Australian Folk Songs

songs | books | records | articles | glossary | links | search | responses | home

The Stringy-Bark Cockatoo (1924)

"Sixty-Niner" writes: Dear Bill.—
you deserve great credit for publishing in your "Track" articles the words
of the old bush songs that were so popular around the camp fires and in bush
shanties 30 to 60 years ago. I can assure you that they are eagerly looked for
by not only your old readers but also by those ol the rising generation who
are not interested in the Yankee ditties that appeal to to many these days.
Many years back I knew several of these old songs and, Bill, old chap, I wish
I could remember the words of them now and send them along, but alas, my memory
is not what it used to be. However. I have the words of one song that we used to
yell at the top of our voices when we were seeking the "yaller" stuff years back.
Here they are:—

The Stringy-Bark Cockatoo.

I'm a broken-hearted miner, who loves his cup to drain.
Which often times has caused me to lie in frost and ram.
Roaming about the country, looking for some work to do,
I got a job of reaping off a stringy-cockatoo.

Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
I got a job of reaping off a stringy-bark cockatoo.

Ten bob an acre was his price with promise of fairish board.
He said his crops were very light, 'twas all he could afford.
He drove me out in a bullock dray, and his piggery met my view,
Oh, the pigs' and geese were in the wheat of the stringy-bark cockatoo.

The hut was made or the surface mud, the door of a reedy thatch.
The doors and windows open flew without a bolt or latch.
The pigs and geese were in the hut the hen on the table flew.
And she laid an egg in the old tin plate for the stringy-bark cockatoo.

For breakfast we had pollard, boys, it tasted like cobbler's paste.
To help it down we had to eat brown bread with vinegar taste.
The tea was made of the native hops, which out on the ranges grew ;
'Twas sweetened with honey bees and wax for the stringy-bark cockatoo.

For dinner we had goanna hash, we thought it mighty hard ;
They wouldn't give us butter, so we forced down bread and lard.
Quondong duff, paddy-melon pie, and wallaby Irish stew
We used to eat while reaping for the stringy-bark cockatoo.  

When we started to cut the rust and smut was just beginning to shed.
And all we had to sleep on was a dog and sheep-skin bed.
The bugs and fleas tormented me, they made me scratch and screw ;
I lost my rest while reaping for the stringy-bark cockatoo.

At night when work was over I'd nurse the youngest child,
And when I'd say a joking word, the mother would laugh and smile.
The old cocky, he grew jealous, and he thumped me black and blue.
And he drove me off without a rap—the stringy-bark cockatoo.


First published in Paterson's Old Bush Songs this song is a close relative to the two versions of Cocky of Bungaree and Cocky of Bungaree 2 in this collection.

Sent by "Sixty Niner" to the Bill Bowyang column in the Queensland newspaper the Townsville Daily Bulletin Saturday 29 March 1924 p. 11.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory