Australian Folk Songs

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Billy Barlow In Australia

When I was at home I was down on my luck,
And I learnt a poor living by drawing a truck ;
But old aunt died and left me a thousand --' Oh, oh,
I'll start on my travels,' said Billy Barlow.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh ;
So off to Australia came Billy Barlow.

When to Sydney I got, there a merchant I met,
Who said he could teach me a fortune to get ;
He'd cattle and sheep past the colony's bounds,
Which he sold with the station for my thousand pounds.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
He gammon'd the cash out of Billy Barlow.

When the bargain was struck, and the money was paid,
He said, 'My dear fellow, your fortune is made ;
I can furnish supplies for the station, you know,
And your bill is sufficient, good Mr. Barlow.'
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
A gentleman settler was Billy Barlow.

So I got my supplies, and I gave him my bill,
And for New England started, my pockets to fill ;
But by bushrangers met, with my traps they made free,
Took my horse, and left Billy bailed up to a tree.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
I shall die of starvation, thought Billy Barlow.

At last I got loose, and I walked on my way ;
A constable came up, and to me did say,
'Are you free?' Says I 'Yes, to be sure, don't you know ?"
And I handed my card, ' Mr. William Barlow.'
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
He said 'That's all gammon' to Billy Barlow.

Then he put on the handcuffs, and brought me away
Right back down to Maitland, before Mr. Day ;
When I said I was free, why the J.P. replied,
'I must send yon down to be i-dentified.'
Oh dear, lackaday oh,
So to Sydney once more went poor Billy Barlow.

They at last let me go, and I then did repair
For my station once more, and at length I got there ;
But a few days before the blacks, you must know,
Had spear'd all the cattle of Billy Barlow.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
It's a beautiful country, said Billy Barlow.

And for nine months before no rain there had been,
So the devil a blade of grass could be seen ;
And one third of my wethers the scab they had got,
And the other two-thirds had just died of the rot.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
I shall soon be a settler, said Billy Barlow.

And the matter to mend, now my bill was near due,
So I wrote to my friend, and just asked to renew;
He replied he was sorry he couldn't, because
The bill had pass'd into Tom Burdekin's claws.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
But perhaps he'll renew it, said Billy Barlow.

I applied ; to renew it he was quite content,
If secured, and allowed just 300 per cent ;
But as I couldn't do it, Carr, Rogers, and Co.,
Soon sent up a summons for Billy Barlow.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
They soon settled the business of Billy Barlow.

For a month or six weeks I stewed over my loss,
And a tall man rode up one day on a black horse ;
He asked 'Don't you know me?' I answered him 'No.'
'Why,' says he, 'my name's Kingsmill ; how are you, Barlow?'
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
He'd got a fi. fa. for poor Billy Barlow.

What I'd left of my sheep, and my traps, he did seize,
And he said, 'They won't pay all the costs and my fees :'
Then he sold off the lot, and I'm sure 'twas a sin,
At sixpence a head, and the station given in.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
I'll go back to England, said Billy Barlow.


My sheep being sold, and my money all gone,
Oh, I wandered about then quite sad and forlorn ;
How I managed to live it would shock you to know,
And as thin as a lath got poor Billy Barlow.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
Quite down on his luck was poor Billy Barlow.

And in a few weeks more the sheriff, you see,
Sent the 'tall man on horseback' once more unto me,
Having got all he could by the writ of fi. fa.,
By way of a change he'd brought up a ca. sa.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
He seized on the body of Billy Barlow.

He took me to Sydney, and there they did lock
Poor unfortunate Billy fast 'under the clock ;'
And to get myself out I was forced, you must know,
The schedule to file of poor Billy Barlow.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
In the list of insolvents was Billy Barlow.

Then once more I got free, but in poverty's toil ;
I've no ' cattle for salting,' no ' sheep for to boil ;'
I can't get a job -- tho' to any I'd stoop,
If 'twas only the making of 'portable soup.'
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
Pray give some employment to Billy Barlow.

But there's still 'a spec' left may set me on my stumps,
If a wife I could get with a few of the dumps ;
So if any lass here has ' ten thousand,' or so,
She can just drop a line addressed ' Mr. Barlow.'
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
The dear angel shall be 'Mrs. William Barlow.'


From the Maitland Mercury Saturday 2 September 1843 p. 4.

Between the two pieces several songs were sung, and the following, which was written expressly for the occasion by a gentleman in Maitland, was received with unbounded applause.

Ron Edwards writes:
Will Lawson (Australian Bush Songs & Ballads 95 1944) includes a note by Jas. R. Scott which says of this ballad, in part;
On Monday August 28,1843 it was recited at the first performance of the Maitland Amateur Company, in the "long room" of the Northumberland Hotel, West Maitland, for the benefit of the Maitland Benevolent Society. The "Mr.Day" referred in the song was Maitland's celebrated Police Magistrate, Captain Edward Denny Day, who headed a mixed band of police, soldiers and civilians at Christmas time, 1840, and at "Doughboy Hollow" - called Ardglen since 1894 - captured the "Jew Boy" gang of bushrangers.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory