The following bush ballad is a wonderful journey through the life of an old time shearer. Duke Tritton shore in many of these sheds and is the person who carried the words of the anonymous bush song ‘Goorianawa’ into the mid-1950s.
Shearing in the Bar
Written by Duke Tritton
This fine song details the journey of an itinerant shearer of the nineteenth century. It has references to some of the major sheds including Goorianawa.
The reference to ‘toby’ doing his work has always puzzled me until, recently, I discovered it was another reference to the custom of ‘raddling’ the sheep’s back. This was where the squatter landlord could ‘paint’ the shorn sheep’s back signifying it had been badly shorn and therefore the shearer would not receive payment. A ‘toby’ was a reference to the raddle brush. I have recorded a version of this song on ‘A Panorama Of Bush Songs’.
This song is typical of several turn-of-the-century bush songs in as much as it localises the story bringing in the name of the station cook. A sure recipe for a laugh. It also has racist overtones by today’s standard where the Aboriginal woman is referred to as a gin and a replacement for a real woman. I doubt if, at the time, it was seen as racist since it was commonplace. If anything it was extremely insensitive.
Off To The Shearing
Papers of W H L Morfew
Nov 1911. Handwritten memoir
The Australian Pastoralists’ Review
This newspaper was published on behalf of farm owners and operators and, understandably, expressed opposition to Unionism. It provides an alternative perspective to the usual shed songs.
AFU Mss File.
Oh, when the shearing’s over,
We will live in clover,
And then, and then – and then
We’ll live like gentlemen.
With a note: “This was the chorus of a song I heard in one of the sheds on the river, and now that the shearing is actually over I am trying to discover where the life a gentleman comes in.”
Description of a concert at a shearing shed
From The Barrier Weekly Post
Mr McCallum, the manager of Balaclava Station, whilst listening to some shearers singing in the shed about a fortnight ago, thought that there was sufficient talent to give a very respectable entertainment; and, being a gentleman of action, he at once suggested a concert in aid of the Catholic Orphanage. The shearers immediately agreed and the following Saturday the shed was crowded. The entertainment took the form of the usual minstrel and variety show.
- A Soldier and His man
- Comic Medley
- Pretty Bidd
- He Hadn’t Been Used To Luxuries
- Parody on A Boy’s Best Friend Is His Mother
- The Miner’s dream of Home
- A Magic Paper Act
- A Clog Dance
- A Farce: The Theatrical Agent
- A Dutch broken accent recitation
- Accordion music.
The Australian Star
Oct 20 1877 issue
I have been singing a song known as ‘The Station Cook’ for over twenty-five years and, looking through a South Australian weekly newspaper, discovered the original including the name of the composer P J McGovery. The only other time this song has been collected is an inclusion in the Percy Jones/Burl Ives collection and subsequently included in the Stewart & Keesing edition of Old Bush Songs
The Shearer’s Hardships
(Air: Knickerbocker Line)
Australasian Pastoral, Review – 1893
Quoted as a chorus of a song doing the shearing shed rounds that year.
Vote for the Cook
It was customary for the shearers to vote in a cook at the start of a season. This custom had its problems in as much as many were unwilling to accept the onerous task of attempting to feed and please a small army of men not for their quarrelsome ways. That said, the men also realised that they had to eat and tried to control their tempers. Chinese were favoured cooks since they spoke little, accepted general abuse and worked hard.