Australian Folk Songs
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The Shearer (1874)
[Tune: Marching Through Georgia]
Now the "pen" is full lads, we'll have another run,
Toil away like jolly dogs until we get them done;
And when they are finished off, and waiting more to come,
Each one his Ward and Payne will sharpen.
Hurrah! hurrah! the yoke is up to-day,
Hurrah! hurrah! we'll work and sing away;
Then let us all be jolly boys, light-hearted and gay,
As we go "wiring" in at shearing.
The "ringer" he is ready now, rush oh lads again,
Nimbly step into the "pen" as others do the same;
Then take your "nanny" on the board, and keep it free from pain,
Whilst off its back the fleece is rolling.
Hear the clicking of the shears as they swiftly glide,
Down the belly, up the neck, and o'er the whipping side;
And watch Groves biting out his open Sorby wide,
Trying all he can to pass the "ringer."
Now the cry is wool, wool, ringing near and far,
Whilst another two or three loudly bawls for tar!
And as the "larrikins" bring it, and daub it on the scar,
Oh! what a rush there is to get the cobbler.
From the South Australian newspaper the Northern Argus Friday 3 April 1874. p. 3.
Because of its familiar phrases this 1874 South Australian song appears to me to be a forerunner of other shearers' songs. We have the famous hand shears "Ward and Payne", the ringer, the "clicking of the shears", "down the belly up the neck and down the whipping side", the "open Sorby wide", the "loudly bawls for tar", "wool, wool ringing near and far" and "the cobbler". All these phrases or variations of them appear in a number well known songs including Lachlan Tigers, Ryebuck Shearer, Tomahawking Fred, Widgegoweera Joe, Goorianawa, and, last but not least, Click Go the Shears.
Sorby's Sheep-shears were advertised in Australia as early as 1845 in the Geelong Advertiser and Squatters' Advocate, while Ward and Payne Sheep shears were advertised in the Argus as early as 1853.
Peter Neilson writes that the song is
'related to Coonatto the sheep station north of Adelaide. The need for wool to feed the mills at the time spread its influence far and wide and has a lot to answer for by way of land clearances in England and here...but was also responsible for for some very good working songs'
australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory