Sunday 13 September 2015

Found on TROVE - Part 2

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Continuing the article started in 2014

Mark Gregory has been searching TROVE, the National Library's digitized online resources of books, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archives and more for several years and has found at least 150 new items, either new songs/poems or variations of familiar items.
The new finds are posted in Mark's rapidly growing Australian Folksongs website, which currently contains 364 entries.

from Mark

In May 2010 I began to use Trove and became captive of its charms ... the first project I set myself was to discover if there were any newspaper articles that mentioned William Cuffay the 62 year black London Tailor and leader of the London Chartists who was transported to Vandiemen's Land arriving in Hobart in 1849. I was amazed to find so much about him including his obituary, which was reported in five newspapers in three states in Australia, and was later republished in a number of British newspapers. The Cuffay research ultimately resulted in a a feature length radio documentary for Hindsight on the ABC, a program that was shortlisted for the NSW Premier's History Award. This research is available online at
My next project was to see how many newspapers reported on the mysterious Irish convict known as Frank the Poet, this research gave me a chapter for my PhD and also input into another Hindsite documentary, a radio program that took the poet home to Ireland as it was rebroadcast on the Irish public radio RTE. This research is available online at

Trove discoveries also added to Brian Dunnett's important collection of Railway Songs and Poems (see where there are now more that 250 songs and poems archived and ready for a long proposed book on the subject.

Trove also led me to research Australian colonial and bush songs published in the newspapers, the digitisation of which was growing fast with more titles becoming searchable every week. In 1994 I was in a position to trial a website called Australian Folk Songs and had added little to the original 110 songs. The site was originally piggy backed on the Macquarie University Graduate School of Management website, till it embarrassed the university management to demand its removal. I had been hunting for a website name and finally came up with where the original content still resides. 
Largely because of Trove discoveries the number of songs and poems has more than tripled to more than 350. By far my most important discovery has been the 1891 version of the original version of the iconic Click Go the Shears. Late one night I decided to search on Trove using a phrase common to all the known versions of the song "Tar here Jack". Up popped an 11 verse song titled The Bare Belled Ewe published in a Victorian newspaper I'd never heard of the Bacchus Marsh Express. This discovery helped explain a lot of confusion about the song. Firstly the tune given was that of the  very popular American Civil War song Ring the Bell Watchman, a tune well known to many bush dance musicians. The sheet music was published in Australia shortly after its composition by the famous Paling company. The tune was used for many different home grown parodies over many years. Strangely enough the title Click Go the Shears was not used until Percy Jones gave his version of the song to the America troubadour Burl Ives on his visit to Australia in 1952. In 1939 two newspapers, the Sydney newspaper the World's News, and another NSW newspaper the Wellington Times published the song under the title The Shearer's Song. Both these versions had more similarity to the 1891 version that they had to the version that Jones published in an article titled "Australia's Folk-Songs" in 1946.
The 1891 version also raise the question of the song's links to 1891 shearers' strike, when the shearers were much in the public mind. It also blew out of the water any notion that song was a 20th century composition, or that it could legally be a vehicle to any sort of copyright except for arrangement and performance. Finally the credit is restored to the memories of all the old bush singers who knew some of the verses of the song and almost unanimously suggested a 19th rather than 20th century origin to the song collectors. For me the old song led to an ABC television role in a national Landline broadcast of the Bare Belled Ewe! It also underlines what Dr Hugh Anderson argued back in the early days of the folk song revival, the important part that publication has played in what we still call Australian Folk Song. 

The discovery of the Bare Belled Ewe in June 2013 led to more searches for bush ballad titles and some 50 or so more shearing songs and early variants. In August I found the precursor of One of the has Beens under the title One of the Have Beens published in the Manaro* Mercury in 1875. Such finds reinforce the probability that our bush songs move in and out of publication and oral transmission, with all the variation and changes that popular vernacular song and poetry often shows.
#*- Manaro was an alternative spelling for Monaro in the 19th Century
 A few interesting finds follow.


The Bold Jack Donohoe (1903)    

To the Editor of the "Evening News."
Sir.—I see by this evening's "News" your account of Bold Jack Donohoe, the Bushranger.
A curious coincidence, yesterday being the anniversary of his death.
I here append an old ballad I heard sung nearly 50 years ago.
MICK FOX (an old native).
1 Botany-street, Waterloo, August 22.



Dave de Hugard writes:-
'The Hobarton Guardian' version of 'Lady Franklin's Lament of 1853 is certainly an early version of the song. For your interest I attach the following extract:
'...After serving (1836-43) as governor of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), Franklin was sent in search of the Northwest Passage in 1845. His ships, Erebus and Terror, were last seen in Baffin Bay on July 25 or 26, 1845.
When nothing was heard from the party, no fewer than 40 expeditions were sent to find him. In 1854, Dr John Rae of the Hudson's Bay Company found the first proof that Franklin's vessels had sunk. In 1859, Leopold McClintock, commanding Fox, a search vessel outfitted by Lady Franklin, discovered a cairn that revealed Sir John had died on June 11, 1847, in King William's Land and had, in fact, found the Northwest Passage. Further expeditions were sent to the Arctic, but they simply confirmed the earlier discoveries...'
This Hobart version (1853) precedes 'the first proof that Franklin's vessels had sunk (1854).'


The Rabbit Trapper (1917)
   A letter written by Salt-Bush Bill, late of the Outer Barcoo, to his brother in Burra


 The Exile's Song (1841)  Robert Nicholl.    


Ring The Bell Chumies (1874) by ROSE OF COGMILLS.  Parody of  Ring the bell watchman   

A surprising number of 19th Century Australian songs and poems parodied the popular American Civil War song "Ring the Bell Watchman", the sheet music of which was sold in Australia as early as 1869. This song predates the most famous example "Click Go The Shears" by 17 years, and also appears to be concerned with shearers, using the expression 'lambed down' a common complaint of shearers against unscrupulous publicans.
Sims Reeves (21 October 1821 - 25 October 1900), was the foremost English operatic, oratorio and ballad tenor vocalist of the mid-Victorian era. 

Dave de Hugard writes:
'What I find interesting is this business of 'ringing the bell'. I've only seen it once in a pub. That was at Franklin where the musical Dawson family come from.
Mick Flanagan took me up to the 'local'. On the corner of the bar was hung a bell, all nice and shiny looking like it was just waiting to be rung.
The publican informed us that the person who rings that bell is letting everyone know that he is shouting for the bar - name your poison'.


A Shearer's Dream (1895)   by E. E. GEORGE. 

Billy Barlow in Cobar (1902)      

Joy Hilderbrand's research on Billy Barlow




 On The Shores Of The Dardanelles (1915)  Composed by L. Chaplin.       


Where The Brumbies Come To Water (1895)      

Many thanks to Graeme Smith for alerting me to his discovery of the first publication of this song. He writes:
Ron Edwards collected it as a song from Jack Parveez, Qld and NT drover, in 1966. Edwards recognised it as a version of Will Ogilvie's poem. Parveez learnt it, apparently around 1908.
Here presumably is where Ogilvie first published the poem in 1895, under the name "Glenrowan". Later it appears in his collection Fair Girls and Grey Horses, with other verses; (1898) in a version slightly edited from this one.
The oral folk version cuts down the poem in interesting ways. Some of the more literary style is removed, and the subtext of an urban corrupting woman is removed. A more wholesome grieving wife is substituted from the adulterous temptress of Ogilvie's original. And the dead drover has become a singer of songs, fittingly for a sung version. The poem was apparently very popular. It appears in a number of quotes and extracts in newspapers, including one where the second verse is used as an obituary of a drover, c 1930s.  

Poverty (1933)  By C. R. E. Grainger         

The prolific poet Clement R. E. Grainger (1886 - 1955) had a collection of his work "Goblins of the Past and Other Verse" published by The Worker Trustees in Sydney in 1931.

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