Song of the Fettler

Iron Road


‘Old 17’ is whistling
As she rushes through the night,
With head and tail lights gleaming,
and every car alight.
But as hse takes the cutting,
And holds the shining track,
From lusty throats come calling
The song of the man – Outback.

On cold and lonely stretches,
On bridges, tall and long,
You hear the cry of “Paper!”….
The fettler’s only song.
Then as you roll and fling them,
Just watch the eager pack
That rush like boys to grip them –
For they are scarce – Outback.

In scorching sun and blinding dust,
In snow and sleet and hail,
These men the track are keeping
For the passing of the mail.
Then after grub it’s paper time,
And every tent and shack
Is going through the latest
By a light of a lamp – Outback.

‘ With oil lamp dimly casting
A light on earthen floor,
When canvas walls go swaying,
As the winds through the gumtrees roar,
Those papers …every letter,
Are read – from front to back –
Then passed along to cobbers;
That’s the way of these men – Outback.

But when the storm clouds gather,
And rain comes for a week,
The ganger roars at midnight,
“Come on boys! Down the creek!”
Out then, in gleaming oilskins,
They go along the track,
With jacks and picks and crowbars –
There’s a washaway on – Outback.

So now you know just what it’s like
To work on the line out there.
Where every man’s a toiler,
where very man does his share.
Next time you hear them calling,
Don’t pass the waiting pack,
Give out the news from Sydney,
It’s a lot to these men – Outback.

[The Railroad 1928]