Australian Folk Songs

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The Squatter's Defeat

If you give me but an hearing,
I'll tell you of the shearing,
The one we just got over,
Eighteen hundred eighty six,
The time of which I'm singing
Is about of the beginning,
How the squatters blowed they'd cut the price
To seventeen and six.

They run about the nation,
Advertising every station,
Expressing their intentions
Not creditable to own,
Telling the coves with money,
You that's none don't come, my honey,
Says the cockey then to plough a bit,
I think I'll stop at home.

The squatter as he's crying,
My wool they are not buying
At a price to pay the interest
Of cent per cent I'll show,
That's what I've been receiving,
So it's no use my deceiving,
The rich won't pay the piper,
So the poor man must, you know.

The shearer has his version,
And with truth make the assertion,
Our hardships they are many
That we meet with going round.
You would starve us devil doubt you,
But we've lived before without you,
Take my tip a blow we'll never cut
Per hundred less a pound.

So you see Mac with your skiting,
The shearers they went striking,
Your neighbours they all laughed to hear
The men's victorious shout.
For weeks you might been shearing,
With a second price appearing,
But now you've got to pay the pound
Per hundred in and out.


From Hugh Anderson Colonial Ballads (1962) pp.136-137.

There came a time when the shearers refused to accept the conditions made by the squatters. They had to travel from station to station without certainty of employment; they were never certain just what wages would be offered; the huts where they lived were rough and dirty, and the food they ate was purchased at very high prices. This was bad enough, but in 1886 a reduction in the shearing rate was attempted by the squatters. Strikes spread throughout the sheep areas and a few months prior to the formation of the Shearers' Union at least one successful fight by shearers prevented a reduction.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory