The Springtime It Brings On The Shearing
Flash Jack From Gundagai
The Murrumbidgee Shearer
The first recording Gary Shearston made was called Folk Songs and Ballads of Australia.
Most of the songs on it really are old bush folk songs. But later he
became known best as a singer of new songs, which are not really folk
songs though they are written in folk-song style. Songs, for example,
by writers like the Americans Bob Dylan and Peter Seeger, or the
Scotsman Ewan MacColl; and songs that he wrote himself.
a while back he decided that the most important thing for him to do,
just then and for some time to come, was to learn more about authentic
folk songs; and especially about the folk songs of the bush; and above
all about the way that the old bush singers sang the bush folk songs.
he sat down to listen carefully to every field recording of traditional
bush singers that he could lay his hands on. He has listened to
recordings of the best of our traditional singers, especially Sally
Sloane and Simon McDonald, over and over again. He has also been
listening very carefully to the recordings of bush songs made by A. L.
Lloyd: a pommy, no less! But Lloyd began learning bush songs during the
nine years he spent working as a station hand in western New South
Wales, before he went back to England to become a distinguished
folk-song singer and scholar.
collection of shearers' songs is the first result of all this. Wherever
possible, Gary Shearston has learnt the version of the song which he
uses from a recording or tape rather than from print. Many he learnt
from the singing of A. L. Lloyd, some from field recordings made by the
Folk Lore Society of Victoria; one from an old shearer, 'Duke' Tritton,
with whom he sang many times at folk-song concerts.
of the songs come out as a mechanical copy of the recording from which
Garv Shearston learnt it. Far from it. But if you wonder whether all
that listening to field recordings was worth the trouble, whether it
could really make all that much difference, then just compare the style
of singing on this record with the style on that early record of Folk
Songs and Ballads of Australia!
THE SPRINGTIME IT BRINGS ON THE SHEARING
was collected in Victoria by Dr. Percy Jones. John Meredith found a
rather different version in New South Wales, and most of Dr. Jones'
words turn up in some verses called The Wallaby Track, which
were published by a bush poet called E. J. Overbury in 1865. Maybe some
bush singer read Overbury's words and set some of them to a tune; that
was a common habit with bush singers. Maybe Overbury heard a bush song,
and took some of the words into one of his own poems; that was a common
habit with bush poets.
coves - station managers or owners.
- an indispensable item of the bush nomads, gear; a can - here of quart
capacity - in which water could be boiled and food cooked.
new-chums - newly arrived immigrants.
flash shearers making johnny-cakes round in the bend
- a contrast in the lot of the shearer at different seasons of the year
is implied; during the shearing season he is flash (shows an
exaggerated sense of his own importance), because he is earning good
wages and respect for his skill; when the shearing season is over, and
he is unemployed, he is reduced to camping out in the open by some
river bend, and living on a diet consisting mainly of camp-made bread
(a johnny cake is, roughly speaking, a kind of small damper).
FLASH JACK FROM GUNDAGAI
figures in a lot of Australian folklore. The best-known piece of
folklore about Gundagai concerns the famous dog that sat (some people
use a different word) in the tucker box nine miles (but some people say
it was five miles) from the town. But Gundagai gets a mention in a lot
of shearers' songs, too.
version of the song about Flash Jack - who seems to have done most of
his shearing at stations in the Riverina - comes from A. L. Lloyd. But
Banjo Paterson printed the words in very much the same form in his Old
Bush Songs in 1905. And a Brisbane singer, Bill Scott, learnt the song
in the Queensland bush only a few years ago, with practically the same
tune as Lloyd learnt in the Riverina, as well as with practically the