Australian Folk Songs

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A Pound A Mile (1905)

The tar-boy looked perplexed to see
Tom Dawson cut the skin,
And Sweeper Bill remarked that he
But nothing in the bin.

His eyes for want of sleep were red,
And slow his shears did click;
And whispers went around the shed
That Dawson's wife was sick.

Then kindly spoke old Daddy Tonk:
'Don't look so glum, my lad;
ls she, your missus, very cronk?'
'Yes mate,' said Tom, 'she's--bad.'

'Are there no women on the place?
There should be two or three;'
'There are, but in my poor wife's case
They say they're all at sea.'

'Then bring a doctor,' Daddy said;
'Don't let the woman die!'
But Tommy Dawson hung his head,
And made him no rqply.

Get Pile to come out if you can,
He'll pull the missus through;
Spend ail you have to save her, man,
I would if I were you.'

Then Dawson looked, up from the ground,
And white his features grew;
'Look mate!.If you had not a pound,
Now tell, me what you'd do?'

What would it cost then, now to send
And fetch out Dr. Pile?
Some of the men the cash would lend,'
Tom groaned, 'A pound a mile.'

That's stiff, by God!' said Monty Styles,
'The doctor does it brown;
There's sixty-five, I know, good miles
Between us and the town.'

'It is a coo-ey with her now,'
Said Dawson, in despair;
'I cannot save her anyhow--
I'm euchred everywhere.'

Then, up sprang Maori, on the job--
'Here, look, see, there's my quid;
And here, look, see ! So help me bob!
There's two from Dick and Syd.'

And in his hat the money fell
From willing hands and free;
"A quid a mile,' said Barney Bell,'
Here goes, I'll give yer three.'

The boss said, 'Put me down for ten,
And catch the blood mare, Ted,
And put her in the sulky, then,
Don't wait till she is fed.

'Now wire the doctor, quick, to come,
And meet me mile for mile;
And Tommy; man, hold, up, old chum'
(Poor Tommy tried to smile).

The squatter lit his pipe with care,
And drew his chin strap in,
Then took his seat and touched the mare,
And started for the spin.

Then slow the hours of night went
To those around the shed;
For not man had closed his eye,
Not one had gone to bed.

'She's sinking now,' the women said,
'She can't much longer last;
Before an hour she will be dead,
Her strength is failing fast.'

'I'll go and let the slip-rails down,'
The black boy slowly said;
For far along the road to town,
He heard a horse's tread:

Then everyone sprang up and bent
A watchful eye and ear,
And soon the boss a coo-ey sent
To show that he was near.

Then in the middle of the night
The blood mare, limping came,
All tucked and blown and wet and white,
And panting hard but game.

The doctor quick and silently.
Than with the women went,
And very soon a baby's cry
Was heard in Dawson's tent.

'Thank God,' he said 'My work is done.
As Tommy's hand he pressed;
'I've saved your wife and little son,
Let Nature do the rest.'

And then they went into the shed,
The men and Dr. Pile;
And drank his health in Queensland red,
And paid him--pound for mile.

--Louisa Lawson in Barrier "Truth."


From the Kalgoorlie WA Newspaper the Sun Sunday 30 Jul 1905 p. 7.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory