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AUSTRALIAN SONGS

The
Stringy-Bark
Cockatoo

traditional Australian song
composer unknown

The “cockatoo” in this song is a small settler and the stringy-bark tree is a sign of poor land. So anyone working for this settler would know he could expect very little in payment, food or lodging.

What the words mean

  • paddy-melon ~ small, fast marsupial, related to the kangaroo.
  • goanna ~ native lizard of the Monitor family
  • quondong ~ wild, or desert, peach is the famous bush tucker fruit.
  • nurse ~ to hold the child (not breastfeed as in the USA)

I’m a broken-hearted miner, who loves his cup to drain,
Which often times has caused me to lie in frost and rain.
Roaming about the country, looking for some work to do,
I got a job of reaping off a stringy-bark cockatoo.

Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
I got a job of reaping off a stringy-bark cockatoo.

Ten bob an acre was his price—with promise of fairish board.
He said his crops were very light, ’twas all he could afford.
He drove me out in a bullock dray, and his piggery met my view.
Oh, the pigs and geese were in the wheat of the stringy-bark
    cockatoo.

Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
I got a job of reaping off a stringy-bark cockatoo.

The hut was made of the surface mud, the roof of a reedy thatch.
The doors and windows open flew without a bolt or latch.
The pigs and geese were in the hut, the hen on the table flew,
And she laid an egg in the old tin plate for the stringy-bark cockatoo.

Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
I got a job of reaping off a stringy-bark cockatoo.

For breakfast we had pollard, boys, it tasted like cobbler’s paste.
To help it down we had to eat brown bread with vinegar taste.
The tea was made of the native hops, which out on the ranges grew;
’Twas sweetened with honey bees and wax for the stringy-bark
    cockatoo.

Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
I got a job of reaping off a stringy-bark cockatoo.

For dinner we had goanna hash, we thought it mighty hard;
They wouldn’t give us butter, so we forced down bread and lard.
Quondong duff, paddy-melon pie, and wallaby Irish stew
We used to eat while reaping for the stringy-bark cockatoo.

Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
I got a job of reaping off a stringy-bark cockatoo.

When we started to cut the rust and smut was just beginning to shed,
And all we had to sleep on was a dog and sheep-skin bed.
The bugs and fleas tormented me, they made me scratch and screw;
I lost my rest while reaping for the stringy-bark cockatoo.

Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
I got a job of reaping off a stringy-bark cockatoo.

At night when work was over I’d nurse the youngest child,
And when I’d say a joking word, the mother would laugh and smile.
The old cocky, he grew jealous, and he thumped me black and blue,
And he drove me off without a rap—the stringy-bark cockatoo.

Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
Oh, the stringy-bark cockatoo,
I got a job of reaping off a stringy-bark cockatoo.

 

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