Australian Folk Songs

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The Biggest Tally


"Let's take a walk to Allman's," said a hard faced lad from Yass ;
''Tis there they're doing tallies--all Monaro men with brass.
In early days I've often heard of thirty to the hour ;
I've heard of Mitchell's constant pace and the iron-hand of Power ;
But these lads from bleak Monaro reckon shearing only fun,
And they're sure to feel insulted unless addressed as ' gun.'
But come and hear 'em at it--spare me days ! oh, strike me pink !
Just come and hear 'em at it while we have a quiet drink."

When we went into the parlor, said my friend : " Now just sit here.
You do not want to see them--you can simply hear them shear."
And I did. They talked of Burgon's shears, the density of wool ;
Bob Burns was ringing Coolandong and his blades were running full.
Long Jim the Floater, he was there, and scored full many a win ;
He said he'd downed The Wobbler, Toffy Dwyer, and Barney Flynn--
This was at Multagoona, where the heavy wethers are ;
But it's easier to toss 'em out when breasting Allmann's bar.

The Cooma lad then made a move, with both his blades pulled back ;
He said : " You lads can shear 'em--at the bar or on the track ;
You should have been at Wardry with me in '82,
Where the sheep are rough and heavy, solid fact--oh, strike me blue !
There was Bobby Dorn, and Williams, and Deverall, and McGee,
And every blanky one of them was snappin' after me ;
Jack Read 'ad on a thumb-guard and a knocker made of cork,
And to keep those lads behind me, by cripes, I had to work !"

"Old on there, Dave, just take a pull ; you've talked yer tally through "--
This came from Billy Strongbow, who hails from Gundaroo--
"Those blanky coots you talk about are nothing at the game ;
I beat them all at Tabratong, where sheep are just the same.
I passed out fifty hoggets there before the break-fast bell,
And the sheep were dense and wrinkly, and sandy-backed as well.
I polished off two hundred there, without a call for tar."
Shoo ! Billy got a hearing there that night at Allman's bar.

" Have another drink," said Allman, as he filled them up for ten ;
" They'd never get the wool off were it not for Cooma men."
The Floater's hand was aching, he thought he had his shears--
Was he going to follow Billy ? Was he tired of handling beers ?
No ; he swore he'd always ringer been from Bringagee to Bourke ;
Was the king of all the wool-hawks, boss wherever shearer worked.
" You're a bleeding, blazing skiter !" said Billy straight and blunt ;
" When the blanky rams was finished yer wasn't in the hunt."

Just then a cop came on the scene and said the cut was rough
" You'd better put your stoppers on--I think you've done enough ;
Whate'er you do at Wyeo, Willoora, or The Rock,
In Hay you'll get no overtime--it's now eleven o'clock."
But the " guns " went to a private room and sharpen'd up again,
Till someone broke his T.U. shears on a cross-bred at the Glen.
Oh, the pace was getting faster when they got into the room,
But no one shouted "Wool away !" or " Tar !" or " Where's the broom !"

The Flyer rung at Yanko, Orange Plains, and Combadore ;
He " swung the gate " at Netly in eighteen sixty-four ;
'Twas then he was a shearer in those happy days long gone,
He thought that Howe deserved the belt for his three twenty-one.
But Allman disabused his mind. He said: " This very night
I've beaten all Monaro to a man right out of sight ;
You say three twenty-one's been done without a call for tar,
But to-night I shore a thousand while you lads were at the bar."



From the Wagga NSW newspaper the The Worker Saturday 6 July 1901 p. 2.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory