The Sheep-Washers’ Lament [song, 1905]

[Editor: This was published in The Old Bush Songs, edited by Banjo Paterson, 1905.]

The Sheep-Washers’ Lament

(Air: “The Bonnie Irish Boy.”)

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.



Source:
A. B. Paterson (editor). The Old Bush Songs, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1905, pages 53-55

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