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Click go the Shears

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Out on the board the old shearer stands,
Grasping his shears in his long, honey hands,
Fixed is his gaze on a bare-bellied "Joe,"
Glory if he gets her, won't he make the "ringer" go.

Chorus: Click go the shears boys, click, click, click,
Wide is his blow and his hands move quick,
The ringer looks around and is beaten by a blow,
And curses the old snagger with the blue-bellied "Joe."

In the middle of the floor, in his cane-bottomed chair
Is the boss of the board, with eyes everywhere;
Notes well each fleece as it comes to the screen
Paying strict attention if it's taken off clean.

The colonial experience man, he is there, of course,
With his shiny leggin's, just got off his horse,
Casting round his eye like a real connoisseur,
Whistling the old tune, "I'm the Perfect Lure."

The tar-boy is there, awaiting in demand,
With his blackened tar-pot, and his tarry hand;
Sees one old sheep with a cut upon its back,
Hears what he's waiting for, "Tar here, Jack!"

Shearing is all over and we've all got our cheques,
Roll up your swag for we're off on the tracks;
The first pub we come to, it's there we'll have a spree,
And everyone that comes along it's "Come and drink with me!"

Down by the bar the old shearer stands,
Grasping his glass in his thin honey hands;
Fixed is his gaze on a green-painted keg,
Glory he'll get down on it, ere he stirs a peg.

There we leave him standing, shouting for all hands,
Whilst all around him, every "shouter" stands
His eyes are on the cask, which is now lowering fast,
He works hard, he drinks hard, and goes to hell at last!


The first version of this song was titled "The Bare-Belled Ewe" and was published the Bacchus Marsh Express in 1891. The version above was published much later in the Twentieth Century magazine in 1946 in an article by Percy Jones. Recent research has discovered a 1939 version titled "The Shearers Song" published in the Sydney newspaper the World's News A variant of that was published in the NSW newspaper the Wellington Times in December 1939.

Printed in Stewart and Keesing's Old Bush Songs with the following note: "From Dr Percy Jones's collection, with one additional stanza, "Now Mister Newchum" etc., collected by John Meredith from Mrs Sloane, of Lithgow, New South Wales. "Mrs Sloane is 60, and learnt most of her songs from her mother in the early part of this century. Mrs Sloane plays button-accordion, fiddle, mouth-organ and jewsharp, and her mother, Mrs Frost, played concertina, accordion and jews-harp." The word "Joe" is presumably a corruption of "Yowe" or "ewe."

Old Bush Songs also prints the following fragment and accompanying note:

That's How The Shears Go

You take off the belly-wool clean out the crutch
Go up the neck for the rules they are such
You clean round the horns first shoulder go down
One blow up the back and you then turn around

Click, click, that's how the shears go
Click, click, so awfully quick
You pull out a sheep he'll give a kick
And still hear your shears going click, click, click

Collected by John Meredith, with the note: "Sung by Jack Luscombe of Ryde, aged 81: started picking up at 11, and shearing at 15. Was in the '91 strike at 18. Both songs learned in the 90s."

(Henry Clay Work 1865)

High in the belfry the old sexton stands
Grasping the rope with his thin bony hands
Fix'd is his gaze as by some magic spell
Till he hears the distant murmur
Ring, ring the bell

Ring the bell, watchman! ring! ring! ring!
Yes, yes! the good news is now on the wing.
Yes, yes! they come and with tiding to tell
Glorious and blessed tidings. Ring, ring the bell!

Baring his long silver locks to the breeze
First for a moment he drops on his knees
Then with a vigor that few could excel
Answers he the welcome bidding
Ring, ring the bell

Hear! from the hilltop, the first signal gun
Thunders the word that some great deed is done
Hear! thro' the valley the long echoes swell
Ever and anon repeating
Ring, ring the bell

Bonfires are blazing and rockets ascend
No meagre triumph such tokens portend
Shout! shout! my brothers for "all, all is well!"
'Tis the universal chorus
Ring, ring the bell


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory