Wednesday 18 November 2015

Harold Percy Croydon (Duke) Tritton, 1886 - 1965

Click on pictures for full-screen image

Drawing by Hottie Lahm for the first edition of Time Means Tucker

Harold Percy Croydon (Duke) Tritton, 1886 - 1965
It is 50 years since Duke Tritton died. He joined the Bush Music Club in the first year, around the same time Frank Maher joined, and was the second person awarded Life Membership of the Club. Duke was one of the earliest sources of traditional songs & verses for the fledgling revival of Australian songs. He was a singer with a powerful voice, a songwriter and poet, and wrote his autobiography in 1959.
Like many in the tough times of the early 20th century he worked in many jobs - shearing, gold miner, boxer, busker, labourer, timbercutter, rabbitter and was always a unionist

First edition, published by The Bulletin, 1959


1964 edition

John Meredith - Tritton, Harold Percy Croydon (1886–1965), Australian Dictionary of Biography,

from Duke of the Outback by John Meredith  - Duke had 94 descendants when he died & 126 in 1980.

from grandson Chris McLean, May 2018 -
From left to right and the position they were standing  and their relationship to Duke.

Gertrude (Duke's sister), Donald (son), Audrey (daughter), Glenda (granddaughter back), Olga (daughter), John (grandson back), Dulcie (daughter), Jean (daughter), Linda (daughter), Christopher (grandson, back), Judy (granddaughter), Diane (granddaughter), Emma (Don's wife)

Duke's daughter, Linda McLean also wrote her autobiography, Pumpkin pie and faded sandshoes, which was published in 1982

Duke's death as reported in Singabout, 5(3), July 1965, pages 14 & 15, an abridgment of the Obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald, 22nd May 1965

Obit by Edgar Walters, unknown source


Obit by D.K. (Denis Kevans) from Tribune via TROVE


Editorial Obit from Wild Colonial Days Society Journal, July 1965 - as published in SEND ROUND THE HAT, DUKE TRITTON by his mates Collected & edited by John Meredith


Songs & poems written by Duke & published in Singabout, the Journal of Australian Folksong

Shearing in a Bar,  2(1)


The Goose-Neck Spurs, composed during the 1905 shearing season.  3(3)


Ringing on Gummin -  3(4)


The Great Northern Line - 4(4)


Wild Driver - tune Wild Rover, 6(1)


The Sandy Hollow Line, 6(1)



Recitation - Stooking Hay - 6(2)

new verse to traditional song The Shores of Botany Bay,  6(2)

conversation with Jamie Carlin 29/12/2022 - At a date no longer remembered,  Duke gave a piece of paper to Jamie, saying "I love the way you sing it, I've written you another verse" & this verse was eventually published in Singabout 6(2), 1967 

Undated songsheet,  from Singabout 2(3), Dec 1957.


Duke & BMC
New sign created by Helen Romeo 2014

Original sign for Tritton Hall

Singabout 2(1)

 Duke & Concert Party at Gulgong, 1959

 Extract from Origins of the Australian Folk Revival - A tribute to the pioneer field collectors of the 1950s by Keith McKenry (c)1997

The songs collected by Meredith from Duke include

Goorianawa (Only collected version)
Travelling Down the Castlereagh
Ballad of the Drover (fragment) (First collected version)
Taking His Chance (Lawson) (First sung version)
Ten Thousand Miles Away
The Shores of Botany Bay (Only collected version)
The Golden West (First collected version)
The Great Northern Line (Only collected version)
The Dying Stockman
Shearing at Castlereagh (Only collected version)
Ringbarking (Tritton)(Only collected version)
The War Correspondent (Only collected version)
Tambaroora Gold (First collected version)
Old Bark Hut
Wild Colonial Boy
Drover's Dream
Good For a Rush or a Rally (Only collected version)
Interestingly, John Meredith, focussing for cost reasons solely on traditional material, passes up Duke's offer to sing for him several songs he wrote himself in his early days on the track. As a result John does not collect from Duke his greatest song, Shearing in a Bar. This honour goes to Alan Scott. Alan also records from Duke the only collected sung version of Lawson's poem Cobb & Co, and another original composition by Duke, Goose Necked Spurs.


The Four Capitals Folk Song Tour

3 extracts from

Not Just Another Folk Concert - Recalling the Four capitals Folk Tour by Malcolm J. Turnbull, originally published in Trad & Now, Winter 2005
... Promoted as “the first travelling package-deal of genuine folk in this country”, Four Capitals was an initiative of the Union movement ...
... Four Capitals offered east coast audiences an unusual opportunity to see, gathered on a single stage, nine influential singers drawn from the Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane folk scenes ...
... ‘Duke’ Tritton, a 78-year old former shearer and AWU organiser, added a touch of authenticity through renditions of his own backblocks compositions. (Venerated as the “real thing” by traditionalists, Tritton was a founding member of the Sydney Bush Music Club and had made pioneer field recordings for John Meredith) ...

Songs about Duke

Duke's Song by Gary Shearston



Ode to Duke Tritton by Mike Martin

If “Time means tucker”, then tramp you must
You can always sing for your supper, pass the hat and busk
You took a bite out of life, made a dream come true
Never to let life make a meal out of you.

You crossed the great divide, the plains and red dust
Where there’s seldom a track that a man can trust
You worked for your rations, carried water by your side
Never one to run, you were never one to hide.

All day long through the dust and the heat
You carried your swag outback.

A pen full of cobblers is a shearers dream of hell
You’ll only shear your hundred in a shed that breeds them well
Good enough to pick a stand, for next seasons run
Never a ringer, you were never a gun.

You drove the cattle south, you fenced in rough terrain
You camped on the river bend, left the drinking to other men
You loved those country shows and in the boxing tent were known
Never a fighter, you were never a pro.


You sniffed at the gold, caught the fever in your soul
Always seeking that elusive, that nugget of gold
You panned and you slushed, you dug and shot the hole
Never to stop, you were never too old

So, if time means tucker then tramp you must
You can always sing for your supper, pass the hat and busk
You took a bite out of life, made a dream come true
Never to let life make a meal out of you


The Duke, Dutchy and Lawson, were the ones who wrote this song
I’m just a singer to pass their words along
But if you’re dealt the same cards, then tramp you must
Never put your faith in the dealer, in your dreams you must trust

And all day long in the dust and the heat
you must carry your swag out back


all photos & scans - BMC archives



  1. Great to read and see the pictures of Duke, good job folks. Duane Thomas Core , great grandson of Duke Tritton

  2. Duke was my great uncle my grandmother's brother .I met him when I was 9 yrs old and wish that I could have learnt some songs from him but I am having a go at playing and singing some of his songs. Alan Sheldon