BRISBANE LADIES: Adapted from an old English fo'csle song ("Spanish Ladies") this has one of the finest melodies of all the old bush songs. The adaptation has been traced back to the late 1880s and credited to Saul Mendelsohn, then a jackaroo near Nanango, Queensland. The place names in the song indicate the route taken by drovers "pushing" homeward from the Brisbane cattle sales to Augathella Station in central western Queensland.
BONNIE JESS: The words of this song are by Thomas E. Spencer, one of the old bush balladists who won fame with his wonderful yarn of "How McDougal Topped the Score" and made himself the hero of a country cricket match. With his team trailing badly, McDougal was last man at the crease. He somehow hit the first ball which his sheepdog "Pincher" promptly gathered firmly in his mouth and made off across country with the fielding side roaring in pursuit. During the chase McDougal managed to stagger the length of the pitch for 50 consecutive runs to "top the score" and bring his team victory. There was probably once a tune for Spencer's love story of Bonnie Jess and her shearer sweetheart but it is not known and the words are here set to a tune of my own making.
OUR FATHERS CLEARED THE BUSH: A recent song from Victorian songwriter Mick Hughes. It appeared in "Singabout" - the journal of the Sydney Bush Music Club - in 1962 and has since become widely circulated.
THE BUSH GIRL: Another poem from the poetic genius of Henry Lawson set to music by Con Caston of Warwick, Queensland. In a tribute, Dame Mary Gilmore once wrote: "Henry Lawson wrote more than just man. There was a woman - mother, sister, wife and sweetheart - behind everything he gave us". In the last verse of the song reference is made to Lawson's visit to London from 1900 to 1902 - a journey which proved to be a mostly unhappy one for him.
KELLY WAS THEIR CAPTAIN: A song about Australia's best-known bushranger and his well-organised gang whose daring raids baffled the police and governments of New South Wales and Victoria for more than 18 months in the late 1800s. It is but one of dozens of poems and songs about the Kelly gang that have circulated throughout Australia for over 80 years. At the time of their origin many were declared "treason songs" and the authorities made efforts to suppress them. "Kelly was their Captain" is one of "Six Authentic Songs from the Kelly Country" collected and edited by John Meredith and published by the Sydney Bush Music Club in 1955. In summing up the legend of Ned Kelly author Clive Turnbull has written: "When a nation has bestowed upon a man the highest tribute in its power to give, in the phrase 'game as Ned Kelly', what remains to be said?"
THE OVERLANDER: There are several versions of this rollicking song with this one possibly the best-known. The first overland drovers were probably John Gardiner, Joseph Hawdon and John Hepburn, who took a mob of cattle from N.S.W. to Port Phillip, Victoria, in 1836. The term "overlander" has always applied to those men who drove sheep, cattle or other stock long distances across the country. In this song the "Gulf" of course, refers to the areas around the Gulf of Carpenteria and the "Maranoa" is a river running out of the south-west side of the Great Dividing Range in Queensland.
May I express my thanks to Hugh Anderson, Bill Beatty, Peter Hamilton, Nancy Keesing, A. L. Lloyd, John Manifold, John Meredith, Alan Scott, Douglas Stewart, Bill Wannan, Dr. Russel Ward, Edgar Waters and the members of the Bush Music Clubs whose collections and writings I have used to supplement my songbag and to study background histories.
Also to the countless poets and singers - famous and anonymous - who have given us our heritage and to my late grandfather, E. J. "Ted" Petherick, whose stories set me on the path.