Billy Barlow Turned Butcher





Another Barlow political rant about the Tasmanian Meat Incident where the graziers were being encouraged to butcher their own beasts and to cut out the butchery tradesmen. It does appear to be directly related and several people involved are mentioned in the song.




Ye butchers of Launceston listen to me,
And in my opinion you’ll surely agree:
The new Butch’ring Company will give you a go,
It will soon cook your mutton, says Billy Barlow.
O, rare, lackaday O!
It will shut all your shops up, says Billy Barlow.


They are going to sell mutton, and beef I hear say,
And if they can’t sell it, will give it away;
Their mutton and beef they will sell it so low –
They will break all you butchers, says Billy Barlow.
O, rare, lackaday, O!
Hey mean playing up, says Billy Barlow.


Bransgrove and Dean! They intend to smash –
Lyall and Green! They will make you white-wash;
Kingswell and White! You will get such a blow,
As will knock out your bounce, says Billy Barlow,
O, rare, lackaday O!
You are all book’d for ruin, says Billy Barlow.


Dyson and Butland! They will make you croke;
Thrower and Harriss! You are sure to broke;
Cherry and Walters! You will get such a blow,
As will knock out all your bounce, says Billy Barlow.
O, rare, lackaday O!
Your cash is no use, now, says Billy Barlow.


Sutton and Clancy! You’ll be done brown,
Crewe and Bill Sheppard, you’ll sure be put down;
And poor old Joe Gray, will be brought very low,
But I defy them to break you, says Billy Barlow.
O! rare, lackaday O!
They are wonderful fellows, says Billy Barlow.


All you other butchers, take warning in time,
Sell nothing but what is colonial-fed! prime!
For mutton and beef, to the settlers you go,
Or they’ll smother you, likewise, says Billy Barlow.
O! rare, lackaday O!
I’m the managing man, says Billy Barlow.


In winter, if stock should prove very scant,
You will say that fat meat is the thing that you want;
And that you will, go down to Munro –
But you will find your mistake out, says Billy Barlow
O! rare, lackaday O!
We will stop your supplies, there, says Billy Barlow.


The ships, ere that time, will be out of the trade,
And Bartley & Co., will their fortunes have made;
To Ridgeside, the trio, rejoicing will go,
And the ‘firm’ be ten changed to Barlow & Co.,
O, rare, lackaday O!
A great man will then be Mr. Billy Barlow.


From The Cornwall Chronicle Newspaper, Tasmania, 24 March, 1849

George Seth Coppin was a comic actor and entrepreneur, born on 8 April 1819 at Steyning, Sussex, England. By 1826 he and his sister were performing their own act together. George had a flair for comic acting and at 16 he became a professional, and for the next seven years had a variety of jobs connected with the theatre.

In 1842 Coppin decided to leave England for lands of greater promise and, since a toss of a coin decided Australia and not America, he and his partner left England in the Templar and on 10 March 1843 arrived in Sydney. There negotiations with Joseph Wyatt gave Coppin a successful season at the Royal Victoria Theatre. He used his quick-earned theatre profits to buy a hotel, lost money and left Sydney for Hobart Town. He arrived there in January 1845 and joined Mrs Clarke of the Royal Victoria, who gave him some managerial control of her theatre. He moved to Launceston in March taking most of her players with him as members of his own company. In June the company, bound to work for Coppin alone, went to Melbourne with him. In August 1846 he left for Adelaide, where on 10 September he arranged to convert the billiard room of the Temple Tavern, Gilles Arcade, into the New Queen’s Theatre capable of holding 700 people. The theatre opened on 2 November and Coppin’s company included recruits from Melbourne and for a few months the proprietor of the rival Royal Adelaide Theatre. In 1848 John Lazar returned to Adelaide and Coppin, now licensee of the Auction Mart Tavern and a race-horse owner and breeder, transferred the management of the theatre to him. As a hospitable young hotelier, Coppin provided for banquets, political assemblies and other functions where patrons reflected his multifarious interests in business, mining, racing and Freemasonry. He imported luxuries, the first shipment of ice, live turtles, deer for venison. He died in 1909. (With acknowledgement to Australian Biography)

Coppin’s presence in Hobart and Launceston reinforce that he could have been the author of the Tasmanian songs, however the dates do not exactly match, Coppin having relocated to the mainland by 1849. That said, there were always ‘Billy Barlow’ impersonators and his name was used colloquially as a ‘lackaday’ character akin to ‘Bill Muggins’ who was the usual scapegoat in the early mining industry, and, later, a party to ‘Murphy’s Law’ (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong). Coppin no doubt would have presented the Billy Barlow character in Tasmanian theatre and this would have been enough for some local scribbler to perhaps use the character in the set of songs sent to the newspaper.