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Collector’s note:

John Dengate is well-known in the Australian folk revival however his songs have travelled further than most poets would dream. He is a fascinating character – erudite, passionate and always ready to sing or recite a poem. He talks frankly about his family history, inspiration as a writer, frustrations as a humanist and also of his life as a busker on the streets of Sydney. He sings songs and recites poems throughout the interview and, plays some tin whistle tunes. This is an on-going project with further recording sessions scheduled.

Recorded at The Avenue, Glebe. 28 October 2004
Born 1938


Discusses growing up in Carlingford. Ancestors came in 1838 from Kent. Great grandfather married a Mobbs who came as a convict in the 1790s.

Discusses immediate family history.

Discusses teaching in bush (1950s) where he met singer Brian Mooney who started him in folk music (explains how). Discusses the first song he heard Brian sing which was the Croppy Boy.

Sings The Croppy Boy

Discusses learning a large part of Brian’s repertoire however didn’t own a guitar. Returning to Sydney and learnt to play classical guitar.
Went to art school at night during 1960s. Torn between music and art.

Discusses meeting the Bush Music Club when it was in Sussex Street. Went with his wife-to-be who was also teaching at his school.

Talks about meeting John Meredith, Alan Scott, Frank Maugher, Jamie Carlin and Brian Loughlin + others. Also met Duke Tritton the great traditional singer.

Discusses writing original songs to the tunes of traditional songs.
Talks about his first performance at club and John Meredith’s encouragement.

Sings song that he sang on that occasion (1958 or 59) about travelling down to Ivanhoe, NSW.

Discusses the BMC pioneers including John Meredith and their political agenda. Talks about his own father’s militant approach to metal workers union.

Discusses collecting of folk music. Talks about original Sydney Bushwhackers Band in detail.

Discusses Ken Grennlagh (flutist) and influence on music of BMC.

Married Dale in 1964

Discusses Duke Tritton and his singing style.

Talks about Noel Rickards

Discusses the BMC concert party and their role and John’s stint.

Discusses Bob Menzies.

Sings song about Bob ‘Pig Iron’ Menzies being a statesman

Sings another song about Menzies

Sings song about the retirement of Menzies ‘Say You’ll Nay Come Back Again’

Discusses how his songs moved into the folk revival and how other singers performed them including Declan Affley.

Discusses Declan Affley. Discusses anti Vietnam Moratorium.

Sings The Minister For The Army (about Andrew Peacock)

WF talks about Larrikins singing JD songs and Thanks to the Yanks.

Sings Thanks to the Yanks

Discusses (in detail) what has happened to Australia and his perspectives on our culture.

Discusses the Australian language (in detail)

Sings of the Irish influence

Recites The Answer’s Ireland

Discusses folk revival, folk clubs and early festivals.

Talks about being honoured with life membership of BMC

Discusses relationship of songwriting and poetry. How his songs develop.

Sings A Federal Treasurer Lay Dying


Discusses poetry in detail.

Discusses Paterson and Lawson’s influence
Favourite poems.

Recites his own poem Convict Sawpits, Epping.

Discusses frustration of writing poetry.

Discusses reciting poetry

Discusses range of subjects he covers in his poems.

Discusses songwriting competitions.

Recites poem Lanes of Woolloomooloo

Discusses pastiche and poetry and song.

Discusses Harry Robertson

Sings Cunnamulla

Discusses intention with political songwriting

Poem about Tony Blair

Discusses John Howard as a song subject

Sings Johnny Howard’s March

Recites Napoleon Bonaparte Johnny

Discusses how all politicians are fair game.
Discusses current Labor Party and Latham

Sings Mark Latham song

Discusses Sydney changes and his earliest memories.
Christmas display in David Jones window.

Discusses eccentrics

Discusses his ‘career’ as a Sydney busker

Discusses how he taught himself the tin whistle.

Sings take Your Bulldozers Away
About demolition and green bans

Talks about the tin whistle
Plays several tin whistle tunes
(…..to the sound of the distant whipper snipper)

Mudgee Waltz

Starry Night for a Ramble

Dying Stockman

The Springtime Brings on the Shearing

The Cock of the North

The South Wind

Discusses the importance of music to his life

Wild Colonial Boy


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