Australian Folk Songs
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An Old-Time Champion Shearer (1915)
The shearing time is on, they say ; in places in full swing;
Which brings to mind my friend Jack May, and sheds he used to ring,
At least, so Jack himself would tell; we did not dare to doubt.
In open argument, ah well, our forces he'd soon rout—
"I hold the record of the world," he said to me and Dan.
He looked at us, his moe he curled, and then his tale began.
"Three hundred, yes, and forty-five, I shore ere knock-off time;
This is as true as I'm alive ; all wethers, fat and prime.
The belly wool soon tossed aside, and then as low I bent;
I cleaned the legs, a mighty blow, and up the side I went.
I made the pace so flaming fast, as up the neck I flew;
The other men all stood aghast, could scarce believe it true.
It was a pretty sight to see me on the whipping side,
I finished off so gracefully, my blades appeared to glide,
A sheep with me would never kick, some how it seemed to know
The man behind the blades was quick, and gave me every show,
I tell you kiddies, said old Jack, old methods would not do;
Their old-time ways would throw me back, as fleeces round I'd strew,
The board boss in a motor car, the tar boy on a bike,
The wool classed by machinery, you never seen the like;
Some thirty-seven rouseabouts I knocked up in one shed,
A roller buried deep in wool, when pulled out he was dead,
The wool piled deep it was too bad, I did not have much room.
I tell you boys the sweeper had a driver on his broom.
I often wished most fervently, Jack Howe with blades to meet
For gun's almost as good as he, I'd beaten by a street:
Penmates at last we met 'midst cheers, and at it we went fast.
In three days' time he downed his shears, with me he couldn't last,
Tatooed across my chest you'll see a ringers coat of arms.
Six shearers are escorting me, their right hands bearing palms;
None but a ringer dare wear this, the mark's known far and wide,
The honour was but thrice conferred, the other two have died.
Whilst shearing once some fine stud rams that first came from the show.
They're vastly different to lambs, in ways, I'd have you know,
One butted me fair on the loins, gave me an awful crack:
I knew at once I'd shear no more, it settled my old back.
To shear, of course, was hopeless now, what then to do the rub:
A new idea I struck at last, I took a wayback pub.
Where once I earned a bob, I say, I now can make a crown;
Instead of shearing lambs, to-day, I'm lambing shearers down.
First Published in the Wagga NSW trade union newspaper the Worker Monday 16 December 1907 p. 8. See The Shearing Ananias in this collection.
The version above was published in the NSW newspaper the Albury Banner and Wodonga Express Friday 30 July 1915 p. 43.
Jack May's prowess is later recalled in the shearers' union (AWU) newspaper the Worker Thursday 8 March 1923 p. 9.
Days of the pride of ability and the pleasure of learning were those! Would any beat Jack Barnett's 140 of Monday ? Yes ; Tom Byron went 146 on Tuesday. And then Pete Murphy and Morg. Williams, exchanging blow for blow almost, each notched 150 on the Thursday. Ringers all, these century and a half tallies were fondly reckoned to be likely to stand for the year at that shed. But, wonderful to relate, on the following Monday Jack May, after the week-end spell and with particularly favorable sheep, sprints from morn, to eve to such purpose that he is credited with 152. And there the highest tally remains, though May takes a couple of days to recover from his effort. He is not an every-day-the board man; he is a tally-breaker and not a ringer, and Byron, Murphy, and Williams smile in their beards (for they were worn good deal in the early nineties) as they strive with each for the greater honor of the aggregate and the designation of "the ringer of the shed."
australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory