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Bush Workers & Bush Life


Life in the Australian bush of the nineteenth century was hard yakka. As the rush for gold in the 1850s and 60s settled down, a new gold was found in wool, wheat, beef and timber. Old gold towns became rural commercial centres as storekeepers, newspapers and post offices remained to service those who decided to stay or newcomer settlers. Slowly the old paths worn by miners and bullock teams became roadways and, eventually, were joined by the railway.

It was a remote life for many, especially those outback. Social opportunities were infrequent, a monthly dance or race day, a church fete or a family gathering for birth, death and marriage. Mail and newspaper deliveries were erratic and the news was eagerly devoured. Loneliness was a reality that often led to depression.

Much of the work was either station work, horsebreaking, tending sheep and cattle, general farm labour, or itinerant work droving, shearing, timber cutting, fruit picking and boundary riding.

There were many opportunities for station or campfire homemade entertainment and many songs circulated. Many songs became widely circulated and bush favourites.

Jacob Lollbach, aged 102, sings ‘The Old Bark Hut’. Mr. Lollbach, a well-known identity of the Clarence River district, NSW, learnt the song from bush workers and then, later, was delighted to see it printed in The Bulletin Magazine. Recorded by Warren Fahey, 1973, Grafton, NSW.

The following handwritten account tells of Australian tramps from an American perspective of the late 1930s.

View Words


Damn Coolgardie, damn the track

Damn it there and damn it back
Damn the country, damn the weather
Damn the goldfields altogether

On Bourke’s heat

The only message from the dead
That ever came distinctly through
Was send my overcoat to hell

It came to Bourke in 92

The Bulletin

Jingle for first issue.

The Bulletin, the Bulletin,

The journalistic javelin
The paper all the humour’s in
The paper to inspire and grin

The Bulletin, the Bulletin

Horses & The Bulletin

Whalers, damper, swag and nosebag, Johnny cakes and billy tea
Murrumburrah, meremendicoowoke, youlabudgeree

Cattle duffers. Bold bushrangers diggers, drovers, bush race courses,
And on all the other pages horses, horses, horses, horses

New Colonial songbook 1865

Thought to have been written by Phillip ‘Remos’ Somer a member of Cunningham’s exploration party

View Words

General Bush Lore


Good for fodder for cattle, jams and jellies, ink, paint and a remedy for diabetes (boil leaves and drink juice). Also heard that needles are okay for gramophones.

Navvies on a Spree

June 30 1877 Australian Star

Cheer up, Me lads, the navvies on the spree
The Company’s gone insolvent
And the railways up a tree

Advice from the Palmer State (Qld) state that hundreds of Chinese are in the last stages of destitution and those hundreds more are pressing on to the goldfields. The Wardens ask for additional police protection, owing to the threatening attitude of the Chinese outside the camps.

The Emigrant’s Manual

In NSW, as in other Australian colonies, crown land is now sold at not less than 20s an acre.

Pat Keighran “Memoirs of a Stockman”

Harry Peck 1942

James Tyson was born near Campbelltown,NSW, early in the 1800s. later in life had a reputations as a ‘possum eater’ (stingy). Drank billy tea all his life after his housekeeper served him a teapot and cosy ñ too hot so threw it out the window. And had “billy tea, tea as it should be, ever since”

Until his death in 1898 he was known as the Cattle King.

Used to refer to cattle as ‘the 3 b’s’ – browns, blacks and bastards