Monday, January 23, 2012

The Hardest Bloody Job I Ever Had

Words:  Unknown
Tune:  Traditional ('Ard Tack)

I'm a shearer, yes I am, and I've shorn them sheep and lamb
From the Wimmera to the Darling Downs and back,
And I've rung a shed or two when the fleece was tough as glue
But I'll tell you where I struck the hardest tack.

I was down by Yenda way, killin' time from day to day,
Till the big sheds started moving further out;
When I struck a bloke by chance that I summed up in a glance
As a cocky from a vineyard round about.

Now it seems he picked me too, well, it wasn't hard to do,
As I had my tongs a-hanging at the hip,
"I've got a mob", he said, "of about two hundred head,
And I'd give a ten pound note to have the clip."

I says: "Right, I'll take the stand": it meant getting in me hand;
And by nine o'clock we'd rounded up the mob
In a shed sunk in the ground - yeah, with wine casks all around,
And that was where I started on me job.

I goes easy for a bit while me hand was gitting fit,
And by dinner time I'd done some half a score,
With the cocky picking up, and handing me a cup,
Of pinkie after every sheep I shore.

The cocky had to go away about the seventh day,
After showing me the kind of kegs to use:
Then I'd do the pickin' up, and handing me a cup,
Of pinkie after every sheep I shore.

Then I'd stagger to the pen, grab a sheep and start again,
With a noise between a hiccup and a sob,
And sometimes I'd fall asleep with my arms around the sheep,
Worn and weary from me over-arduous job.

And so six weeks went by, until one day with a sigh,
I pushed the poor old cobbler through the door,
Gathered up the cocky's pay, then staggered on me way,
From the hardest bloody shed I ever shore.

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

Wine grapes have been grown in Australia from the days of early European settlement and they are celebrated here in this wonderful song charged with bush humour and imagery, especially when the shearer falls asleep "with his arms wrapped around the sheep, worn and weary from the over-arduous job."  This version is taken from the singing of Mr Jack Davies, a soldier-settler in the Leeton district, New South Wales, and included in John Lahey's "Great Australian Folk Songs" under the title "Ard Tack", with a note:  "It is a song any shearer would relish, but more so in that part of Murrumbidgee, where vineyards and sheep can so easily go together."

The illustration to this post is a photograph from the National Library of Australia entitled "Shearer shearing a sheep's back with mechanical shears, Australia, ca. 1890"

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