Wednesday 11 January 2017

Minutes of the Bush Music Club, 14th October 1954 to 11th March, 1955

Click on pictures for full-screen image

original post updated August 2018 with information from Cecil Grivas.  Updated again with names of probable attendees at first meeting 14th October, 1954, from Alex Hood Nov 2020. 

An old (vintage!) school exercise book is one of the greatest treasures of the Bush Music Club discovered in our archives. It contains the minutes of the first 5 months of the Club, written in pencil and pen and ink. Alan Scott was elected as Secretary /Treasurer so probably wrote up the minutes.

The names of the first 4 bush bands established during these months are written on the front cover.

Rousers (Rouseabouts)
The money collected at the first 3 meetings is written in very faint pencil inside the back cover, above an undated list of names

image enhanced to show writing

1st night         15/-                                                   Debit

2nd "               2/-
3rd "                8/-                    25/-                  

ink - Janice, Claude, Joy?, Alan, Eric, Pat.
Background information to the minutes came from this blog article which was originally published in Mulga Wire No. 17, February 1980, pp.5-10
In The Beginning … The formation and early history of the Bush Music Club, by John Meredith

Leaflet advertising the formation of the Bush Music Club recreated using the original words.


We have been approached by many singers and instrumentalists who wished to join the “Bushwhackers”, but we consider that the optimum number for an ensemble such as ours is six. We have been refusing engagements at the rate of three or four a week for several months, not because we want to, but simply for the reasons that we need time to rehearse, we have to work for our living and because we have to get some sleep occasionally.

We don’t like disappointing people so we have decided to form a club, where in return for a nominal membership fee we will give away our secrets. The “Bushwhackers” will help you to learn the accordeon, harmonica, bones, bush bass, lager phone and lots more. We will provide the words and music of our songs and show you how we sing them.

The inaugural meeting and first rehearsal of the BUSH MUSIC CLUB will take place at the Realist Theatrette, 1st Floor, 188 George Street, on Thursday October 14th, at 7 p.m. sharp.

Further details may be had from John Meredith, 5 Henry Street, Lewisham, or from any of the “Bushwhackers”.

information about the first & second meetings from John Meredith -
The inaugural meeting was like all other inaugural meetings; we all talked and argued a lot, elected a committee of office bearers, sang a few songs and went home, feeling that we had done a good job. I went along confidently to the second gathering, expecting an overflow house. Three of us turned up! Everyone else sent along excuses of Union meetings, influenza, hay-fever, teething babies etcetera. For that memorable second meeting there was myself, Tom Durst and Kenna Rushbrook.
The first 2 meetings were held at the Realist Writers Group's Realist Theatrette, 188 George St, then the club moved to Seaman's Hall on the Quay end of Pitt St due to noise problems.
First page of the minutes
Transcription of the minutes (thanks to Dale Dengate for proofreading & good advice as always)

14th October 1954                                              188 George St

First meeting convened by the Heathcote Bushwhacker's Band and Mr B. Loughlin in the chair. He explained the reasons for forming a Bush Music Club. The bush music and traditional Australian songs as presented by the Bushwhackers have proved very popular and that band does not find it possible to perform as often as they are asked. Many people have asked to be allowed to join their band, but they find the most effective number in their ensemble is six.


Therefore they called the meeting with the subject of attracting singers and instrumentalists and helping them to form their own bands. In this way the demand for traditional Australian music will be met, and it is hoped, become more popular until it takes it (sic) rightful place in the present day and future culture of Australia.

1. The meeting endorsed these ideas and adapted the following proposals; That the Club meet weekly for rehearsals with a short meeting to discuss business. That rehearsals start at 7 P.M. and the business meeting at 8 P.M. with rehearsals continuing after that. It was decided that each member pay one shilling per meeting to cover the cost of rent. It was proposed and accepted that election of an executive be held over until members become better acquainted. The meeting ended with singing and playing of instruments.

15/- was collected but the members were not named. 

Conversation with Alex Hood 2nd Nov 2020 -  he does not remember attending the inaugural meeting, but supplied names of very active early members who were likely to have attended this meeting    

John Meredith, Kenna Rushworth, Tom Durst, Chris Kempster, Harry Kay, Brian & Pam Loughlin, Gay & Alan Scott, Rex Whalan,  Harry Glendinning, Barbara Lisyak, Bill Berry (member of the Unity Singers) & Gil Small


Only 3 people attended the second meeting - John Meredith, Kenna Rushworth & Tom Durst

28th October, 1954                                              188 George St

It was proposed that an executive of four be elected with the positions of Chairman, Secretary-Treasurer, Publicity Officer and Master of Ceremonies. The following people were unanimously elected to the respective positions. Mr. B. Loughlin, Mr. A. Scott, Mr. J. Meredith and Mr. H. Kay.

There were reports by different members on the possibilities of forming groups in different localities and it was suggested and endorsed that this be a permanent item on the agenda, and as the groups became established, that the reports emphasise the plans of the group for the future. The following localities were mentioned.

Leichhardt; where a group with Banjo, Violin, Button Accordion and Bones has started with the name "Overlanders" (successful)

Granville; where it is hoped to start a band soon.   

utherland; The Mirrabooka Youth Club wishes to start a bush music band and would like assistance from the Bush Music Club.
Dale remembers John Meredith mentioning this club. 
Mirrabooka is a word from a Western Australian aboriginal language meaning Southern Cross.

Saint George. The Junior Eureka League intends to form a group from a meeting to be held Sun. Nov. 7th. The Eureka Youth League was a youth organisation associated with the Communist Party. Most influential in the forties and fifties, it engaged in campaigns for peace and rights for young people, as well as organising camps, carnivals and sporting activities.

National Museum of Australia has a Junior Eureka Youth League badge

Kings Cross & Como were also mentioned as being places where groups could be started.

It was decided that whenever possible all groups should attend meetings of the Bush Music Club once a month for combined rehearsals and that at least one representative from each group be present each week.

1. The form of the meetings is to be as follows: Seven to eight P.M. learning new numbers. Eight P.M. a meeting to discuss business, the meeting to be kept as short as possible. After the meeting rehearsals by groups.

2. On Publicity it was decided to try to have articles on the club published in various Music magazines and in Challenge Newspaper and that a small leaflet explaining the aims of the club be produced for distribution to interested persons at performances and elsewhere.

2017 - Challenge newspaper is not listed in TROVE or on Wikipedia's list of NSW newspapers here


May 2024 - D219 Communist Party of Australia – Publication Collection  Wollongong Uni (page 4)

15 Challenge: the Voice of Australian Youth 1951-5 Publisher: Eureka Youth League, Sydney. Weekly newspaper, 4 pages. Published: November 1951 - 195?. Superseded by Challenge. 107 issues. Vol.1 No.2 21 November 1951 - Vol.4 No.11 6 April 1955.

16 Challenge: a National Journal for Australian Youth 1955 Publisher: M Moten for Eureka Youth League, Sydney and Newsletter Printery, Forest Lodge. Superseded by Target. 1 i


August 2018 - information from a phone call with Bushwhacker Cecil Grivas, who is still singing in a choir. 

Cecil did a crash course in journalism & wrote articles in Tribune. & was also
2nd editor of Challenge which was associated with EYU, Harry Steam was 1st editor

A search located 2 references to Challenge Newspaper, both in Radical Students; The Old Left at Sydney University by Alan Barcan. Carlton, Vic. : Melbourne University Press, 2002.The Bushwhackers' Band is also on this list of subversive organisations.

At the meeting it was decided to shift to more convenient & quieter surroundings.


12th Nov.                                 149 Castlereagh St

In group reports it was stated that the Leichhardt Overlanders made their first public appearance and received a very good reception. The group is composed of fiddle, bones and accordion. Sec.'s name & address Miss Della Nicholls, 88 Edith St Leichhardt.

The Heathcote Bushwhackers reported that they were to have an audition with the A.B.C. They had received a letter of appreciation from the Peace Convention Bureau for their services at their farewell function for Prof. Hromadha. The group had received many invitations to perform. Sunday 19th Sept 1954 PERTH SHOULDN'T SEE WILD MEETINGS LIKE MELBOURNE'S Visiting Czech theologist Professor Joseph Hromadha who met with a stormy reception in Melbourne where 1500 New Australians demonstrated ... Earlier in Sydney Dr. Hromadka had told a closed session of the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches of Australia that in Communist Czechoslavakia that "no religious persecution exists and there ls no Government interference with theological matters."

It was reported from the Rouseabouts that they had made their first public appearance and it went extra well. It was felt this group needed closer contact with the B.M.C.

The Drovers are still in the process of getting started but expect to make their debut before Xmas.

A photographer has offered his services to photograph bush bands at their appearances & it is hoped in this way to build up a fund of material for publicity purposes.


19th Nov                                 149 Castlereagh St

Reports from Groups showed progress by the Bushwhackers who had the audition with A.B.C. for "A Hero Has Been Slain" and we are awaiting word as to their success or not. The Rouseabouts have strengthened their group but the Drovers, though they have had one rehearsal, are not much closer to public appearances.

3. In the Publicity Report it was noted that articles about the Club had appeared in both Tribune and Challenge newspapers, and another article will be submitted to "The Accordionist". (In 1959 "The Accordionist" published an article about the 5th Anniversary    of the Club.)
A number of engagements were discussed the main ones being the Tribune picnic on Sun 29th November, A recital by the Bushwhackers with Leonard Thiel & Pat Morton on Wed 25th Nov, and the Tribune Concert on 23rd Nov.

Tribune concert

The series of "Bushwhacker Broadsides" was discussed and so far a dozen are scheduled for publication periodically. It was resolved to learn each song as it comes out to assist sales & simultaneously promote publicity for the B.M.C.

A suggestion was put forward in General Business that members should give some thought to the composing of an Aust. pantomime using our own Songs & instruments in a traditional theme.

 26th Nov 54                                 149 Castlereagh St

The Group Reports revealed that the "Songs From The Bush" concert by L. Thiel, Pat Morton & the Bushwhackers was a great success & prominent reps from the A.B.C. were present. Bushwhackers also announced that they have an engagement with the A.B.C. to provide background music & singing for a radio play about Ben Hall.

The Rouseabouts are building a repetoroir (sic) and consolidating their membership.

The Overlanders have acquired new instrumentalists for their group; a guitarist and a Mandolinist - Mouthorganist.

It was resolved that the leaflet publicising the club, suggested at an earlier meeting, be produced to be distributed at functions where the groups perform.

Forthcoming engagements are; the Tribune picnic, where as many as possible are invited to be present. A film is to be shot & members are asked to wear costume. The Bushwhackers are appearing at 2KY auditorium at a function to launch Eric Lambert's new book "The Five Bright Stars." The book is being published by the A.B.S. (Australian Book Society) in
commemoration of Eureka and is to be held on Tuesday 30th Nov. Monday 6th Dec. is the date of a Eureka Concert for the same purpose of commemoration and all Club members are invited to be present either as performers or spectators.
The Bushwhackers announce that they are going to Lithgow on the weekend 10th - 12th December to fulfill a number of engagements. An invitation from Turramurra was regretfully refused, as no people were available for that date.

It was resolved to contact Smokey Dawson in connection with performing "The Lights of Cobb & Co" & also to establish definitely the legal position of performing copyright songs.

3rd Dec '54                                 149 Castlereagh St

Group reports; -

The Bushwhackers were very well received at the meeting of the A.B.S. (Australian Book Society) at 2KY auditorium. They have a number of further engagements.

The Overlanders are preparing for a function on the 18th. The Drovers have arranged to do a show, their first on Sun. Jan. 9th at Kings X film club.

The group from the Arncliff factory decided to call themselves "The Ringers" and have the chance of playing at a dance on 18th and at the factory's Xmas party on 23rd.

It was reported that a block had been found, suitable for illustrating an article on the club that will be submitted to "The Accordionist" magazine. (Not found on a google search)

It was moved and accepted that an annual conference of the B.M.C. be held over the week Jan. 4th to 7th 1955. That the executive work out the program in conjunction with the A.A.D. Suggested people be invited to speak on traditional dances; the folk song stage manner & presentation.   (A.A.D ?? dance group, see 17th December)

In conclusion it was proposed that if possible next (weehis - sic) week this meeting be held on Thursday because of the Bushwhackers engagement at Lithgow. Resolved that the meeting be on Thurs. If studio is not available secretary will advise members.
Thurs 9th Dec                                 149 Castlereagh St

Group reports; -
Bushwhackers appeared in "Reedy River" at Wollongong. Recorded music for ABC feature "A Hero Has Been Slain." Performed at Eureka Centenary Concert.
Tribune, Wed 24th November, page 5
Overlanders were present & preformed their numbers for the 8th. The Drovers also did this with the songs they intend doing at their show.

The programme for the annual conference was discussed at length but it was finally decided to have only one night, Fri Jan 7th 1955 for elections & group reports.

The behaviour of two of the Rouseabouts was discussed & the executive will decide what action is to be taken.

Fri 17th Dec                                 149 Castlereagh St

The Club was addressed by a member of New Theatre on the banning of Ashfield Town Hall to N.T.'s Reedy River. A request was made for assistance from the Club to publicise this attack on democratic rights. Resolved that those who can spare the time should be at Ashfield station at 8.45 tomorrow morning.

Group reports: -

B.W's had successful weekend at Lithgow. Played for dance in Town Hall Friday night & broadcast over 2LT Saturday morning. Played for E.Y.L. dance Sat. night and at the Workingmans Club Sunday morning.

Rouseabouts to perform Sat. night.

The B.M.C. received publicity in the A.A.D. Journal "Best Foot Forward."

A letter has been sent to the Rousers. on the misbehaviour of members. ********************************

Jan 7th 149                                 149 Castlereagh St

The meeting opened with the Chairman wishing all a happy & musical New Year. Chairman then reiterated & developed the address he made to the inaugural meeting of the Club. The main points are : -

The aim of the Bush Music Club is to collect and perform Bush songs & music. There are wold class composers in Australian writing good music but it is music that could have been written anywhere, it lacks any national character. By collecting and playing traditional music the B.M.C. can assist composers in writing music in a true Australian style.

National consciousness and pride is growing and is evidenced by the greater number of Australian books; the increase in features purely Australian in magazines, papers and over the air.

The secretary gave a brief history of the club's activities to date drawing largely on these minutes, and ended with a motion of appreciation and thanks to the Bushwhackers Band, who, he pointed out were the main drawing force in establishing the Club and were the most important group in the Club and the most widely known. Motion was carried by applause.

Some comments from the meeting were that there was not as yet a real carrying out of the programs. The songs & music, the meeting and the practice should be planned well. Therefore it is necessary that careful thought be given to the election of officers.

John Meredith gave a report on the progress & activities of the Bushwhackers Band. He revealed that negotiations were under way to make a sample T.V. short but warned that the band was at a stage where it could easily break up. He offered advice on costumes, choice of songs & presentation and concluded by saying that the Bushwhackers were always prepared to help in every way possible other bands in the Club.

A visitor from Lithgow, Mel Wessel gave a report on the progress of Bush music in that town. Of the two bands in Lithgow the best organised is the Spraggers. Made up mainly of miners the name refers to one of the miners occupations. A "spragger" being the man, or boy, who turns the points and guides the skips to the desired place. There are eight in the band & the following instruments Lagerphone, piano accordion, harmonica, fiddle and sometimes bones. The band has performed in public & has a standing offer from 2LT to perform over the air as soon as they are good enough.

Mel also reported that a bush band is under way in Portland.

The meeting suggested that the Club hold a picnic at a busy beach to gain publicity. It was also suggested that we have an annual picnic.

Bushwhacker was invited to assist the group being formed at North Sydney and John Meredith volunteered to do this.

Further suggestions were : -

That material be submitted to country newspapers to stimulate collecting.

That members stage manners should be more cheerful.

That revenue collected by different groups, or part thereof be used to assist B.M.C.

A blossoming of Bush Music and Australian culture generally is necessary in '55.

That the Club hold socials & dances to aid funds & publicity.

Groups should discuss costumes appropriate to their names.

It was resolved that the form of the executive be changed to Chairman, Secretary, Assistant Secretary-Treasurer, and Master of Ceremonies.

The following people were elected to the respective positions - Brian Loughlin, Alan Scott, Harry Kay, with John Meredith as M.C. Chris Kempster was elected Deputy M.C. to take charge in John's absence.

A motion of thanks was passed to Cec. English for acting as Returning Officer & the meeting closed after listening to "A Hero Has Been Slain" a radio A.B.C. feature on bushrangers in which Bush Whackers (sic) Band took part.

Dr. Cec English, 
Origins of the Australian Folk Revival. A tribute to the pioneer field collectors of the 1950s by Keith McKenry (c)1997

Jan 14th 55                                 149 Castlereagh St

The Drovers reported that their first show was a success.

Rouseabouts reported regular rehearsals & smooth progress.

A letter from Merv. Lilly (sic) gave the Club permission to use his song "Give A Fair Go" & to alter words where necessary to fit music.

Singabout 1(1),  Summer 1956. page 11.
It was suggested & adopted that the Bushwhacker Broadsides appear in a series of three traditional & three modern songs. Copies of "Give A Fair Go" are to be typed out & distributed to members to amend where thought necessary for clarity and tunefulness.
It was pointed out that a very Australian club like the B.M.C. should celebrate Aust. anniversaries and this proposal received unanimous support. Some anniversaries noted were :- Henry Lawson's birthday :- Centenary (sic) Self Govt - 8 hour day (99th year)
Jan 21st '55                                 149 Castlereagh St

Group reports.

Bushwhackers & Rouseabouts are in rehearsal. A Bush Band has been formed in the Junior Eureka League.

An invitation to perform at Nth Sydney had to be refused because of short notice. An invitation to the Bushwhackers to perform at Sutherland on March 30th was accepted.

Meetings in future will start at 7.30P.M. owing to prior booking of rooms.
Jan 28th                                 149 Castlereagh St

No group reports were forthcoming.

The secretary read correspondence from Brisbane indicating that New Theatre in that city would act as agents for Bushwhacker Broadsides. Included was a clipping from a daily newspaper Brisbane "Telegraph" reporting that a meeting of the B.W.I.U. had started their meeting by playing recordings of traditional bush songs.

Telegraph has not been digitised in TROVE. Microfilm available in NLA - Dec. 1, 1951-June 30, 1955.

Correspondence from Melbourne raised the suggestion that the quality of Bushwhackers Broadsides be improved.

Two new members were present. Both members of the W.W.F. they support the idea of bush music taking place in union activities. The meeting suggested that a band could be formed in the W.W.F. (Waterside Workers Federation)

It was reported that the Songman's session on station 2UW had played the Reedy River record & praised it.

Feb 4th                                 149 Castlereagh St

The subject of celebrating significant Australian Anniversaries was raised. The meeting resolved that the B.M.C. should celebrate Henry Lawson's birthday on the Friday night closest to that date.

It was suggested that Eureka anniversary should be the biggest celebration. Another anniversary mentioned was 8 hour day & it was agreed that this should be celebrated on the actual date of the first implementation.

In order to assist the development of the Nth Sydney group, John Meredith has undertaken to assist them. Chris Kempster has taken over the job of leading the Overlanders.

The Y.E.L. (Young Eureka League, another name for Eureka Youth League) & Mirrabooka Youth Club have applied for assistance & members in that area were asked to help.

Dale remembers John Meredith mentioning this club
Mirrabooka is a word from a Western Australian aboriginal language meaning Southern Cross.

The proposed leaflet on the B.M.C. is to be prepared by the executive & will be presented to the meeting.

The meeting resolved to implement the suggestion of alternative nights for guest speakers & meetings of business nature.

It was decided to distribute broadsides in a different way, viz. by putting them up in envelopes containing a dozen, with a broadside pasted to the outside. The buyers can break the envelopes & sell the individual sheets for 3d each. The dozens are to be sold for 2/6.

It was hoped that each member will develop his own market.

Feb 11th                                 149 Castlereagh St

Group reports
. The Bushwhackers are negotiating with film executives on a quarter hour film for T.V. A further conference is pending. They have been invited to Newcastle on the last weekend in February.

Rouseabouts will perform on the 15th and the Overlanders are rehearsing.

Correspondence with Mick Lawson indicated that he has given permission for the B.M.C. to use his songs "Hungry Jim" and "The Good Old Days".

An invitation was extended to members to sing at the recording of "Ballad of Eureka" which will provide part of the background to the W.W.F.'s film. The recording is to take place Tues 5th Feb.

Dr Percy Jones has set a number of Dame Mary Gilmore's poems to music & it was mentioned that these would be worth while acquiring & learning.

It was also mentioned that there are a number of Australian Xmas Carols that would be appropriate for the different groups to add to their repetoires. (sic)

Resolved to pay more attention to using poems at performances ; poems to have a musical background where appropriate.
Fri. Feb 18th                                 149 Castlereagh St

Group Reports

Overlanders will rehearse on Monday night. Rouseabouts are rehearsing and will perform at a E.Y.L. social soon. Bushwhackers performed for the Comrades of St George at the Christ Church of St. Laurence in Pitt St.

Comrades of St George - youth group of Anglican Church, c.1950-80, later Order of St Andrew.

Nth. Sydney group is being formed.

It was resolved to contact the responsible people with a view to holding our meetings in the more suitable rooms of the Christ Church of St Laurence.

As many members of the club will be absent next Fri. it was decided to postpone it until the following Friday.
 March 4th                                 149 Castlereagh St

Main business of the meeting was discussing the engagement at Sutherland School of Arts. It was agreed that this social, organised by the B.W.I.U. was important as it may lead to setting up a T. & L.C. in Sutherland Shire. The Bushwhackers were to have performed but owing to "Reedy River" showing on the same night it was impossible for them to accept. The meeting resolved to form a group from these other than Bushwhackers.
T. & L.C. - Trades & Labour Council (Alex Hood, Bulli, 14th January, 2016)

The secretary was elected to lead the group and will prepare a program to be presented at the next meeting.

An engagement for the new Nth. Sydney group and the Bushwhackers was announced for Sat April 2nd.

A motion that the B.M.C. send a delegation to assist in the flood area was amended to allow the executive to consider & decide on it.           

Friday March 11th                                 149 Castlereagh St

Group Reports

The Bushwhackers announced an engagement on Sunday 20th for the R.S.L. at Manly. They are also to go to Nowra on Sat 16th April.and provide a concert for the Methodist Brotherhood.

Plans for May Day were discussed & a horse drawn wagon is to be obtained. Members will play from the back of it.  (Jamie Carlin identified this pic from May Day 1954 - he was watching the parade.  Canberra Times article found on TROVE.) 

The program for Sutherland was discussed and rehearsals will begin next Friday.


Friday 18th March                                 149 Castlereagh St

(date & location only, no entry - 7 following (used/unused?) pages neatly torn out, 3 unused pages left)

Images from TRIBUNE were found on National Library's TROVE website   



  1. absolutely fascinating material on the early days of the BMC. Particularly liked the suggestion that band members appear 'more cheerful'.

  2. It was very serious work disseminating traditional Australian songs in a world of imported American entertainment!