Australian Folk Songs

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"Bagman Joe." (1907)

The following lines were dictated to us by a young man "on the wallaby," who is at present employed
potato-digging in this district, and as they are rather well put although a trifle pessimistic, we
append them:--

When at home you've been a failure,
And you're sent out to Australia,
And your cash from home is a sweet dream of the past,
Then you cadge a second billy
And a sugar bag for filling
With hospitable hands out on the track.

Then you do a gentle curse,
Think "Home, Sweet Home" of songs the worst,
Wish bubonic plague would take off your relations,
Home, you were "Mr. So-and-So,"
Now you rank as "Bagman Joe,"
And so do several more in fair Australia.

Then you make your way up country,
And get use to feeling hungry,
And several other details on the track.
You cannot find employment
Sol fail to see enjoyment
Some people say we have upon the track.

If they'd only have a try,
Leave their luxuries awhile,
And go swagging with a Murrumbidgee whaler,
They'ed change their views, I think,
Or they'd soon become extinct
If they stalled on the track in fair Australia.

Then kind friends and please remember
A swagman's still a member,
Though sometimes still he has no blooming cash.
But when a cheque his pocket's filling,
Some then are mighty willing
To shake hands, and with him to take a glass.

May fortune on you shine,
May you never have to try
The game of waltzing round with fair Matilda.
We can't all be millionaire,
Some have to grin and bear,
But there's worse than Bagman Joe in fair Australia

Taff, Incog.

*Stranded in New South Wales, the rhymester applied for rations at a Bishop's palace. He was refused them.--M.


From the NSW Newspaper the Wollondilly Press 13 Feb 1907 p. 4.

Songs and poems like this were much more common right through the Great War and the Great Depression than has formerly been recognised, but a variety of Australian Newspapers ensured their popularity in those tough times.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory