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AUSTRALIAN SONGS

The Banks of
The Condamine

traditional Australian song
composer unknown

The Banks of the Condamine is sung as a duet between a man eager to go shearing and his beloved Nancy who wants to go with him. There are different versions of this popular song. In some versions, the man is going to join his mates at a horse-breaking camp instead of a shearing shed.

As with other songs, the reason for the differences is because no one wrote the song down when it was first written. One thing that's generally agreed upon is that the song is loosely based on the British ballad The Banks of the Nile. It was also published in 1894 as The Banks of the Riverine.

What the words mean

  • boundary riding job - looking after all the fences surrounding a large station.
  • Condamine - a southern Queensland river.
  • Roma - southern Queensland town
  • moleskins - pants of heavy, closely-woven cotton cloth worn mostly by stockmen to protect them from the weather and harsh outback conditions.
  • ran-stag mutton - tough, unsavory meat. Also ramstag mutton.
  • sandy cobblers - "sandy" refers to the last sheep to be shorn in a pen were often hard to shear because of the sand and dirt in their wool. Shoemakers were once called "cobblers". The foot shaped block of wood the cobblers fixed shoes on are called a "last". So in a play on words, the last sheep shorn were called "sandy cobblers".
  • selector - a man who farms the land with the plan to own it. Also means small farmer.
  • squatter ~ a grazier or station (ranch) owner especially with a large landholding. Today squatter means a person illegally occupying a property.

MAN

Oh, hark the dogs are barking, love, I can no longer stay;
The men are all gone mustering, and it is nearly day.
And I must be off by morning light before the sun does shine,
To meet the Roma shearers on the banks of the Condamine.

WOMAN

Oh, Willy, dearest Willy, Oh, let me go with you!
I'll cut off all my auburn fringe, and be a shearer too.
I'll cook and count your tally, love, while ringer-o you shine,
And I'll wash your greasy moleskins on the banks of the Condamine.

MAN

Oh, Nancy, dearest Nancy, with me you cannot go!
The squatters have given orders, love, no woman should do so.
And your delicate constitution is not equal unto mine,
To withstand the constant tigering on the banks of the Condamine.

WOMAN

Oh, Willy, dearest Willy, then stay at home with me;
We'll take up a selection, and a farmer's wife I'll be.
I'll help you husk the corn, love, and cook your meals so fine
You'll forget the ran-stag mutton on the banks of the Condamine.

MAN

Oh, Nancy, dearest Nancy, pray do not hold me back!
Down there the boys are waiting, and I must be on the track.
So here's a goodbye kiss, love; back home I will incline
When we've shore the last of the jumbucks on the banks of the Condamine.

. . .  now a horse-breaking version . . .

MAN

Hark, hark, the dogs are barking, my love I must away,
The lads are all horse-breaking, no longer can I stay,
I am bound for the camp, my love, 'tis many a weary mile
To join the jolly horse-breakers on the banks of the Condamine.

WOMAN

Oh, Willie, dearest Willy, don't leave me here behind
To fret and rue the hour that e'er you learned to ride,
For parting with my own true love is like parting with my life,
Why don't you be a selector and I will be your wife?

I'll cut off my yellow locks and go along with you,
I'll put on a pair of moleskins and be a rider too,
I'll cook and boil your billy while at riding you do shine,
And wash your dirty moleskins on the banks of the Condamine.

MAN

Oh, Nancy, dearest Nancy, with me you cannot go,
The boss he has gave orders no females there must go,
Your waist is far too slender and your fingers are too small,
And you could not ride an outlaw if one to you should fall.

WOMAN

Well, here's mu curse to riding and the day it first began,
For it has deprived our Queensland of many a bright young man,
It's a stolen from us our own true loves and husbands for a time,
Let us pray for those who're riding on the banks of the Condamine.

MAN

And when the riding's over and home we can return,
To our sweethearts and our wives whom we've left behind to mourn,
We'll embrace them in our arms my boys it's those who are so fine;
And we'll tell them of the riding on the banks of the Condamine.

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