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QLD – Brisbane – Bananabenders


Queenslanders were given the name ‘bananabenders’ fairly early on it the territory’s life – because vast areas of its coast had banana plantations.

Queensland for much of its early European life was an extension of the Colony of New South Wales, and, subsequently, received convicts. It was, and to some extent still is, a wild place with remote areas of rainforest, mountains and deserts. The people were thought to be wild too.

A Toast to Queensland/The Cane-Cutter’s Lament. Warren Fahey & The Larrikins.

‘A Thousand Miles Away’ Warren Fahey: Vocals. Marcus Holden: Fiddle. Garry Steel: Upright Piano, Foot Accompaniment. Clare O’Meara: Guitar

A Thousand Miles Away.

This song from the Queensland goldrush of the 1870s sums up the general colonial excitement that the glorious days of the 1850s and 60s southern gold rushes might be replicated in the north. The Palmer River goldfield was first gazetted on 27 November 1873. The main mining centres were in Maytown, Palmerville and Jessup’s Hill, with the goldfield totalling an area close on 9000 km square. The colony of Queensland was usually seen by Sydney and Melbourne as ‘wild’ and relatively unexplored, hence the reference to dangerous rivers and spear threatening Aborigines. The latter might well have been a distant reminder of Captain Logan of Moreton Bay who had been speared by ‘unknown blacks’ in 1830. The song appeared in A.B.Paterson’s 1905 edition of Old Bush Songs and uses the maritime tune ‘Ten Thousand Miles Away’. Although Paterson lists it as ‘anonymous’ it was most likely composed by Charles Flower who also wrote ‘The Broken Down Squatter’. The song is also known as ‘The Old Palmer Song’.


‘Augathella Station’ or ‘Brisbane Ladies’. Warren Fahey: Vocals. Marcus Holden: Cittern, Violin. Garry Steel: Piano, Bass. James Greening: Trombone.

The Augathella Drovers.

The sturdy men who took responsibility for the often vast herds of cattle chewing their way along the ‘Long Paddocks’ (the open stock routes), as the beasts fattened up for market, were called drovers.

This song has an interesting history for anyone interested in the travels of traditional song. It is known by many titles including ‘Augathella Station’ and ‘Brisbane Ladies’. The song was written by Saul Mendlesohn to the tune ‘The British Sailors’ however, like many bush songs, it lost sight of its original composer and went traveling. It is thought to be dated sometime between 1881 and Mendelsohn’s death in 1897. Mendelsohn’s version appeared in The Queenslander (Hurd Collection of newspaper clippings, State Library of Queensland 1894-97). The Boomerang newspaper published a version in 1891. There are two versions in Manifold’s Penguin Book of Australian Folk Songs. Whatever the travels and title of the song, it is a great story and a classic of the bush song genre. I have always believed most singers, particularly those in bush bands, sing the song far too fast. It’s a better song when performed at a jig-jog pace that matches that of the overlanders.

‘A Long Time Ago On The Logan’. Warren Fahey Vocals. Marcus Holden: Banjo.Garry Steel: Accordion, Bass.

A Long Time Ago On The Logan.

This is an unusual song in as much as it tells of a rowdy picnic and sport’s day staged by a group of Yugambeh Aborigines. I recorded it from Cyril Duncan in 1973. Cyril had learnt it from his father who had been a bullock driver in the Logan River district where the Yugambeh Aboriginal people lived. I had reservations about singing it until Ysola Best, from the Yugambeh Language and Heritage Research Centre of the Kombumerri Corporation for Culture, contacted me to provide me with more details of the song including the meaning of the various Aboriginal words: Bouribi is a koala, cobbles are carpet snakes, nullas are digging or throwing sticks, burraguns means boomerang, yuragang is dingo and churrongs are eels. In 2005 the Yugambeh Museum (www.yugambeh.com) published a book on their traditional music and in their notes to this song commented: “In this period Yugambeh Aborigines referred to people in the community as ‘blackfella’ and ‘whitefella’ and the words of the song are couched in the terms of the day”. Ysola also mentions that the Duncans were friends of the Yugembah people and “spent many an hour yarning with them about local history”. You can hear Cyril singing the song on my website. Go to ‘podcasts’ and ‘The Songs That Made Australia’ radio free series and click on ‘Bullockies’.

‘Moreton Bay’ or ‘The Melancholy Fate of captain Logan’ Warren Fahey: Vocals. Marcus Holden: Viola. Garry Steel: Piano

The Melancholy Fate of Captain Logan.

Along with Macquarie Harbour and Norfolk Island, Queensland’s Moreton Bay was feared for its harsh treatment of convicts. Under the command of Captain Patrick Logan (from 1826) the death rate ran higher than one man in ten each year, no questions asked. This powerful song celebrates the death of Logan when speared by hostile Aborigines while he was exploring and surveying the Upper Brisbane River in 1830. It was considered a fitting death for the monster of Moreton Bay. It is noted as ‘anonymous’ although it is now usually ascribed to Francis Macnamara (Frank the Poet). The Queensland Centenary Songbook (1959), published this version as ‘Moreton Bay,’ as collected from W. Bowden, Wide Bay, citing ‘Youghal Bay’ as the tune. This version appeared to be based on that published in Will Lawson’s Australian Bush Songs and Ballads (1944) where it was published as ‘The Convict’s Lament’. Lawson noted ‘The Manuscript of this rugged rhyme was secured by me in Queensland in August 1916, from Jas. R. Scott (Deputy Coroner, Cessnock, and a collector of early Australiana)’. The song was taken from a letter from Captain Clunie to the Colonial Secretary and published in the Sydney Gazette of 25 November 1830. The original is in the Mitchell Library collection, Sydney. The ‘triangle’ mentioned in the song was a wooden structured whipping post that men and women were tied to when sentenced to a lashing.


‘The Pig-Catcher’s Love Song’ Warren Fahey: Vocals

The Pig Catcher’s Love Song.

Ron Edwards collected this from Jack Crossland and published it in his Overlander Songbook, 1969. It’s a tribute to Cairn’s Bitter Beer. How could you not love a song with a line that pleads:

‘Oh, marry me darling, I never will fail,

There’s worse blokes than me love,

But they’re mostly in goal.’