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 3 4

Click Go The Shears
The Road To Gundagai (Lazy Harry's)
Shearing In A Bar
One Of The Has-Beens



Henry Lawson tells how the gold diggers, during his boyhood days, used to sing a song by the popular American composer Henry C. Work:

High in the belfry the old sexton stands,
Grasping the rope with his thin bony hands . . .

Some shearer borrowed Work's tune, and some ideas from his words, and created Click Go the Shears. The collectors have found a lot of old shearers who know the song. Versions do not differ very much, but in this version - which comes from A. L. Lloyd - there are a few lines in which the humour is given a sharper point than in most others.

bare-bellied yeo - a ewe - yeo is an English dialect word for ewe - with little wool on its belly.
snagger - an unskillful shearer who leaves "snags'' of wool on the sheep.
blue-bellied yeo - this means the same as bare-bellied yeo.
as it comes off the screen - as it comes off the table at which the fleeces are classed into different grades.
the colonial experience man - the English gentleman, getting some experience of life in "the colonies", by working for a time on a station; an object of both derision and resentment on the part of the shearers.
you take off the belly wool - this verse is also found in a quite distinct shearers' song; it gives an account of the order in which the shearer was expected to remove the wool.
shouting for all hands - buying drinks for everyone in the bar.



Another of those shearers' songs about Gundagai. Maybe this one explains why Gundagai is mentioned so often in the songs of the Riverina shearers. It was a town they had to come through on the way to Sydney from many parts of the Riverina; and maybe a lot of them set off with Sydney in their eye, but found the girls and the beer in Gundagai too tempting.

This version comes from A. L. Lloyd, but the words are almost the same as those that Banjo Paterson printed in Old Bush Songs long before Lloyd arrived in the Riverina.

Roto - a place in the Riverina.
whips and whips - lots and lots.
rhino - money.
humped our blues - shouldered our swags.
three-spot cheque - a cheque for one hundred pounds or more.
wanted knocking down - just had to be spent.
struck the Murrumbidgee... and so on - the names which occur in this verse refer to rivers or towns in the Riverina region of southern New South Wales.
Matildas - swags.
nobbler - phrases such as to nobble the favourite suggest the dubious ancestry of this word; but nobbler has become respectable, and even official, Australian for a standard measure of alcohol.


In 1905 a youngster called Herbert Patrick Croydon Tritton gave up his job (making mattresses in a factory in Sydney) and headed for the bush. There he earned the nickname of 'Duke', because he was handy with his fists; he learnt shearing and fencing and other bush trades; he learnt some old bush songs; and he helped to make a few new bush songs himself. One of the first songs he made was Shearing in a Bar. He said himself that a lot of mates helped him make it. He also said that the tune started off as the tune of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling; but you would hardly recognise it, because they had to "chop it down a bit". 'Duke' Tritton died in May, 1965. Late in his life, he became well-known to folk-song audiences in Sydney. Gary Shearston sang with him many times.

at the end of every run - at the end of every work period (the day was divided into four such periods, by the midday meal and two "smoke-ohs").
trade union shears - a reference to the series of bitterly fought strikes around the turn of the century; the suggestion is that the singer has never shorn at less than the rate demanded by the union.
bogging full - the shears were bogging in the fleece, because the shearer was trying to cut as much wool as possible at every blow.
shore at Goorianawa and never got the sack - a widely sung shearing song complained that "I never saw before / The way we had to knuckle down on Goorianawa. " All the place names mentioned in be song refer to stations in north-western New South Wales.
knockers - this is 'Duke' Tritton's own explanation: "The old blade shears were just like the shears you'd buy today to clip a lawn, only instead of being bent, they're straight. But the gullet was filled with softwood, sometimes with cork; that was to prevent the shears from closing too far and hitting your forefinger. And as they were razor sharp they had only to touch it to give you a nasty cut. Well, they were the knockers; that was to stop them from closing."
bindii - a kind of weed; the prickly seeds lodge in the fleece.
catch one on the bell - when the bell rang to indicate a break or the finish of work, the shearer had to finish the sheep he was then actually shearing; and if the bell had rung for "smoke-oh" or a meal break, then he had to resume work at the same time as every one else.
the right bower - the boss of the shearing board.
rousie - rouseabout.
drove 'em on the long blow - shore quickly along parts of the sheep where it was possible to take long "blows'' with the shears (as distinct from the "sardine blows" needed in trimming the crutch and hocks and so on).



This comes from A. L. Lloyd, who heard it one New Year's Day in the late 1920s when he was in hospital at Cowra. The matron was away, and the patients had a bit of a party. A bullocky from Grenfell sang this song, and some of the old-timers didn't like it. They thought the bullocky was getting at them. But the song is a very sympathetic commentary on the old battler who will never say die. This is the bushman's rather sentimental account of the old snagger who is seen a bit more realistically in Click Go the Shears, where he drinks hard and works hard and goes to hell at last.

The words, it seems. are the work of a bushman called Robert Stewart, who was born in 1838. The melody was borrowed from an English music-hall song which is still a favourite with many people, called Pretty Polly Perkins.

keep them blades down - keep the blades of the shears down close near the skin of the sheep.
Pat Hogan, Bill Bright... and so on - names of well-known shearers; Jack Gunn's name is also mentioned in Tomahawking Fred.
Lachlan - river in western New South Wales.

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