Australian Folk Songs
songs | books | records | articles | glossary | links | search | responses | home

Sergeant Small

play mp3 or

I went broke in western Queensland in Nineteen Thirty One
Nobody would employ me so my swag carrying begun
I came down into Charleville through all the western towns
I was on my way to Roma destination Darling Downs

My pants were getting ragged my boots were getting thin
But when I stopped at Mitchell a goods train shunted in
I heard the whistle blowing and looking out could see
She was on her way to Roma it was quite plain to me

I wish I was about twenty stone only seven feet tall
I'd go back to western Queensland and beat up Sergeant Small

Now as I sat and watched her inspiration's seed was sown
I remembered the Government slogan: Here's the railway that you own
By this time the sun was setting and the night was getting nigh
So I gathered my belongings and took her on the fly

When we got into Roma I kept my head down low
I heard a voice say "Any room Mate?" I answered "Plenty Bo"
"Come out of there my noble man" came the voice of Sergeant Small
"I have trapped you very nicely - you've ridden for a fall"

The judge was very kind to me he gave me thirty days
Saying "Maybe this will help to cure your rattler jumping ways"
So if you're down and outback boys I'll tell you what I think
Stay off those Queensland goods trains they're a short cut to the clink


From Brad Tate's collection 'Down and Outback' which is also another title for this song. Brad writes "My setting of a poem by Terry Boylan, chorus by Tex Morton. Boylan's verses appeared in the 'Australasian Express' London 1974. Though not connected with Morton's banned Depression song about a NSW policeman, the themes were so familiar I combined them".

Many thanks to Ian White for permission to add his recording of this song from his 1983 LP 'Waiting for the Rain'.

On 27 December 2013, forty years after Brad Tate's discovery, I found the original words of the song under the title 'How I Took The Bait' published in the Northern Miner 26 August 1933. See 'How I Took The Bait' in this collection.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory