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An ongoing series of videos highlighting bush songs, city larrikin ditties and bush poetry. The project was commenced March 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.


I find it extraordinary that I have been singing Australian folk songs and ballads, and reciting bush poetry, for over 50 years. My interest started the year after I left school and ramped up when i turned eighteen. The sixties was experiencing what became known as the ‘folk revival’, folk music was everywhere including the radio and stage, and I wondered why 95% of music was American or British. It set me off on a lifetime journey to identify Australian folk music and stories. At twenty I moved to Newcastle, north of Sydney, and started a folk club. I had been to folk clubs in Sydney and wanted to continue my interest with the music. I had no thoughts of singing other than enthusiastically joining in chorus songs. Somehow-or-other the folk club I ran, The Purple Parrot (what was I thinking?), was successful but it was a struggle finding enough singers. One night, with encouragement, I nervously sang a set of songs, mostly English songs (I recall I sang ‘The Molecatcher’ and ‘The Widow of Westmoreland’s Daughter’). I was as nervous as all get out, but survived. As the years went on so did my fascination for songs and it wasn’t too long before I started building my repertoire. I still don’t consider myself a ‘singer’ – I am storyteller and still passionate about the old Australian stories, especially the well-travelled songs. I have lost count of how many times I have performed on stages across Australia and the world. I have also lost count of how many songs and poems are tucked away in my noggin. What I do know is that these songs are important in our Australian story and I am but a conduit to their onward journey. As for the concertina, I am a self-taught player of the English concertina. It is ideal for my voice and story songs. Thanks for listening and keeping the songs alive. WF

This double CD of my favourite songs is still available as a download (usual online stores) or CD direct from my store/paypal $30 including postage (email for international post). wfahey@bigpond.net.au

THE HARDEST BLOODY JOB I EVER HAD. What luck! The anonymous shearer lands a job on a small sheep property where the cocky also has grapes for wine-making. He claimed it was the hardest bloody job he ever had!

THE BIG GUN SHEARER. The life cycle of the 19th century bush worker: sign on, work, get the season’s cheque, go boozing, suffer regret, sign on again.

COCKIES OF BUNGAREE. Potato ‘chipping’ (digging spuds out) was hard on the back. The early pre-dawn shift didn’t help either. Bungaree is in Victoria. From the singing of Simon McDonald

HOME SWEET HOME: Also known as ‘Jog Along ‘Till Shearing’.


FRANK GARDINER IS CAUGHT AT LAST. The trial of the notorious bushranger was a media circus. This song comments on the trial.


BOXING SONGS: Les Darcy/Christening the Baby.

HOMELESS MAN. Harry Robertson’s song about homelessness and hopelessness.

THE GOLDEN VANITY. Ballad. Collected from Simon McDonald, 1950s.

GREEN GRASS UPON THE GREEN. From the singing of the legendary bushman, Bill Harney.

THE DRINKER’S DREAM. Bush poem collected from Bob Taylor. You never know who you’ll meet in the desert!

MAIDS OF AUSTRALIA. From the singing of Jimmy Cargill, Randwick, 1973.

NINE MILES FROM GUNDAGAI. The yarn about the dawg on the tuckerbox.


THE FEMALE RAMBLING SAILOR. early broadside about a girl who disguises herself as a sailor and serves in merchant navy for three years. Based on fact. Collected by Norm O’Connor/Mary Jean Officer from Mrs Peatey.

THE DROVER’S DREAM. A bushman dreams of an native animal parade – and realises he is asleep.

ACCORDING TO THE ACT. sea song about the 1890s new maritime act. From the singing of Captain Watson, Melbourne.

PADDY WEST> The notorious ‘training school’ for would-be sailors. The song was sung on the Australian run in the 19th century.

THE DYING STOCKMAN> One of the most famous bush songs.

THE OLD MACQUARIE. A children’s song collected from Mrs Susan Colley, Bathurst, 1970s.

THE SHEARER’S HARDSHIPS. I found this in a 1860s newspaper contributed by P. J. McGovery. A familiar tale about station cooks.

TWO PROFESSIONAL HUMS. To be on the hum = bum = swaggie. I collected this in Broken Hill.

THE OVERLANDERS. Classic bush song about drovers.

LOWLANDS. Sea song sung on the Australian run in the 19th century. A ghostly story.

LONG LANKIN. A British ballad. Sometimes he appears as Lamkin, Lambkin etc .. a stonemason who has been wronged, and takes a bloody revenge.

ROBIN HOOD AND THE BISHOP OF HEREFORD. A big ballad. Did Robin Hood exist? Probably not. But the legend of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor lives on in our imagination.

MUTTON, DAMPER & TEA. A bush poem about the delights of the Australian table!

JONES’ SELECTION. A warning to would be city farmers…. “if ya savin’ up yer screws to get upon the land – watch out the land don’t get on youse”


TWO BLACK CROWS This ballad has old credentials and is known in the British Islaes as The Twa Corbies, Two Ravens etc where their version has the talking crows deciding to peck the eyes out of a dead knight upon the road. We didn’t have knights in Australia but we did have old dead horses and cattle.

THE ROSE BAY FERRY. Bernard Bolan’s song about the imaginary life of a would-be sailor.



MY NAME IS EDWARD KELLY Bushranging ballad collected from Cyril Duncan.


WIDGEGOWERA JOE. Shearing song.

THE MINER. Song collected in Broken Hill from Mrs McDonald. The life of a miner in song.

COLONIAL EXPERIENCE A new chum’s account of Botany Bay.

GINNY ON THE MOOR. A ballad from the singing of Simon McDonald, Cresswick, Victoria.

LIMEJUICE TUB. The new chums came over from England in ships they nicknamed ‘limejuice tubs’, because of the daily ration of limejuice and vinegar to ward off scurvy. I love the line “the great jumbucks are shorn by the great humbugs’. I recorded this version from Edward Gilmer, Maryborough Qld.

THREE MEN CAME A-HUNTING. A children’s song

THE BOLD AND RESTLESS GARDINER: The morning of the fray. Bushranger ballad. Possibly written by Frank Gardiner and this song fashioned by A . L. Lloyd.


BROKEN-DOWN SQUATTER. The 1890s saw a dreadful drought hit the east coast of Australia. This song, written at the time, sums up many problems. The old squatter is talking to his beloved horse as they leave the property to the crows.

GOORIANAWA A grand old shearing ballad which names many of the large and famous shearing stations of the East Coast. I first heard the song sung by Duke Tritton at the Bush Music Club, 1960s. Duke solved a puzzle in the 50s when Stewart & Keesing were preparing their 1957 edition of Paterson’s Old Bush Songs.

JIM JONES AT BOTANY BAY A convict broadside ballad. These old story-song typically came in the first person. Most offer remorse. Jim, pissed off, seeks revenge.

THE ROAD TO GUNDAGAI. Sometimes known as ‘Lazy Harry’s’, this shearing tale is typical. Season’s end and the shearers plan to travel to the big smoke but only make it as far as a favourite pub.

THE WILD COLONIAL BOY I collected several versions of this great bushranger ballad including versions from Mrs Colley, Cyril Duncan, Jack Pobar and Joe Watson. They all had one thing in common – “I’ll fight but not surrender, cried the Wild Colonial Boy’.

SHICKERED AS HE COULD BE. Shickered is a Yiddish word for drunk, full as a gook, tight as a tick etc. It is an Australian version of the much-older ballad ‘Seven Nights Drunk’ aka ‘Our Goodman’

AT EACH GATE THE SHEARERS STOOD – an old bush song collected from Mrs Susan Colley who told me the Lachlan shearers liked to describe themselves as ‘tigers’ – they were tenacious at work and play.

THE MAN FROM IRONBARK. Classic Banjo Paterson.

CLANCY’S PRAYER This was recited to me by Joe Watson adding “That Clancy bloke was a union man….”. Joe, a lifetime ALP member, always referred to Victoria s ‘the home of scabs’ – because that’s where the 1890s strikebreakers came from.

A BUSHMAN’S SONG – an old bush song sometimes known as Travelling Down The Castlereagh. This version collected from Joe Watson.

A SHEARER’S DREAM. Henry Lawson’s poem where the rouseabouts turn into pretty young girls – with trays of whiskey.

THANKS TO THE YANKS. Songwriter, John Dengate, used to say he thought we should stop selling Australia to overseas countries and, if we didn’t watch it, we’d be the world’s gravel pit. We know how that turned out!


THE SENIOR’S ALPHABET. A song I cobbled together about ageing. sigh….

A DIGGER’S LETTER Anonymous letter home from the front.

ONE OF THE HASBEENS. Old-time shearers were paid per sheep they shore and as they aged, they slowed down, and, eventually bcame ‘hasbeens’. They usually became station cooks. You didn’t have to know anything about cooking – just fighting!

A DOG’S MISTAKE – a poem by Banjo Paterson in DOGgeral verse

THE BANKS OF THE CONDAMINE. An Australian version of the age-old ballad, The Banks of The Nile. In our version, the young girl wants to disguise herself as a shearer and go with her lover. It is set in a conversational style, in itself unusual in the Australian tradition.

WEE POT STOVE. A song by Harry Robertson.

EUABALONG BALL. They must have been tough times in the early bush – you’d have to make sure you got a pretty sheep!

DINKI-DI. Sometimes known as ‘Horseferry Road’. It tells of the disgruntled digger on leave.

THAT DIRTY LITTLE TRAITOR, BILLY HUGHES – an unaccompanied song about Prime Minister William Hughes. Anonymous and located in an early union magazine. It was probably written by a member of the IWW.

JIM THE BOSS RIDER. Bush poem from Clarrie Peters, Austinmer, 1973

MORETON BAY. Convict ballad.

DEATH OF BEN HALL. Bushranger ballad 1865

THE MARYBOROUGH MINER. This is a song fashioned by A. L. Lloyd in the 1950s for his Riverside album. Lloyd said he learnt it off Bob Bell in 1935, however, it is more likely a rework of the version published in Paterson’s ‘Old Bush Songs as The Murrumbidgee Shearer. Whatever the case the song is a good story. Anyone interested in the real story of the British folk revival and its relationship with the left would be rewarded by reading ‘Bert’ – a wonderful biography of Lloyd by Tony Arthur. (AbeBooks has copies under $10).

TAMBAROORA TED. Ted considered himself a gun shearer and a ‘ladies man’. This version from Joe Watson.

WOOLLOOMOOLOO. A song sung to me by Susan Colley 1973, Bathurst.

THE BILLYGOAT OVERLAND. Another of my Banjo Paterson favourites. This one from his book ‘The Animals That Noah Forgot’.

FREEDOM ON THE WALLABY. Henry Lawson wrote this in the 1890s and immediately attracted the attention of conservative politicians in Queensland – they said he should be charged with sedition for stirring up trouble between the shearers and squatters. Henry would have liked that!

MY SON TED. From the singing of Sally Sloane. I recorded this version from the legendary singer in 1988, Lithgow, NSW

A SAILOR’S LIFE. This is a typical Victorian tear-jerker. My father sang a few verses. The young girl goes in search of her missing sailor boy and learns he has drowned, so she runs her own boat onto the rocks in despair.

THE CONCERTINA. A brief overview of the history of the concertina and my relationship with it.

MY OLD BLACK BILLY. Ted Harrington’s wonderfully evocative song from the 1950s stage musical Reedy River.

THE YOUNG MAN FROM NARRANDERA. A tale of woe. Left with a baby whilst his wife is ‘on the rant-tan’. She done him bad!