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 2 4

The Lime Juice Tub
The Shearer's Dream
Lachlan Tigers
The Banks Of The Condamine



The food on English sailing ships was mostly pretty poor. To prevent the scurvy which was a likely result of a regular diet of pickled meat and ship's biscuit, a ration of lime juice was doled out. So American sailors, who were mostly better fed, contemptuously called English sailors 'Limies'. And so in this song the shearers contemptuously suggest that the unskillful English new chums should be sent home in a lime-juice ship. This version of the song comes from A. L. Lloyd, who says that it was very popular with shearers along the Lachlan thirty or so years ago. He also says that it was one of the few songs that the shearers sang while they were at work.

drums - swags, of the same kind as the bluey mentioned in The Murrumbidgee Shearer.
board - the floor of be shearing shed.
brand new chums - migrants just newly arrived in Australia.
cockies' sons - sons of small farmers (who were looked down upon by bush workers in the pastoral industries ).
great guns - really good shearers.
they tar the sheep till they're nearly black - they cut the sheep so much in shearing them that the sheep end up almost covered with the tar applied as an antiseptic.
on the wallaby track - travelling on foot from one station to another, looking for work.
press the wool - wool is packed for transport from the shearing sheds in a machine which compresses the wool into sacks.
reckon it's time to breast the cook - think it is time to approach the station cook for food. At sundown, the cook would distribute a ration of uncooked food to unemployed ,'travellers' who happened to reach the station homestead at about that hour of the day.
huts - stations also provided huts in which such unemployed 'travellers', could sleep overnight.
damper - the usual bushman's bread, made with baking soda for leavening.
with daggy tails - with lumps of excrement adhering to the wool of the tail.



These words are by Henry Lawson, though Lawson himself used them (in a story called The Shearer's Dream) in a way that suggests he might have made them over from an older bush song. Lawson's words seem to have been taken up by shearers, and sung to a number of different tunes. But this version comes from A. L. Lloyd, who says that he never himself heard the words sung in the bush. So he set them to a tune which is used in the British Isles for a ballad called The Girl I Left Behind Me. A lot of young Australian singers prefer this tune to any that the folk-song collectors have recorded from bush singers. In fact, when The Shearer's Dream is sung at folk-song concerts in the cities these days - as it often is - then it is usually sung to this tune.
rouseabouts - the general helpers in the shearing shed; in general, unskilled labourers whose job it is to assist the skilled.
chute - the chute, down which the sheep were pushed, to slide from the shearing shed back to the ground outside after they had been shorn.
the huts had springs to the mattresses - commonplace items of furniture in shearers' huts today, hut not in Lawson's day.
tucker - food.
billabong - part of an old, abandoned channel of a river, still filled with water from time to time during floods.
German band - a band of Germans playing music, mostly dance music on brass instruments; such bands were a common feature of the entertainment available in city streets in Australia - and England - for a large part of the nineteenth century.
jumbuck - sheep.
shore till all was blue - until the bluish skin of the sheep could be seen through the thin covering of wool left after close shearing.
the sheep was washed afore they was shore - this was a common habit until the 1860s;shearers who had been used to it resented having to shear sheep whose wool was thick with sand, grass seeds, burrs and so on.
when the shed cut out - when the shearing in that shed had been finished.


Lachlan Tigers goes to the same tune as The Station Cook. It is a good tune, and it seems to have come from Scotland. It is one of the few Scottish folk-song tunes used in the bush. This version comes from A. L. Lloyd.

Jackie Howe was a famous shearer, in fact the most famous shearer of them all. He shore 321 sheep in one day in 1892, and his record stood until 1947.

gate - the gate of the pen in which sheep are held alongside each shearer's work place in the shed.
whistle - as a signal to begin or end work.
tigers - as in the common Australian colloquial phrase, "he's a tiger for work,'' meaning a very hard and enthusiastic worker.
ringer - the fastest shearer in the shed.
whipping side: - the second side of the sheep to be shorn, after the finnicky work of shearing legs, head and so on was over.
tar - antiseptic used for cuts given sheep in shearing.
contractor - shearers are not generally employed directly by the stations, hut by a middleman who contracts with the stations to see that their sheep are shorn.
topknots - the wool on the head of the sheep.
Ward and Paine's - a brand of shears.
Bogan - river in western New South Wales.



This song was made over from a British Broadside ballad of the time of the Napoleonic Wars, called The Banks of the Nile (and that was made over from a still earlier broadside; in fact the family tree can be traced back to the seventeenth century at least). There are many sets of words and many tunes, collected from singers at Rutherglen in Victoria, at Mataranka in the Northern Territory, and many points in between. Sometimes the song is called The Banks of Riverine. Sometimes the men are not off to a shearing shed, but to a horse-breaking camp.

The Banks of the Condamine is one of the very few bush-made songs that you might call a love song.

This version comes from A. L. Lloyd, who learnt it from Jack Lyons of Dubbo, in New South Wales. Lloyd says that this melody is related to one used for an Irish folk song.

Roma - a town in southern Queensland. Condamine: - a river of southern Queensland, one of the headwaters of the Darling, which flows through western New South Wales.
selector - this means, literally and usually, a man who takes up and farms, with the intention of purchasing, land owned by the government, and made available to the selector on favourable purchase terms, with extended credit, and sometimes subsidies of one kind or another; the selector is in Australia what the homesteader was in America. But the word carries many overtones; and sometimes it may suggest nothing more than a small farmer.
squatters - here, as usually in Australian speech today, simply large station owners.
moleskins - trousers of heavy, closely-woven cotton cloth, today worn mostly by stockmen.
ramstag mutton - the implication, without going into the literal meaning, is of tough, rank meat.
boundary riding job - again without going into the literal meaning of the word, the implication is that the singer will get a job which will keep him settled on one station - looking after the strategic, but scattered, fences - instead of leading the nomadic existence of the shearer.
sandy cobblers - cobbler is an old-fashioned word for shoemaker; the sheep which the shearer left in his pen until the end of a work period were likely to be hard to shear (because, for example, there was a lot of sand in their wool); such sheep were kept till the last and so - in the stereotyped shearers' joke - compared with the cobbler, who stuck to his last.

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