Billy Barlow at the Races




In 2008 Valda Low, the wonderful person responsible for keeping this site running in its early days, located another ‘Billy Barlow’ song. ‘Billy At The Races’, published in the South Australian Advertiser 11 Jan 1861 with an article on the Mount Remarkable Races. This brings us back to George Coppin’s passion for breeding racehorses and the fact he relocated to Adelaide in 1846 – so all fingers point to him as the possible author of this song. However he then relocated to Melbourne where he entered parliament, became a well-known philanthropist, and died, aged 87, in 1906.



I’ve been to the races and had a fine spree,
I’ve enjoyed myself well, for it just suited me ;
The horses ran well, there were none of them slow,
They went like good racers, says Mr. Barlow.


The “Colonel” surprised all the knowing ones here,
Leaving “Bandicoot,” “Tommy,” and all in the rear;
lie’s a first-race flat racer, we all of us know,
But he can’t go at hurdles, says Billow Barlow.


There was one little chestnut horse, ” Gift” was his name,
Ile shoved the old ” Colonel” quite close in his game,
But old Rogers well trained him, we all of us know,
‘Twas five bob out of pocket for poor Billy Barlow.


There were several races well contested that day,  
Between “Nobbler” and “Moro,” with others as gay;                                                            

” Moro” tried hard, but found it no go,                                                                      

“Nobbler” for the Maiden, said William Barlow.


The Hurdle race next our attention most calls,
For several riders got serious falls ;
But “Bandicoot Tommy” is a rum one to go,
He can fly over hurdles, says Billy Barlow.


The Hack Hurdles next on our list we must place,
It certainly was a jolly fine race ;
There’s no hesitation, but at it they go,
‘T was the best of the lot to please Billy Barlow.


There were several races after this one took place,
For a saddle and bridle, and a galloway race ;
But Mooney’s mare ” Betsy” was beat by ” Moro,”
His pace was too rood, so says Mr. Barlow.


The refreshments were served in the old English style,
With good seats in the shade to recline on a while ;
Good wine, grog, and ale from the tent. Sir, did flow,
I was content with a ham bone, said William Barlow.


There are several other fragments of ‘Billy Barlow’ songs, suggesting that the current collection of songs represents only the tip of the ‘Billy’ iceberg. In all my years of studying traditional and popular song I have never encountered another song or character that has so instilled itself into the popular tradition.

In 2008 I recorded the complete Maitland verses. This song is to be released on my 10CD ABC Music CD series in April 2009. It was an odd song to record as it ran for nearly ten minutes. This led me to think about how Coppin or the other great Barlow impersonator, Sam Cowell, would have portrayed him musically on stage. The fact that both performed the song in costume, either a bushman or cockney-styled toff, would have allowed a certain amount of ‘sight gags’ and, I assume, they performed to the accompaniment of a piano. I did wonder if they acted out various parts of the story, interrupting their rendition with sub plots.