Australian Folk Songs

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The Bullock Driver (1874)

When I was young and times were bad,
At least so people said,
I left my home and then took up
The bullock driving trade.

My master was a minister,
And he one day did say,
"Why John do you curse those beasts
In such a sinful way,

When peaceful words and gentleness
Will bend them to your will"
"Then take the whip yourself," I said,
And drive them up the hill."

His peaceful words and gentleness
Did well on level ground,
But when the wheel got in a rut
There was a different sound.


From The NSW newspaper Manaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser Saturday 24 January 1874, p. 4.

This story has entered Australian folklore in a number variants including the following from the Wyong district in NSW:
My grandparents welcomed travellers and many ministers of any denominations, they had a meal and mostly stayed overnight. One of the travelling parsons told my grandfather a story he liked to relate about coming across a bullock wagon stuck in a creek crossing, the bullock driver was "cursing up a storm" in language not fit for a parson's ears. The parson tried to pacify the teamster and told him "not to take the Lords name in vain, put your faith in providence son". "Providence", came the teamsters angry reply, "He is the laziest so-and-so bullock I have in the team."


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory