Billy Barlow Clerk of the Market




In 2004, much to my surprise, I found four more ‘Billy Barlow’ songs in a little-known Tasmanian newspaper, The Cornwall Chronicle, all published in 1849, just four years after the first Australian documented sighting. These four songs, obviously written by the same pen, were topical parodies addressing the local market (‘Billy Barlow Clerk of the Market’), the Tasmanian meat industry dispute (‘Shiloh and Barlow’, ‘Billy Barlow Turned Butcher’) and the 1849 Californian gold rush fever (‘Billy Barlow’s Advice About California’). It is fascinating to think who composed these songs and why they chose the ‘Billy Barlow’ character. Considering the timeframe the songs could quite possibly be the work of the so-called ‘father of Australian theatre’, George Seth Coppin.




Now listen ye farmers and graziers to me,
Attend while I read you the Council’s decree:
And likewise ye hawkers , you gardeners al-so,
I’m clerk of the market, says Billy Barlow.
Whiff, woff, puff when I blow,
I’ll strut! And I’ll bounce! says Billy Barlow.


‘Tis her Majesty’s pleasure when Hay you do truss,
To Market you bring it, without any fuss!
My standard shall weight it, and that you shall know;
If short weight, no matter to Billy Barlow.
Whiff, woff, puff when I blow,
Mind I don’t police you! says Billy Barlow.


Bring your butter and cheese as soon as they’re made,
The dues of the Market, they first shall be paid;
Or ever you hawk them, or sell them or no,
All my fee I shall have, says Billy Barlow.
Wiff, woff, puff when I blow.
I’m not to be put down, says Billy Barlow.


Now ye gard’ners at once, your barrows put by,
No longer your ‘taters’ nor carrots to cry;
Your cabbage, your turnips, shall all of a row,
Stand up in the Market, says Billy Barlow.
Whiff, woff, puff when I blow,
No longer an Angler is Billy Barlow.


Your fruit to the Market, when pluck’d from the trees,
Rent a stand or a stall, which ever you please;
But ‘down with the dust’, for the cash you must know,
Is the only compromise with Billy Barlow.
Whiff, woff, puff when I blow,
I’m down as a hammer says Billy Barlow.


Ye boat-men ahoy, keep you clear of my wharf,
When my fees you have paid, you may shove your boat off;
But remember no tricks, or else by great Jo,
I’ll be down on your decks, says Billy Barlow.
Whiff, woff, puff when I blow,
A man of great consequence – Billy Barlow.


And now, oh ye weigh-bridges, I’ll put you down;
Mine shall be the standard (belongs to the Crown);
If heavier, or lighter, or a little so, so,
I don’t care a straw, sir! says Billy Barlow.
Whiff, woff, puff when I blow,
And that’s none-so-dusty, says Billy Barlow.


You pray’d for a Market, you cry’d night and day,
A Market you’ve got, and the fees you shall pay;
Therefore bring all your carts, bags, baskets ad shew,
You intend not to trifle with Billy Barlow.
Whiff, Woff, Puff when I blow,
I’ll skin you, I’ll fleece you, says Billy Barlow.


Farewell then, take warning and mind what I say,
Or I’ll screw you down tighter and tighter each day,
To fill my own pockets, although very low,
No longer an Angler us Billy Barlow.
Whiff, woff, puff when I blow,
I’m Clerk of the Market, says Billy Barlow.


Published in the Cornwall Chronicle, Tasmania, 31 March, 1849 1849.