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Shearing in the Bar

A Song by Duke Tritton

My shearing days are over; though I never was a gun,
Could always count my twenty at the end of every run.
I used the old "Trade Union" shears, and the blades were always full
As I drove 'em to the knockers, and I chopped away the wool.
I shore at Goorianawa and didn't get the sack;
From Breeza out to Compadore I always could go back.
And though I am a truthful man, I find when in a bar
My tallies seem to double, but I never call for tar.

* * *

Shearing on the western plains where the fleece is full of sand,
And the clover burr and corkscrew grass, is the place to try your hand.
For the sheep are tall and wiry where they feed on the Mitchell grass.
And every second one of them is close to the cobbler class;
And a pen chock full of cobblers is a shearer's dream of hell,
So, loud and lurid are their words when they catch one on the bell.
But when we're pouring down the grog you'll have no call for tar,
For the shearer never cuts 'em when he's shearing in a bar.

At Louth I caught the bell sheep, a wrinkled, tough-woolled brute,
Who never stopped his kicking till I tossed him down the chute,
My wrist was aching badly, but I fought him all the way;
Couldn't afford to miss a blow; I must earn my pound a day
So when I'd take a strip of skin I'd hide it with my knee,
Turn the sheep around a bit where the right bower couldn't see,
Then try and catch the rousie's eye and softly whisper tar;
But it never seems to happen when I'm shearing in a bar.

I shore away the belly wool and trimmed the crutch and hocks,
Opened up along the neck while the rousie swept the locks,
Then smartly swung the sheep around and dumped him on his rear
Two blows to clip away the wig--I also took an ear--
Then down around the shoulders and the blades were opened wide
As I drove 'em on the long blow and down the whipping side.
And when the fleece fell on the board he was nearly black with tar,
But this is never mentioned, when I'm shearing in a bar.

Now when the season's ended and my grandsons all come back,
In their buggies and their sulkies--I was always on the track--
They come and take me into town to fill me up with beer,
And I sit on a corner stool and listen to them shear.
There's not a bit of difference; it must make the angels weep
To hear a mob of shearers in a bar-room shearing sheep,
For the sheep go rattling down the race with never, a call for tar,
For a shearcr never cuts 'em when he's shearing in a bar.

* * *

Then memories come crowding, and they wipe away the years,
And my hand begins to tighten and I seem to feel the shears.
I want to tell them of the sheds, of sheds where I have shorn.
Full fifty years, and sometimes more, before these boys, were born.
I want to speak of Yarragrin, Dunlop or Wingadee,
But the beer has started working and I'm wobbling at the knee;
So I'd better not start shearing I'd be bound to call for tar,
Then be treated as a blackleg when I'm shearing in a bar.

--From "The Worker."


From the Western Herald 16 January 1959.

I heard Duke Tritton song this song at a Pete Seeger concert in Sydney at the Union Theatre in 1963.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory