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The Shearers' Ball

IT was the night of the shearers' ball,
At Milltown station, out west,
The boys knocked off at ten to six,
To be washed and rigged in their best.

Ned, the drover, arrived about dusk,
With a dray-load of girls from the town ;
Neckties and belts and handkerchiefs red
To be donned by the boys at Milldown.

Sam, a musterer, got off for the day,
To fetch from the pub his Kate,
Taking a couple of hacks for the road
In case Ned, the drover, was late.

The " boundarys," with their ewes and lambs,
Turned up the night before ;
For the shearers' ball was the talk of the land
For fifty miles round, or more.

The teamsters were in great fettle, too,
Ready, and on for the fray ;
Had a good sleep throughout the day,
So were fresh as the new-mown hay.

Waggons were loaded, and ready to start
At the breaking of the day ;
When all the fun was over, and done,
They'd be on the road and away.

The shed was aglow with kerosene lamps,
With tar and fat was the floor ;
Huts all alight with tapers bright,
As the rouseabouts washed and shore.

Musicians, with concertinas and flutes,
Were hired from Colmungaline--
Four bob an hour, the bargain struck,
And twelve dances through in that time.

Eight o'clock sharp, the bell rang out--
Braced up, and with smiles yards wide,
Some bashfully entered the " spacious hall,"
With a girl tacked on the left side.

The book-keeper and overseer
Went in to see the fun,
Hooked on to Kitty and Sarah Quinn,
Two girls from a neighbouring run.

Girls were few, and far between,
So there was a rush at the start ;
Bill took Dick's girl far the opening spurt,
And round the room they dart.

Harry Malone, boss over the board,
Was invited to run the show ;
Spick-and-span, eighteen-carat he looked,
His face with soap all aglow.

A programme of squares, rounds and reels
Was nailed at the end of the shed ;
Caledonians, polkas, mazurkas and figs.--
Ne'er a word through the dancing was said.

Bob and Dick, the musterers, black,
Wore moleskins wide and square ;
Crimean shirts buttoned up with string,
And salad oil thick on their hair.

The girls from the homestead, too, were there,
And of course they took the cake--
Ribbons and laces, and borrowed plumes,
To make all the boys' hearts ache.

Mrs Malone led off with the cook,
Attired in orange and pink ;
Sophie, the parlor-maid, swung with Ned,
And arms round necks they link.

Dobson, the " book," stood off at first
To watch the feet of the girls.
Lawson, the 'seer, struck up with Nell Dunn,
A dear little chit with curls.

Up and down, and round they flew,
And danced on the toes of each maid ;
Collars grew limp, and brows were mopped,
'Twas a hundred or two in the shade.

Polkas rushed on till midnight struck,
Then dancing began to wane ;
Some took strolls round the dusty yard,
Some on to the turkey plain.

Waggons with loads of wool stood by,
Forty bales piled on each heap ;
Couples climbed up and sat close as wax,
And talked " nothings," and dust, and sheep.

Supper was spread in the dining hut,
Mutton sides, boiled, and roast,
Brownie and beef, hop-beer galore,
The shearers' cook acted as host.

Cabbage and turnips, old as the hills,
Were stewed with carrots less prime,
Pummelled and mashed, covered with sauce,
Dotted with " violets" sublime.

Sleeves rolled up, they all sat down,
Carvers took sides and ends ;
Beef looked foolish, and soon disappeared,
Sheeps' heads recognised friends.

Corks popped out with terrible force
Beer brewed a month before--
Dippers and buckets filled to the brim,
And pannicans by the score.

Cakes and dampers and plum-duff
Lay on each chest like lead ;
Potatoes scarce, were tossed for and agreed
To hand round-one a head.

Two solid hours the feed hung out,
Till tin-plates waltzed up and round ;
And pannicans stood on their heads and reeled,
And nothing stood still, save the ground.

Whiteley, the classer, was in great form,
But not " taking on" partners at all,
Showed forth in all his colours true
At supper-till after the ball.

The weaners were bleating the live-long night
In a yard alongside the shed--
Such a concert of sound ne'er before was known,
'Twould send a sane man off his head.

What a night ! Such a glorious time
Has never been heard of since.
Fights and proposals, curses and vows--
Enough to make sober men wince.

If ever a rattling good time you want
Apply for a shearers' ball ;
But be sure and fetch your own girl along,
Or, for a moral, you'll go to the wall.



From the NSW newspaper the Windsor and Richmond Gazette Saturday 15 January 1898 p. 9.



australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory