BILLY BARLOW IN AUSTRALIA


BILLY BARLOW IN AUSTRALIA

In 1956 the Australian folklorist Hugh Anderson published a small folio Songs of Billy Barlow, with drawings by Ron Edwards, in their Black Bull Chapbooks series, published by Ram Skull Press. The Billy Barlow folio was number 4 in the series and contained a short introduction by Anderson and the four then documented Australian published ballads: ‘Billy Barlow’ (‘Original Local Song’ as published in the Barry O’Neil Songster, 1855), ‘Billy Barlow in Sydney’ (as made famous by theatrical pioneer George Seth Coppin, and later published by Thomas Rolfe, Sydney, 1853), ‘Billy Barlow in Australia’ (as attributed to Benjamin Griffin and published in the Maitland Mercury, 1845, and later published by A. B. Paterson in 1905), and, lastly, ‘Billy Barlow’ (as published in the Australian Melodist No. 10, Melbourne, circa 1880s).

This is the first known Billy Barlow song to be performed and published in Australia. It appeared in the Maitland Mercury, 1845, and I refer readers to the information at the foot of the verses which explain the actual performance.

 

BILLY BARLOW IN AUSTRALIA.

 

When I was at home I was down on my luck,
And I yearnt a poor living by drawing a truck ;
But old Aunt died and left me a thousand—oh, oh.
I’ll start on my travels said Billy Barlow

 

Oh dear, Lackaday oh,
So off to Australia came Billy Barlow.

 

When to Sydney I got, there a Merchant I met,
Who said he could teach me a fortune to get ;
He’d Cattle and Sheep past the colony bounds,
Which he sold with a Station for my thousand pound;;,

 

Oh dear, Lackaday, oh,
He gammoned the cash out of Billy Barlow.

 

When the bargain was struck, and the money was paid,
He said my dear fellow your fortune’s now made ;
I can furnish supplies for the Station you know,
And your bill is sufficient, good W. Barlow.

 

Oh dear, Lackaday, oh,
A gentleman Settler was Billy Barlow.

 

So I got my supplies, and I gave him my bill,
And for New England started, my pockets to fill;
But by bushrangers met, with my traps they made free,
Took my horse, and left Billy bailed up to a tree.

 

Oh dear, Lackaday, oh,
I shall die of starvation, thought Billy Barlow.

 

At last I got loose, and I walked on my way,
Constable came up, and to me did say,
Are you free? says I yes, don’t you know ?
And I handed my card, Mr. William Barlow.

 

Oh dear, Lackaday, oh,
He said ” That’s all gammon” to Billy Barlow.

 

Then he put. on the hand-cuffs, and brought me away,
Right back down to Maitland, before Mr. Day;
When I said I was free, why the J.P. replied,
I must send you down to be i-dentified.

 

Oh dear, Lackaday, oh,
So to Sydney once more went poor Billy Barlow-

 

They at last let me go, and I then did repair
For my Station once more, and at length I got there ;.
But a few weeks before the blacks, you must know,
Had spear’d all the cattle of Billy Barlow.

 

Oh dear, Lackaday, oh,
It’s a beautiful country said Billy Barlow.

 

And for nine months before no rain there had been,
So the devil a blade of grass could be seen ;
And one-third of my wethers the scab they had got,
And the other two-thirds had. died of the rot.

 

Oh dear, Lackaday, oh,
I shall soon be a settler said Billy Barlow.

 

And the matter to mend, now my bill was near due,
So I wrote to my friend, and just asked to renew ;
He replied he was sorry he could’nt, because
The bill had passed into Tom Burdekin’s claws.

 

Oh dear, Lackaday, oh,
But perhaps he’ll renew it, said Billy Barlow.

 

I applied ; to renew it he was quite content,
If secured, and allowed just 300 per cent;
But as I could’nt do it, Carr, Rodgers, & Co.,
Soon sent up a summons for Billy Barlow

 

Oh dear, Lackaday, oh,
They soon settled, the business of Billy Barlow

 

For a month or six weeks, I stewed over my loss,
And a tall man rode up one day on a black horse ;
He asked, don’t you know me ; I answered him  No!
Why ‘ says he,’ my name’s Kingswill; how are you Barlow?

 

Oh, dear, Lackaday, oh,
He’d got a fi fa, for poor Billy Barlow.

 

What I’d left of my sheep and my traps he did seize,
And he said ” they won’t pay all the costs and my fees ;”
Then he sold off the lot, and I am sure t’was a sin,
At sixpence a head, and the Station gave in.

 

Oh dear, Lackaday, oh,
I’ll go back to England, said Billy Barlow.

 

The above verses from the Maitland Mercury, 1845, were also published in The Stockwhip Vol 11 No 14 published Sydney Nov 20, 1875, with the following (erroneous) note: “The Original ‘Billy Barlow’.

Many of our readers, especially those who reside in the Hunter River district, will not only remember the following song but will probably have a keen and kind recollection of its clever composer, Mr Benjamin Griffiths. Mr Griffiths, some eight and twenty years ago, was a member of the Amateur Dramatic Society, which was wont to enliven the good folk of Maitland with theatrical performances, given at the Northumberland Hotel (now the West Maitland Court House). These performances were always very good, and were a source of great amusement to the inhabitants of the district, who used to flock to the ‘theatre’ from miles around Maitland. The best man of the ‘company’, and the most ‘popular favourite’, was ‘Ben Griffiths’ and the ‘gem’ of Ben Griffiths’ repertory was the following song, which was written and sung by himself. Of course, many of the allusions in the piece will fail to be fully comprehended by the ‘new generation’ that has arisen since ‘Billy Barlow’ first described his squatting career, in 1843. Mr Griffith’s rendering of the song was exceedingly humorous. The curtain being drawn  disclosed Billy Barlow dressed in moleskins, red shirt, and other bushman’s insignia, sleeping by a campfire. Amid the applause he awakened, rubbed his eyes, poked his fire together, and, rising in a lounging lazy way, came to the footlights and sang: (followed by song)