag sitting on the stump
My little tea-and-sugar bag looking nice and plump
I've a nice fat cod-fish just off the hook
And four little johnny-cakes, a credit to the cook

I've a half loaf or two of bread and some praties that I shook
Perhaps a loaf of brownie that I snaffled from a cook
A nice leg of mutton ... with a bit cut off the end
Oh, isn't it nice and cosy to be camping in the bend?

I have a good supply of books and some papers for to read
Plenty of matches and a good supply of weed
I wouldn't be a squatter as beside my fire I sit
With a paper in my hand and my old pipe lit

And when the shearing-time comes, I'm in all my glory then
I saddle up a horse and I soon scrounge up a pen
I ride o'er the mountains and I gallop o'er the plain
I shoot a turkey, stick a pig, and I'll be in the bend again

With my little round flour-bag sitting on a stump
My little tea-and-sugar bag looking nice and plump
A little fat cod-fish just off the hook
And four little johnny-cakes, I'm proud to be the cook!

This song is another from Paterson's Old Bush Songs. From Dave De Hugard's Freedom on the Wallaby album (1970).

This recipe from The Old Aussie Food Recipes Site:

Johnny Cakes
1 cup self-raising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
warm water to make a workable dough.
Mix well, roll out to 1/2 inch thickness and cut into quarters. Put a few tablespoons of beef fat into the warm camp-oven or frypan and when it is boiling drop in the mixture in spoonfuls and cook 8 to10 minutes.

The illustration to this post is from the National Library of Australia site:
Carter, Jeff, 1928-2010.
Drover and cook Azzi Fazulla mixes flour and raisins to make a Johnny Cake damper, Starvation Lake, South Australia, 1963

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lovely Nancy


Adieu, my lovely Nancy,
Ten thousand times adieu;
I'm going to cross the ocean
To seek for something new.
Come, change your ring with me, my dear,
Come, change your ring with me,
It will be a token of true love,
When I am on the sea.

When I am on the sea, my love,
And you know not where I am,
But letters I will write to you
From every foreign land
With the secrets of my mind, my dear,
And the best of my good will.
And let my body be where it will,
My heart will be with you still.

See how the storm is rising,
See how it's coming on,
While we poor jolly jack tars
Are fighting for the Crown.
Our captain he commands us,
And his orders we must obey,
Expecting every moment
For to be cast away.

Now the storm is over,
And we are safe on shore,
We will drink to our wives and sweethearts
And the girls we do adore.
We'll call for liquor merrily,
And spend our money free,
And when our money it's all gone,
We'll boldly go to sea.

From Folksongs of Australia, (ed. John Meredith & Hugh Anderson, 1967). A version of a well-known English song from Sally Sloane. This tune is a variation of that used by Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton on their Swapping Seasons album.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Botany Bay (Cecil Sharp version)


Come all young men of learning, a warning take by me
I'll have you quit night walking and shun bad company
I'll have you quit night walking, or else you'll rue the day
And you will be transported and be sent to Botany Bay

I was brought up in London town, a place I know full well
Brought up by honest parents, the truth to you I'll tell
Brought up by honest parents, who loved me tenderly
Till I became a roving blade, to prove my destiny

My character was taken and I was sent to goal
My parents tried to clear me, but nothing would prevail
Twas at our Rutland sessions the Judge to me did say
The jury's found you guilty, you must go to Botany Bay

To see my poor old father, as he stood at the bar
Likewise my dear old mother, her old gray locks she tore
And in tearing of her old gray locks these words to me she did say
O son ! O son ! What hast thou done, Thou art bound for Botany Bay

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Dalby Ram


As I was going to Dalby all on a market day
I met the biggest ram my boys that ever was fed on hay
And indeed my lads it's true my lads I never was known to lie
And if you'd been in Dalby you'd seen him the same as I

The wool on this ram's belly well it grew into the ground
Cut off and sent to the Sydney sales it fetched a thousand pound
The wool on this ram's back my boys grew so very high
The eagles came and built their nests and I heard the young 'uns cry

The horns on this ram's head they reached up to the moon
A little boy went up in January and he didn't get back till June
And indeed my lads it's true my lads I never was known to lie
And if you'd been in Dalby you'd seen him the same as I

The man that fed this ram my boys he fed him twice a day
And every time he opened his mouth he swallowed a bale of lucerne hay
The man that watered this ram my boys watered him twice a day
And every time he opened his mouth he drunk the river dry

Now this old ram he had a tail that reached right down to hell
And every time he waggled it he rung the fireman's bell
And indeed my lads it's true my lads I never was known to lie
And if you'd been in Dalby you'd seen him the same as I

The butcher that stuck this ram my boys was up to knees in blood
And the little boy who held the bowl was carried away by the flood
Took all the boys in Dalby to roll away his bones
Took all the girls in Dalby to roll away his stone the crows

Now the man that fattened this ram my boys he must have been very rich
And the man who sung this song must be a lying son of a .... so he is
Well now my song is ended I've got no more to say
So give us another pint of beer and we'll all of us go away

An Australian variant of the 18th century English song, The Derby Ram (Roud 126).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Australia's On The Wallaby


Our fathers came in search of gold, the claim that proved a duffer
The syndicates, the banks, went broke and so we had to suffer,
We're all for freedom for ourselves, ourselves and mates of toil,
Australia's on the wallaby and the billy's on the boil.

Australia's on the wallaby oh listen to the cooee
The kangaroo he packs his port and the emu shoulders Bluey
The boomerangs are whizzing round, the dingo scratches gravel
The possum, bear and bandicoot are always on the travel.

With old tiger snakes and damper sizzling on the coals,
The droughts and floods and ragged duds and dried up waterholes
Oh sun-scorched plains where shade is not, they're asking us to toil,
Australia's sons are weary and the billy's on the boil.

The kooka calls the bats and now the black duck and the shag,
The the mallee hen and the platypus are rolling up their swags,
The curlew waves his last goodbye beside some long lagoon
And the brolga does his last gay waltz to the lyre-bird's mocking tune

From Authentic Australian Bush Ballads (ed John Meredith and Alan Scott). Accompanied by the following note:

A depression song from Northern Queensland which probably only dates back to the 1930s.

The illustration to this post is a watercolour, On the Wallaby Track, painted in 1913 by Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo (1870-1955) and held by the Manly Art Gallery & Museum.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Freedom's On The Wallaby

/>Words: Henry Lawson
Tune: Traditional (At the Close of an Irish Day)

Our fathers toiled for bitter bread while loafers thrived beside them
But food to eat and clothes to wear their native land denied them
And so they left their native land in spite of their devotion
And so they came or if they stole were sent across the ocean

Our fathers toiled to make a home hard grubbing twas and clearing
They wasn't troubled much by lords when they was pioneering
But now that we have made the land a garden full of promise
Old Greed must crook his dirty hand and come and take it from us

So we must fly a rebel flag as others did before us
And we must sing a rebel song and join in rebel chorus
We'll make the tyrants feel the sting of those that they would throttle
They needn't say the fault is ours if blood should stain the wattle

Australia's a big country an' Freedom's humping bluey
An' Freedom's on the Wallaby Oh dont you hear her cooey
She's just begun to boomerang she'll knock the tyrants silly
She's going to light another fire and boil another billy

Once Freedom couldn't stand the glare of Royalty's regalia
She left the loafers where they were and came out to Australia
But now across the mighty main the eagle comes to bind us
We never thought we'd see again the wrongs we left behind us.

An edited version of Henry Lawson's famous commentary on the 1891 shearers' strike, set to a traditional Irish tune, At the Close of an Irish Day.

From the cloudstreet album, Clouds on the Road.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

John Kanaka


I heard, I heard, the old man say,
John Kanaka-naka tu-lai-ay!
Today, today is a holiday,
John Kanaka-naka tu-lai-ay!

Tu-lai-ay, Oh! Tu-lai-ay!
John Kanaka-naka tu-lai-ay!

We'll work tomorrow, but no work today,
We'll work tomorrow, but no work today.

We're bound away for 'Frisco Bay,
We're bound away at the break of day.

We're bound away around Cape Horn,
We wish to Christ we'd never been born!

Oh haul, oh haul, oh haul away,
Oh haul away, an' make yer pay!

Robert Towns (after whom Townsville is named) was instrumental in introducing Pacific Island labourers into Australia as a cheap labour force. The late 19th century saw a Kanaka slave trade develop in the Pacific, including "blackbirders" bringing islanders to Australia to work. The practice was eventually ended following a Royal Commission in 1884, in part because it had become cheaper to import labour from Europe.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The New Chum Shearer


Well the new chum toils with heart and soul,
Shearing the sheep just to make a roll,
Out in the outback, far away;
Off to Sydney for a holiday

And down in the city he's a terrible swell,
As he takes a taxi to the Kent Hotel,
The barmaid says, "Well you look ill!
Must have been rough tucker, Bill."

And down in the city he looks a goat,
With his Oxford bags and Seymour coat.
Spends his money like a fool of course;
He's worked for like a bloomin' horse.

Then he shouts for everyone round the place,
Then it's off to Randwick for the big horse race.
Dopes himself on back-ache pills,
Talks high tallies and tucker bills.

His money's gone, he's sick and sore,
And the barmaid's looks aren't kind any more
His erstwhile friends don't give a hoot,
It's back to the bush, per what? - the boot!

And back in Bourke, where the flies are bad,
He tells of the wonderful times he's had;
The winners that he shouldn't have missed,
And he skites of the dozens of girls he's kissed.

And he stands on the corner scrounging a fag,
The shirt tails showing through his Oxford bags;
He's pawned that beautiful Seymour coat;
He's got no money - oh, what a goat.

Got no tucker, got no booze,
The soles are gone from his snake-skin shoes.
Camps in the bend, in the wind and rain
Waits for the shearing to start again.

So all you blokes with a cheque to spend,
Don't go down to the city where you've got no friends,
Head for the nearest wayside shack -
It ain't so far, when you've got to walk back!

Lyrics and notes from Jason & Chloe Roweth:

Ron Edwards calls it 'The Big Gun Shearer' and thinks it was originally a recitation. It comes from Bill Bowyang's 'Bush Recitations' (1940) and Bill Scott may have added the last verse. Mike learnt the song from Chris Sullivan.

This tune via Warren Fahey.

Bob Bolton has been kind enough to add the following by email:

" ...the tune for the New Chum Shearer is the one originally applied by the late Bill Scott. He told me that was from a bawdy sailors' song he knew as The Winnipeg Whore."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jog Along 'Til Shearing/Home Sweet Home

Words: Traditional
Tune: Traditional (Bow Wow Wow)

The truth it's in my song so clear
Without a word of gammon
The swagman travels all the year
Waiting for the lambin'
When this dirty work is done
To the nearest shanty steering
They meet a friend, their money spend
Then jog along 'til shearing

Home sweet home
That is what they left it for
Their home sweet home

Now when the shearing season comes
They hear the price that's going
New arrivals meet old chums
And then they start their blowing
They say that they can shear each day
Their hundred pretty handy
But eighty sheep is bloody hard
If the wool is close and sandy

Home sweet home
That is what they left it for
Their home sweet home

Now when the sheds are all cut out
They get their bit of paper
Off to the nearest pub they run
To cut a dashing caper
They call for liquor plenty
And they're happy when they're drinking
But where they'll go when the money's done
It's little they'll be thinking

Home sweet home
That is what they left it for
Their home sweet home

It's sick and sore next morning
They are when they awaken
To have another drink, they must
To keep their nerves from shakin'
They call for one and then for two
In a way that's rather funny
'Til the landlord says "Now this won't do
You men have got no money"

Home sweet home
That is what they left it for
Their home sweet home

They're leaning on verandah posts
And lounging on the sofas
Then for to finish off their spree
They're ordered off as loafers
They've got no friends, their money's gone
And at their disappearing
They give three cheers for the river bend
Then jog along 'til shearing

Home sweet home
That is what they left it for
Their home sweet home

The illustration to this post is captioned "Shearers on the back of a truck on their way to the shearing sheds at Aramac. The Royal Hotel, owned by Cath Fawkes, and Kingston's Emporium are visible in the background" and is from the John Oxley Library collection, Queensland State Library.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Maggie May


Oh come along all you sailor boys and listen to my plea
And when I am finished you'll agree
I was a goddamned fool in the port of Liverpool
The first time that I came home from sea
We was paid off at The Hove from a port called Sydney Cove
And two pound ten a month was all my pay
Oh I started drinking gin and was neatly taken in
By a little girl they all called Maggie May

Oh Maggie, Maggie May they have taken you away
To slave upon that cold Van Diemen shore
Oh you robbed so many sailors and dosed so many whalers
You'll never cruise down Lime Street any more

Twas a damned unlucky day when I first met Maggie May
She was cruising up and down old Canning Place
Oh she had a figure fine as a warship of the line
And me being a sailor I gave chase
In the morning when I woke stiff and sore and stoney broke
No , trousers, coat, or waistcoat could I find
The landlady said 'Sir I can tell you where they are
They'll be down in Stanley's hock-shop number nine'

To the bobby on his beat at the corner of the street
To him I went to him I told my tale
He asked me as if in doubt 'Does your mother know you're out?'
But agreed the lady ought to be in jail
To the hock-shop I did go but no trousers there I spied
So the bobbies came and took the girl away
The jury guilty found her for robbing a homeward bounder
And paid her passage out to Botany Bay

Lyrics and notes from Mark Gregory's Australian Folk Songs site:

John Manifold in his Penguin Australian Song Book writes "A foc'sle song of Liverpool origin apparently, but immensely popular among seamen all over the world. This version comes chiefly from Geoff Wills". Stan Hugill in his Shanties from the Seven Seas writes of an early reference to the song in the diary of Charles Picknell a sailor on the convict ship 'Kains' which sailed to Van Diemens Land in 1830

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mothers, Daughters, Wives

Judy Small

The first time it was fathers
The last time it was sons
And in between your husbands
Marched away with drums and guns
And you never thought to question
You just went on with your lives
'Cause all they taught you who to be
Was mothers, daughters, wives

You can only just remember the tears your mothers shed
As they sat and read their papers through the lists and lists of dead
And the gold frames held the photographs that mothers kissed each night
And the doorframe held the shocked and silent stranger from the fight

It was twenty-one years later with children of your own
The trumpets sounded once again, the soldier boys were gone
So you made their guns and drove their trucks and tended to their wounds
And at night you kissed their photographs and prayed for safe returns
And after it was over you had to learn again
To be just wives and mothers when you'd done the work of men
So you worked to help the needy and you never trod on toes
The photos on the pianos struck a happy family pose

Then your daughters grew to women and your little boys to men
And you prayed that you were dreaming when the call-up came again
But you proudly smiled and held your tears as they bravely waved goodbye
The photos on the mantelpiece, they always made you cry
And now you're getting older, and in time the photos fade
And in widowhood you sit back and reflect on the parade
Of the passing of your memories, how your daughters changed their lives
Seeing more to our existence than just mothers, daughters, wives

From Judy Small's 1982 album, A Natural Selection.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Widgegoweera Joe

Tully (?)

I'm only a back-blocks shearer, as easily can be seen
I've shorn in almost every shed on the plains of the Riverine
I've shorn in most of the famous sheds, I've seen big tallies done
But somehow or other, I don't know why, I never became a gun

Hurrah, me boys, my shears are set, I feel both fit and well
Tomorrow will find me at my pen when the gaffer rings the bell
With Haydon's patent thumbguards fixed and both my blades pulled back
Tomorrow I go with a sliding blow for a century or the sack

I've opened down the windpipe straight, I've opened behind the ear
I've shorn in every possible style in which a man can shear
I've studied all the cuts and drives of the famous men I've met
But I've never succeeded in plastering up those three little figures yet

When the Boss walked past this morning, he stopped and he stared at me
For I'd mastered Moran's Great Shoulder Cut, as he could plainly see
But I've another surprise for him, that'll give his nerves a shock
Tomorrow I'll show him I have mastered Pierce's Rang-tang Block

And if I succeed, as I hope to do, next year I intend to shear
At the Wagga Demonstration, that's held there every year
And there I'll lower the colours, the colours of Mitchell and Co
Instead of Deeming, you will hear of Widgegoweera Joe

Also known the Backblocks Shearer. Another from Ron Edwards. Some online versions have W Tully as the author. Featured in Reedy River.

One version of this delightful song on Mudcat has the magnificent mondegreen "Tomorrow I'll go with a sardine blow..."

The illustration is from Picture Queensland, State Library of Queensland.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Dying Fettler


A strapping young fettler lay dying,
With a shovel supporting his head,
The ganger and crew round him crying,
And he let go his pick handle and said....

Wrap me up in a tent or a fly, boys,
And bury me deep down below,
Where the trolley and trains won’t molest me,
To show there’s a navvy below.

There’s tea in the battered billy-can,
Place the dog spike out in a row,
And we’ll spike to the next merry meeting,
To show there’s a navvy below.

Hark! There’s the wail of a trolley,
Far, far away it seems clear,
It sounds like the inspector is coming
And hopes to see all of us here.

So, back to your shovels, my boy-lads,
And bed your backs with a will,
This inspector has no time of judgment,
But there’ll be a navvy who will.

Obviously a parody of The Dying Stockman. This one set to the more common tune for that song. I think the lyrics as collected are obviously incomplete.

You'll find this one in the collection of another great Mark Gregory site, Australian Railway Songs.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Westgate Bridge Disaster

Don Henderson

Come gather round me people.
Come and hear my every word.
I'll sing a song of sorrow
and pray I may be heard.
I'll sing a song of sorrow,
a story sad to tell,
of men who died on the Westgate Bridge,
when a steel span broke and fell.

Oh, there was need for hurrying,
for work was well behind,
but Milford Haven's memory
was vivid in our minds.
Some sections had been strengthened;
which, in part, our fears allayed,
and we were told the Westgate Bridge
was the safest ever made.

The first span on the western bank
was assembled on the ground.
Assembled in two lengthwise halves,
this method was thought sound.
Assembled in two lengthwise halves,
beside the river wide,
And raised on high by mighty jacks,
to be laid up side by side.

To the eleventh pylon,
extended from the tenth,
the two halves laid up side by side,
to be joined along their length;
and this was the work in progress,
upon that fateful day,
when a steel span broke in the Westgate Bridge
and the pylon fell away.

Oh all three hundred and seventy five
long feet from end to end,
sixteen hundred tons of steel
began to shake and bend.
On the fifteenth of October,
it was just before midday,
when a steel span broke in the Westgate Bridge
and the pylon fell away.

From far across the river,
so terrible to hear,
and in our eyes for ever more
that vision will be seared.
The seconds passed like hours
as our tiny ferry sped and,
in that long and helpless age,
many silent prayers were said.

The scene that then confronted us
was tangled death on fire;
that stripped away all fear of harm
and strength was else inspired.
For while hope flew high in our hearts,
our minds were sick with dread.
Beneath that wreck of twisted steel,
thirty five good men lay dead.

Dear God, in Your great mercy.
He who sees each sparrow fall;
look down upon our sorrow,
give guidance to us all.
Look kindly on our comrades,
who died here on this day,
when a steel span broke in the Westgate Bridge
and the pylon fell away.

On 15 October, 1970, 35 men died when a section of Melbourne's Westgate Bridge collapsed while under construction.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Wild Colonial Boy (2)


There was a wild Colonial Boy,
Jack Doolan was his name,
Of poor but honest parents,
He was born in Castlemaine.
He was his father's only hope
His mother's pride and joy,
And dearly did his parents love
The Wild Colonial Boy.

So come along, my hearties
And we'll range the mountain side
Together we will plunder
And together we will ride
We scour all the valleys
And we'll gallop o'er the plains
And scorn to live in slavery bound down with iron chains.

At scarcely sixteen years of age
He left his native home,
And to Australia's sunny shores
A bushranger did roam.
They put him in the iron gang
In the government employ,
But never an iron on earth could hold
The Wild Colonial Boy

In sixty-one this daring youth
Commenced his wild career,
With a heart that knew no danger
And no foreman did he fear.
He stuck up the Beechworth mail coach
And robbed Judge MacEvoy
Who, trembling cold, gave up his gold
To the Wild Colonial Boy

He bade the Judge good morning
And he told him to beware,
That he'd never rob a needy man
Or one who acted square,
But a Judge who'd robed a mother
Of her one and only joy
Sure, he must be a worse outlaw than
The Wild Colonial Boy

One day as Jack was riding
The mountainside along,
A- listening to the little birds
Their happy laughing song.
Three mounted troopers came along,
Kelly, Davis and Fitzroy
With a warrant for the capture of
The Wild Colonial Boy.

'Surrender now! Jack Doolan,
For you see it's three to one;
Surrender in the Queen's own name,
You are a highwayman.'
Jack drew his pistol from his belt
And waved it like a toy,
'I'll fight, but not surrender,' cried
The Wild Colonial Boy.

He fired at trooper Kelly
And brought him to the ground,
And in return from Davis,
Received a mortal wound,
All shattered through the jaws he lay
Still firing at Fitzroy,
And that's the way they captured him,
The Wild Colonial Boy.

A variation closer to the version I learnt at school, to a much more common tune than that posted a couple of days ago.

The illustration is a picture from the State Library of Tasmania collection: Convicts Plundering a Homestead.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Who Wouldn't Be A Digger

Words: Charles Thatcher
Tune: Rev. E Bradley

A decided stop there's been of late
To the tide of emigration
And chaps at home would rather wait
Than boldly face privation
They've found out that a man must work
At mining like a nigger
And so Australia they shirk
Nor wish to be a digger.

What tales went home about the old -
They sounded quite romantic,
But when they came out and were sold,
It drove the new chums frantic:
Lean lawyers' clerks that pined for wealth,
Cut but a sorry figure,
With blistered hands and out of health,
They cursed the name of digger.

Pintpots were once filled from rich ground,
And in gold bags they sacked it,
Now strange to say in quartz tis found,
But it's harder to extract it:
To pick it up's the work of weeks,
And it requires great vigour.
And blasting rocks and damming creeks
Is done by every digger.

No more to Silver's in Cornhill
The gold-struck cockneys fly now.
Of bad reports they've had their fill,
And they're a deal more shy now:
Outfitters once sold clothes to fools,
And asked a tidy figure,
And shoved off lots of useless tools
To every new chum digger.

What lots of ships once crossed the foam,
With gals a tidy portion,
But the style in which they now write home,
I fancy is a caution:
With silk at seven bob a yard
They used to cut a figure,
But now they find it precious hard
To nail a lucky digger.

No one out here need toil in vain
If his mind to work he's giving,
In spite of hardships, it's quite plain,
Each one may get a living:
So in Australia stay a while,
And work away with vigour,
For many a one will make his pile
That's now a hard-up digger.

Another of Charles Thatcher's songs from the goldmining era in Australia, this to the tune of The Ratcatcher's Daughter. Ron Edwards notes its publication in The Colonial Minstrel (1864)

The illustration is a photograph of gold miners in the Daintree area of North Queensland in 1860.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Wild Colonial Boy


There was a wild colonial boy, Jack Donahoe by name,
Of poor but honest parents he was born in Castlemaine.
He was his father's dearest hope, his mother's pride and joy,
O, fondly did his parents love the wild colonial boy.

He was scarcely sixteen years of age when he left his father's home,
A convict to Australia, across the seas to roam,
They put him in the iron gang in the Government employ,
But never an iron on earth could hold the wild colonial boy.

And when they sentenced him to hang to end his wild career,
With a loud shout of defiance, bold Donahoe broke clear.
He robbed the wealthy silvertails, their stock he did destroy,
But no trooper in the land could catch the wild colonial boy.

Then one day when he was cruising near the broad Nepean's side,
From out the thick Bringelly bush the horse police did ride.
"Die or resign, Jack Donahoe" they shouted in their joy,
"I'll fight this night with all my might!" cried the wild colonial boy.!"

Thus he fought six rounds with the horse police before the fatal ball,
Which pierced his heart and made him start, caused Donahoe to fall,
And then he closed his mournful eyes, his pistol an empty toy,
Crying, "Parents dear, O say a prayer for the wild colonial boy."

Come all my hearties, we'll range the mountainside
Together we will plunder, together we will ride
We'll scour along the valleys and gallop o'er the plains
We'll scorn to live in slavery, bowed down in iron chains

This version of this much-loved and many-varied song is that collected by Malcolm Ellis, with what is commonly the chorus used as a final verse. Mudcat has a long and informative discussion of this song in its pages on Bold Jack Donahue. Well worth a look.

Of the many tunes available, I have gone with my personal preference and used a variation of the traditional tune that Mick Jagger sang on the soundtrack of the 1970 film, Ned Kelly.

The illustration to this page is a drawing by EC May entitled, The Bushranger Pursued.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Girls of the Shamrock Shore


It being in the Spring when the small birds sing
And the lambs do sport and play
I entered as a passenger, to New South Wales sailed o'er;
And I'll bid farewell to all that dwell
And the girls of the shamrock shore.

The ship that bore us from the land,
The Speedwell was her name,
For full five months and upwards boys,
We ploughed the foaming main,
Neither land nor harbour could we see,
Or the girls of the shamrock shore

On the fifteenth of September, boys,
We soon did make the land,
At four o'clock we went on shore
All chained hand to hand,
My sentence is for fourteen years
Farewell to the shamrock shore.

Collected by John Meredith from Sally Sloane and by Warren Fahey from Sister Mary O'Loughlin.

Between 1788 and 1842 approximately 80,0000 convicts were transported to the penal settlement of New South Wales. Of these, approximately 85% were men and 15% were women. Almost two thirds of convicts were English, along with a small number of Scottish and Welsh. Irish prisoners made up the remaining one third.

The illustration to this post is a studio photograph from the 1870s of "William Thompson, convict".

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Damper And Tea

Words: PS Raphael
Tune: Trad (The Maid of Llangollen)

Though torn is my tent and my bed is a sack
I pity that cove with a swag on his back
From rush to new rush away scampers he
While I'm here snugly taking my damper and tea
While I'm here snugly taking my damper and tea

At morn to my work as I go I oft think
What a great many duffers 'tis my fate to sink
And wonder if ever a nugget there'll be
To afford me aught else with my damper and tea
To afford me aught else with my damper and tea

That red-belted coon found a nugget close by
He cuts it fat with sardines, and drinks porter when dry
But with book or pen no pleasure has he
So i'd rather have only my damper and tea
So i'd rather have only my damper and tea

From Small's Colonial Songster (1857).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Will You Fight, Will You Dare?

Phyl Lobl

The dreamtime folk are stirring now
They have laid their claim
To a part of the land their fathers roamed
That carries their tribal name

Where Vesty's cattle brands are scored
And stockmans whips are cracked
The dreamtime folk are holding out,
There'll be no going back

Will you fight, will you dare, will you give, will you care
Will you help to mend the wrong?
Will you stand up now for the dreamtime folk
By joining their freedom song

Where the muddy Murray's waters pour
Where tomatoes rule the weed
And the dreamtime folk that planted them
Have seen where the road could lead

They could leave behind the pickers' hats
They could leave the fringe of the town
They could take their place in this lucky land
If you let them, then they can.

Will you fight, will you dare, will you give, will you care
Will you help to mend the wrong?
Will you stand up now for the dreamtime folk
By joining their freedom song

Do they have to reach some famous height
Before you let them grow?
Will you shelter first the tall gumtree
Or spring-flowers from the snow

Well the plant is young, but the plant will grow
And its fruit will sweeten the tongue
Of the dreamtime folk whose bitter bread
Has choked their freedom song

Will you fight, will you dare, will you give, will you care
Will you help to mend the wrong?
Will you stand up now for the dreamtime folk
By joining their freedom song

The Wave Hill walk-off was a significant event in the assertion of the rights of Australia's aboriginal people. This song from Phyl Lobl's Bronzewing album

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Dying Stockman

Words: Horace Flower
Tune: Unknown

A strapping young stockman lay dying
His saddle supporting his head
His two mates around him were crying
As he rose on his pillow and said

Wrap me up with my stockwhip and blanket
And bury me deep down below
Where the dingoes and crows can't molest me
In the shade where the coolibahs grow

Oh had I the flight of the bronzewing
Far over the plains would I fly
Straight to the land of my childhood
And there I would lay down and die

Then cut down a couple of saplings
Place one at my head and my toe
Carve on them cross stockwhip and saddle
To show there's a stockman below

Hark there's the wail of a dingo
Watchful and weird--I must go
For it tolls the death-knell of the stockman
From the gloom of the scrub down below

There's tea in the battered old billy
Place the pannikins out in a row
And we'll drink to the next merry meeting
In the place where all good fellows go

And oft in the shades of the twilight
When the soft winds are whispering low
And the darkening shadows are falling
Sometimes think of the stockman below

From Mark Gregory's excellent, Australian Folk Songs site.

A Starry Night For A Ramble

Samuel Bagnal

I like a game at croquet or bowling on the green,
I like a little boating to pull against the stream;
But of all the games that I love best to fill me with delight,
I like to take a ramble upon a starry night.

It's a starry night for a ramble,
In a flow'ry dell,
Thro' the bush and the bramble,
Kiss, but never tell.

Talk about your bathing and strolling on the sands,
Or some unseen verandah where gentle zephyr fans,
Or rolling home in the morning, boys, and very nearly tight,
Could never beat a ramble upon a starry night.

I like to take my sweetheart, "of course you would," said he,
And softly whisper in her ear, "how dearly I love thee!"
And when you picture to yourselves the scenes of such delight,
You'll want to take a ramble upon a starry night.

Some will choose velocipede, and others take a drive,
And some will sit and mope at home, half dead and half alive,
And some will choose a steamboat, and others even fight,
But I'll enjoy my ramble upon a starry night.

Mudcat (Bob Bolton) has this from an undated broadside in Glasgow, collected by Ron Edwards. John Hopkins University has a published copy authored by Samuel Bagnal, which I have used here.

The tune is a popular waltz for dances in Australia.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fannie Bay

Words: David Charles and Douglas Tainsh (?)
Tune: Traditional (?) (Fanny Bay)

Tell her I'm droving down Camooweal way
Or signed with pearlers for seas far away
You can tell her I've gone, I'll be back some day
Please don't tell her they hanged me in old Fannie Bay.

You can say I've gone on the old 'River Queen'
It's whistle a-haunting the bullockies' dream,
Down the Murray I've gone, I'll be back some day
Please don't tell her they hanged me in old Fannie Bay.

And on Thursday Island the sun wams the air
As the breeze from the sea blows her hair
And she sits by her window and calls me
Yes, she calls me.

You can say the bush has called me away
And I'm riding the fences for ten bob a day,
Yes, I needed a job, I needed the pay
Please don't tell her they hanged me in old Fannie Bay

And they came to the door and they dragged me away
From all that I love and I pray
That it won't reach her ear 'cause I love her
And she'd die for sure

Just say the gold has taken me down
To the places where fortunes are easily found
Yes, I've gone but tell her I'll be back some day
Just don't tell her they hanged me in old Fannie Bay

Recorded by the Bushwackers Band on their album, Bushfire (1979), where they credited the song to A & D Tainsh. This site has the song was apparently written for episode 226 of the Australian police show, Division 4 which aired in 1974. (I will happily stand corrected on this).

It has a distinctly modern feel to it. It's not a song I'd heard before but comments to my earlier post of the parody, Fanny Bay, alerted me to this one.

The illustration is a photograph of Fanny Bay Gaol from around 1900.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Stringybark Creek


A Sergeant and three constables set out from Mansfield town
Near the end of last October for to hunt the Kellys down;
They started for the Wombat Hills and thought it quite a lark
When they camped upon the borders of a creek called Stringybark.

They had grub and ammunition there to last them many a week,
And next morning two of them rode out, all to explore the creek,
Leaving Mclntyre behind them at the camp to cook the grub
And Lonergan to sweep the floor and boss the washing-tub.

It was shortly after breakfast Mac thought he heard a noise
So gun in hand he sallied out to try and find the cause,
But he never saw the Kellys planted safe behind a log
So he sauntered back to smoke and yarn and wire into the prog.

But Ned Kelly and his comrades thought they'd like a nearer look,
For being short of grub they wished to interview the cook;
And of firearms and cartridges they found they had too few,
So they longed to grab the pistols and ammunition too.

Both the troopers at a stump alone they were well pleased to see
Watching as -the billies boiled to make their pints of tea;
There they joked and chatted gaily never thinking of alarms
Till they Heard the fearful cry behind, "Bail up, throw up your arms!"

The traps they started wildly and Mac then firmly stood
While Lonergan made tracks to try and gain the wood,
Reaching round for his revolver, but before he touched the stock
Ned Kelly pulled the trigger, fired, and dropped him like a rock.

Then after searching McIntyre all through the camp they went-
And cleared the guns and cartridges and pistols from the tent,
But brave Kelly muttered sadly as he loaded up his gun,
"Oh, what a ... pity that the ... tried to run."

'Twas later in the afternoon the sergeant and his mate
Came riding blithely through the bush to meet a cruel fate.
"The Kellys have the drop on you!" cried McIntyre aloud,
But the troopers took it as a joke and sat their horses proud.

Then trooper Scanlan made a move his rifle to unsling,
But to his heart a bullet sped and death was in the sting;
Then Kennedy leapt from his mount and ran for cover near,
And fought, a game man to the last, for all that life held dear.

The sergeant's horse raced from the camp alike from friend and foe,
And McIntyre, his life at stake, sprang to the saddle-bow
And galloped far into the night, a haunted, harassed soul,
Then like a hunted bandicoot hid in a wombat hole.

At dawn of day he hastened forth and made for Mansfield town
To break the news that made men vow to shoot the bandits down,
So from that hour the Kelly gang was hunted far and wide,
Like outlawed dingoes of the wild until the day they died.

From Stewart & Keesing's excellent Australian Bush Ballads. Radio National in Australia recently had a great show about Nancy Keesing - well worth a listen - link.

The illustration to this post is Sidney Nolan's Death of Sergeant Kennedy at Stringybark Creek (1946).

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Little Gomez

Eric Bogle

Oh, I used to have a doggie and I called him little Gomez
Because he was a Mexican Chihuahua
Though there wasn’t much to him what there was all cojones
In fact he was a randy little fella big dogs, small dogs were all the same to him
The canine equivalent of Errol Flynn
At the drop of a sombrero he’d jump up and get stuck in
Taking Gomez out for walkies was embarassin’

I remember one day in the park his tally rose by four
An enviable score he was amassing, two very patient poodles and an Irish Labrador
And a wombat who just happened to be passing
I tried every way to curb his carnal appetite
I kept him on a leash by day, I locked him up at night
I even put some bromide in his chunky meaty bites
But the only thing that might have worked was Kryptonite

Then came the fateful day when he tried to consummate
A liaison with a Saint Bernard from Dublin
And although he was quite clearly fighting well above his weight
He didn’t let that minor detail stop him
He nearly pulled it off, oh, what an acrobat!
But the bitch got bored and down she sat
Well, they say that after making love you sometimes feel quite flat
I’m sure that little Gomez would agree with that

I buried Gomez in the park, his happy hunting ground a sad but fitting finale
Though I had to make a grave that was very flat and round
‘Cause he looked like squashed tamale
But oh, how I missed my wee Chihuahua chum
I went down to the pet shop to find another one
I went there feeling happy, but I left there feeling glum
Because the man behind the counter loved corny puns

And he said “Yes, we have no Chihuahuas we have no Chihuahuas today
We have Alstations, Dalmatians, fruits of all flirtations,
An alpine Pekinese in a toupee
But yes, we have no Chihuahuas we have no Chihuahuas today”

The first song I ever sang with Martin Pearson, shortly before we met in Kuranda in 1990. We eventually formed Never the Twain releasing two albums and the double album from which this track originated: The Almost Legendary Wine Bar Breakfasts, Vol 1 & 2, made up of recordings of our breakfast show at the Troubadour Winebar at the Woodford Folk Festival in 2003.

NB. While these albums are no longer available for sale, downloadable mp3s of all the tracks from all three albums are available here. Enjoy.

The illustration for this post features Jayne Mansfield and her pet chihuahua from Life (March 1956). The search for an illustration brought to me to a site advertising one of the weirder products available to the world today: the Hotdoll. While I advise bracing yourself before investigating this product further, I also recommend this promotional video. The juxtaposition of music and what might be termed "soft-paw porn" photography is, I believe, magnificent. Surely this is the purpose of the internet.