Australian Folk Songs
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The Navvy (1903)
When the spring-time sun is gettin' hot, and you're shiftin' gravelly muck.
If you're workin' for the Council, people think you are in luck.
When you perspire till the dye runs from you're shirt and stains your moles,
What a happy time a navvy has a-diggin' blanky holes.
Those folks who think seven-bob a-day a workman's paradise
Had better join our gang themselves I'm sure they'd find it nice,
If you come just leave your Sunday togs and silver studs at home,
Cos there s nothing wanted here just now but muscle strength and bone.
Of course we get a quarter twice a day to have a drink,
But, strike me, when we're workin', why we haven't time to wink.
A-swinging pick and shovel, spreading sand and diggin' drains,
Don't want, a lot of science, and it don't want any brains.
But watch the ganger walkin' up, and then a-walkin' down,
And then a walkin' back again, then walkin' roun' an' roun'.
If yon stop and straighten up a bit, to talk to Bill or Jack,
You'll hear him shout, don't knock off work ot else you'll get the sack.
They may talk about Australia as a paradise for men,
'Cos we swing the pick and shovel, for eight hours instead of ten ;
But there's blokes in gov'ment billets who are drawing heavy screw,
And they play ping-pong and tennis when there's nothing else to do.
But hurrah for honest toil, my lads, and conscience good and clear ;
While you ve health and strength in body there is nothing else to fear ;
Though your labour's pretty solid, and your profit very small,
You're better as a navvy, than a cockie after all.
From the NSW newspaper the Hillston Spectator and Lachlan River Advertiser Saturday 30 August 1903, p. 13.
australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory