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King Of The Shearers

From the Gulf to the New South border,  
Through far-flung realms of the West
Men boast of that famous shearer
Who now lies in his last long rest;
And the old grey-headed fogies
Who are stooped and aged now,
Tell tales of the good old shearing days,
And the famous Jacky Howe.

For his were the nimblest fingers
Ever held a pair of shears,
And his records went undefeated
Through all of his shearing years;
The rest of the world was blank to him.
With a sheep between his knees,
And never was there a style like his,
Or incredible speed, or ease.

Long since have the blades been dispensed with,
And now 'midst an engine's row,
Younger shearer's are following on
In the steps of Jacky Howe,
And each of them in his secret heart
Tolls on to achieve one goal,
To acquire the skill of that pioneer
Who has answered his Father's roll.

Out West he lies in a humble grave,
An enclosure ot tombs so bare,
With never a word or line to say
That anyone's resting there;
No handsome slab with his praise inscribed
O'er the king ot the shearer's shines,
But still he lives in the minds of men,
In their stout hearts humble shrines.



From the the Queensland newspaper the Townsville Daily Bulletin Thursday 30 May 1940 p. 2.

(The late Jack Howe's record tally of 321 with the blades at Alice Downs in 1892, will probably stand, for while sheep and fleece have increased in weight, hand shears have almost passed out. Howe later gave up the blades for the machine, and with that too, he was a marvel of dexterity and speed. He died at Blackall several years back.--'B.B.') [Bill Bowyang]

In a recent article my Western contributor, Jim Newman, had something to say about the disappearance of whiskers. It reminded me of a yarn old Lance Skuthorpe told me one day last year. Lance is a grand old spinner of reminiscences, and on this occasion he happened to mention the place where he rode his first buck jumper. It was in a small bush settlement, somewhere in the southern part of this State, and a sports meeting was in full swing. "I never saw so many queer contests," said Lance. "There was a lady's hat decorating contest to be done by men, and a prize was given for the man possessing the longest beard. There came on the scene an old Scotchman with thick, bushy whiskers reaching below his waist. No other man in the vicinity had a chance against him. When awarded the prize he parted his whiskers with his fingers, and out flew a small bird, which settled on his hat." That tickled old Lance, but later he heard the bird was trained to do the act, and it brought the much-whiskered man many a drink in a bush pub.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory