The Bare Belled Ewe [song, 5 December 1891 (“Click Go the Shears”)]

[Editor: This is the earliest known printed version of “Click Go the Shears”. Published in The Bacchus Marsh Express, 5 December 1891.]

The Bare Belled Ewe.

(Tune — “Ring the bell, watchman.”)

Oh, down at the catching pen an old shearer stands,
Grasping his shears in his long bony hands ;
Fixed is his gaze on a bare belled ewe,
Saying “If I can only get her, won’t I make the ringer go.”

Click goes his shears; click, click, click.
Wide are the blows, and his hand is moving quick,
The ringer looks round, for he lost it by a blow,
And he curses that old shearer with the bare belled ewe.

At the end of the board, in a cane-bottomed chair,
The boss remains seated with his eyes everywhere ;
He marks well each fleece as it comes to the screen,
And he watches where it comes from if not taken off clean.

The “colonial experience” is there of course.
With his silver-buckled leggings, he’s just off his horse ;
With the air of a connoiseur he walks up the floor ;
And he whistles that sweet melody, “I am a perfect cure.”

“So master new chum, you may now begin,
Muster number seven paddock, bring the sheep all in ;
Leave none behind you, whatever you do,
And then we’ll say you’re fit to be a Jackeroo.”

The tar boy is there, awaiting all demands,
With his black tarry stick, in his black tarry hands.
He sees an old ewe, with a cut upon the back,
He hears what he supposes is — “Tar here, Jack.”

“Tar on the back, Jack ; Tar, boy, tar.”
Tar from the middle to both ends of the board.
Jack jumps around, for he has no time to sleep,
And tars the shearer’s backs as well as the sheep.

So now the shearing’s over, each man has got his cheque,
The hut is as dull as the dullest old wreck ;
Where was many a noise and bustle only a few hours before,
Now you can hear it plainly if a pin fall on the floor.

The shearers now are scattered many miles and far ;
Some in other sheds perhaps, singing out for “tar.”
Down at the bar, there the old shearer stands,
Grasping his glass in his long bony hands.

Saying “Come on, landlord, come on, come !
I’m shouting for all hands, what’s yours — mine’s a rum ;”
He chucks down his cheque, which is collared in a crack,
And the landlord with a pen writes no mercy on the back !

His eyes they were fixed on a green painted keg,
Saying “I will lower your contents, before I move a peg.”
His eyes are on the keg, and are now lowering fast ;
He works hard, he dies hard, and goes to heaven at last.

C. C.
Eynesbury, Nov. 20, 1891.

The Bacchus Marsh Express (Bacchus Marsh, Vic.), Saturday 5 December 1891, page 7

Editor’s notes:
There is some debate over whether or not the words “bare belled ewe” were incorrectly transcribed (due to the newspaper staff’s reading of a handwritten submission), and should have been “bare bellied ewe”, in the way that those words are rendered in modern versions of the song. However, it has been suggested “bare belled ewe” may have referred to a bell around a sheep’s neck. The words “bare bellied ewe” would appear to be the most appropriate, however, a definitive answer is not available (perhaps this situation could be better assessed if another early version of the song comes to light).

At the end of the 2nd line of the 7th stanza it may be that the word “board” has been incorrectly transcribed, and that it should have been “scar”, so as to rhyme with “tar”.

The word “ewe”, nowadays pronounced “you” (rhyming with “blue” and “true”), was in earlier times pronounced “yo”, and therefore in the first stanza it is rhymed with “go” and in the second stanza it is rhymed with “blow”. In other versions of the song, the word has been spelt “yoe”, “yowe”, and “yeo”; some versions of “Click Go the Shears” use the word “joe”, which presumably is a variation of “yoe”.

Origins: Click Go the Shears” [forum page], The Mudcat Cafe (accessed 29 September 2013) [in particular, see the post by Bob Bolton, 25 June 2013, 12:58AM]
Click Go the Shears”, Institute of Australian Culture (accessed 29 September 2013)

[Editor: Corrected “connoiseur” to “connoisseur”; “you’r fit” to “you’re fit”.]

[This article was updated on 29 September 2013.]

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