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Dying Stockman

A strapping young stockman lay dying
His saddle supporting his head
His two mates around him were crying
As he rose on his pillow and said

Wrap me up with my stockwhip and blanket
And bury me deep down below
Where the dingoes and crows can't molest me
In the shade where the coolibahs grow

Oh had I the flight of the bronzewing
Far over the plains would I fly
Straight to the land of my childhood
And there I would lay down and die

Then cut down a couple of saplings
Place one at my head and my toe
Carve on them cross stockwhip and saddle
To show there's a stockman below

Hark there's the wail of a dingo
Watchful and weird--I must go
For it tolls the death-knell of the stockman
From the gloom of the scrub down below

There's tea in the battered old billy
Place the pannikins out in a row
And we'll drink to the next merry meeting
In the place where all good fellows go

And oft in the shades of the twilight
When the soft winds are whispering low
And the darkening shadows are falling
Sometimes think of the stockman below


First published in the Portland Mirror 1885, this song was written by Horace Flower. The brothers Horace and Charles Flower, Queensland station owners, were keen songwriters in the 1880's - 90's. See 'Broken Down Squatter' and 'A Thousand Mile Away' in this collection. In Stewart and Keesing Old Bush Songs there is the note: "This is Paterson's version with the solitary exception that "pillow" has been changed to what seems the more probable 'elbow' as in the version printed by Hugh Anderson in a chap-book, 'The Dying Stockman'. Anderson notes the similarity between this song and Whyte-Melville's 'The Tarpaulin Jacket', and traces its derivation from an old Irish song 'Rosin the Bow'. This tune is from the singing of Violet Skuthorpe, collected by John Meredith. For the more popular tune see The Dying Fettler in this collection. Meredith also collected the song from Bill Donovan, who had spent a fair time as a drover in the Northern Territory. He told Meredith he used to sing it to the cattle. "All the old drovers used to sing that ... you had to let the cattle know where you were ... because if they know where you are they're not likely to get jumpy and spooky".

I recently received a note from John Laver , regarding this song

"I first accompanied my mother to the Bush Music Club when I was thirteen years old, that evening I met John Meredith and his troupe of wonderful characters. And on his asking sang in my boy-soprano voice this song, the Dying Stockman as sung to me by my grandfather Lance Skuthorpe. Each week we would go to hear the music, yarns and even dancing."


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory