The Springtime It Brings On The Shearing

Album Notes by Edgar Waters (1965)

Back to The Springtime It Brings On The Shearing Go to Album Notes Parts 1 3 4

The Station Cook
Tomahawking Fred
The Backblocks Shearer
Jog Along Till Shearing



A few lines of this song got into print in The Bulletin - which used to be called "the bushman's Bible" - away back in the 1890's. That scrap set the scene on the Castlereagh River in New South Wiles; this version sets it at Fowler's Bay in South AustraIia.

This version of the song was published by Dr. Percy Jones of Melbourne. He seems to be the only collector who has ever managed to find a bush singer who knew a full set of words and a tune for them.

plum-duffs - plum-puddings.
doughboys - dumplings.
swear by Long Maloney - a mysterious phrase; perhaps it is a euphemism for "I swear by all that's holy ?"
to sling the cook his fee - to pay the cook his wages (the shearers' cook was paid by the shearers themselves, not by the station management or the contractor).
Fowler's Bay - on the western coast of South Australia.
slushy - a derogatory term for the cook, suggesting that he is only fit to be a cook's helper.



There was a London music-hall song about Fashionable Fred:

Yes, I'm just about the cut for Belgravia,
To keep the proper pace I know the plan.
Wire in and go ahead then, for Fashionable Fred,
I'm Fashionable Fred, the ladies' man.

Some shearer took the tune, and re-wrote the words so that they told about Tomahawking Fred the shearer. He was called Tomahawking Fred because he cut sheep whilst shearing.

Jack Bradshaw, who called himself the Last of the Bushrangers, published the words of this song in one of his books about bushranging, in the 1930s. But it was only recently that collectors from the Folk Lore Society of Victoria found an old bushman, Harvey Games, who remembered the tune as it was used in the bush. He remembered only some of the words, so this version uses his tune and Jack Bradshaw's words.

knuckling down so close upon the skin - shearing the wool off so close to the skin.
tomahawk - shear unskilfully, so as to cut the sheep.
tin - money.
the don of Riverine - recognised as a man of importance in the Riverina, a region of southern New South Wales.



According to one old bush singer this song was written in New South Wales by a shearer named Bill Tully. But Widgeegowarmee Joe probably really came from Widgeegoara, which is in Queensland; and this version of the song comes from Victoria. It was recorded by collectors of the Folk Lore Society of Victoria from an old bushman called Alf Dyer. Joe got around, it seems, and so did this song, which pokes fun at him for being too much of a skite and not enough of a shearer.

John Meredith - who got down a rather different version of the song from an old Riverina bushman called Jack Lee - says that the tune was taken over from an old Irish song, Castle Gardens. Another folklorist, John Manifold, thinks that Bill Tully must have had uppermost in his mind an old sailor song which begins "Hurrah, my boys, the sails are set, the winds are blowing fair...." The song is full of shearers' technical talk, and a few topical references.

... The Backblocks Shearer (continued)

Mitchell, obviously, was a highly-regarded shearer. But Deeming was a murderer - in fact, a multiple murderer - whose name made a splash in the newspapers towards the end of the 19th century.

backblocks - away out in the bush, a long way from the cities.
Riveree - the Riverina region of southern New South Wales.
the union lads - the shearers were amongst the most militant of Australian trade unionists around the turn of the century, and belonged to one of the most powerful trade unions of the day, after the great shearing strikes of the early 1890s there was a great deal of bad feeling between shearers who were staunch union men, and those who had been scabs.
my shears are set - set here probably implies not only ready but also sharpened.
pen - the pen in which sheep are held in the shed alongside each shearer's working position.
gaffer - the boss of the shed.
rings the bell - as a signal to begin work.
sardine blow - a blow is one continuous action with the shears, and sardine blow implies a nibbling, cramped action, as against a flowing, forceful movement which might be expected of a really good shearer.
for the century - aiming at shearing one hundred sheep in a day; this was reckoned good shearing.
saw long tallies done - seen men shear large numbers of sheep in a day.
gun - an outstanding shearer.
board- the floor of the shearing shed.
collared - appropriated.
shoulder cuts - ,"blows'' used in shearing wool from the shoulders.
rang-stang block - block is poetic licence for blow, in order to rhyme with shock; why Priestley should have called the blow which (he?) invented a rang-stang blow is anybody's guess.
Wagga - a town near the fringe of the Riverina region, and clearly the location of an annual demonstration of shearing techniques.
scoop the pool - win all the prizes.



The first time I ever made a field recording of a folk song, I went with a friend of mine (his name is Jeff Way) down to one of the southern suburbs of Sydney to call on Joe Cashmere. He came from Booligal in the Riverina, and asked us if we knew the old bush saying, "Hay, hell and Booligal". He reckoned that Booligal was really a pretty good place, at least, it had been when he was a boy. He stood in his kitchen and sang for us. He was over seventy years of age, and we said we thought he ought to sit down. He said he would sooner stand. He stood.

One of the songs he sang that day was Jog Along Till Shearing. Gary Shearston learnt it from our tape recordmg. Joe Cashmere is dead now. Joe said the tune was called Miss Tickletoby's School. Hugh Anderson, who spends a lot of time delving into old song books, says that it was also called The Barking Barber.

When he had finished singing the song for us, Joe chuckled and said "That's a true song."

without a word of gammon - without any bulldust.
swagmen - here, this refers to bushmen travelling around looking for seasonal jobs.
waiting for the lambing - waiting for the lambing season, and the seasonal jobs connected with lambing.
shanty - a bush public house.
they hear the price that's going - hear the usual price for shearing a given number of sheep this season.
blowing - skiting, boasting.
bit of paper - cheque.
they give three cheers for the river bends - they recognise that their next period of affluence is over, and give three cheers for the life that awaits them until their next period of employment at the next shearing season; and this life means camping out in the open along the inland river, subsisting largely on the fish they catch, and on hand-outs from the stations.

  Site Index Recordings Buy Albums Contact Us - Copyright 2000-2017 Aprenda Pty Limited