The Boss over the Board
When he’s over a rough and unpopular shed,
With the sins of the bank and the men on his head ;
When he musn’t look black or indulge in a grin,
And thirty or forty men hate him like Sin —
I am moved to admit — when the total is scored —
That it’s just a bit off for the Boss-of-the-board.
I have battled a lot,
But my dream’s never soared
To the lonely position of Boss-of-the-board.
’Twas a black-listed shed down the Darling : the Boss
Was a small man to see — though a big man to cross —
We had nought to complain of except what we thought,
And the Boss didn’t boss any more than he ought ;
But the Union was booming, and Brotherhood soared,
So we hated like poison the Boss-of-the-board.
We could tolerate ‘hands’ —
We respected the cook ;
But the name of a Boss was a blot in our book.
He’d a row with Big Duggan — a rough sort of Jim —
Or, rather, Jim Duggan was ‘laying for’ him !
His hate of Injustice and Greed was so deep
That his shearing grew rough and he ill-used the sheep.
And I fancied that Duggan his manliness lower’d
When he took off his shirt to the Boss-of-the-board,
For the Boss was ten stone,
And the shearer full-grown,
And he might have, they said, let the crawler alone.
Though some of us there wished the fight to the strong,
Yet we knew in our hearts that the shearer was wrong
And the crawler was plucky, it can’t be denied,
For he had to fight Freedom and Justice beside,
But he came up so gamely, as often as floored,
That a blackleg stood up for the Boss-of-the-board !
And the fight was a sight,
And we pondered that night —
‘It’s surprising how some of those blacklegs can fight !’
Next day at the office, when sadly the wreck
Of Jim Duggan came up like a lamb for his cheque,
Said the Boss, ‘Don’t be childish ! It’s all past and gone ;
‘I am short of good shearers. You’d better stay on.’
And we fancied Jim Duggan our dignity lower’d
When he stopped to oblige a damned Boss of-the-board.
We said nothing to Jim,
For a joke might be grim,
And the subject, we saw, was distasteful to him.
The Boss just went on as he’d done from the first,
And he favoured Big Duggan no more than the worst ;
And when we’d cut out and the steamer came down —
With the hawkers and spielers — to take us to town,
And we’d all got aboard, ’twas Jim Duggan, good Lord!
Who yelled for three cheers for the Boss-of-the-board.
’Twas a bit off, no doubt —
And with Freedom about —
But a lot is forgot when a shed is cut out.
With Freedom of Contract maintained in his shed,
And the curse of the Children of Light on his head,
He’s apt to long sadly for sweetheart or wife,
And his views be inclined to the dark side of life.
The Truth must be spread and the Cause must be shored —
But it’s just a bit rough on the Boss-of-the-board.
I am all for the Right,
But perhaps (out of sight)
As a son or a husband or father he’s white.
Henry Lawson. Verses Popular and Humorous, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1900, pages 48-51
laying for = waiting for someone (in a negative context, such as to attack, fight, ambush, arrest, etc.)
white = a good person, someone who is honourable or generous; in the glossary for The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, C.J. Dennis gives the following definition, “White (white man). — A true, sterling fellow”