Australian Folk Songs

songs | books | records | articles | glossary | links | search | responses | home

The Lay Of The Settler

A Song by Young Fiffey©1849
Tune-"The Exile of Erin."

Farewell for a season, my mutton and damper,
Just three weeks farewell, I now bid unto thee ;
Away to the City, I quickly must scamper,
To transact some business-and kick up a spree.

The shearing is over, and off I must hasten,
Away to the City to sell off my wool ;
When I am there, why of grog, I shall have a slight taster-
But not quite so much as will make me a fool.

I always take things in their due moderation,
I never exceed thirty noblers a day ;
Which at three-pence a piece, by my calculation,
Just leaves, seven shillings and six pence to pay :

Now Shepherds, my lads, unto me pay attention,
Take all sorts of care your sheep do'nt get astray-
And see that among you there be no contention,
But fatten your flocks well, while I'm away.

And now my hutkeepers, at night when your watching,
The sheep in the hurdles, that stand on the brow
Take care that, the wild dogs, don't be after catching,
Some fine old fat wether, or motherly ewe.

I hope to my orders, you'll pay strict attention,
If not, I've a cure unto which I'll resort
On the first appearance of any dissention,
I'll pull the whole kit of you, up to the Court.


From the Argus Monday 12 November 1849.

November, 1849.

This song alludes to the power that the employer (in this case a settler) had over his workforce. The law that the settler is referring to is the Masters' and Servants' Act, which was imported from Britain (sometimes revised to make it even more one sided) and widely used in Australia to suppress the "appearance of any dissention" as the song describes. It is also interesting that it is set the tune of the popular Irish protest song "Exile of Erin". Variations of the Masters and Servants Act existed until the the 1970s, and it can be argued that modern corporations in Australia and elsewhere are presenting similar laws for compliant governments to pass to this day. A good recent example was John Howard's twenty first century anti-union legislation carrying the Orwellian title "WorkChoices".


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory