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AUSTRALIAN SONGS

The Sheep-Washers'
Lament

traditional Australian song
composer unknown

Sung to the tune
The Bonnie Irish Boy.

What the words mean

  • squatter ~ a grazier or station (ranch) owner especially with a large landholding.
     
    Today the word squatter has an entirely different meaning: a person illegally occupying a property.
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Come now, ye sighing washers all,
   Join in my doleful lay,
Mourn for the times none can recall,
   With hearts to grief a prey.
We’ll mourn the washer’s sad downfall
   In our regretful strain,
Lamenting on the days gone by
   Ne’er to return again.

When first I went a-washing sheep
   The year was sixty-one,
The master was a worker then,
   The servant was a man;
But now the squatters, puffed with pride,
   They treat us with disdain;
Lament the days that are gone by
   Ne’er to return again.

From sixty-one to sixty-six,
   The bushman, stout and strong,
Would smoke his pipe and whistle his tune,
   And sing his cheerful song,
As wanton as the kangaroo
   That bounds across the plain.
Lament the days that are gone by
   Ne’er to return again.

Supplies of food unstinted, good,
   No squatter did withhold.
With plenty grog to cheer our hearts,
   We feared nor heat nor cold.
With six-and-six per man per day
   We sought not to complain.
Lament the days that are gone by
   Ne’er to return again.

With perfect health, a mine of wealth,
   Our days seemed short and sweet,
On pleasure bent our evenings spent,
   Enjoyment was complete.
But now we toil from morn till night,
   Though much against the grain,
Lamenting on the days gone by,
   Ne’er to return again.

I once could boast two noble steeds,
   To bear me on my way,
My good revolver in my belt,
   I never knew dismay.
But lonely now I hump my drum
   In sunshine and in rain,
Lamenting on the days gone by
   Ne’er to return again.

A worthy cheque I always earned,
   And spent it like a lord.
My dress a prince’s form would grace.
   And spells I could afford.
But now in tattered rags arrayed,
   My limbs they ache with pain,
Lamenting on the days gone by,
   Ne’er to return again.

May bushmen all in unity
   Combine with heart and hand,
May cursed cringing poverty
   Be banished from the land.
In Queensland may prosperity
   In regal glory reign,
And washers in the time to come
   Their vanished rights regain.

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