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They Don't Want Shearers Now (1902)

Away back in the eighties, when the spring and summer rains
Would wash the earth and flow in streams across the western plains,
When long waving dreams of yellow grass would kiss the merry wind,
What mobs of men were making back when swearing would begin ;
Then horsemen used to carry swagmen's drums along the track,
And at night when camp bells jingled each their tucker round would whack,
When the rolls were called and boards all full the squatter must allow
He used to welcome shearers then though he doesn't want them now.

Oh ! happy days those eighties, how the stock whips used to crack
When "mustering woolly jimbucks on the western runs out back,
How the clinking shear blades opened wide and sang the song of speed
When Jimmie Bree was running ringer Ned to get the lead.
At smoke o' watch the tally board, how shearers gathered roun'
To, hear the loppies bettin' quids, a sprat, or 'alf a crown
That Jimmie yet would ring the shed, oh what a jolly row,
Big tallies shearers shore them days, though they can't shear big ones now.

When the station rams and wethers and all stragglers were cut out,
When the ewes came in and squatters wanted extra rouseabouts,
On Friday then came Waterloo, good heavens ! how men would purge,
How human bodies, sheep and wool, along the boards did surge.
No straightening backs to sharpen shears, a quick rub on the stone,
What odds if Rusty Dick would cut his finger to the bone,
Another man soon filled his place, yes, squatters must allow
They made good profits in them days if they don't make good ones now.

Then his wool bales mustered hundreds, now they only, muster tens,
So he didn't use to raddle sheep let loose in counting pens,
And he wouldn't sack his shearers if they didn't clean the tips,
No, jolly words for everyone then hung on squatters lips.
When the shearers' nags were mustered and the shed had been cut out,
The squatter for all hands a glass of overproof would shout,
He'd wish them luck when knocking down their cheques at Bull and Cow,
Yes, he used to like his shearers then, but he dash well hates them now.

For the season's took a nasty turn, their runs got parched and dried,
The yellow grass and saltbush withered up and quickly died,
While dust storms drove by western winds would sweep the perished plains,
The lambs, to save their mothers lives, in hundreds would be slain.
Each night the drought-stained sun; went down to rise again next morn,
Abaze with fire to scorch the earth and make all mankind mourn,
Then heavy gloom lay dark and strong upon the squatter's brow,
They lost their love for shearers then, and they do not love them now.

When the western river beds dried up, drought desolation crowned,
And sheep from weakness, tottering, suffering, fell upon the ground,
When all their hay stacks were used up and station tanks went dry,
From north to south, from east to west, starved sheep fell down and died.
Ah, yes, the days of plenty for a time have passed away,
And bitter words with brooding thoughts in squatters' minds hold sway,
Though their dead stock rot on shrivelled plains most shearers will allow
That squatters liked them all right once though they don't like them now.

But a time of coming happiness I hope is drawing nigh,
I see the darkening wool packs rolling through a watery sky,
I hear the bell bird's tingling notes a warning sending forth,
A dampness fans my burning cheeks as wind veers round to north.
Oh, may the suffering years of drought leave not behind deep pain,
May deaden'd hopes return to life on far back western plain,
May the curse of brooding sadness quickly fade from squatters brow,
May they soon have plenty stock again, though they don't want shearers now.



From the NSW newspaper Lachlander and Condobolin and Western Districts Recorder 19 Sep 1902 p. 4.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory