Australian Folk Songs

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Swagman's Sentiments (1939)

Gruelling weather conditions, the trials of the open road and an inhospitable reception, in Shepparton
could not suppress the poetic instinct of one bagman. This particular swaggie, finding that fruit picking
was not yet in operation, let his muse express his views in the following verses:--

When leaving Melbourne stoney broke
I was pulled up by a plainclothes bloke ;
He wanted to know what I had there
I told him things were on the square.
After showing my little book
To prove I wasn't another crook ;
He read some poetry I'd written down,
Said "Don't walk right to Sydney town."
I told him I wasn't blessed with luck,
But would try to land a car or truck.
The sun was hot, the wind was strong,
As all that day I pushed along ;
Although I walked till I nearly dropped.
I was passed by cars that never stopped.
Then I got on a car at last,
And all next day I travelled fast,
And now I'm here, with many more,
My pockets empty, feet so sore ;
Waiting for the picking to start,
With little food, but plenty of heart.
If once again I come to town
There will be no one there who will take me down,
But if again my luck does fail,
Shepparton's a town we hear much about.
And it's one that tries the bag man out ;
And when Mooroopna comes in sight
The bag man draws his belt up tight,
For well he knows that work, he must,
If he wants to get a bone or crust!
But all he gets is a bit more knowledge,
So off he starts for Dookie College ;
There he stops for a day or two,
To fill his bag and mend his shoe.
Next time he's up here he humps his swag,
He'll bung some tucker in the bag.


From the NSW Newspaper the Goulburn Valley Stock and Property Journal 11 Jan 1939 p. 5.

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