Demon Drink and Teetotalism view



BOOZING – songs about drinking


Australia and alcohol have a long and unsteady relationship. There was even a time when rum was the currency. Later, the goldrush was fuelled by alcohol and then, in the second half of the 19th century, it was said that the bush was booze crazed. Maybe it had something to do with the male-dominated society of that century? It seems we still haven’t learnt how to handle drink and, even now in the 21st century, it accounts for dreadful woes from king-hit coward punches to domestic violence. As with everything – moderation is the key.


Here’s a selection of songs about drink and drinking.

Some readers will be old ennough to remeber when the ‘bottle-o’ called around the streets of Australia to collect empty bottles.

The Australian Bush Orchestra play ‘Bottle-O’

Art Leonard sings ‘The Face On The Barroom Floor’. From Warren Fahey’s Yesteryear’s Australia series ‘Can I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight, Mister?’


Brad Tate sings ‘Boozing, Jolly Well, Boozing’. For a short time Brad Tate was a member of The Larrikins. Here he sings a popular drinking song. Harry Cotter of Binalong had a good version of this song.

Declan Affley sings ‘A Jug Of This’. Declan, one of Australia’s great voices, had a large repertoire of songs, and many about grog. This is a classic.


Warren Fahey sings ‘Shickered’. John Meredith collected a version of this version of an old song usually known as ‘Seven Nights Drunk’. Shickered is  Yiddish word for pickled, drunk as a skunk, full as a tick etc


Warren Fahey (accompanied on concertina) sings ‘The Hardest Bloody Job I Ever Had’. You have to love a song that finds a shearer working on a vineyard and sampling some of the vino – and, as he says, it was the hardest bloody job he ever had. From John Lahey.

Simon McDonald sings ‘Billy Brink’. What a song! Poor Billy Brink (or Bluey in some versions) loved a drop – of anything!








Simon McDonald, traditional singer

Creswick, Victoria.




Source:Robert Burns
Pinkie Magazine. 1927 Sydney


SITE SOURCE: Sydney Folklore – SECTION 9: Demon drink and teetotalism

Poor John Barleycorn: A Ballad

There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.
They took a plough and plough’d him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerful Spring came kindly on’
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surpris’d them all.
The sultry suns of Summer came,
And he grew thick and strong:
His head weel arm’d wi pointed spears,

That no one should him wrong.
The sober Autumn enter’d mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bendin joints and drooping head
Show’d he began to fail.
His colour sicken’d more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.

They’ve taen a weapon, long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
They ty’d him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.
They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgell’d him full sore.
They hung him up before the storm,
And turn’d him o’er and o’er.

They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim,
They heav’d in John Barleycorn-
There, let him sink or swim!
They laid him upon the floor,
To work him farther woe;

And still, as signs of life appear’d,
They toss’d him to and fro.
They wasted o’er a scorching flame
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us’d him worst of all,
For he crush’d him between two stones.

And they hae taen his very hero blood
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.
John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
‘Twill make your courage rise.
‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
‘Twill heighten all his joy:
‘Twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
Tho the tear were in her eye.
Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!