Australian Folk Songs
songs | books | records | articles | glossary | links | search | responses | home
The Bulgandra Steeplechase (1931)
A BUSH RACING MEETING OF THE EARLY NINETIES,
(By H. A, Downey.)
It was down in old Walbundrie,
That saintly, pious town :
The Kiddleton or Piney
That the ancients used to know,
When the Billabong shot past us
Like a streak of turgid brown
In the days we knew for certain
That it sometimes, used to flow
And to-day 'tis flowing freely
Like it did in ninety three
Whose memories now we speak of
As the happy days of yore
When the nation thro' wild catting
Mostly landed up a tree
And the bailiff sat serenely
At the bank director's door).
There I first met Con. The Roger,
And his comrade Johnny Doyle.
They had hoofed it up from Melbourne
(When the funds were getting low)
In search of honest griffin--
Then the modern name for toil,
And hoped to get employment
At the great Bulgandra Show.
Bulgandra was a village then,
('Tis perhaps a village still)
But a village thro' whose highways
Many a roaring bounder pranced.
But Walbundrie owned a lock-up
Situated on a hill,
So, of course, its 'social eminence
Was somewhat more advanced,
It was here the shearers' gathered
When they cut out on the plain.
And most men had a pair of horses then,
And many bore the impress
Of a royal purple strain--
The same as hacks we'll never see again.
And, of course, we had our races,
And we likewise had our rules
Mostly framed to meet a dogbite dog like code,
But we followed out the ethics
Which prevail in two-up schools
That are just as good as any
You will find along the road.
There was Kelly of Kilrush
Who fought a draw with Nutty Gaul
Flash Patsey, Stranger Edwards,
Chummy Coulthard and Muldoon,
Dug Pritchard, Gander Garret,
Ginger Donoghue and Paul,
With Tip McGrath, the Burley King
And Tom from Wilgaroon.
There was whips of other sportles too,
Tip Hayes and Dandy Sparks,
Bob Rider, Wingy Latham, Peter
Travers, and Joe Low,
Black Douglas, Red Mick Curtain,
Colley Blue and Tommy Parkes ;
And a lot of other heroes,
That have crossed the overflow.
Sprat Gardner slung the betting-bag
And in it half a brick.
Then thro' the crowd he did a business roar
But not being home at Caulfleld,
He refused to bet on tick
Tho' he booked each rustic wager
With a cheerful evermore.
Black Douglas, the phrenologist,
Told fortunes by the score
While long-shoe Smithy
Blithely danced and sang ;
Frost Clayton ran the rabbit swift
While Dido did a snore,
And then, at length the steeple bell--it rang.
They are off said Muldoon
As he crashed thro' the pailing,
That parted the sheep from the goats at the Show;
They are off, yes, they're off and by jove they are sailing
As sweet as the best of the thoroughbreds go.
They were bunched in a cluster
Like sheep at a muster,
While a dust cloud above them hung heavy and red,
But we knew Little Bubbles
Would end all their troubles
If Sweeny the Ringer just gave him his bead.
The fourth fence was taken ,
And no one was shaken,
Except old Spondulix spilled Pickles the Snob
And while him we were raising,
His gills started grazing
As much as to say what he thought of the job.
There was Speewa on Rabbit,
Who knew the bad habit
Of forcing his horse at the start of the chase;
Besides a disaster oft' brings home a "plaster"
That brands a good jock with eternal disgrace,
So he slackened his mount and got back to the rearguard,
Where the Wagga Pug struggled with Paddy Malone.
While further back still was Cock Kelly on Beerbard
Who said he was out for a jaunt on his own;
There was Peanuts on Splendour,
just starting to send her
When Pollard and Pluck flitted past on Hot Scones,
With eod Mouth on Old Ted, who turned round and bolted,
Tho' some said his jockey got sight of the "johns."
There was Three X by Lincoln,
Now boomed by the Pinkun on learning
Jim Dashwood had taken the mount
And in full green regalia, to honour Australia,
Pike Twoomey appeared on the back of The Count.
And then came Bush Lawler
And in his left mauler
A piece of steel wire that he used as a whip,
With that and orations and fancy quotations,
He fairly and squarely made Girth buster skip.
Around the pine knob that was burnt in the summer,
The Ringer and Speewa both let their mounts go
And across the brown heather
They galloped together
With Handout and Billycan both lying low.
But alas, for the Marvel, whilst galloping grandly
And leading the field at the first time around,
While looking behind him and taking things blandly,
Old Penner up swerved and jumped into the pound.
And that settled him for Bush Howell on Brownie,
Stood up in his maul rings
And yelled out "What O!"
To Johnny Kilgarry, his cobber and townie,
"It's up to us matey, to set them a go."
"For that archangel Coddie
Has bolted for heaven,
The fat's in the fire with the Marvel in baulk,
Spondulix is out and the Ringer's ten-seven,
So I reckon between us we'll win in a walk."
Now Yorkey the Fakir was placidly sleeping
'Neath the cool shades of a feathertop gum,
But his smithfield wag up and was placidly keeping
His eye on the boss and a cargo of rum.
So he made at the chasers and just as a feeler,
He yarded Cock Kelly up into the throng;
Then he settled behind them and being a good heeler,
He bowled German Charlie on Jindera along.
But he Udted on Beerbard who made for the steeryard
Across by the fringe of the Wallandool scrub
Where Cockney unshaken, hung on till he'd taken
Him out to a lane that led back to the pub.
Where he cursed swaggies' dogs
And remarked his six shooter
Would fix the next crock that with him ran away,
But he showed us some tricks with a cask and a pueter
That still hold the record down that way to-day.
But the dingo's attentions were freely extended
Till horses and jocks were both at their top pace,
And were bunched once again till their colours were blended,
With prophets declaring " 'tis anyone's race."
Then over the logs rattled Major McCumble,
Scotty the Poet was galloping hard,
When Scranbag came down
And rolled over Jack Lumbie,
And settled Ithe chances of Jerry Gerrard.
Then Brownie got over, but old Rockmadollar
Sent Flower Mullholland to look for a shed;
Then Jindera decided to pass in his collar
And passed German Charlie clean over his head.
The Marquis of Bute made his run from the outer,
With a smother-up dash to the Needlewood dam
And just as he thought he was home on the grouted
Old Waterbag suddenly shied at a ram.
And he hoisted the nobleman out in the sedges
Where musk ducks and pollywogs loaf thro' the day,
Where the silt is as black as the crows round its edges,
And leaves an impression that don't fade away.
Well we hauled him ashore,
With a good deal of banter,
And scrapped off the sewage with which be was clammed,
And when we enquired "Will you finish your canter?"
He scornfully snapped us with "Canter be hanged."
But he passed resolutions about the black brumby
Who shanghied him out
Where he thought he'd get drowned.
Then he made for the booth to enquire after Lumbie,
And see if the Marvel was still, in the pound.
Oh, but when they informed him that Cockney and Coddie
Had both emigrated across the Black Range,
He banged down a sprat, took a bob's worth of toddle
And ordered the landlord to cut out the change.
Then Hot Scones, the stock horse,
Conceived a wild notion,
That Pollard and Pluck stuck a spur in,his flank,
So he scattered him out in a Star thistled ocean,
And laid down and rolled in his togs on the bank.
Then Three X by Lincoln,
Still boomed by the "Pink-un"
Now noticed Jim Dashwood was free with the flail.
But he took it all blandly and galloping grandly
Determined that Jimmy was due for a sail.
So down at the turn where the bull tossed the bagman,
Hard by the slab hut where the ghosts mostly romp,
He up on his haunches and very soon launches,
His jockey clean out in the Billy Goat Swamp.
And then came the tussle and first thro' the bustle
The green jacket shone on the neck of The Count,
Who nurse'd no delusion or colt-like confusion,
Concerning the way to get rid of a mount.
For he staggered and floundered
And sagged as if foundered
Till the neigh of the brumbies he heard from afar,
Then thro' space blue and roomy, he areoplaned Twoomy;
Home rule for Ireland and Erin go Braugh.
And now old Girthbuster, just free from the fluster,
Took stock of his jock with the fencing wire whip,
And with horse sense apprising and wrath quickly rising,
He made up his mind he would give Bush a trip.
So down in Frog Hollow, where wantigongs wallow,
And green snakes make love to a bloke after booze,
He up in the traces and snapped his jock's braces,
And ladled him out in the hummocks to snooze.
Where dazed and half-dreaming and dead to all seeming,
Bush fancied the powers had lobbed him in Pound,
But he soon found his senses and jumped two brush fences,
In a land where the bull ant still mooches around.
Now Peanuts and Speewa and Sweeny the Ringer
Were racing abreast in a welter of foam,
When Handout dashed past them--the pace was a stinger,
And jumped the last fence
With his head turned for home.
But Speewa on Rabbit had come there to grab it,
And bang thro' the jump like a cyclone he tore,
But as onward he rumbled, the old horse he tumbled
And flattened his ears for he'd been there before.
And he streaked like a toff,
In his Wagga rug saddle,
But this was a business he once carried on
And his jock looked superb
In blue and red raddle,
That graced the white singlet
We forced him to don.
And he rattles home past us,
The steeplechase winner,
While the books loudly yelled
In the blythest of strains,
Three cheers for old Handout
Who gave them a skinner
And three for his jockster--
The king of the Plains.
NotesFrom the NSW Newspaper the The Lockhart Review and Oaklands Advertiser Tue 22 Sep 1931 p. 4.
australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory